_FANframes: Spread Run Game and Passing Plays Against Tech

This week’s _FANalysis broke down how K-State attacked the Texas Tech defense, which came into the game statistically as one of the best defenses in the Big 12. _FANframes will break down multiple ways K-State’s defense exploited weaknesses, namely the play of Texas Tech’s safeties against both the run and the pass.

K-State’s running game had the most success this week in 3 or 4 receiver, 1 back formations and here we will highlight 4 of those plays. First we’ll look at a pair of zone read plays that borrow from an old option football concept called the midline read. Then we’ll look at the use of an old power football concept, the counter trey, and how K-State used read action to set it up and gain a numbers advantage. Finally, we’ll look at how spread formations expose gaps in a defense and how K-State used a simple QB zone lead to gash Tech for another big running play.


Option football and the wishbone formation came about in the late 60s and by the mid 70s it took over college football, not unlike the spread offenses of today. In option football there are various reads while the offense leaves a defender unblocked, and one of the most basic reads is the quarterback reading an interior defensive line man (nose guard or tackle) with a fullback dive. The midline read is a basic play in which the fullback’s route is right through the middle of the center (thus midline) while the quarter back reads the closest defensive lineman to the center. If the defensive lineman can tackle the fullback, the quarterback will keep and usually follow another blocker 1 hole wider. There is typically a pitch man with this play, but the design is really a 2 man option between the quarter back and the fullback. Like much of option football used in spread formations today, this concept has became a variation of zone read and K-State used it very successfully multiple times in the 3rd quarter against Texas Tech.

#1 – Midline Zone Read vs a Defensive Tackle (3 Tech) (youtube link)

On this play from the first drive in the 3rd quarter, K-State used midline zone read against a defensive tackle lined up on the outside shoulder of the guard (red circle), commonly referred to as a “3 Tech” by coaches. As you can see in the clip, Tech shifted their defensive front over one gap toward the bottom of the frame before the snap, but that was a simple adjustment for the offensive line in a zone blocking scheme. In addition to the read, K-State has two key defenders to account for, the inside LB (red arrow) and the outside LB (white arrow). K-State’s doubles formation with 4 receivers helps widen the outside LB, which will give Klein the angle for a big play. The right guard will be able to release to the inside LB with a nice angle since the LB is lined up over the center.

As Klein and Hubert mesh, the read is easy as the defensive tackle penetrates toward Hubert’s path. You can see the angle for the right guard’s block (purple arrow) as well as the inside receiver holding the outside LB (white arrow).

As the play develops, Klein has a huge running lane. Before he gets into the 2nd level, the benefit of the spread formation leads to a poor pursuit angle for the Tech outside LB. (white arrow) You’ll also see Klein use the umpire (bottom of the PowerCat) almost as an extra blocker. (and more of that later)

As Klein nears the 45, the poor angle taken by the defender as well as the umpire’s “block” help Klein gain an additional 8-10 yards on the run.

#2 – Midline Concept Zone Read vs a Nose Guard (shade) (youtube link)

On K-State’s 2nd drive of the 3rd quarter, the Wildcat’s went to midline zone read again, this time against a nose guard, often called a “shade” by coaches. K-State is in a trips (3 receiver) formation to the bottom of the frame with a tight end to the top. This alters Tech’s alignment and allows for K-State to block (purple lines) all but one defender, the deep safety (white arrow). The center will release to the inside LB while the right guard and tackle can account for the defensive end and outside LB.

Again, the nose guard goes toward the back, making Klein’s read easy. K-State seals the remaining blocks, leaving a one on one situation with Klein and the safety (white arrow).

As Klein reaches the line of scrimmage he has a huge running lane. In addition, he is helped that the safety is following the back (white arrow).

By the time the safety reroutes (white arrow) from his fit toward Hubert, Klein has him beat. The safety lined up over the trips is too wide to make a play, and Thompson’s stock block route changes his run fit enough (even though Thompson doesn’t actually touch him) for Klein to score untouched.

#3 – Counter Trey off of Midline Zone Read (youtube link)

On K-State’s first drive of the 4th quarter, K-State uses the same trips formation and Tech is in a similar defensive alignment. Here K-State will use a power concept off of a zone read look. Counter trey pulls 2 linemen to get more blockers to the point of attack, usually the back-side guard and tackle, but here K-State pulls the left guard and center (purple lines in the backfield). With zone concepts K-State can account for all of Tech’s defenders (purple lines) except for the safety (white arrow), but again the action of the play will give him a poor angle.

The nose guard goes unblocked and penetrates, but he is froze by the zone read action. You can see the blocking lanes developing here and Hubert’s route behind his pulling linemen. The safety’s initial assignment is to drop, which will help the play later on.

Both pulling linemen block to the outside, leaving Hubert an inside running lane right off of the tight end, but he’ll have plenty of space to make a move back outside and beat the angle of the safety (white arrow).

After getting into the 2nd level, Hubert cuts to the outside and beats the safety to the goalline.

#4 – QB Lead from Spread Formation (youtube link)

Here K-State’s spread doubles formation gives the offense a numbers advantage and great blocking angles (purple lines) in the box on a simple lead play for Klein. The key to whether the play will score is with the safeties (white arrows), and here Klein’s speed along with another nice “block” from the umpire will create the running lane for a score.

Klein shuffles to the back’s side, allowing his back to route to the inside LB while the left guard gets out to the outside LB to the top of the frame. Again, note the angles of the safeties (white arrows).

Klein again has a nice running lane, and as he passes the line of scrimmage you can see the play is helped by the width of the bottom safety which creates a rougher run fit angle, and also by the umpire, who ends up right in the path of the top safety.

The bottom safety is too deep and can’t adjust while the “block” by the umpire gives Klein the space he needs to score.

#5 – Big Play Action to Harper (youtube link)

Following a blocked FG in the 2nd quarter, K-State used a big play action pass to set up points for the first lead of the game. Klein is under center with 2 backs, forcing Tech to account for the run (note the outside LB lined up on Lockett) and allowing for a simple 2 receiver route to become K-State’s biggest play of the day. The route concept is a double post, which will put pressure on the 3 defensive backs that Tech drops into coverage. The corner on Harper drops deep with him to the outside, but the free safety (black arrow) must make a decision on which route to help with while the strong safety (white arrow) picks up Lockett as he crosses the middle of the field.

As the receivers release, you can see the initial drops of Tech’s defensive backs. Harper stems inside to get inside position on the corner, while Lockett’s post route in front of the saftey (black arrow) will pull him over, leaving an easy opening for Klein to throw.

As the ball is in the air, you can see the inside position Harper has on the corner, while the 2 safeties have both converged on Lockett. Harper uses his size to come down with the catch and a huge play.

#6 – Deep Post Route Exploits Man Coverage (youtube link)

On K-State’s first score of the second half, the Wildcats were able to take advantage of another issue spread formations create for a defense. Here Tech has 2 deep safeties, but they are in man coverage which only leaves one safety free (white arrow). The outside LB at the bottom of the screen has to account for the back, especially with K-State’s use of Hubert in the passing game (Hubert finished with 3 catches for 31 yards). This leaves a tough match-up for Tech with Thompson one on one against a safety. Thompson does a great job stemming his route outside and then back inside to create enough space for Klein’s throw.

As Thompson hits the 15, the outside LB passes him off to the safety so he can pick up Hubert. (red arrows)

At the 10, Thompson completes his outside stem and begins to cut back inside. The other safety (white arrow) stays with the inside receiver to the top of the frame, giving Thompson plenty of room for inside position in the endzone.

The leaves a big window for Klein’s throw between the safeties (white and red arrows). Of course, this is a route that takes a lot of time to develop, so the offensive line gets quite a bit of credit for this play as well.

Another week, this time against one of the Big 12’s best, and K-State finds different ways to exploit another defense. Each week an opponent will focus on one aspect of K-State’s offense only to have another completely destroy them. Klein’s ability to check plays is huge, but you can also see Snyder, Dimel, and Miller making adjustments throughout games leading to big plays. The season just passed the 2/3 point and big things lie on the horizon; there is no reason to doubt the ability of this offense to continue to make plays. For K-State fan’s this should make for a November to remember.

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