Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Friday, September 10, 2004

The non-secret to beating
the run-and-shoot

HOWARD Schnellenberger showed us the secret of beating the run-and-shoot.

There is no secret.

That's the secret.

Oh, he rumbled something after the game, in his I-coached-with-Bear-Bryant growl of his, about preparing to play touch football.

But that's not it. That's not what happened and that's not what they did and that's not why they won. That's just the same old, tired, backhanded slap at the run-and-shoot.

Run-and-shoot guys are sensitive about charges like this. Tell June Jones his offense is a gimmick and he'll go Joe Moore on you.

But that's the secret. That Jones is right, it isn't a gimmick. It's football.

A lot of teams are overwhelmed at the enormity of the task. They get lost in the big picture of trying to stop this 4-receiver scheme.

Schnellenberger's attitude afterward said it all. The secret to beating the run-and-shoot is not being intimidated by it, not overanalyzing or overemphasizing it, not treating it as if it's rocket science. The secret is saying, "To hell with that. Just go play pass defense, and hit 'em."

It's just football. Just hit 'em.

It's just pass defense. The third receiver is the third receiver, whether he's a slot guy or a tight end, or even a blocking fullback. Same principles. In fact, a blocking fullback is the most underrated pass receiver in football. Slotbacks are faster and quicker and have better hands, but the flip side is that "4-wide" lets everybody know WE ARE GOING TO THROW THE BALL, GET READY.

Most teams put four receivers in the pattern. Jones himself has said the "West Coast Offense" shares many similarities with his. It's just different formations, a different name.

Tim Chang has Chad Owens. Joe Montana had Roger Craig.

Jones himself will tell you it doesn't matter which offense you run. The key is to commit to it totally and execute it perfectly. (Think Rice.)

Hawaii's receivers constantly adjusting, reading coverage on the fly? I love it -- in theory, they're always one step ahead. Unstoppable. It's really cool.

But even that isn't unique, not these days. A lot of teams do it. Vince Lombardi's Packers did it.

Those who watch the Na Koa films will tell you that there's somebody open on almost every play. That's true with most good passing offenses (and this is certainly a very good passing offense), ask any receiver. Ask any coach. The problem is, football doesn't happen in freeze frame or slow-mo. Football isn't as easy as it looks.

Football happens with collisions at high speed.

And it's still football, no matter what offense you run. That's what Schnellenberger knew. This isn't rocket science.

But some teams get caught up in the different formations, different name. They gear up to stop the unstoppable gimmick.

Not the teams that give Hawaii trouble. Those break it down into simplest terms: run, hit, cover, make tackles, hit, hit, hope for mistakes, take advantage of opportunities. Hit. Football. There is no gimmick. There is no secret.

"It was the same game plan that we see every week," Jones said.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com



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