Judging from K-State’s 21-3 loss to Nebraska on Saturday, the West Coast Offense apparently can improve with age.
Nebraska coach Bill Callahan is in his third year of establishing his version of the popular offense in Lincoln, Neb., and his team finally appears comfortable. The only strange part is that the offense doesn’t really look like it’s from the West Coast.
Instead of using short throws to set up the run, Nebraska used a steady diet of the run to set up a solid, play-action passing game. Its success depended on a great effort from each of the three running backs. The differences in the two West Coast Offenses were clear. Nebraska’s had a strong balance between run and pass, while K-State’s offense lacked that necessary balance.
Against K-State, Nebraska opened the game, committed to the run and stayed with that strategy throughout the game. The Huskers ran the ball 27 times (compared to nine passes) for 158 yards in the first half alone.
“We wanted to come in and establish the run,” Callahan said. “It’s imperative when you get on the road in the Big 12 that you run the ball consistently.”
Running backs Brandon Jackson, Cody Glenn and Marlon Lucky all found consistent room against the Wildcat front seven.
The three combined for 204 yards on 38 carries.
After the ground game was established, quarterback Zac Taylor had the chance to use a dangerous play-action passing game.
On an 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, the Huskers used eight straight runs to set up a three-yard play action touchdown pass by Taylor.
K-State attempted the same strategy as Nebraska on the offensive side but was unable to get anything going on the ground. Excluding the 38-yard fake punt run by Daniel Gonzalez, the Wildcats had 17 rushes for minus-16 yards.
“The running game was ineffective,” coach Ron Prince said. “We were going to have to execute very, very well. This has been a very good run defense.”
The Wildcat offense was highly ineffective in the first part of the game. Of its first 13 plays, 10 of them went for zero – or negative – yardage.
Facing a large deficit for all of the second half, K-State became one-dimensional, throwing the ball almost every play.
Freeman threw 34 passes in the second half on his way to 272 yards for the game. However, throwing the ball all the time allowed the Huskers to use a variety of coverages and blitzes, sacking Freeman four times in the final half.
“When the game is one-dimensional, they can make it very difficult,” Prince said. “We needed to have some balance. You could see the pressure they could put on in the pocket.”