Oregon’s “smash mouth” offense was put to the test in the 2020 Rose Bowl. The Ducks produced only 204 yards of total offense due to Wisconsin aligning one or two more defenders than Oregon could block when running the inside and outside zone read. Yet Oregon was able to adjust the assignment of one player in the backfield, producing all three of the Ducks’ offensive touchdowns via the zone read play.
The above play shows a basic outside zone play (OZ-Base) to the right that led to Oregon’s first touchdown. Wisconsin has eight defenders assigned to stop the primary play to the right while Oregon only has six players (five lineman and a fullback) blocking for the outside run. This puts Oregon at a disadvantage, and Herbert will keep the ball if the read key (red) also commits to stopping the outside run.
The second touchdown saw Oregon run an inside zone play with the arrow screen (IZ-Arrow) to the receiver in motion. Herbert has the option to give the ball to the running back, throw the arrow screen to the receiver, or keep the ball. This play has the Ducks’ primary run play outnumbered with Wisconsin’s seven run defenders matched against six offensive lineman. Herbert will keep the ball when the read key (red) widens with the arrow screen, creating just enough space for his second rushing touchdown.
The final zone read play above is a variation of the outside zone play used to score Oregon’s first touchdown. This variation has the tight end hooking (OZ-Hook) the outside defender to create space if Herbert chooses to keep the ball. Oregon will be using five lineman to block the six defenders, which creates another numbers disadvantage. The design of this play creates just enough hesitation by the read key (forcing him around the hook block) for Herbert to make the game winning touchdown.
With Ducks’ offensive coordinator position open, it will be interesting to see how the zone read fits into next year’s offense. The updated prospect list includes LSU offensive analyst Jorge Munoz, Tulane offensive coordinator Will Hall, former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead, and Los Angeles Rams offensive assistant Jedd Fisch, all versed in modern offensive schematics.
Geneseo, IL Top Photo by Eugene Johnson
Phil Anderson, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.
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