Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich’s early-season gameplans were not always superb. The planned quarterback switch in the season opener against Mississippi State didn’t really ignite the Cowboy offense, and the plan against West Virginia was just awful.
But Yurcich has been finding his groove, and the gameplan against Baylor was spectacular. Which is one of many reasons the Cowboys smoked Baylor 49-17. Our Gina Mizell wrote about Yurcich for the Wednesday Oklahoman. You can read that story here.
The Cowboys used five formations on their initial nine-play drive, which ended with Baylor getting a fourth-down stop. The Cowboys used four formations on their second series, a 99-yard touchdown drive, including a formation not shown on the first drive.
In all, Yurcich employed 10 formations, not counting various twists. Among the notable additions that had Baylor squirming: a two-tight end look. Here are the 10 formations, listed in terms of frequency:
1. Three wide, two back: 17 snaps. Sometimes, all three receivers were on one side; mostly they were split 2-1 or 1-2. I grouped them all together.
2. Four wide, one back: 16 snaps. Sometimes, the receiver split was 2-2, sometimes 1-3 or 3-1.
3. Two wide, one back: 12 snaps. Which means two tight ends. Think about that. OSU used two tight ends about one-sixth of its plays. Amazing for an offense that at times has forsaken a tight end for games on end.
4. Four wide, one back, with one of the receivers in motion: 7 snaps. Maybe a football mind would lump this in with the non-motion four wide alignment, but it looks different enough to me to warrant separation.
4. Two wide, three back: 7 snaps. Dana Holgorsen’s old fullhouse backfield. My personal favorite of OSU’s formations. Either power running or a deep ball, off a fake handoff,
6. Three wide, one back: 3 snaps. Which means a tight end on the field. Not particularly strange to defenses, but when a team goes from four wides to two tights, then back to a single tight end, it can cause defensive confusion.
7. Four wide, one back, with the back in motion: 2 snaps. The result is basically a five-wide formation, which the Cowboys rarely use without the motion wrinkle.
7. Three wide, two back, with one of the backs in motion: 2 snaps. The effect becomes four wide, one back, but the motion helps quarterback Clint Chelf recognize the defense.
7. One wide, three backs: 2 snaps. A goal-line formation. The Cowboys got two Kye Staley touchdowns out of this alignment.
10. Three wide, two backs, with one of the receivers in motion: 1 snap. When receivers go in motion, the defense goes on alert for a shovel pass, which in this game didn’t come.
Quite an array of looks. Baylor didn’t seem so much mystified by all the different formations as the Bears seemed weary of all the adjustments, both just before the snap and on the sideline.
So, which formations worked best? Well, the old standbys were excellent. A few observations:
* Chelf was fantastic throwing out of the four receiver formation. He completed nine of 12 passes for 203 yards, including plays of 56 yards and 21 yards to Tracy Moore, 37 yards to Marcel Ateman, 27 yards to Charlie Moore, 25 yards to Brandon Sheperd and 18 yards to Josh Stewart. The 56-yarder to Tracy Moore went for a touchdown. The Dana Holgorsen offense has undergone changes in the three years since Holgorsen went to West Virginia, but its standard look still produces.
* The three-wide, two-back formation was excellent as well. Chelf threw three times, plus a sack, and completed all three — 19 and 22 yards to Tracy Moore, and 33 yards to Jhajuan Seales for a touchdown. The Cowboys ran well out of this formation, with 13 carries (not counting the sack) for 68 yards.
* The two tight-end formation was not particularly effective, except for Jeremy Smith, who had gains of 29 and 23 with the alignment. Des Roland carried four times for 11 yards with two tights; Rennie Childs carried twice for five yards. Chelf was 1-of-2 passing for zero yards with two tights.
* The three-wide, two-back set with someone in motion, receiver or back, didn’t work at all. Which is a good reason why it was used only three times — two Chelf runs that went basically nowhere, plus a Chelf incompletion.
* The fullhouse backfield was boom or bust. Staley had two carries for nine yards, but otherwise, it was wild. Chelf lost four yards on a carry and was sacked another time. He also threw incomplete on a miscommunication. But Chelf also hit two huge passes out of this formation — the 28-yard completion to Charlie Moore on a streak pattern, from the 1-yard line, the first play of that 99-yard drive; and a strike on a deep route to Ateman, who broke a tackle and turned it into 51 yards.