Taking a cue from Oregon football’s success with the blur offense, a majority of the Pac-12 Conference has moved to some type of hurry-up, no-huddle system.
Washington and Utah installed up-tempo offenses this season, joining the other teams that had already jumped on the bandwagon. Cal brought in new head coach Sonny Dykes, whose Bear Raid attack is peeling off more than 90 plays per game.
Holdouts still running largely pro-style offenses include Oregon State, Stanford and USC — and there is no telling where the Trojans are headed now that Lane Kiffin is gone.
The two contrasting styles will be on display this Saturday night when No. 15 Washington visits the No. 5 Cardinal at Stanford Stadium.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian has seen success going to the no-huddle this season. The Huskies (4-0, 1-0) are off to their best start since 2001. Washington has not started 5-0 since 1992.
Stanford coach David Shaw has taken note.
“It’s all about being efficient,” Shaw said. “There are teams that are doing the hurry-up that are not having the same success that Washington is. Washington’s having great success, it fits their quarterback, it fits their personnel.”
The Cardinal (4-0, 2-0) ran a quicker offense when Andrew Luck was the quarterback, Shaw said, but they are really sticking with their own style, which places an emphasis on tough, physical play — because it works for them.
“I only laugh because it’s not like this (the hurry-up) was just invented,” he said. “Whereas I remember Mouse Davis’ teams, the K-gun offense in Buffalo, and watching Warren Moon down in Houston running fast-paced, no-huddle offenses. So this is not a completely new thing. It’s just a lot more teams are doing it.”
Utah has gone up-tempo under new co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson. Last season, the Utes ranked 73rd nationally with an average of 25.9 points and 105th with an average of 324.42 yards in total offense per game.
This year, the Utes (3-1, 0-1) are averaging 42 points per game and 504.8 yards in total offense per contest.
“I think it’s going well so far,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We obviously made the move because we felt it would help us. We didn’t snap the ball a whole lot of times last year, we were very deliberate, we huddled up virtually every snap. When Dennis came on board, the primary reasons for the hire was to jump-start the offense. He’s done a very nice job of that, and part of the jump-start was changing the tempo.
“We don’t go so fast that we sacrifice execution. I think that’s important. The faster you go and continue to execute, obviously the better. But we’re really not ready to go much faster than we’re going right now.”
Along with Dykes introducing the Bear Raid, new Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre has rebuilt the Buffaloes’ complicated former pro-set attack. Speed is emphasized in practice for the Buffaloes.
Colorado, which at 2-1 has already improved on last season, hosts the league’s speed masters, the No. 2 Oregon Ducks (4-0, 1-0), on Saturday.
Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly has moved on to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, but the Ducks have not changed much under former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.
Twenty-six of Oregon’s 31 offensive touchdown drives this season have taken less than two minutes. Oregon has scored 50 or more points in four straight games for the first time in history, yet the team’s time of possession ranks 122nd among the FBS-level schools (23:53).
“You might be better off if they have the ball a long time,” MacIntyre offered. “With longer drives, there’s more chances for turnovers, there’s more possibilities of making them have to do more third downs. So, if you come out of it and they got it 30 minutes you might have played better. I’m being serious because then they’d have to put drives together and there’d be more times they might turn the ball over. They’ll have more third downs. That’s more long-down situations where you can kind of go after them.”
Oregon State’s Mike Riley, the Pac-12’s longest-tenured coach, is staying old school and sticking with the offense he has always run. The Beavers (4-1, 2-0) stumbled in their opener against lower-division Eastern Washington but have since reeled off four straight wins.
Beaver quarterback Sean Mannion is thriving in Riley’s system. He was the Pac-12 player of the week for the second time this season after he passed for 414 yards and a school-record six touchdowns in a 44-17 victory last weekend over Colorado. The junior leads the nation with an average of 403.6 yards passing per game and is on pace to throw 50 touchdown passes.
“We have examined it for ourselves and messed around with it a little bit,” Riley said of going to the no-huddle scheme. “Because of what we do and how we play, we just couldn’t make it fit comfortably with our system of calling plays and how we do it. So, we’re still doing it the old-fashioned way.”