Coach's Look: A Great Game All Around

Every year, the Texas Longhorns put together one of those games where everything just works out right. The offense clicks, the defense swarms, the coaches make good calls, the refs don’t hurt the team too much, and the fans wonder, "Why can’t they play like this every game?" The Texas Tech game was one of those games. On Saturday night, Texas was the best team in the country.

For all of the malice and venom that Greg Davis receives on a weekly basis, you have to tip your hat to him this week. I’ve been vocal in criticizing Davis when he does a poor job. I’ve been vocal in praising him when he’s done well. So…Greg, you did well.

All season, I have lamented the lack of creativity in the Longhorns short yardage offense. To this point, it has been very predictable. The Longhorns will break the huddle with three TEs, with David Thomas playing the H-Back position, an I backfield and tight splits. David Thomas will go in short motion across the formation, stop, and the Longhorns will run the lead or ISO play to Benson behind the right side of the line, Thomas, and Will Matthews. Pretty creative, huh? Maybe if it is your first season of coaching Pop Warner. The worst part of the formation is that Texas has shown only a small ability to run any other play out of this vanilla formation. If my memory serves me correct, I have seen a waggle off of this play to David Thomas who runs a drag right behind the linemen. I’m pretty sure that happened last year. Any other wrinkle? Not at all.

Imagine my shock when I see something completely new on Saturday night. 1st and Goal. 39 seconds left in the 1st quarter. The score tied, 7-7. I see the double TE, H-Back, I formation. I think "Benson ISO". The play starts, my eyes deceive me. A different play! One I haven’t seen in a long, long time….it’s the Belly Play!

OK, OK, I know I’m excited, but you have to realize, stuff like this doesn’t happen every day around these parts. Creativity, molding the offense around the talent you have, misdirection. This play has it all!

First of all, let me describe the play, and then I’ll try to give a drawing of it. The Longhorns are in their normal short yardage formation. David Thomas goes in short motion across the formation. At the snap, Vince Young "bellies" out. All this means is that instead of stepping to the playside immediately, he opens up opposite of the play, spins around and gets in position to run the option. Matthews runs the dive route, and moves up to block the LB or kicks out on the outside force if the LB has removed himself from the play. Benson runs the pitch route, and he will receive the ball if the end (or force man) comes down the line to play Young. Below is a diagram of the steps of the fullback, quarterback, and Benson. The center is drawn in as a point of reference.

Coupled with UT’s penchant for running to the strong side behind Thomas’ motion, the way Young opens to the strong side gives the opponents a fast read to the strong side. This gives the UT linemen and TEs a better chance to seal linebackers, who may have taken a false first step. In fact, Texas ran the Benson ISO play out of this formation earlier in the game, and Texas Tech was ready for it. Texas Tech, and most everyone Texas has played, slants their linemen hard to the motion of David Thomas, hampering the linemen’s ability to block the play well. When Texas ran the Belly Option play, Texas Tech was once again slanting to the motion of David Thomas. However, this made the down blocks on the play side so much easier for the UT linemen. Everyone was walled off inside, Studdard pulled and kicked out, Will Matthews filled for Studdard, and Young waltzed into the end zone. Let me try to draw everything for you:

The Belly Option was a great call at that time. It’s one of many plays that can be run effectively to the weak side, opposite of Thomas’ motion. Greg, you did a great job. Keep it up against Colorado (and everyone else).

Mark Kissinger has coached high school football in Texas and Tennessee, coaching OL, TE, WR, DT, DE, and serving as both an offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. In high school, he was coached by the legendary G.A. Moore. Mark recently retired from coaching and received his M.B.A. from Rice University and is in his third season of writing for IT. His 'Coach's Look' column appears after each game during football season on InsideTexas.com.


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