Chop or be chopped
HUNTINGTON — Upon seeing film of the UTSA football team, Marshall University’s coaching staff was sure glad that they got two weeks to prepare for the Roadrunners’ offense.
The Roadrunners (2-3, 1-0 Conference USA) visit Marshall (2-2) for its conference opener and Homecoming game at 2 p.m., Saturday, in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
UTSA employs several offensive variants — many of which are the extremes for any attack.
The fact that they can be as diverse as they are in what they do resounded with the Herd coaching staff.
The Roadrunners can almost go to Wishbone-style blocking schemes and chop-block everyone on the perimeter or they can line up and pass the ball with several versatile weapons.
“It was great to have the off-week,” Marshall defensive coordinator Chuck Heater said. “We didn’t realize it at the time how beneficial it would be against this particular team because they are different.”
It’s an offense that certainly isn’t easy to get prepared for, according to Heater and the Herd coaches. Because of that, they put last week’s bye week to good use and didn’t waste any time in preparation.
“We went full pads twice because we wanted to get live actions, as far as the chop blocks on the perimeter,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said.
The chop blocks are utilized for the UTSA rushing attack, which incorporates all skill players as running backs. Given the motion of the offense, it is not a shock when receivers come in motion and become running backs with perimeter sweeps. Quarterback Eric Soza is also a prominent rusher in the scheme.
That type of offensive scheme is difficult enough to prepare for, but that’s not all the Roadrunners incorporate into their scheme.
They intertwine that type of rushing attack with a spread passing attack that features many receivers and the strong arm of Soza, who is one of Conference USA’s top passers.
The key for the offense is the versatility of the wide receivers – a group that Holliday said is the best the Thundering Herd has faced thus far this season.
“I haven’t seen a team throw the ball as well as they do and also get blocks on the perimeter like they do,” Holliday said. “That’s probably why they play so many wide receivers because if they don’t block, they don’t play.”
The onus of trying to figure out the UTSA attack falls on the shoulders of Heater, who said it’s certainly outside the box from what he usually faces in game-prep.
Heater broke down what UTSA is trying to achieve with the extreme nature of its offense.
“The passing game it ends up being a little bit mismatches and the running game is just outnumbering you at times and executing techniques that you don’t commonly see...,” Heater said. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team do both to this level, to be honest with you.”
For UTSA, though, it all starts with the zone-blocking and the perimeter run game. If Marshall does a successful job of having tacklers from the second level – linebackers and secondary personnel – come up in run support, the Roadrunners will be forced into a one-dimensional game.
That’s why the Herd’s defensive execution on the early downs will be critical.
If Marshall doesn’t allow the chop-blocking scheme of UTSA to be successful, they can chop the Roadrunners playbook in half.
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