The only way to keep a play concealed, the only way to prevent it from appearing in another coach’s film room, is to simply not run it in a game.
Once a play is used in a game situation, it’s out of the bag forever. Every coach in America not only has access to it, but they’ll study it, analyze it, and most importantly, figure out a way to stop it.
Following K-State’s 61-10 drubbing of Missouri State on Saturday, coach Ron Prince alluded to the fact that his play calling so far this season has been, if nothing else, calculated.
“We had a plan on how we wanted to play the first three games,” Prince said. “Some things we wanted to show; some things we wanted to conceal.”
In my opinion, Prince had no interest in concealing anything – and he didn’t.
K-State shouldn’t have needed a trick play to score its first touchdown against Missouri State. By the looks of it, the Wildcats might not have needed 11 players, either.
That’s why initially, it made no sense to see Prince unveiling plays that could have better served his team in Big 12 Conference play. Missouri State didn’t strike me as a team loaded with talent. The Bears probably weren’t worth anything more than a straight-ahead dive or a toss play.
Generally speaking, coaches playing an inferior team will try to stay as vanilla as they possibly can offensively to avoid exposing their playbooks.
Why give a future opponent usable game tape when you don’t have to?
Prince, one might think, had a reason. Maybe he wanted to send a message to Texas, reminding them that he’s willing to use the unconventional plays that have worked a number of times before.
After all, those same trick plays contributed to K?State’s big win a year ago, when the Wildcats put up 45 points against a veteran Texas defense.
No team likes to get beat the same way twice.
The brilliance of the trick plays K-State has employed this season is that they are run out of precisely the same formation.
Against Auburn, Nelson’s touchdown toss came off a screen pass from quarterback Josh Freeman.
Against Missouri State, though, Nelson threw his TD pass after taking a handoff. Pre-snap, both plays were eerily similar.
The way in which they were executed was decidedly different.
The fearlessness Prince has shown with the play calling and his insistence on changing things up – even against a team like Missouri State – makes the Wildcats a difficult team to prepare for.
K-State’s offensive line, a huge concern coming into the season, seems to have settled in.
As a result, the Wildcats have flexibility and a certain freedom to call any play at any time. They can mix things up a bit. They’re dangerous.
Sure, opposing teams might know what’s coming.
Remember, it’s all right there on the game tape. The challenge is determining when it’s coming.
Oh, yeah, and how to stop it.
Jeffrey Rake is a senior in print journalism. Please send comments to email@example.com.