It isn't really a secret that a consistent touchdown drive is a work of art.
Football has always been described as a chess match of sorts with the Offensive Coordinator and the Defensive Coordinator trying to get their pieces in the best position for success. Every single play isn't simply a match of strength, speed, and determination, the respective coordinators are actively trying to pull a fast one on the other. Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury is generally very good at finding out ways to exploit the defense's weaknesses, especially at the beginning of games. Let's take a look at the first drive of the 2014 game against Oklahoma State to watch this in action.
The very first play of the game is a Texas Tech staple, a wide receiver screen.
The main key for the future of this drive is how the linebackers will react to the play action fake. The ROLB doesn't get suckered in on the play action, so the play will only go for 3-4 yards right from the beginning. Jakeem Grant loves to reverse the flow of traffic in the open field by cutting these screen passes back to the inside. If the ROLB is drawn in, then Grant will have 10-12 yards of open space due to the blocking of Bradley Marquez and the flow of the safety. The safety has to move quickly to get to the ball, and Grant hasn't even began his cut yet. This play tells us how OK State is going to attempt to defend the Texas Tech screen game and how the run game will work as well. Essentially, we're just feeling them out at this point.
The next play is another classic Texas Tech Air Raid concept: outside slant routes with a couple of stop routes thrown in mix.
Jakeem Grant really can't shake free of the linebacker, who makes a great play to force the incompletion, but Davis Webb gets a key piece of information: OK State's linebackers are manning up on the slot receivers, leaving the middle of the field wide open.
#10, the same linebacker who made the play on the previous play, mans up on Bradley Marquez, leaving the entire middle of the field open for receivers to cut into. Devin Lauderdale is the receiver given the slant route, and he easily beats the press coverage. Davis Webb handles the blitz calmly, and delivers the pass on target. Easy first down. The first chess match victory goes to Kliff Kingsbury.
On this play, Davis Webb delivers the pass a little bit off target, and it nearly gets intercepted. Despite the poor connection on the pass, Davis Webb sees another clue to how OK State is attempting to defend us: the defensive backs defending the middle and outside receivers on the trips side are playing very far off the receivers, and the outside defensive backs have been playing off the receivers for the past 4 plays. Oklahoma State really doesn't want to let us get the deep ball off.
Quinton White goes in motion from the left to the right, taking away the corner's safety help and leaving him on an island against DJ Polite-Bray. The corner doesn't see the motion and doesn't back off the press coverage, which is what the motion was intended to do. Polite-Bray beats the corner on the ten-yard stop route anyways, but he wouldn't have had to work as hard if the corner peels back to defend the deep route, as Texas Tech attempted to force him to do. Either way, we get the first down, and we get another win in the chess battle.
In this play, we attempt to catch the ROLB in a bind again. Again, the linebacker plays it correctly, and drops Grant for a 3-yard gain. Keeping this ROLB stationary and guessing is key for our offense at this point in time, as we're seemingly attempting to keep the middle of they field free for slanting receivers. We're still winning the chess match by keeping something that we see as open, open. And on cue, we hit another slant across the middle on the next play.
Once again, the linebacker on the trips side is covering the slot receiver man-to-man. With all of this space on the opposite side of the field, it's really easy for Bradley Marquez to run the linebacker out of the play and for Jakeem Grant to beat the coverage to the inside with his speed. We get another one of our dangerous wide receivers in space and get another easy first down.
Finally, we decide to hand the ball off to DeAndre Washington. We've passed so much that the ROLB is completely out of the picture in order to defend the threat from the air. Webb sees this, and instead of throwing the screen on the draw-screen option, hands the ball off. We pick up another first down and a nice chunk of yardage from efficient decision making by Davis Webb and solid running from DeAndre Washington.
This trick play didn't exactly work out as planned. Oklahoma State has been very good about staying at home all game, and we gambled, thinking that DeAndre Washington's big run would inspire some over pursuit from the back side. Give OK State's defense credit, they stuck to their guns and beat us on the gamble play. Even though Grant got two yards out of it, this is a very sound defensive play by the Cowboys.
So what do we do on the next play? We go right back to what we know works. The running back in motion takes away some help defense to the right, Marquez runs a deep route to clear out the inside, and Reginald Davis runs a 10-yard "in" route that toasts the cornerback playing the deep ball and forces the only linebacker left in the flat to cover a 360 degree area. We get that little amount of space that we need to bust a big play, and Reggie takes it in for 6.
Putting together a full drive in an Air Raid offense is not an easy task. Every single one of these decisions and reads and pre-snap reads and previous play reads is made in a grand total of around 20 seconds. When it's clicking it's virtually unstoppable, but when it isn't working your team looks like they haven't practiced since their bowl game the previous year. Experience at QB is also key. A QB that can make those reads automatically is lethal in this system. If we can click like we did this drive for an entire season, we're going to make some serious waves in the future.