Saturday, October 9, 1999
UH, Rice will battle
The run-and-shoot against
the option is the ultimate
pass vs. run matchup
1999 season special
By Paul Arnett
The story goes that Emory Bellard was in his front yard with the neighbors' kids playing football when an idea hit him that would alter the collegiate landscape.
Always a fan of the triple option, the San Angelo (Texas) Central High head coach had a full-house backfield of children lined up behind him.
As the quarterback, Bellard looked over his shoulder, saw the three kids in the traditional straight line and was about to take the snap when he turned again.
Bellard left the fullback alone, but took the two children on the ends and moved them back a step or two. Not only would this make the pitch relationship from the quarterback to halfback easier, but it also gave the running backs an extra step to the outside and an additional second to make the proper blocking reads on plays between the tackles.
Hence, the birth of the wishbone.
It would be several years before Texas Longhorns coach Darrell Royal would install the wishbone offense. As a Longhorns assistant, Bellard was there on that 1968 night at Memorial Stadium.
The game with Houston ended in a 20-20 tie. Cougars head coach Bill Yeoman would later get the idea of developing the famed Houston-veer option, but that's another story.
Suffice it to say, the wishbone formation that Rice will use at times in tonight's Western Athletic Conference game with Hawaii is a 30-something offense still viable today.
"The option is still a very good offense, Nebraska proves that every year," said Rice head coach Ken Hatfield, a disciple of the wishbone and spread options. "This system is a good fit for us here at Rice."
That line of thought is why Bob Wagner brought in the spread option here in the late 1980s. He believed he couldn't compete with the major schools running the traditional I and pro sets - some advice fellow former UH head coach Fred vonAppen should have heeded - so he opted for a gimmick offense teams rarely see.
"You just don't see the option that often anymore," UH head coach June Jones said. "So that in itself makes it difficult to defense.
"I think the biggest misconception of the wishbone is teams don't pass from it. And that's not true. I know when we played Air Force (in 1983), they threw three touchdown passes. The guys were so wide open, you would have thought they popped out from under the ground."
In his own way, Jones employs a gimmick offense that is equally tough to defend. Granted, there are a lot of teams at the collegiate and NFL level using run-and-shoot principles. The single back, three- and four-wide looks are blends of the run-and-shoot and Air Coryell. They are everywhere.
But the pure run-and-shoot -- an offense designed by Mouse Davis at a Portland, Ore., high school about the time Bellard was dreaming of wishbones -- is no longer a full-time employee. Plays Jones uses on all downs are usually reserved for third-and-long for most programs.
"As far as preparation goes, getting ready for the run-and-shoot is a lot like other teams getting ready for our option," Hatfield said. "Hawaii is tough to prepare for because they make you do things defensively you don't normally do against other schools except on third down. They make you play five defensive backs the whole way."
The contrast of styles in tonight's game is something you aren't going to see that often. It is the ultimate run vs. pass, high octane meets churning diesel.
"I was recruited for the option and now I'm blocking for the run-and-shoot," offensive tackle Adrian Klemm said. "I like the run-and-shoot because it prepares you better for the pros."
But will it be the best in tonight's game? Can the Rainbows score early and often enough to offset the keep-away approach of Rice? That's a question that can only be answered on a football field.
When: 6:05 p.m. today
UH vs. Rice
Where: Aloha Stadium
TV: 9 p.m. on KFVE
Radio: Live on KCCN (1420 AM)
RealAudio: Live Internet broadcast
Tickets: $3-10 UH students; $10 students and seniors; $15 end zone; $17 sideline. Call 484-1122 or 1-800-291-3999.