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Who’s fast in 2013? A quick look at Thursday’s games

Examining Thursday’s games to learn lessons about what it means to go fast on offense.

As the 2013 college football season begins, there are many teams that claim they want to go fast on offense. We got a glimpse of some of those teams on Thursday night and the results were mixed.  Here are some bullet point thoughts on the four games I saw either in part or in their entirety.

Utah vs Utah State

  • Both teams claimed they want to got faster on offense. USU ended up running 79 plays and Utah ran 72. So while neither was blazingly fast, both moved along at a brisk clip. USU had more yards and more first downs.
  • Both teams gave up two turnovers. In the end it was the USU penalties and a crafty onside kick from Utah that seemed make the difference in this one.
  • There is no question that the brisk pace of play and the mobile quarterback put a lot of pressure on both defenses. Even good defenses have trouble with that combo.

South Carolina vs North Carolina

  • The Tarheels are a fast paced team but that pace didn’t make up for the talent difference in this game. The slower, more efficient offense dominated this game.
  • UNC ran 79 plays to USC’s 59 plays. Yet the Tarheels had only 293 total yards compared to 406 from South Carolina.
  • The one thing the UNC fast offense did accomplish was to nearly completely neutralize superstar defensive lineman, Jadeveon Clowney. The big guy was so gassed that he became useless.
  • We see from this game that speed without efficiency is useless. Gotta have both to put points up. UNC’s -2 turnover margin and paltry 3.7 yards per play did their offense in.

Vanderbilt vs Ole Miss

  • Ole Miss kept the pace high in this barn burner of a game with a healthy 84 plays for 489 total yards. Vandy’s pace was more mellow at 69 plays for 426 yards.
  • Despite a -4 turnover margin Vandy kept this game tight with more efficient offense and by building up a 1st half lead. But Ole Miss sealed the win with a late long TD run.
  • This game served as a nice advertisement for a fast offense because the pace of play seemed to increasingly wear the Vandy defense down. Ole Miss used that fatigue to pull ahead for the win in the waning minutes of the game.

Fresno State vs Rutgers

  • Of the teams I saw last night, Fresno State was the most committed to going fast. The Bulldogs ran a surprising 97 total plays in the game. And lest you think that was because of the overtime, the Bulldogs scored in one play of OT so the play count was already in the mid 90s in regulation.
  • Part of the reason Fresno was able to run nearly 100 offensive plays was because they threw the ball 74 times so the game clock was constantly stopping for either first downs or incompletions
  • There is no doubt that running 90+ plays on offense was hard on the Rutgers defense. But the overall pace of the game was hard on the Fresno defense as well as Rutgers ran a relatively high 73 plays and was fairly efficient on offense. While the Bulldogs put up 52 points, they also gave up 51.

Thoughts Heading Into BYU’s Opener

Lots of teams claim they want to move at a fast pace, but few prepare to actually pull it off. Last year BYU claimed they wanted to go fast, but in reality we mostly saw a few spurts of quick play mixed in with stretches of leisurely pace. This year, Robert Anae intends to be at a pace more like Fresno State — with 90+ plays per game — than these kinda quick teams that run 70-something plays. Based on my observations last night, there are a few good things about moving at a breakneck pace every offensive series:

  • Consistently going fast will probably lead to a bunch of BYU points. It is hard to stay fast consistently but even harder to defend it.
  • A fast pace wears defensive lines out fast. Good news for the BYU offensive line.
  • Consistently fast-paced play will likely neutralize defensive beasts like Jadeveon Clowney. They can’t crush you if they are too tired to catch you.

The risks are pretty clear too:

  • If you are wearing out their defense, your defense might be wearing out too if you are leaving them on the the field a lot. It takes a very good and very well-conditioned defense to keep up with an offense that is truly committed to consistently fast play.
  • Fast play can lead to mental mistakes. If turnovers and penalties mount, most of the benefits of speed will be counteracted.

Overall, I came away from night one of 2013 college football as excited as ever for BYU’s new Go Fast, Go Hard offense. I think the BYU coaching staff has both the offense and defense prepared to actually pull this off. If that really is the case, Virginia might be finding themselves stepping in to a buzz saw on Saturday.

What do you think? Any benefits or risks of Go Fast, Go Hard that I missed here? Did you see anything in the games Thursday that excited or scared you about the new strategy?  Comment below.


  1. James K

    August 30, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Great analysis. Thanks. I really think BYU can pull this off, but it may take a couple of games to work out the kinks.

  2. RocklinSports (@RocklinSports)

    August 30, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Can we just call it GFGH? Tired of reading Go Fast, Go Hard, too slogan-ish if you know what I mean.

    • Brett Hein

      August 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      Hopefully it becomes extremely successful, and Anae’s marriage of BYU tradition, the Texas Tech offense, and the Rich-Rod spread will need to be given its own name. Anae Attack?

    • Geoff Johnston

      August 30, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      Yeah I suspect that GFGH will soon become a recognizable enough acronym that we can start using it pretty regularly this season.

  3. Sanpete

    August 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    You might have had this in mind when you said fast play is hard to defend, but one point often made in favor of it is that it makes defensive adjustments to the offensive sets and situations more difficult. I don’t know how easy it would have been to see evidence of that in last night’s games.

    It can turn out that the team running plays faster ends up with fewer plays than the slower team, so you can’t tell by number of plays run by each which was going fast. One successful play for each possession is all you need, as Fresno showed at the end.

    • Geoff Johnston

      August 30, 2013 at 11:54 pm

      I agree about defensive adjustments being hard. Seems like more teams are resorting to faking injuries on defense to get breaks. I also conceded that number of plays is not a perfect indicator of speed of play. But it correlates so it serves as a decent surrogate.

  4. Greg Farley

    August 30, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    The idea of going fast is kind of exciting, and I am intrigued. However I do not understand why BYU is committed in going this direction. BYU has proven that they can recruit huge O-linemen and good-great tight ends, which is ideal for a offence like Stanford’s, which is an effective offence.

    If your going fast you need to have fast players, BYU does not seem to be a destination for those kinds of players, at least not very many of them. I feel like BYU is joining a fad that does not fit their strengths.

    • Geoff Johnston

      August 30, 2013 at 11:57 pm

      I don’t think it is true that going at a fast pace requires fast players. I hear this a lot and it makes no sense to me. Going at a fast pace just means you don’t huddle and you get to the line and snap the ball quickly. In theory you could do that with any offense if you knew the plays well enough.

  5. Geoff Johnston

    September 1, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Update: BYU ran 92 offensive plays against UVA so with the “fast” part of Go Fast, go Hard seems to be on target. The rest needs some work still.