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High-octane or slow lane, UC offense produces big

High-octane or slow lane, UC offense produces big
On paper, it’s an argument Darren Bowling can’t win.
Union City’s first-year head football coach insists his midline/veer offense isn’t “high-powered” and shouldn’t be referred to as “explosive.”
The Tornadoes’ numbers through 11 games, however, present a strong case for the other side of that debate.
In an era of spread-set, pass-happy attacks that often operate without a huddle, UC’s deliberate run-heavy strategy has been as prolific, if not more so, than most all those trendy wide-open alternatives. It also has produced as many, if not more, big plays than those highly-publicized approaches.
The eighth-ranked Twisters are averaging 7.9 yards-per-rush and have scored almost half their 64 touchdowns this season on plays of 10 or more yards.
They’re scoring at a 40 points-per-game clip, having rung up 40 or more seven times heading into their second round Class 1A playoff game against No. 9 McKenzie Friday night.
Thirteen of Mr. Football finalist Colton Speed’s 28 rushing touchdowns have come on runs of 25 yards or longer. Kendrick Price has had TD sprints of 96 and 68 yards and another 95-yarder negated by penalty. Fullback Josh Nicks has scoring runs of 66, 41 and 38 yards to his credit, while Jacob Worley, Trey Maddox and Luke Sanderson have all scooted to paydirt from more than 20 yards out.
Price, No. 3 on the Tornado stat sheet in rushing with 571 yards — third to Speed’s 1,391 and Nicks’ 671 yards — averages a whopping 15.4 yards-per-carry. Both Speed (9.0) and Nicks (9.7) have produced nearly a first down, on average, every time they’ve run the ball, while Worley, Maddox and Rance Barnes also all net more than five yards-per rush.
And, on those rare occasions when Bowling has strayed from his conservative approach and thrown from his double-slot alignment, Speed has averaged more than 28 yards on his 24 completions with seven touchdowns — all of which covered 10 yards or more.
Each of the four players (Worley, Nicks, Brandon Easley and Julian Moss) to be on the receiving end of a Speed aerial is averaging more than 25 yards-per-catch.
The coach listens intently to the numbers, then offers up the following:
“I’m not saying the offense is not capable of producing big plays; I’m just saying that’s not its intent,” Bowling said. “Depending on the competition level and the defensive scheme, obviously, there have been times where we’ve been able to break long gainers.
“What this offense is really designed for is games like Friday night. There’ll be two good teams playing and, defensively, McKenzie isn’t likely to either miss an assignment or blow a coverage very often. That means we’re going to have to interpret gains of three or four yards as a successful play and concentrate on just being patient, taking care of the football and moving the chains for first downs.”
While admittedly not as flashy as many of the hybrid offenses other teams employ, Union City’s triple-option scheme has also succeeded when denied the big play by opposing defenses.
In a 19-6 win over Obion Central in Week 5, the Tornadoes ‘nickle-and-dimed’ the Rebels to death with 46 of their 66 offensive plays producing four yards or less. Still, UC dominated time of possession, kept the chains moving via fullback dives by Sanderson and Maddox, and managed to win without the electrifying big play that has been so synonymous with the rest of the Twisters’ season.
“That’s one example of what I’ve said all along about this offense; it can beat you in many ways if you execute properly,” Bowling stated. “Obion took away the quarterback and the option pitch, and we just pounded them inside with the fullback and were able to beat them three and four yards at a time.
“And I really believe that’s the true beauty of this offense. The deeper you go in the playoffs, you’ll see opposing teams try to take away different aspects. It’ll be critical that we have good ball security, stay patient and keep moving the chains a little bit at the time. If we aren’t able to break the big one, this offense is capable of being just as successful with 10 four-yard runs as it has been with one 40-yard run.”
Finally, Bowling may get somebody to see his side.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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