ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Offense Can Be Equalizer For College Football Teams
On the chalkboard, the option play works every time – no matter how big, fast or talented the opposing defense.
That’s one of many reasons television football analyst Bob Davie, as he contemplated an eventual return to coaching, knew he would run a form (or forms) of the option.
“I think the option-style offense is the great equalizer,” Davie said on Tuesday, as he, his staff and his University of New Mexico players prepared for Saturday’s game against 17th-ranked Texas in Austin. “… It’s an emphasis on assignments, it’s an emphasis on discipline, it’s a team game on offense, which we needed here.”
Last Saturday, in a 66-21 victory over Southern at University Stadium, the Lobos rushed for 347 yards. Most of those came off option plays.
Southern is no Texas; boy, is Southern no Texas. Still, no matter the caliber of the defense, the theory behind the option remains essentially the same.
An unblocked defender must decide which of two or three offensive players is going to wind up with the football. If the quarterback reads that defender correctly, regardless of how big, fast or talented that defender is, the play will work.
During his years as an assistant and head coach at Notre Dame (1994-2001), Davie coached against Air Force and its triple-option offense four times.
Is there any doubt which team had more talent? Yet, the Falcons beat the Irish once and scored 30 or more points twice.
“I know that in all my years at Notre Dame, without a doubt, not even close, the toughest weeks (of preparation) were the weeks you played (Air Force),” he said.
What always works on the chalkboard, or course, doesn’t always work on the field. Anyone who watched last Saturday’s telecast of Notre Dame’s 50-10 victory over Navy and its option attack can vouch for that.
Still, Davie believes Lobo offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse’s pistol-formation, option-based attack gives UNM its best chance to move the ball, not only against Texas, but against the rest of its schedule.
There’s more involved than that, though, in Davie’s preference for the option. This offense, he believes, can become a signature of UNM football and a magnet for recruits with talents that fit the system.
“The whole time I was out of coaching,” he says, “particularly because I’d been a defensive coach, the question was always, ‘What offense are you gonna run?’
“The identity of your offense has to fit the place you’re at, and it has to be sustainable. … It has to fit the state you’re in, it has to fit the university you’re in. I think, moving forward, our offense gives us that.”
The versatility of DeBesse’s offense, Davie believes, gives the Lobos flexibility that other option-based teams don’t have.
“The reason we settled on this offense was because it gives you a little more diversity in that you’re more multiple, formation-wise,” he said. “I think you can throw the ball better, potentially, out of it.”
The UNM defense, he said, benefits as well. “It allows your defense, because you practice so much against your offense, a chance to prepare for more formations and more offenses than just exclusively preparing for the true triple option.
“There’s no question that this offense, in my opinion, gives us the best chance to build this program.”
Last year, Texas ranked sixth nationally in rushing defense with an average yield of 96.2 yards per game. Last week, in their 37-17 victory over Wyoming, the Longhorns allowed the Cowboys only 69 yards on the ground.
Regarding the matchup with the Longhorns, Davie said, “It would be hard to go in there and just say we’re gonna throw the ball 50 times, or we’re gonna run the ball 50 times.
“You’d better have some kind of schematic thing to hopefully slow those guys down a little bit.”
Saturday in Austin, the UNM offense, and the theory behind it, gets its first real test. It should be a doozy.
And the Lobo defense, against the Texas offense? That’s a whole other story.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal