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Monday, September 25, 2023


Mining for diamonds

Larry McDuffey stretches for the end zone and comes just short of scoring after being tackled by DeShawn Grayson.  | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Larry McDuffey stretches for the end zone and comes just short of scoring after being tackled by DeShawn Grayson. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Manipulation and misdirection have been a staple of what quarterbacks’ coach Travis Bush has installed in the offense since his promotion to play caller.

UH has implemented new wrinkles and formation variations in an attempt to keep the opposing defense off-balance.

In Bush’s first game as play caller, redshirt junior running back Charles Sims was thrown more designed passes behind the line of scrimmage and finished with 11 receptions. In Sims’ following five games, he had 21 receptions.

“Misdirection not only helps the run game, but it also helps to get the defense focused on what they shouldn’t be focusing on,” said head coach Tony Levine. “It freezes the linebackers when you are able to run a successful misdirection play.”

Against UTEP the Cougars’ misdirection plays helped them strike quickly. They had four scoring drives with five or fewer plays, leading to a 45-35 victory on Saturday.

Sims’ 43-yard touchdown run in the first quarter came on a variation of a play the Cougars ran with their success against North Texas, Levine said. Sims finished with 119 yards.

“The second series with Sims’ long touchdown run was another misdirection play that our staff put in place this week,” Levine said. “We ran it against North Texas, but ran it tonight in a different look and different formation.”

UH’s diamond package — which involves a two or three running back set — was formed to get Sims and  redshirt freshman running back Kenneth Farrow on the field at the same time, Levine said.

In the second quarter, freshman wide receiver Larry McDuffey was able to score on a 24-yard touchdown reception out of the diamond package. McDuffey lined up in the backfield — next to Sims and Farrow — but broke open because the play-action fake to Sims froze the Miners linebackers, Levine said.

“Larry McDuffey was back there in the three-set, which he doesn’t usually do,” Levine said. “That is a way to get our quick players in space and one-on-one against a safety.”

Redshirt sophomore quarterback David Piland said the diamond package still has room to grow.

“We’re just kind of getting the beginning parts of what we can do with it,” Piland said.

The Cougars have made similar adjustments on defense to get more pressure on the quarterback. Senior linebacker Phillip Steward played defensive end in passing situations, Levine said. UH finished with five sacks and six tackles for loss.

“We put in a new package this week where Phillip played defensive end on third and long situations,” Levine said. “He was standing up, so he may have not looked to the naked eye like a defensive end, but we pulled one out and put him in at end.”

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