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Air Raid X’s and O’s

A recent trend in College and Pro football has been the increase in passing stats and the efficiency in which they are gaining the yards. The Air Raid offense has become more prevalent in College Football, and some video game stats have been posted so far. The biggest example that comes to mind is the Washington State versus California game. Connor Halliday of WSU threw 70 passes for 734 yards and 6 touchdowns on the losing side while Jared Goff of Cal threw 53 times for 527 yards and 5 touchdowns. In a game that included 1,401 total yards between the teams, only 140 (10%) of those yards came on the ground.


One of this season’s cinderella teams so far, West Virginia, has utilized this offense with Air Raid expert Dana Holgorsen at the helm. Since 2000, only 3 receivers have had 7 straight 100 yard receiving games, Michael Crabtree, Justin Blackmon, and Kevin White. The common denominator between those players are the Air Raid offense, and Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen was a coach on Texas Tech during Michael Crabtree’s tenure, Oklahoma State during Justin Blackmon’s tenure, and West Virginia as the current Head Coach for Kevin White and the Clint Trickett led offense.


Schematically, the goal of an Air Raid offense is to stress a defense both vertically and horizontally. Staples of this offense are tunnel screens, crossing routes and option routes, while also being an uptempo, no-huddle offense. Another distinction for this offense is the splits used by the offensive line. In an Air Raid the offensive lineman leave a larger gap between each other which would in theory allow for an easier path to the quarterback on blitzes. The offense combats this by using quick hitting passes in the area that the blitzing linebacker came from. These quick hitting passes allow the offense to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers quicker which allows for yards after the catch. It is a common occurance for an 80 yard touchdown pass to be thrown less than 10 yards down the field with the receiver doing the rest of the work.


Another way to take advantage defensively is the fly sweep. This is a play where a slot receiver comes in motion, and upon the snap the quarterback shovel passes the ball forward to the receiver and he hits the edge at full speed. Tavon Austin, a former star wide receiver for the Mountaineers, made a number of spectacular catch and runs on this play.


Once the offense has set up the defense with horizontal quick hitters they can take shots down the field. This season Kevin White has been nearly unstoppable, gaining comparisons to Larry Fitzgerald. Besides the #11 and the long dreads that flow out of the back of his helmet, the comparison has stuck because of his playmaking ability and sure hands. Below is an example of how the short passing game set up the Mountaineer offense for a long touchdown down the field against a top end defense in Oklahoma.

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