Examining Western Michigan’s Offense
Lance Taylor went to the FCS ranks to nab his OC, calling up Billy Cosh from Richmond. Cosh spent one season with the Spiders in 2022, calling an offense that averaged 31.3 PPG and 424 YPG on way to the school’s first playoff appearance since 2016. He was previously the OC at Virginia Military Institute, where he helped turn around a Keydet program with a record-setting offense attack.
Cosh’s offensive style is one that will look somewhat familiar to Mississippi State fans. He runs an offshoot of the Air Raid. Cosh describes his offense as a “Pro Raid” because of the usage of multiple personnel groupings and a heavier emphasis on the run game. But on the majority of WMU’s snaps, you see the Air Raid influence. They’ll frequently go 4-Wide, throwing plenty of quick, timing patterns and receiver screens.
Here’s a play that Mississippi State fans saw countless times under Mike Leach. This is the Y-Stick concept paired with a post-wheel route combination. In Leach’s own terminology, “618 PST WHL”. This is the only way you’d see Leach call Stick out of a 3×1 formation. Traditionally, a 3×1 Stick concept features a vertical route from the #1, a quick out from the #2, and the stick route from the #3. The vertical acts as a clear-out route to open up space underneath. Against zone coverage, the play is meant to attack either an outside LB or nickelback, who is forced to choose whether to cover the stick or the quick out. Here’s classic Stick drawn up from a two TE set:
The problem teams frequently run into, though, is that the middle LB can often jump the stick route. The OLB/NB can freely play the out, baiting the QB into throwing the stick, which is covered. The most common way you’ll see teams choose to counteract that is to call the play as a RPO and key off the MLB, choosing whether to throw the stick or to run the ball. But the post-wheel tag is another way.
With this play, the RB will align to the trips side of the formation, creating a four-strong look for the offense. The post-wheel combination will occupy both the corner and the OLB/NB. The #3 still runs a stick route while the RB runs a shoot route to the same side. Now, the QB will play off the MLB, who is forced to choose between defending the stick or the shoot. WMU hits it for a big play vs Ball State.
Despite featuring plenty of Air Raid staples, WMU has had to find most of its offensive success on the ground. The passing game just hasn’t yet materialized. They’ve played two QBs this season and don’t have anyone who truly stands out in their receiving corps. The player who does stand out, however, is RS freshman RB Jalen Buckley. Buckley is an explosive and shifty runner who already has 557 yards and 5 TDs this season.
Most of WMU’s run game is built off of Inside Zone variations. They’ll do plenty with motion to create some window-dressing for the play, as well as move the TE to get into either Split Zone or Zone Lead looks, and attach several RPOs. But they’ll run some Wide or Outside Zone as well. Here’s Outside Zone with the TE motioning as a lead blocker. Buckley does a great job of making the safety miss for the TD.
Buckley will certainly be a player to keep an eye on, and QB Treyson Bourguet is a threat with his legs as well. State’s defense has been shaky against the run the last few weeks. They’ll need to keep the Bronco ground game in check on Saturday and force them into long-yardage situations, which they’ve struggled to convert this season.