American Football Quarterly
the MIAAthat season. The Hornets uti-lized their superback (the scheme’s namefor the feature back in its one-backdesign), Brian Shay, for a staggering2,103 yards rushing from scrimmage.The 1997 season brought it all togeth-er as the Hornets were able to put inplace the nation’s best offense thatrefused to punt*, and yielded an NCAArecord for the highest average gain perplay, 6.8 yards.
*NCAARecord-Fewest punts per game1.82, 20 punts in 11 games. (Breaks theold mark of 1.9 set by Kent in 1954.)
The Rushing Attack
ESU utilizes basically five formationsalong with a variety of motion by theinside receivers. In regards to gameplans, the Hornets enter each game with12-15 different series that translate into35-40 different plays (See Diagrams 1-5).Generally, the rushing attack is cho-sen from any of the following series: (1)inside traps; (2) outside traps/counters;(3 ) zone (inside and outside); (4) veeroption; (5) dive/sweep; (6) load option,and (7) draws.Every rushing play is designed to berun at virtually every defensive front,with the exception of blitzing seven-manfronts. For instance, the Hornets stayaway from running the Zone play intothe blitz. Therefore, versus teams thatutilize an extensive blitz package, theHornets implement a game plan thatautomatically adjusts from the playcalled to any of six-to-eight possibleblitz adjustments. These adjustmentsvary from utilizing another better suitedrun, or a quick pass that exploits a mis-match between one of the receivers andthe opposing defensive back.The predominant plays out of theHornet rushing package have been theDive/Sweep series. (See Diagrams 6, 7).This series has allowed ESU’s runningback Brian Shay to embark upon one of the most remarkable careers in NCAAhistory.
(See the accompanying sidebaron Shay and his record-setting career.)
The Passing Attack
The passing attack utilizes a 90-degree soft roll by the quarterback and isdesigned to exploit the inherent weak-nesses of nickel, dime and blitz cover-ages (Diagrams 8, 9, 10).The Hornets generally go into a gamewith seven different pass schemes, asthey have about a dozen from which tochoose. Matsakis explained, “Our dropback philosophy is based on the saying;‘Read the coverage and take what theygive you.’”“The bread and butter drop back passscheme is called Slide. Slide is the firstscheme that we teach every year in train-ing camp, it is sort of a rite of passageinto our offensive philosophy as itembodies the versatility and ability toquickly adjust, inherent in our system(see Diagram 11).“When we insert the slide scheme it isan exercise in total concentration andsynergy. It begins with the motion of ourinside receiver, aiding our personnel ingetting a pre-snap read of the front/cov-erage combination,” said Matsakis.“When the ball is snapped, the quar-terback reads the flat defender as he rollsback to his launching point.Simultaneously, the superback adjusts tothe front/coverage adjustments, whilethe receivers flow into the weak spots of the coverage. The key here is that by ourthird step into our scheme, the defensewill have given up any possible disguiseand at this point we must take advantageof any apparent weaknesses.”The Hornets have had fantastic suc-cess in utilizing their play-action attack.One out of every two play passesattempted last year resulted in at least a30-yard gain or a touchdown. “Withteams gearing up for Brain Shay, wewere able to take advantage of overag-gressive safeties,” said Matsakis.Kevin Keeffe, ESU’s offensive coor-dinator, commented, “From a prepara-tion standpoint, it is important we insertand practice 2-3 play-action passes eachweek triggered off our most featured runplays. The key to the play pass is to com-pletely fool the linebackers and second-ary by the upfield push of our offensivelinemen and the backfield action. Thecombination will yield the types of results we strive for, explosive plays.”One of the Hornets’most successfulplay passes is the zone switch, whichtakes advantage of the hard-hitting freesafety in Cover 3 (Diagram 12).
Diagram 1 Diagram 2 Diagram 3 Diagram 4 Diagram 5Diagram 6