When Iowa State meets Iowa this Saturday, the Hawkeyes will be without offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe for the first time in the Kirk Ferentz era. His replacement? A coordinator Cyclone fans are very familiar with, former Texas Longhorn offensive coordinator Greg Davis.
O'Keefe ultimately moved on to the NFL after last season, sparking hope for Hawkeye fans that Kirk Ferentz would hire someone to revitalize Iowa's moribund offense and drag it into the 21st century. But Ferentz is an individualist, and wasn't swayed by the pleas from fans, the media, his players or even opposing coaches. Ferentz hired Greg Davis, a coordinator who managed to fail spectacularly at the University of Texas despite having the most talented players in football at his disposal.
But the hire fits Ferentz's coaching style. He's not one to make radical changes, and seems most comfortable when working with people he's known for years. So while both offensive coordinators share an overarching philosophy of getting the offense off the field as quickly as possible to let the special teams and punt units shine, O'Keefe and Davis approach the game in very different manners. After the jump, a look at the contrast in play calling between Iowa's former offensive coordinator and their current offensive coordinator. So strap in Cyclone fans, 'cause it's time to play SCHEMATIC BREAKDOWN.
Ken O'Keefe Designs His Perfect Play Sequence
1st and 10: Off-tackle HB run. Simple and effective; you always need to use the run to set up the pass. The I-formation was good enough for John McKay and Woody Hayes, and it's sure good enough for Ken O'Keefe. The off-tackle run is a staple of the O'Keefe playbook. Some fans complain about the "vanilla" play calling, but this run works, dammit.
Remember, football is a marathon, not a sprint. It's okay to gain a couple yards at a time. All these teams using faddish concepts like the "spread" and "up-tempo" whatevers and whatnots? They'll pass. The off-tackle run will always be there. And it will always be effective. Play gains three yards.
2nd and 7: Play-action bootleg. Now this is a little unconventional. This is what's known as a "trick" play. The quarterback "fakes" a handoff to the running back, but he doesn't give it to him. You're probably thinking, "Surely something that devious must be illegal." But it isn't! Ken O'Keefe has discovered this loophole and he's going to exploit the hell out of it.
After the quarterback fakes the handoff to the running back, the defense doesn't know what's going on. Does the running back have the ball? Does the quarterback? They're all mixed up! That kind of confusion wins football games. And now the quarterback has options. Does he pass to a receiver? Does he scramble for yards on the bootleg? Let's take a look at what James Vandenberg would do: Quarterback passes to the tight end for a two-yard gain.
3rd and 5: At this point in the game, you can't afford any mistakes. This is a manageable third down. Execution, not scheme wins football games, so you need to run a play that your team knows how to execute. You need to dance with the girl that brought you. Stick with your bell cow. Run the halfback off-tackle.
4th and 2: Now this is exactly the situation you want to be in as a football team. You're controlling the clock. No sense in picking up a first down with one play, or even three plays. It's necessary to wear down the other team's defense over the course of the game. Control field position. Punt.
Greg Davis Designs His Perfect Play Sequence
1st and 10: Bubble screen left. Gotta soften up that defense. Keep the throws simple for the quarterback, rely on downfield blocking and allow your playmakers to make plays in space. Players making plays... Wait, is that where the term "playmaker" comes from? Never made that connection before...
Anyway, Greg Davis likes the bubble screen. Short throw for the quarterback, short run for the receiver. Play gains three yards.
2nd and 7: Bubble screen right. DECEPTIONARY. First play went to the left, and now the very same play is run to the right? Madness. Such creativity shouldn't be limited to football. Ol' Greg could probably be composing music or painting fine art. But Greg Davis doesn't do that. Greg keeps his genius focused on football. Play gains two yards.
3rd and 5: OPTIONATION. Gotta give the quarterback options. Spread four receivers out, let 'em run to opposite sides of the field. Send one receiver on a go route (KEEPIN' THE SAFETIES HONEST), send the slot guy on a button hook. Important thing is, keep a bunch of receivers behind the first down marker. Lotta open throwing lanes for the quarterback back there.
Remember, it's okay if the quarterback doesn't quite understand what's going on during a play. If the quarterback is confused, the defense will be too. Quarterback sacked.
4th and 10: BALANCE. Start with ten yards to go, end with ten yards to go. The ouster from Texas forced Greg Davis to do a lot of soul searching. Lots of time spent philosophizing about the nature of the universe and Greg's place in it. Greg's decided he wants to be a butterfly: Beautiful, free and with minimal impact on the earth. Start in one place, end in the same place. Harmony reigns. Punt.