Rich Rodriguez invented much of modern college football while watching a practice accident at minuscule Glenville State College, where his goal for the season was to earn a single first down. Mike Leach and Hal Mumme scratched out the Air Raid offense on coffee shop napkins while trying to find enough "warm bodies" for Iowa Wesleyan to take the field. Auburn's national championship offense? Formulated on high school fields by Gus Malzahn.
And Wednesday night, we learned from West Virginia Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen that the next big thing came from another school nobody had ever heard of: an engineer factory named Colorado School of Mines.
Bruce Feldman has the essential story on Bob Stitt, the Orediggers coach who showed Holgorsen that handoff-free jet sweep Tavon Austin tortured the Clemson Tigers with for four touchdowns. Here's a glimpse, in case you've forgotten:
The genius of the play is that there's no need for the quarterback to perfectly time contact with the runner. Nobody has to slow down, meaning Austin's actually cranking at full Austin speed even before he gets the ball. It also means a fumbled delivery counts as a mere incomplete pass, so nothing can go all that wrong. It sets up endless fake opportunities, which WVU has taken advantage of.
(Quarterbacks like it too. Geno Smith noted a good portion of his MVP-winning 401 yards came on one-yard taps to Austin.)
Jon Gruden, a NFL man who clearly likes being surprised by college offenses, described it as something like a volleyball bump. College plays like this continue to bubble up from small-school laboratories, where coaches like Rodriguez and Stitt have the time to halt the entire program just to tell their quarterbacks to do something they've never done before.
Expect it to show up on a NFL field in like nine years and be credited to West Virginia, but it was a joy both to watch the play worked perfectly and to see Holgorsen so happy to nerd out about its virtues while shouting out its creator.