Of all the factors that could boost a football team to an upset victory, there’s one element that usually enters the mix: surprise, courtesy of a trick play.
They produce the type of moments that live on in sports infamy and are generally a credit to the instincts and guts of the coordinators who draw them up — Nebraska’s “fumblerooski” in the 1984 national championship game, Boise State’s 2007 “Statue-of-Liberty” play to beat OU in the Fiesta Bowl, the Sooners’ fake field goal conversion for a touchdown in Bedlam last season, and the list goes on.
So when Oklahoma State takes on No. 1 Florida State on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, will offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich have any tricks up his sleeve?
“If we had trick plays, or if we didn’t have trick plays, we’re not going to tell you anyway,” Yurcich said Thursday to a few chuckles from reporters.
It’s a fair response from the second-year man in charge of the Cowboys’ offense. If he opens up to the media about which trick plays he’s got dialed up, it defeats the purpose of catching the Seminoles’ defense off guard.
But without actually saying the Cowboys weren’t planning anything extravagant in hopes of dethroning the returning national champions, Yurcich explained why his players’ experience will dictate his play calling. OSU lost nine starters on offense last season, and their replacements are being more integrated into the standard playbook.
“I think we go about our preparation and look at matchups, and who we have to get the ball to and what our best advantageous looks (are) based on who they are,” Yurcich said. “Against a great defense like this, it’s harder to find those matchups. But you’re still looking for those and you’re still trying to execute the offense and plays that your guys know the best and that they’ve had the most practice at.”
That’s a philosophy that coach Mike Gundy stood by when asked about offensive tempo during OSU football media day in early August. He would like to see the Cowboys play fast, but within their grasp of understanding practice.
“In my opinion, the worst thing a coach can do is to ask players to perform and execute plays that they’re not capable of at this time,” Gundy said. “We just have to cut back and reduce and start from scratch until we develop these players.”
OSU coaches and players have said they started game planning for Florida State much earlier than for previous season openers. But it’s unknown if any trick plays were part of that picture. Whatever that plan may be, Yurcich says it’s fundamentally simple at its core.
“You have to be who you are, especially in games like this,” Yurcich said. “We plan to call the plays that we’ve been running for several weeks now.”