Football coaches sometimes can make it seem as though scheming up plays is a complex undertaking. But quite often, it boils down spreading the field and making it a simple numbers game.
Exhibit A is this play that Maryland ran to gain its winning touchdown on the road last week at Minnesota. It’s something fans likely will see again from both the Terrapins and Buckeyes in their meeting on Saturday in Ohio Stadium, because both have been known to use the “inside zone run/pass option.”
It sounds exotic; the quarterback must have lot on his mind as it unfolds, right? But more often than not it’s little more than a pre-snap counting exercise for him.
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If he sees five defenders in the tackle box — the same number as there are offensive linemen — a give by quarterback Max Bortenschlager to the running back makes sense. In this case, there were five Gophers in the box — the key block came from the right guard Terrance Davis, who climbed to the second level to smash the play-side linebacker and set Ty Johnson free on a 34-yard touchdown run.
If the quarterback sees a couple of the outside defenders pinching in, he has the option to pull the ball and pass a quick bubble screen to the edge where twin receivers have deployed to either side to stretch the field, with one wideout serving as a blocker.
And of course, the quarterback always can ride the running back at the mesh point, then keep the ball and run if he sees the outside defender trying to crash the handoff. For the QB, it’s count, read and go where the numbers take him.