The triple option is alive and well in college football, and maybe Nebraska will treat fans to an example of it Saturday against Ohio State.
Call it an homage to former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne from his former quarterback, current Huskers coach Scott Frost. Under Osborne, the “I-Bone option” became a staple of the offense in the 1990s.
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This isn’t exactly that, but it has turned into a potentially game-changing play in the first season under Frost. That’s partly because the health of freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez seems to improve each week from a knee sprain suffered in the season opener, a loss to Colorado.
Let’s call it “20 gun, motion right, wide option,” just to describe how it looks before the snap and what it leads to out on the edge. The “20 gun” means two running backs flanking Martinez in the shotgun with no tight end on the line.
Before the snap, the backside back goes in motion, in this case to the right, and at the snap Martinez, reading the unblocked defensive end to that side, either hands off to the other back on an inside zone play to the center of the line or keeps the ball.
In this case, Martinez keeps and uses his speed to outrun the defensive end to the corner. At the same time, the two receivers lined up wide right are trying to get blocks on defenders while the running back who started that way loiters in anticipation of a possible pitch from Martinez.
Martinez reads the blocks of the receivers and either keeps the ball and cuts up the field or pitches. Either way, it calls for quick decisions and accurate one-on-one tackling by the defense.