Monday Morning Quarterbacking with Alex Brink

THE CF.C MESSAGE BOARDS have been lit up with questions about the Air Raid offense and offensive play calling. A blowout loss to ASU can tend to do that. Well, let's talk about it -- and let's come at it from an analytical viewpoint.

I had mentioned after the Oregon State late game meltdown that there seemed to be a disconnect between the play calling and Connor Halliday's decision making. I saw similar things in the loss to Arizona State.

We have all heard how much freedom Halliday has to change plays within the offense. Although none of us sit in their weekly meetings, it appears to me that Coach Mike Leach has given Connor control in three distinct ways:

1. Changing run plays: A pretty common practice is for the coach to call a run play but allow the quarterback to choose which side to run the ball based on the defense's alignment. This could include the number of linebackers in the box, which gaps are covered by the defensive line or any blitz looks.

2. Checking out of plays: This could be changing the play to a run, downfield pass or screen based on the defense. Such changes would be discussed during the week using film study and determining the offense's best match ups.

3. Calling plays: There are also times where just a formation is called -- and then the quarterback chooses which play he wants to run. Again, this is based off the defensive alignment and coached through film study during the week. The limited number of plays in the Air Raid offense allows this to be an easier process than in more complex systems.


Against Arizona State, I saw the same disconnect as I saw against Oregon State. My issue in the OSU game, and specifically the final quarter or so, was not who was calling the plays. Instead, it was when plays got called repeatedly against the same coverages. If Coach Leach was calling the play, then Connor did not seem to be on the same page with what coverage he was looking for. If Halliday was calling the play and expecting the same coverage as before, than why was he making different throws?

The Sun Devils did a great job disrupting Washington State's timing by playing man coverage. However, the Cougars also made it very easy on them.

ASU chose to play a lot of 2-man coverage, where two safeties cover the deep halves of the field and everyone else plays man underneath. Against a spread offense like the Air Raid, this leaves only one linebacker in the box to account for the running back.

Arizona State was practically daring WSU to run the football.

Against 2-Man, the quarterback can kill the defense with his legs. With Halliday not being much if a running threat, the Cougars still could have used the running back more on draws or in the pass game. Instead they chose to force the ball downfield and run wide receiver screens. Against press man coverage, this is one of the worst things you can do because it is nearly impossible for the other receivers or offensive lineman to block the free defenders.

The play calling and execution on early downs forced Washington State into third-down-and-long situations where ASU dialed up their pressure.

As a quarterback it's very difficult to convert first downs when facing blitzes on third-and10. Even down 21 points early on, there had to be a fundamental change in the way plays were called to force the Sun Devils out of man coverage. But there weren't.

If Coach Leach is calling the plays, than Connor Halliday has to execute the play against whatever coverage he gets; good or bad. If Halliday is the one calling or changing the plays, then he must get the Cougars in the best situation possible.

Having control of an offense is a double-edged sword for a quarterback. The freedom allows you to play confidently because in a perfect world, you always have the best play called. However, you must be incredibly prepared and make great decisions at the line of scrimmage.

It is not easy, but if that is the responsibility you have been given, you can't just be right some of the time. For an offense to be successful it has to happen all of the time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alex Brink was the starting quarterback at Washington State from 2004-2007, throwing for more yards and touchdowns than anyone in school history – and the third-most yards in Pac-10 history. He was picked second-team all-Pac-10 twice and honorable mention once. Drafted in the seventh round by the Houston Texans in 2008, he spent a season on their practice squad before playing three years in the Canadian Football League with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2010-2012.) Brink signed with Montreal of the CFL in 2013. Prior to that he was the head quarterbacks coach for the Barton Football Academy based in Portland. He can be found on twitter at @AlexBrink10.

Cougfan Top Stories