BATON ROUGE, La. — Matt Canada does not let reporters into his offensive laboratory, so no one saw the wildcat formation coming when LSU unveiled it against Alabama.
The wildcat was responsible for the one big play the Tigers hit against the Crimson Tide, a direct snap that running back Darrel Williams turned into a 54-yard run that set up LSU’s lone touchdown in a 24-10 loss. The run was the longest of the senior running back’s career by 14 yards.
“I think it was something they didn’t prepare for,” said LSU quarterback Danny Etling. “We hadn’t shown that yet and we thought we could break it out for them to add a wrinkle they’d have to adjust.”
Canada added the play during LSU’s bye week, and Williams was seen as the perfect back to run out of the formation.
“Darrel is one of our most valuable players,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “That is something that Matt came up with during the open date. It is something that he felt would be successful, and it was.”
Running the wildcat to perfection
Though it is an exceedingly simple play, it took a bit of work to make sure the wildcat got off without a hitch.
The first part of the play is the direct snap to the running back. As center Will Clapp noted, adjustments needed to be made when the Tigers first attempted the wildcat in practice.
“The first day we did it, I had to tell Darrel to move up because he was at running back depth,” Clapp said. “I had to long-snap it [at first]. But Darrel did a great job. He timed it up the whole game. He did a great job for the first time doing it.”
With the running back occupying the quarterback’s normal spot on the field, the quarterback is then forced to split out as a receiver. When the Miami Dolphins ran a play from the wildcat earlier this season, infamously nonchalant quarterback Jay Cutler simply watched it unfold with arms akimbo.
Etling was a little more invested in selling his role.
“I was sprinting downfield looking for a block, just in case,” Etling said.
So might we see more of the wildcat this season, or was it just a one-time gimmick to confuse the Crimson Tide? With LSU’s next two opponents ranking 11th and 13th in the SEC against the run, the run-friendly formation would not be out of place.
“You never know,” Etling hinted. “We’ll see what we like out of it and what we can add so other teams have to prepare for it. It’ll add another wrinkle to this offense.”
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