Moorhead’s NEW Shotgun Inside Zone with BANG, BEND and BOUNCE!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Analysis 28 Comments

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The Ducks have made a big change in a subtle way that could mark the gradual decline of the Pistol formation at Oregon! This change was evident in the Pac-12 Championship, but not in the Fiesta Bowl, yet materialized again in the Oregon Spring Game. I refer to how the Inside Zone out of the Shotgun is now being run, as this “new” method is making a comeback to Oregon after being introduced originally by the Ducks back in 2014. So yes, this is an Oregon, “Back-to-the-Future” moment, but a very positive one that merits our examination.

Pac-12 Video

It LOOKS like a Shotgun, but the RB path is similar to a Pistol.

As you will see the screenshot above, and the videos below, (They are not long, as they are only one play each) the running back, who usually runs across and in front of the quarterback is now running the Inside Zone differently. Now he will take a jab step from the side of the QB toward the quarterback and will face the line of scrimmage, charge forward and downhill while aiming at the playside guard’s inside leg.

The A-Gap being attacked (playside) is still on the opposite side of where the running back lined up, (the red/white “A” above) but this way he has more flexibility in his running paths to Bang, Bend or Bounce the play as he would with the Pistol formation.

When Oregon ran this Inside Zone variation in 2014, I created an analysis that remains one of the most watched over the history of FishDuck. It helps young running backs to see examples of the three running back path options, and we can update it with some fun examples from this last Pac-12 Championship. (all three examples are in one game!)

The new Shotgun Inside Zone can be with reading a defender or just a handoff. In the example above, the QB is reading the backside USC defensive end, and since the DE is not charging the running back but staying out on the perimeter to guard the tight end–the correct read is to hand-off to Travis Dye as the QB carried out. Because Dye is lined up on the right side, then the playside or A-Gap the offense is targeting is on the left side, between the center and the left guard.

The blocking above is superb, and Dye just “Bangs” it right up the middle (hence the label for this running back path) for a big gain. The combo block by the center Alex Forsyth, No. 78 with T.J. Bass, No. 56 is what pops it. The both clear out the Trojan Nose Tackle and then Bass slides over and knocks the linebacker out of the way. This kind of play gets Coach Mario Cristobal very excited!

Above is not a read, but a straight hand-off, thus a Shotgun Inside Zone. Since Travis Dye lined up on the left side of the quarterback, they are attacking as playside the A-Gap on the right side of the center. When Dye gets to the hole, it is jammed as he runs into the back of a teammate, but he can see that that USC defensive end No. 49 and Trojan linebacker No. 26 could quickly slide off their blocks and nail him for little-to-no-gain.

Hence Travis is going to “Bend” his running back path to other side (left) of the line of scrimmage, and is immediately confronted by a tackler that he discards with a spin move. The defensive pursuit is on Dye immediately, and while he only makes four yards…he made four yards when there were wall-to-wall defenders where the Ducks originally attacked. This is a good running back making something out of nothing.

Pac-12 Video

Sean Dollars “Better-Bounce!” Fortunately the blocking on the edge was superb…

Before we move to the last video example, it helps to look at the screenshot above to see “why” Sean Dollars, No. 5, will “Bounce” it out to the sideline. As Dollars approached the line-of-scrimmage he could see that the playside A-Gap (Bright Red arrow above) was plugged, and the backside A-Gap (Yellow arrow above) was also filled as well as the backside B-Gap and the defender rushing in from the C-Gap (Burgundy arrow on left above) gave an extra bit of urgency to his decision.

Fortunately the playside guard above, Steven Jones, No. 74 moved his defender inside, the tackle, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, No. 71 went out to confront the safety while Tight End Hunter Kampmoyer No. 48 simply shielded the USC defensive end from the play (that works!) and the result is a nice running lane for Dollars to run outside through.

Above is truly a Shotgun Inside Zone Read as the QB reads the backside USC defensive end No. 50, who hesitated during the mesh, and thus the correct read was to hand-off as was executed. The fact that Sean Dollars recognized this “Bounce” opportunity so quickly is proof as to why he saw more playing time at the end of the season. When Dollars-turns-on-a-Dime, good things can happen!

“Oh, how we love to learn about Our Beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by UO Athletics

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Brian Libby

Charles, it sounds like you’re saying that this tweak to the offense is maybe a sign of embracing our Kelly/Helfrich offensive past instead of running away from it (both figuratively and literally, I guess). Would you say that’s the case?


Great article Charles! I noticed this play in last season’s Pac-12 championship and was encouraged that this was finally a sign the offense was stepping away from the plodding pistol so I’m cautiously optimistic about Moorhead being handed the reins this upcoming season.

One thing to ponder: in order to really get the offense going, we need to have a 1k receiver. We haven’t had a receiver grab that many yards since Dillon Mitchell in 2018. Given the potential and talent level of current crop, any predictions on who would that be? My money’s on Devon Williams. He gave us a look at what he could do in a half-implemented Moorhead offense last season, with it being fully implemented this season I think he’ll be able to take advantage of a lot of one-on-one match-ups with his sheer size.


I think the biggest problem in the running game since 2018 is the lack of threat from the passing game and a lack of misdirection.

Defenses have been loading up and stuffing the run.

Doing some keepers on the zone read and some RPOs will help things out.

What I still don’t see from a Cristobal run team (at least not much) – is the fly sweeps, and other misdirection plays to make the D pay for over-anticipating the hand off.

Like for instance… On those infamous left dives on 4th and one – fake the handoff and have the slot (or WR) come for a pitch going the other way. I’ll take those odds over Verdell knocking back 9 defenders.

Or a play action pass on 4th and 1 when the D loads the box. Let a tall receiver run down the seam and get up for a high pass.

As for the pistol, I think the extra step (or two) back for the RB gives the D an extra step to catch up with the offense.


Now we need an additional twist… “Bang, Bend, Bounce”… And BRUISE!

Good read, Charles! I missed these articles!


This is another area where this site rises above many others. Not only are there opinions on what is going on based on astute observations. There are insights on how the game is going to be played on the field. Another impressive analysis on what to look for on game day, which is inching closer and closer!

Anyone know the fall practice schedule? There use to be one practice open to the public, maybe this year too?


Well written Charles, thank you for sharing your fascinating breakdown of the Shotgun Inside Zone with the B,B, and B options! If MC can let JM loose to run the office, it gives me hope for the 2021 season!

One of the pluses I see with these plays is it the concept works well with interchangeable pieces (players). The “next man up“ attitude plays well to these read type plays, so if someone does get banged up, we don’t lose the entire offense. And if recent recruiting has done anything it has certainly added DEPTH!

Combined with wide zone replays, the ducks should have a heapin’ helpin’ of plays that lineup in similar fashion, but takes what the D gives them. Having the run option with banging, bending, or bouncing options, along with the pass option on each of these plays should open up a plethora of explosion plays for the Ducks!.

Is this going to be a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinator’s or what?

Santa Rosa Duck

Thanks Charles, I enjoy your analysis.

Dave Luli 4 star offensive lineman, class of 2022, has committed to University of Oregon DUCKS! Nice to get a 6’4″, 324 pound lineman out of the State of Washington.

Santa Rosa Duck

Charles, does he qualify as a “road grader”?


He and Sagapulo are road graders.

David Marsh

A big time get for Oregon. Especially since it starts to build the much needed Washington to Oregon talent pipeline. Something that has been missing and would be incredibly valuable as Oregon continues to grow as a power.

It also nice because it helps us and hurts Washington.

Jon Joseph

I am enlightened! Great analysis. Thank you Charles.

I am hoping that in 2021, the team uses more of this loaded Pistol, and not the Pistol that all too often we have seen fire blanks?

The Ducks need a consistently performing O and not one that takes the fans on a roller coaster ride; thrills followed by chills.

So interested to see if the O will be Moorhead’s this season? Not quite the talent JM had at Penn State his final season, when the Nittany Lions O lit it up, but it is darn close. And with McSorley at QB, JM did this without a QB who had NFL written all over him. (But in fairness, with a RB who did.)

Mario, please let Joe give us Moor O!


This is an encouraging sign!


I enjoyed your very thorough analysis! I appreciate you pointing out the running back’s foot path. The running back’s ability to alter the path adjusting to what the defense does is a major improvement over the pistol plunge.

Good use of video to show the reads by the qb and rb. Both do a good job!

Sean Dollars quick decision making looks like he will be setting a high standard and will make it hard to keep him off the field!

Jon Joseph

Is Sean be good to go when practices begin in August?

Steven A

From what I am reading, he will not be ready in August.

Lou Farnsworth

Nice little nugget on a classic Oregon bread and butter play Charles. “Dollars turns on a dime”….and a great gem to end with!

From that video it sure looks like ( albeit out of screen ) that the corners are on islands. With the wideout mismatches that we can now confront DBs with, RPO Joe could have a hay day slapping a pass option on this.

Fun fun!


We do have a lot of depth and potential at WR. If Moorehead can find his QB, then his offense will move the football and score. If DeRuyter’s defense can stop the run and pressure opposing QB’s early (tOSU game), then this team has an opportunity to be really good.

Getting anxious to see what these guys can do….

Go Ducks!!


A useful lesson, Charles.The videos bring the concepts to life. Your story helps us prepare for the coming season.