How To Stop The Air Raid

How do you stop the Air Raid offense?

Washington has done a good job against Mike Leach and Washington State the past five years, so Seth Galina of USA Football has a pretty detailed look at how the Huskies have done it.

It starts with Washington having only three down linemen and still putting pressure on the QB. Now you could say USC might have better athletes on the offensive line than Washington State, but I’m not sure that has been true the past two seasons.

Also, Graham Harrell says his Air Raid is a little different than what Leach does. But it’s worth taking a look at the article. An NFL coach I know actually studied Harrell’s offense at North Texas and said it was not difficult to figure out who was getting the ball. The key, of course, is getting your defense to do it.

But Washington has gotten pretty cocky about stopping the Air Raid.


24 thoughts on “How To Stop The Air Raid

  1. It isn’t due to Leach, who borrowed a ton of this from the old BYU teams under Lavell Edwards and his QBs Steve Young, Ty Detmer, and Jim McMahon.

    It is an offense that works well when you need to make more from less, which is what Leach historically has worked with – players generally don’t want to go to Pullman. Their recruiting class rankings range from the 40s to the 60s.

    Lincoln Riley shows what you can do with the general principle when you have a really talented OL. (Really glad that Callaway is gone. )

    But in any case, all of this stuff boils down to execution and who controls the line of scrimmage.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Nice observations, 67. One more thing: Harrell is quick to point out that he’s providing USC with a new offensive philosophy, not 20 new, pre designed plays. He repeatedly pointed out that he wants his quarterback to initiate the play he calls, but if the defense shows the QB an unexpected vulnerability —he wants the QB to forget the called play and attack the vulnerability.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This should work for us as we took forever to get plays from the sidelines and gave the defense a chance to recover.


    1. Good news/Bad news, tebow. Callaway is NOT coming back to help with the O-Line. He IS coming back as Assistant Athletic Director In Charge Of Football Operations (J. K. McKay’s old job under Haden).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know about you, 67, but I found it both funny and sad to listen to Washington’s Defensive Coordinator, Lake, talk about how EASY it was for him to defend against Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense [IN A FRICKING HISTORY-MAKING SNOW STORM]! The game probably shouldn’t have even been played in those conditions. On a normal day, the 2018 Washington State Air Raid Offense would have creamed the 2018 Washington defense.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! [What’s REALLY funny is that Lake’s actual quote demonstrated ALMOST the same unawareness of the gift he’d been handed by the football gods as your made up quote]……


  2. Another way the Air Raid can be stopped is if the school picks the wrong QB to run the system. And if the coaches refuse to admit their mistake and refuse to make changes to it midway through the season.




    1. Exactly right. Take what the defense gives you and every play there is a vulnerability somewhere. Thankfully Harrell, who by the way was a better hire than Kingsberry, appreciates the run game more than Leach. Of course he has the talent Leach is lacking.


  3. The Air Raid is consistently shut down by good teams (and good teams invariably have superior defensive tackle/nose play)…it is nothing more than a variant on the run and shoot…it was invented solely for the purpose of giving less talented teams a way to compete…it is in its simplest conception simply a scratched record that repeats the first down plays Bill Walsh perfected in the West Coast offense (short passes taking the place of running plays when a team couldn’t consistently get 4 yards on first down…again, a way to overcome talent imbalances)…it almost always gets shut down when confronted by well-coached (position and scheme) teams with better athletes…worst of all, it is one dimensional…when it is effective in the run, it happens by accident (poorly coached opponents and/or poor defensive line play…broken tackles, defensive linemen running around blocks rather than playing through)…

    Washington has shut down Washington State more than once, and it didn’t require bad weather (and if it did…well, um gee, football is frequently played in bad weather…a muddy rain-soaked field in LA is little different than a poor playing surface in the Pacific Northwest…or South Bend)…besides which poor field conditions actually favor short passing games…

    None of this is new – go back and watch the Warren Moon Houston Oilers in the playoffs…or Glanville’s Falcons in the playoffs…or any Big 12 team in a big game in the post-Tom Osborne/Barry Switzer era…

    Also, it’s not just execution – those pointing to the McKay/Robinson teams…starting with the 1968 USC-Notre Dame game (when the Irish became the only team to stop O.J., by loading up on the line of scrimmage and daring USC to throw – and that was at the Coliseum) through the late ’70s/early ’80s, when Robinson, who had started tinkering with the USC offense as an assistant to McKay when Haden was the QB, and was the person who introduced USC to Paul Hackett (at that stage, in a good way), to modernize the offense by improving the ability to pass (because again, teams had been overplaying the tailback runs)…

    A perfectly executed Air Raid against a good defense…well, just sit back and watch…the outcome is foregone conclusion.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Scooter, from the photo above, I see how the offense counters the defense. All you have to do is have the inside slot receiver up on top run a five yard inside slant or both slot receivers run curls for five yards. Or you run the ball down their throats with the guard pulling into the hole to blow up the lber. Like everyone says and I as well, normally, whoever controls both sides of the line wins the game.


    1. Yes, whichever team controls both sides of the line wins the game…but if a team can control the line of scrimmage, it doesn’t need to want to use an air raid approach (which is non-physical usually more like a flag football game, and leads to even run blocking being passive brush and angle blocks)…if you can control the line, you attack with drive blocking on the ground, or by mixing in more vertical passing…

      Again, it is an offense that was invented and persists because it permits less talented teams to compete…but the more talented teams that are better coached aren’t bothered by it – they disguise/mix press/man and zone coverages, get the QB to hesitate leading to the play not being timed properly and the QB not stepping into the throws, with lesser velocity leading to more time for defenders to close on receivers (and hitting them hard consistently)…

      The one thing that changes all of this is…an athletic, mobile QB…hmm, so now we’re back to another discussion…if you’re going to go with this approach, what kind of QB makes it work best? And how does that relate to the QB debate at USC?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have zero faith in anything SC or Helton related right now. We are going to suck for the foreseeable future. But didn’t Helton outcoach Peterson once already? Also, Udub and its fans talk a lot of trash for a program that has done nothing and has overrated players (see John Ross, NFL bust and noodle-armed Jake Browning ) No one in the pac 12 should be scared of washington.

    Liked by 2 people

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