By Paul M. Banks
These days the Spread-Option system is the offense of choice in college football. The spread is about as trendy today at the â€œRun n Shootâ€ was early in 90s.Â Itsâ€™ utilized by programs all across the nation, but is especially prevalent in the Big 10. Both local teams -University of Illinois Fighting Illini and Northwestern Wildcats- use it; NU even fittingly has the phrase â€œSpread far the fameâ€ in their fight song. The Wildcats have used the system to get off to a 3-0 start. Senior skill position players Quarterback C.J. Bacher and Running Back Tyrell Sutton have worked the system productively enough to put themselves on pace to shatter most of the school career rushing and passing records.Â I watched them work the spread on a day when all the elements, a constant steady down pour and 94% humidity, were not in favor of prolific offensive production. The paid attendance was 19,000, but only the die-hards showed up to watch them give a â€œPurple Nurpleâ€ to Southern Illinois, beating the Salukis 33-7. The weather was so bad that the dance team had just four “Lady Cats” on the sideline and the student section numbered less than 100. Luckily, I was comfortably dry in the press box after a commute that likely required a Wisconsin Dells â€œDuckâ€ vehicle instead of a car.Â Flooded and closed roads may have halted motorists, but Sutton (17 carries, 101 yards, 3 TDs) and Bacher (21 of 29 passing, no interceptions) had no problem reaching their destinations. â€œWe had the advantage of having some recent experience in conditions like this and I donâ€™t think it affected us much at all on offense,â€ Bacher said post-game. â€œFor us to practice wet-ball drills this week was a great advantage for our team,â€ Sutton added.
Northwesternâ€™s brand of the spread-option relies on a no-huddle and varying the speed at which the ball comes off the line of scrimmage. â€œWe try to wear teams down in the first series, first quarter, first half and we want to go out and play as fast as we can because we condition for it every single day and we know that a lot of teams arenâ€™t conditioned to come out with the juices flowing, so thatâ€™s what we do, we try to control the tempo and push it as fast as we can,â€ Sutton added.Follow paulmbanks