LSU offense back on the ‘bubble’
Friday, October 07, 2005
By Scooter Hobbs
It’s a play that already turned one LSU season around.
Apparently, offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher is dipping back into the well again.
LSU calls it the “bubble screen,” a fairly simple ploy in which quarterback JaMarcus Russell takes the snap and immediately lofts a pass behind the line of scrimmage, usually to Sklyer Green, who takes the pass running away from Russell toward the sidelines and then looks for open spaces.
It would be illegal in the NFL because of the downfield blocking while the pass is in the air.
But in college, as long as the pass is completed behind the line of scrimmage, the other receivers are free to maim and plunder downfield, which is the whole key to the play.
LSU head coach Les Miles had a LSU pulled the trigger on it this season last week against Mississippi State.
A flag — offensive pass interference —came from far downfield and Miles went two-megaton ballistic.
If that was to be a penalty, the Tigers would have wasted a lot of time fashioning a game plan.
“It (the flag) could not have held up unless they changed the rule book,” Miles said. “I asked him what other rules are we going to change for today.”
None, apparently, and once the officials huddled, Miles got his way and the flag was waved off, LSU’s game plan was set.
Get the ball in Skyler Green’s hands.
“When he’s getting the ball, it’s good for us,” Miles said.
“We’ll take our chances with Skyler going one on one with any defensive back in the country,” added fellow wide receiver Early Doucet, who’s often called upon to tie up the cornerback on the play.
“The key to that play is the blocking,” said Green. “The guy on the outside has to make the key block and if he has that guy blocked and if the safety takes a bad angle, it can be a big play.”
It’s worked in the past.
It made its first LSU appearance at Alabama in 2001, a week after the Tigers’ offense struggled in a loss to Ole Miss that left them 4-3 overall, 2-3 in the SEC.
When the dust cleared in Tuscaloosa that day most of the SEC passing records were shattered.
Rohan Davey threw for the most yards ever in an SEC game (540) and tied Archie Manning’s record for total offense, while Josh Reed’s 19 receptions for 293 yards were both SEC records against any opponent.
The rejuvenated Tigers averaged 35 points per game from that day forward and didn’t look back until they’d won the SEC and Sugar Bowl titles.
It was also a common sight during LSU’s run to the 2003 national championship — mostly with Green — but all but went in dry dock last season with Green nursing a nagging ankle injury.
“It’s good when you bring something back like that and start working it again,” center Rudy Niswanger said.
The beauty is that it allows Green, who led the nation in punt returns two years ago and leads the SEC this year, to start off operating in open spaces.
“I love it,” Green said, adding that both Doucet and Dwayne Bowe have been doing a good job tying up the cornerback on the play. ‘It’s creeping back into our playcalling.”
It’s not without risks. “Blind faith,” Green laughed. “That’s what coach tell us — blind faith.”
Green is running toward the cornerback with his head turned back toward the quarterback — running blind, an exposed, sitting duck if the block isn’t made.
“You’re hoping your guy has blocked the guy,” Green laughed. “You can get killed on that play. It’s just blind faith, and I have faith in my blockers.”
The rewards are many.
Though LSU consistently gained yardage with it Saturday, Green never did really break a really long one.
“There were a few times that if the safety even thought about taking a bad angle, we could have broken one,” Green said. “When they get the cornerback, I’ve got to make that safety miss me.”
But in adjusting, Mississippi State gave up another big play when the Bulldogs bit on Russell’s pump-fake on the bubble, leaving Bowe wide open for a 44-yard touchdown bomb.
“It’s a play that that stretches the defense east and west,” Miles said. “If they’re loading the (line of scrimmage) and leaving receivers uncovered, you have the ability to make plays.”
It’s certainly worked in the past.