_FANframes: Setting Football Back 100 Years

Last Saturday Pop Warner would’ve been proud. Not that K-State fans should be surprised, in fact most football fans have seen variations of the formation for several years. Most of the time in today’s football we call it the “Wildcat Formation”, the name perhaps coming from Bill Snyder’s influence on football in the 90s. However, the trend isn’t anything new. In fact, using a superior athlete by the name of Jim Thorpe, Coach Warner helped make the early versions of the formation famous, then going by the name of “the single wing”. Single wing formations were common place in football from the early days of the game up until the 50s, when formations like the wishbone started taking over; so fans from pre-WW II football teams would’ve felt right at home Saturday afternoon.

K-State didn’t just limit the use of variations of the formation to a handful of snaps as they normally do, mostly using Angelo Pease at the quarterback spot. In fact, the first play of the game (below) was the only time Pease would line up in the Wildcat formation, and other than a fumbled attempt at a toss pass, Pease didn’t see the field the rest of the day. The version K-State uses differs quite a bit from the early days of the single wing when teams usually had 4 backs in the backfield with 2 tight ends like you see above. I suppose a single wing purist would find plenty of differences. Still, K-State’s use of essentually a 3 back offense with variations mainly using 2 tight ends and 1 receiver or 1 tight end and 2 receivers have more similarities than differences, and our great grandfathers would’ve likely easily recognized much of K-State’s offense from last Saturday.

Early in the game, Klein essentiallytook over Wildcat formation duties to go along with the rest of the offense. Not that Snyder, Dimel, andMiller haven’t trotted Klein out with Wilson andHubert in a single wing formation before, but the frequency of its use against Texas A&M was much more than at any other time this season. K-State first two touchdowns came from single wing formations with Klein, Wilson, and Hubert. K-State’s 3rd and final TDs were set up by aTm pass interference penalties forced by wide open receivers for K-State. Bothwere off of by play action from single wing formations. The long TD pass from Klein to Harper that got K-State back into the game came from another variation, this time with Tannahill in for Wilson for a single wing look. Even Klein’s 25 yard TD scramble in the 3rd overtime came from a single wing formation. Over half of K-State’s snaps in overtime and more than one third from the rest of the game were from single wing variations, so its easy to see the use of the formation had a major impact on the game last Saturday.

On the snap below from the first series of the game, you can see the chess match start for aTm in defending the formation. Here K-State is using 2 tight ends and aTmhas 6 defenders on the line of scrimmage with 2 linebackers and2 safeties along witha corner split out on Harper. The point of the single wing is fairly simple, the offense wants to equal or outnumber the defense at the point of attack. As the game went along Saturday you often would see Klein audible after the “check with me” from the sidelines and Hubert and Wilson would switch sides to get the numbers advantage.

K-State’s first touchdown was set up by using Hubert and Wilson aligned to the boundary on 1st and goal. The plays are double lead plays (Peasehas scored multiple times on the same thing) for Klein, here Klein cuts underneath the block from Hubert on the edge and follows Wilson off tackle. Only a solid play by aTm’s inside linebacker prevents this from being a score.

As the play develops, you get a good look at Hubert’s path to the defensive end, and Wilson’s path to the play-side inside linebacker. K-State also releases the center (Finney) the the backside inside linebacker.

Hubert, Wilson (right circle), Finney (left circle), and Harper (line) all initiate their blocks very well. Klein has a nice running lane just off the outside hip of Wilson.

As Klein gets into the 2nd level, the inside linebacker for aTm is able to get off of Finney’s block. Harper has driven the corner into the endzone.

The inside linebacker is just able to get Klein’s foot and Klein is tackled just short the goalline. K-State scored out of a similar lead play from a similar formation on the next play.

K-State’s 2ndtouchdown was almost identical to its first. Here I highlighted the “numbers game” K-State is trying to win; you can see in the box from the offensive center out K-State’s 6 blockers are even with aTm’s 6 defenders. Even though aTm has 7 defenders on the line of scrimmage and 10 in the box, if the blocking is executed its simply a matter of Klein following his blocks to get into the endzone.

K-State’s offensive line completely collapses the right side of aTm’s defensive line (large circle) and Wilson handles the linebacker (small circle). Unlike the previous play when Klein cut inside of Hubert’s block (line) on the edge, here he will set up the block and cut to the outside.

Hubert is able to get the defensive end blocked on his outside shoulder, opening up the outside running lane for Klein.

Klein is able to get to the endzone before aTm’s inside pursuit arrives.

As the game goes along, K-State’s creativity in using the formation grows andthe pressure the formation puts on the defense with a threat to throw is clear. On this play action, K-State aligns Hubert and Wilson to the tight end side of the formation and Tannahill gets isolated on an aTm defensive back. Even though its not a catch, aTm is forced to interfere setting up a 1st down at the two. The run action is to the tight end side andK-State is even with aTm’s 4 defenders (arrows).

aTm’slinebacker (red arrow) steps up with play action, and the defensive back (purple line) freezes as Tannahill releases. Those two actions are enough to get Tannahill open.

As Klein steps to throw, Tannahillalready has his defender behind him (red line).

Even though the throw is a bit high, the aTm defender is forced to grab Tannahill making an easy call for the official.

The final two plays will further  highlight the pressure K-State’s single wing put on aTm’s defense. The first was a key play in the 4thovertime with Klein gaining 3 yards on 3rd and 3. Wilson and Hubert line up to the weak side of the formation and initially the numbers are even. However, aTm creeps their safety up into the the box and the play comes down to Klein beating him at the point of attack.

As the play develops Hubert and Wilson approach their blocks on aTm’s outside defenders.

Both initiate their blocks well as the offensive line handles aTm’s defensive front. However, the safety is free and is fitting up into the running lane.

Klein is able to slide just inside the tackle of the safety. aTm’s defender is able to get off of Hubert’s block, but Klein has just enough space.

Klein gets just enough to get the first down, however aTm is set up for the next play.

On the next play,  play action for K-State doesn’t result in a catch, but aTm is forced to interfere. Because aTmis trying to gain numbers in the box with their safety (circled), they are forced to play 2 defensive backs on our 2 receivers. Here we catch them in a version of cover 2 (aTm’s corner is clearly in zone) and run a similar smash route concept as the Sexton play from the previous _FANframes. That leaves the safety with a ton of space to cover andThompson’s route attacks the outside zone behind the corner.

K-State’s run action is enough to freeze the linebackers and backside safety. The deep safety drops while the corner shuffles with his eyes still inside on the quarterback.

As Harper breaks off his route, the corner steps up to defend the route. Thompson breaks off his route to the corner; the protection up front is solid.

Thompson is behind the safety while the ball is in the air and the corner has no chance to make a play on the ball.

The only choice for the safety is to run through Thompson, again making and easy call for the official. Klein scores two plays later to win the game.

While the use of the single wing, or the Wildcat, or whatever you want to call K-State’s formations borrowed from the early days of football didn’t result in a great running day for the Cats, the pressure they put on the aTm defense became clear as the game went along. Its hard to say if K-State will utilize the same scheme in Austin in this week’s game against Texas, but its clear it had a major impact on the 4 overtime win over aTm. Snyder andhis staff continue to find ways to take simple (and old) football concepts and implement them into creative offensive gameplans.

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