Game day is fast approaching. There are myriad things one could focus on when watching a new coordinator take over an offense, but for now, let's all look forward to this aspect of Noel Mazzone as a football coach: if something works, he will keep doing it.
There are a few layers to this, big picture and small. The big picture is his overall scheme. He's been running it for many years, he's been selling it for years, and he's been succeeding with it for years, at every level of football from high school to professional. Put simply, if applied and executed properly, it works. As long as that's true, stick with it.
The small picture is the exact same principle, but on a game by game, play by play basis. If he finds something that works, he will stick with it.
Game by Game
In a clinic this offseason given by one of of Mazzone's assistants at UCLA, they were discussing the quick passing game. Every play has a counter that can be run when the defense takes away the initial play. So when the defense starts to jump the slant route to the single receiver side, the obvious counter is to run a "sluggo," which is a slant and go.
In 2014 with Mazzone calling plays, UCLA had a stretch of five consecutive games in which they scored a touchdown on a sluggo route.
Within a Game
I already referenced this here, but you have to admire this. After UCLA's come from behind victory over Texas in 2014, Mazzone pointed out that "I called the same flippin' four plays the whole second half." Starting quarterback Brett Hundley had left the game early with an injury forcing UCLA to rely on an untested backup.
UCLA ended up winning and gaining well over 450 yards of offense and the backup quarterback had a great day. He even threw a touchdown pass on, you guessed it, a sluggo route.
Play by Play
When he coached Philip Rivers at N.C. State, Mazzone was using the snag concept with great success (which is still true today). In 2003, when Rivers was a senior, they had been having a ton of success running the snag into the boundary, to the single receiver side.
On the season, Rivers completed 88% of his passes for 8+ yards per attempt when running snag. So before one game, Rivers told Mazzone they run the concept on both sides, as pictured above. Mazzone was skeptical but decided to throw Rivers a bone. Here's how it went, in Mazzone's own words:
We were playing North Carolina this game... Philip comes up with this idea because we were just killing people with two man snag, and people started doing all this stuff to take our two man game away. So he goes, 'Hey coach, do this... [describes running two man snag to both sides, like in the diagram above]'
I go, that'll never work, but you're a senior, I'll put the play in. So I put the play in. We just called it double snag. So every time your quarterback wants to put a play in, I always thought I'm gonna call it the very first play of the game, because that way he won't be bugging me all game to call his play, alright? I'll call it first to show him that your stuff doesn't work, my stuff works, alright, and then we can get on with it and call the offense.
So I call it the first play of the game, and he completes it. So we run it again, he completes it. Long story short, I called the same formation, same play, nine times in a row. Nine for nine, the ninth one went into the end zone. It was not until he was 19 for 19, there were two minutes left in the half, that he threw his first incompletion, and we were at home, and a North Carolina fan stood up and gave their defense a standing ovation.
It was just that easy. It had answers for everything and if I showed you all nine you'd see. They played cover 2 against him, they played man, they fire zoned him from the boundary, they fire zoned him from the field, they inverted weak, they pulled every one out of their hat, but it was just an easy progression.
Now, there may be a slight bit of embellishing going on, seeing as how the box score that day shows a Rivers touchdown run in the first quarter but not a touchdown pass. But nevertheless, the point stands. If something works, Mazzone will stick with it.
As A&M takes on UCLA on Saturday, try to take note of whether the Aggies are able to keep going back to certain plays over and over or if the Bruins are able to force A&M into more uncomfortable situations.