We all understand the concept of play-action passing. Catch the defense in a situation where they expect to see the run, then fake the run and find an open receiver. Ron Prince introduced a little different variation of this to K-State football by running play action in obvious passing downs and expecting that the fake handoff would fool the opposing defense because they weren't nearly as smart as the Prince.
Sorry for the flashback. Anyway, typically we see play action when the quarterback is under center with a single back or an "I" formation. Sometimes, you see it from the shotgun on a fake zone read. Against Miami, K-State introduced another variation on the play-action theme. We've all seen bootlegs off play action, where the quarterback will run essentially parallel to the line of scrimmage and throw downfield. But now, K-State is running play action off zone read fakes and quarterback-dive fakes with Collin Klein running toward the receiver as he throws. In fact, K-State ran such a play action on the very first play of the game against Miami. Later, Klein would complete a jump pass for K-State's third touchdown. We'll take a look at the quarterback-draw variation that K-State ran in the third quarter.
K-State again lines up in 11 personnel, this time with John Hubert and Travis Tannehill aligned to Klein's right. It's first down and 10 to go for K-State, and Miami is in a base 4-3 defense with the strong side linebacker lined up over McDonald.
Just before the snap, Chris Harper, who would be the best-blocking wide receiver on most teams, motions into the backfield, stopping in front of Hubert on the strong side. Miami has to be thinking run at this point. In fact, defensive back Brandon McGee (21) is sneaking up toward the line of scrimmage, possibly anticipating the Cats will run to the strong side behind McDonald, Harper and Hubert.
Surprise! Klein takes the snap and he, Hubert and Harper take off to the left. Note Miami's weakside linebacker and the defensive back covering Brodrick Smith (top) are both looking into the backfield. Slot receiver Sheldon Smith drifts into the flat...
...which is where he would have caught the ball, except Brodrick Smith missed his blocker and the defensive back read the play when Klein pulled up to throw. As part of the play fake, Klein keeps running toward his target, Sheldon Smith, but it's too late now as the play has been read. Klein's facing pressure from the weakside defensive end and tackle. It's looking like a sack...
...until Brodrick Smith atones for missing the block initially and punishes the Hurricane defensive back seven yards into the backfield. Sheldon Smith drifts forward into the open space vacated by the weakside linebacker...
...and Klein hits him for a 13-yard gain.
Again, as discussed yesterday, K-State is not going to run what is considered an exciting offense by today's standards. And the Wildcats aren't talented enough to simply line up and run whatever the offensive coordinator feels like running and just expecting to out-talent the defense. But by understanding tendencies, exploiting matchups, and executing properly, Klein and the K-State offense can cause problems for faster, more-talented defenses. This play was a prime example. Miami was fortunate that its mistake in the read worked out, initially, because the play called for a wide receiver screen. Had the play called for a stop-and-go to Brodrick Smith, the Cats may have had a touchdown.
In fact, don't be shocked if you see that very play called at some point later this season. Snyder knows other coaches will see this play on tape and point it out to their players, and he will wait for the opportunity to catch them expecting one thing, while actually getting another.