STILLWATER - Dana Holgorsen drew up Oklahoma State's full-house backfield formation not out of some quest for genius.
Instead: "Sheer boredom in the summer," said the Cowboys' offensive coordinator.
The set, utilizing three backs along with quarterback Brandon Weeden in the shotgun, sure looked smart in OSU's rousing opening win over Washington State. The Cowboys broke out the formation immediately, with Kendall Hunter scoring from the 3 on the second play of their opening drive, following a fumble recovery deep in Cougars territory.
And the full-house look wasn't reserved for strictly near the goal line or strictly running plays. The Cowboys used it all over the field. And there was a 42-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon out of the look in the second quarter, along with more scores from the set as the game played on.
OSU ran for 291 yards and passed for 253 more, with a number of big plays popping from the full-house, which featured Weeden in the shotgun, flanked by the three backs in a tight grouping.
"We scored with it throwing it just as much as we did running it," Holgorsen said.
It surely wasn't what Cowboys fans had in mind from Holgorsen, known for his four-wide spread offenses at Houston and Texas Tech.
It's not even what Holgorsen envisioned, except he's merely adapting to his talent, which, for now, tilts toward Hunter and his backfield mates as much as receivers. Holgorsen has been outspoken about his search for playmaking wideouts, a search that's ongoing.
"I'd still rather have guys who can score out there," Holgorsen said. "But we don't have a whole lot of those guys, so we try to be a little more diverse with our sets."
This bit of diversity was sprung from a slow day spent on Grand Lake during a Cowboys coaches retreat. That's where Holgorsen scribbled out his three-back thought, then shared it with offensive line coach Joe Wickline.
"I was like, 'What do you think of this?'" Holgorsen said. "He said, 'Yeah, that's good stuff.' He kind of liked the idea. And he thought about it for a few weeks and we started experimenting.
"Everything is evolution with football. Everything is. So you try to come up with newer different ways of doing things. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."
Holgorsen's full-house worked quite well against the Cougars.
"I think there's a little bit of a misconception out there, that Dana is concerned with passing yards, when he wants to move the ball and score points," said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. "They just felt like that formation gave us an opportunity to run the ball effectively. And it's something that Washington State hadn't seen."
Opponents are likely to see more of it, although to what extent depends on defenses and OSU's own ability to bring more wideouts into play.
Still, it's a way for the Cowboys to take full advantage of its backfield strength.
Along with Hunter, who dazzled in the opener, tailbacks Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle are pushing for playing time and fullbacks Bryant Ward and David Paulsen are physical blockers.
While the fullbacks commanded most of the time with Hunter in the full-house against Washington State, Holgorsen said he prefers to get Smith and Randle in the trio more going forward.
"There's a place for all of them," Holgorsen said.
And despite first impressions, apparently there's a place for some power running in Holgorsen's plan, too.
"This offense is supposed to be spread, kind of soft," said guard Lane Taylor. "That formation really toughens up our offense a little bit and establishes our running game."
While Holgorsen likes the versatility the full-house provides, with one-on-one matchups outside for receivers one benefit, don't expect it to morph into some modern day wishbone.
"No, we're going to throw it," Holgorsen said, "we're not going to pitch it."
Still, the formation is all the buzz, already filtering down to the prep level, with reports of at least one Oklahoma high school installing the set this week.
Seems Holgorsen's down time produced something big time.
"We really didn't know how it would turn out," Holgorsen said. "Turned out all right I guess.
"We'll see where it goes."
NAME THAT FORMATION
After the Cowboys debuted their three-back offense, to much success, in Saturday night's rout of Washington State, the name "Diamond" was one name attached to the formation.
And it fit, with three running backs and quarterback Brandon Weeden forming a diamond in the shotgun.
But OSU offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, who drew up the look, didn't name it that.
"That's what you want to call it?" Holgorsen said. "I just call it three-back, it's got three backs back there."
OK, the set seems to be begging for something more sexy than "three-back."
On one OSU fan website, orangepower.com, one of the most spirited threads is devoted to naming the formation.
A few ideas:
* Cowboy Diamond: The favorite among the orangepower.com voting crowd, putting some ownership with the look.
* Power Pistol: Power set, with an OSU stamp. Could lead Dave Hunziker to exclaim "Power Pistol Firing!"
* Lake House: Holgorsen drew it up during a coaches retreat at Grand Lake.
* Grand Slam: A cross between the lake concept and the power run-game.
* Loaded Gun: It's a shotgun and it's definitely loaded.