Washington State Football: Let’s Talk About the Running Game


So right now I already hear you… “What run game?” And you have a great point.  Washington State football tallied a very sad 6 total yards of rushing on Thursday night and for fans that were promised improvements in the rushing attack of the Cougs, I’d say they all feel a bit short changed.

Well I had a few discussions with people about this and I thought some things are worth going over because a lot of people seem to miss the point of having a balanced attack (Yes even ESPN and Pac-12 analysts).

When you see a team with an outrageous or unique offensive style, you automatically ask two questions.  First, how many games do they win with it? Second, does it work?  Now the tricky part about that first question is figuring out what a different attack would do for the team in question.  Well right now the team in question is Washington State and we have one game to pick from this year, so let’s go to the numbers.

What Rutgers did.

496 Total yards, 215 rushing on 43 attempts, 281 passing on 16 completions. 5 total Touchdowns. 22 first downs.

What Wazzu did.

538 Total yards, 6 rushing on 14 attempts, 532 passing on 40 completions. 5 total Touchdowns. 22 first downs.

So did Wazzu’s offensive approach work as well as a more balanced approach?  Well lets go a little deeper.  What exactly does rushing the ball do?  The first thing that comes to mind for Cougar fans is time management.  Why does rushing the ball help with time management?  Because when you run the ball the clock keeps moving and you can snap the ball when you need to.  Well oddly enough completing passes does the exact same thing.  So completed catches and rushes are time control plays.

So lets talk about if time management works in Mike Leach’s Air-Raid based on last night.  So if you notice Rutgers had a total of 59 time control plays, 16 completions and 43 rush attempts.  Well WSU had a total of 54 time control plays, 40 completions and 14 rush attempts.  That results in WSU running only 5 less time control plays than a team that rushed the ball 29 more times in a single game.  So was time control an issue in this air raid last night?  The numbers and really the situation of the game say no.

What else does rushing do?  Well it wears down an opposing team and it also can set up huge plays with play action passes allowing a team to be more “explosive”.  Lets get into that.

I was having a discussion last night with someone at the game about how much more evolved the Cougars offense looks this year.  Every single play is run with a purpose and it sets up another play.  Washington State runs quick screens to wide outs that usually go for an astonishingly quick 5-7 yards.  It sets up so one receiver steps back to catch the ball and one steps up to block one db and then the wide out who catches the ball just heads straight up the sideline as fast as he can.  Well last night we saw what that sets up, Mike Leach’s play action.

This time you fake the pass out to the first receiver while the blocking receiver steps up and shows block.  By now the corner will read the screen and sprint towards the wide out in the backfield and that’s when the blocking receiver takes off down field and is wide open for a huge gain. Explosive right?  Well that can go even further.  If the db’s read that the screen is a fake they will immediately take off with the wide out running down the field and that allows the QB to actually go back to the original screen play mid-play.  It’s effective in every way and twice as good as what a running play would set up.

The point is this.  Mike Leach is an incredible offensive mind.  Even though the running game isn’t where he wants it yet, his offense is up and working just as effectively as a balanced team like Rutgers.  Our issues lie on Defense and we will have more on that this week.  Stay tuned and GO COUGS!