The Joe Moorhead Offense: The Hitch Concept

Coach Eric Boles Analysis 27 Comments

For most of the off-season, we have been examining what makes Coach Joe Moorhead’s offense go. For the past couple of months we’ve focused on his passing attack, and today we’ll dig even deeper into that aspect of the offense and learn a bit about Coach Moorhead’s “hitch” concept.


It’s well documented that Coach Moorhead likes to stretch a defense vertically. What happens when you continue to test a defense with deep passes throughout a game? You start to soften the coverage. The corners start to play off , the safeties get deeper, and the entire secondary starts to rock back on their heels at the snap. That’s where the hitch concept thrives.

The hitch concept usually consists of all hitch routes. Occasionally Coach Moorhead adds an out route by his outside receiver to the boundary side (short side of the field). The hitch concept is so simple that almost all of the quarterback’s decisions are made before the ball is even snapped.

The very first thing that the QB assess is the position of his offense on the field. If they are on or near one of the hashes, the QB will never throw the hitch to the field side (the wide side of the field). That is a long, lateral distance to throw and carries a big risk of the corner undercutting the route and taking it the other way.

After the QB assesses field position, his next pre-snap read is whether the throw is going to the slot receiver on the field side or one of the two receivers to the boundary side. If the linebacker to the field is playing too far inside the box, the QB can take the slot all day long. If that LB is playing wider, the next read is the outside receiver to the boundary side. A corner playing loose will trigger a throw to the out or hitch route on the outside receiver on the boundary. Should that be cloudy, the hitch to the boundary slot receiver is next. And if all fails, with the corner staying tight and the LB’s muddying the area over the slots, the QB has the RB sitting right over the middle.

One of the nice things about the hitch concept is that the QB can be right a couple different ways. In the clip above, the QB could have easily thrown the slot hitch to the field, but he had his mind made up on the boundary. He saw the corner playing off the WR to the boundary and knew he had the out route.

The hitch is a simple concept, but an effective one. When paired with the deep shots Coach Moorhead likes to take, the defense can be easily caught off guard as their coverage starts to become relaxed. It’s definitely something that will be fun to watch play out in Autzen.

Coach Eric Boles
Newark, Ohio

Top Photo Credit: Kevin Cline

Phil Anderson, the Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.

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Thanks Coach Boles! Your breakdown of plays is on point. It gets me excited to see a hitch called after a couple successful deep strikes! I just hope to see it in September 2020 AND Sept 2021!
Go Ducks!


Seems like most fans will remember the hitch as it was called against our soft third and long defense over and over. Does the hitch get audibled when a qb sees an easy quick 5-10 yds in the defensive alignment? This would seem to be a play a well tuned tandem of qb and receiver could do over and over with the right signals.


That is so true. Over & over, in the recent past, the best down & distance a team could hope for against an Oregon defense is 3rd & long, and the longer the better. The play that will go down in infamy from the ASU game, 3rd & l6 was that constant theme, plus Lenoir choosing to make a big play instead of just covering and taking the receiver down.

Steven A

Thanks coach.
A little off topic here, just saw that SEC going to an all conf 10 game schedule except for Vandy and Arkansas who will play 15 games so everyone gets a shot at them!


Wow, a 15 game season. I bet the players like that (not).


That was a good one, bravo!

David Marsh

Yeah i mean without FCS schools to play in week 9ish those SEC teams all really need Vandy and Arkansas…


Yesterday, we made our NHL predictions; with MLB having started already, and the NBA starting today, it would be remiss to not get our picks in on those championships:

MLB: It’s easy to pick the Yankees, and I will. Yankees over the Dodgers.
NBA: This is tougher, I see at least 6 teams that you could legitimately pick: Lakers over the Bucks.

In WNBA action, Sabrina bounced back from a poor shooting debut, to go for 33 points, 11-20, (6-10) she also had 7 rebounds and 7 assists, in the 93-80 loss to Satou and the Dallas Wings. Satou finished with 12 points. The triple doubles will be very hard to come by for Sabrina as they require teammates catching a pass and then scoring; neither of which are occurring with any regularity with the Liberty.


Thats got to be hard for a star player when you’re surrounded by teammates that can’t catch and score.


The Liberty are 0-2, and they played better in the first game. I watch them and try as hard as I can to be unbiased, there is no way that last season’s Lady Ducks wouldn’t have smoked the Liberty.

The Liberty have no plan, no organization, which results in horrible spacing. No player has any plan to follow, so they just stand around, no expectation of when, where, to expect a pass, that will bounce off their hands.

During both games, Sabrina has kept her spirits up, at least externally. Playing tough defense, you can see her talking. But this losing is going to be hard.


Yea, thats the trouble with being #1 in the draft, you get to go to the worst team out there.

David Marsh

Last year’s lady ducks BEAT team USA. There is a good argument to be made that last year’s team was the best in the world and was robbed of a national championship.


If last year’s Ducks played this year’s Liberty, Sebrina would probably learn a lot by having to guard herself.


In a later interview she pointed out that her freshman year she had to bounce a few passes off teammates heads before they learned to be ready always.


Thanks coach!

You make learning the offense easy and fun; great to watch for in the future! Thanks Coach.

Jon Sousa

Hopefully, the near future…


Hoping the Hitch comes off frequently, and without a hitch. Go Ducks. Thanks Coach. Well done.


A perfect sized serving of information complemented by clear, straightforward diagrams and game film. I rewatched the video often enough to see how the field side hitch was open, and the RB looked like he could have had a 5 yard gain before contact, with more if he could make a defender miss.


Thanks coach, more good information on Moorheads game, and you used a couple of terms I had not heard before, “boundary side” and “field side”. There’s always more to learn

Thanks much


Much thanks, coach. As BDF mentioned these looks inside opens so much up. The reads a QB looks for, doing so in 3-5 seconds. It was fascinating when Patrick Mahomes revealed that all his success has come with him basically being illiterate as far as reading defenses.


Almost like Mahomes is the anti-Manning. Over reading vs reacting only. Weird.