Many interesting things in the UW football game this weekend other than the final score. One that stood out as I was watching the game and hearing everyone in the stands complain about it, was the lack of downfield passing attempts. There were only 2 attempts the entire game, both with good results. The 3rd and 22 conversion to Pedersen, and the touchdown to Abbrederis. This was no doubt by design as there was little to no pressure on O'Brien to make coaches worry about deep drop backs. (on a side note O'Brien was not convincing making fakes. Someone should sign him up for a theatre class so he can work on making those more realistic).
O'Brien had a great day going 19 of 23 for 219 yards and 2 touchdowns. He certainly executed the gameplan they had for him. He threw mostly quick passes out of spread formations. Of the 27 designed pass plays- only 6 were play action. Of those 6, 2 were short completions to the fullback Watt, 2 were intermediate throws to WRs, one was the one long pass to Abbrederis for the TD, and one was the lone sack of the game. The remaining 21 designed passes were mostly shotgun spread throws to short pass routes.
The question is why? The Badgers have embraced the passing game in recent years and the high percentage short throws especially. However they have still used play action a great deal to take advantage of the challenges their running game presents opposing defenses. If there was not a new offensive coordinator who came from spread roots, I probably would just blow this game off as an anomaly. Maybe they are just trying to keep what they can off film until next week when they have a much more difficult opponent.
I can't say I'm disappointed with all the spread throws. I like the diversification of the offense. The high percentage throws mix right in with the power running, field position and clock dominating strategies of the recently successful Badger teams.
Every successful offense needs to create big plays. The Badgers have been able to create a lot of those running the football, which has allowed them to get more through play action. I'll be interested to see if this is just a one game anomaly, or the start of a trend.