Offenses are getting harder and harder to defend.
Big receivers are becoming common, slot receivers are as quick as ever and quarterbacks can use their arm or their feet to create nightmares for defensive coordinators. Add the creative game-planning from Big 12 offenses and it can leave opposing coordinators at a loss for words.
Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is not at a loss for words but he is looking for answers, sounding off against the rule that allows offensive linemen to block three yards downfield even when the ball is thrown.
Several teams have done a great job of putting defenses in lose-lose situations by utilizing the rule with creative schemes used by multiple offensive systems from “Air Raid” offenses to run-based spread attacks. He never referenced any team specifically but Stoops clearly remains frustrated with how to defend teams that use run-pass plays that include offensive linemen past the line of scrimmage after OU’s 31-30 loss to Kansas State, a team that has used the rule to create chaos for opposing defenses during the past few years.
“The linemen running down the field and trying to throw a pass when they’re five yards down the field, to me is ridiculous,” Stoops said on Tuesday evening. “Football has gotten to where it is stupid, letting guys run [running] plays then throw the ball. I’m just not a big fan of it -- it’s lenient and all of a sudden it’s three, four, five yards.
“Once you get to a certain point it’s not even fair.”
OU’s disappointing loss to Kansas State included a Wildcats touchdown pass to Glenn Gronkowski (see below), so Stoops' words sound like sour grapes that lingered into OU’s bye week even though he never referenced the Wildcats or any specific team while expressing his frustration with how the rule has been interpreted in recent years.
Rule 7, article 10 in the NCAA rulebook states:
Ineligible Receiver Downfield
ARTICLE 10. No originally ineligible receiver shall be or have been more than three yards beyond the neutral zone until a legal forward pass that crosses the neutral zone has been thrown.
PENALTY—Five yards from the previous spot.
“We’re having a hard enough time [stopping it] and it just keeps expanding,” Stoops said. “It’s not supposed to be more than three yards but it seems like a very lax three yards.”
The architect of the Sooners’ defense is adamant about his hopes that the rule and issue will be revisited in the offseason as several different teams have been able to use the three-yard rule to their advantage in recent years, including Auburn in 2013, which ran a similar play to tie Alabama before the Tigers’ field goal return that shocked the Crimson Tide.
The run-pass option package that K-State and quarterback Jake Waters uses to stress defenses creates a lose-lose scenario for safeties and linebackers, who must choose to stop the run with Waters or cover the pass while Waters simply reads the defender and choses whatever option the defender leaves free.
Stoops admitted there’s not much any defense can do to stop the creative schemes like the ones KSU and Auburn built upon the rule and used with success.
"Complain … until they do something about it,” Stoops said when asked how to stop it. “What is the gray area? They’re allowed to be down there three yards but at three there should be a flag, that’s how I look at it. It can’t be gray, it’s black or white.”