UW can burn run-conscious defenses
MADISON During the first half of Wisconsin’s demolition of Nevada-Las Vegas, quarterback Russell Wilson made a mental note.
The Rebels were crowding the line of scrimmage in an effort to slow UW’s running game, particularly in the red zone.
He shared that observation with offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and suggested a play-action pass might work.
“I saw something in the defense we could capitalize (on),” Wilson said.
On their first series of the second half, the Badgers faced a first and goal from the 8.
UW deployed one wide receiver (Jared Abbrederis), two tight ends (Jake Byrne and Jacob Pedersen) and two backs (James White and Bradie Ewing). The personnel grouping screamed running play.
Wilson faked a handoff to White, who cut a defensive end to keep his hands down. Pedersen, lined up next to right tackle Josh Oglesby, drifted out uncovered into the right corner of the end zone and Wilson hit him for an easy score.
“You’d like to say it is feel,” Chryst said when asked about the process of choosing when to use play-action. “You know that if you’re doing some things well that fits a certain situation.
“It’s not like I saw the eyes of this guy. Now I think the quarterback can.
“Russell said that the next time we are here this would be a good thing.”
The touchdown pass to Pedersen was among several big hits UW got from its play-action game.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley knows his defense will have to be alert for play-action passes when the Beavers take on UW at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“You always have to be ready because off of every run that they have, there is a real good play-action pass coming,” Riley said. “You have to play disciplined defense.”
UW ran the ball on its first three offensive plays, with tailback Montee Ball gaining a combined 33 yards.
On first down from the UNLV 32, the Badgers deployed two tight ends, two backs and one wide receiver, Abbrederis.
Wilson faked a handoff to White, rolled to the right and was given a clear throwing lane because Ewing sealed a defender to the inside.
Wilson hit Abbrederis, who faced single coverage with no safety help, for a 23-yard gain. That led to UW’s first TD.
Analyst Craig James noted during ESPN’s coverage the effectiveness of UW’s play-action game.
“The thing about Paul Chryst (is) he is a patient man,” James said. “He will set it up. He will absolutely exploit you.”
on first and 10 when you’re bunched up. Here comes play action.”
On cue, Chryst struck on the next play.
UW faced first down from its 33 after runs of 6 and 7 yards by White. The Badgers again deployed two tight ends, two backs and one wide receiver. This time the wide receiver was Nick Toon, split to the right.
Wilson, who overthrew Pedersen on play-action on the previous series, faked to White. He again rolled to the right and, with Ewing serving as a blocker, had time to hit Toon for a 39-yard gain to the UNLV 28.
UW started its next series on the UNLV 42. On first down, Wilson faked a handoff to White and dumped the ball off to Ewing in the right flat. Ewing rambled for a 41-yard gain to set up the Badgers’ final score.
A successful play-action game is the culmination of deception by all the units on offense.
That the quarterback and running back must carry out their fakes is obvious. However, the receivers must sell their “run” blocks. Ditto for the offensive linemen.
“It’s one thing to have play-action, but if your run action isn’t really that great, it doesn’t really matter,” UW coach Bret Bielema said. “It’s just as much about what the offensive line is doing as the running backs.
“When you’ve got linemen that are pulling and you don’t know if they’re pulling to come up on you, or if they’re pulling to stay flat on the line of scrimmage and let their quarterback have time, it’s very difficult.
“It used to drive me nuts when I was a defensive coordinator here against Paul in spring scrimmages, so I get it. I understand it, and it’s a valuable piece of our offense that probably