ESPN screengrab

Cougar football: An analysis of a new Washington State offensive staple under Mike Leach, the shovel pass

THE SHOVEL PASS has become a staple of the 2016 Air Raid under Mike Leach. Washington State’s head man has had this play in his arsenal a long time, going back at least as far as his Texas Tech days. But Leach and Co. have tweaked it at Wazzu -- how the shovel pass is being run in Pullman is different than how it was run in Lubbock.

With Leach's Tech shovel pass, generally, the running back would line up to the right of the quarterback. The QB would shuffle to the left (from the right B gap, to the left B gap) and then shovel it.  There are compelling reasons to do it that way but there’s also a problem: even a running back with great vision will lose sight, for too long, of what is going on in front of him.

If you go back and look at the TV broadcasts of the Cougs' games this season, you see something different.  With WSU’s shovel pass, in general, Leach has the running back on the right -- and he stays on the right. 

The running back then reads that B gap in front of him – if the B gap is open, he sits in it. And Luke Falk shovels him the pigskin and away he goes. 

If the defense has someone in the B gap, the running back shuffles to the A gap or the C gap, and then gets the ball from Falk.

A SUCCESSFUL SHOVEL PASS also has a compound effect: it slows down the pass rush. And anything that slows down a pass rush, that's something all offensive coaches love.

For WSU, it’s also just one more way to get the ball into the hands of its three backs, who under running backs coach Jim Mastro have seized such a large, starring role over the first half of the season -- Jamal Morrow, Gerard Wicks and James Williams.

And with the way the trio is running downhill and racking up the hashes, the shovel pass figures to be a nice tool to have -- at the ready in the crimson toolbox -- the rest of the way this season.

The old school term for a shovel pass? The jet screen.  Some fans call it a shuffle pass. We’ve heard others call it a shuttle pass.  We call it a shovel pass.  Indeed, as far as CF.C is concerned, we consider a "shuttle pass" something Braulio Perez does on the train ride to Jersey. And a "shuffle pass" is whatever Marcellus Pippins was doing here.  As for what Mike Leach probably calls it? This is pure speculation but we'll hazard a guess; ‘My draw play.’

RELATED STORY: Monday morning quarterbacking with Jed Collins

Cougfan Top Stories