Preparing for Houston's "Air Raid": Bullough's Last Chance

Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N

A couple of years ago, the Texas Tech Red Raiders put a new spin on College Football. Everyone remembers the TTU - Texas game with one of the most memorable atmospheres and finishes in the history of College Football. The inner workings of the offense allowed for TTU to outscore opponents 535-315 that year, and was only held to a score less than 34 points once (a game which they lost in humiliating fashion).

But the reason Texas Tech lost to OU was simple. Oklahoma didn't hold back. Well sure, a lot of defenses don't do that, but against an offensive line that averaged around 300 pounds and only allowed a single digit sack count, it is somewhat pointless to blitz your 200 pound linebacker up the middle, but OU did, and got to Graham Harrell 4 times that night.

But what does Texas Tech have in common with Houston? They both run a full fledged Air Raid Offense.

What is an Air Raid Offense?

Much, much more, after the jump...

The Air Raid offense is, as i said in the podcast this week, an enigma; a hybrid between the West Coast offense, and the Run and Shoot Offense, using simple concepts and ideas to create and morph College Football’s extremes. The origins of the Air raid are most prominently linked back to Hal Mumme and his synthesis of Norm Chow’s Offensive system at BYU.

One of the staples of both the Air Raid, and of Chow’s scheme at BYU was the Y Sail Play (which I cover in depth, and so naively called Norm Chow an Air Raid Coordinator here).


People have analyzed the philosophy up the yin-yang, so I’ll stay away from that, and just feed you the bare facts.

  • Get favorable matchups in the open field (Offensive player>Defensive player in 1 on 1 battle)
  • Run a favorable play that isn’t fluid rather than run a play that would have a negative result (Checking the play on the line of scrimmage destroys an offense’s rhythm, but would save a drive or a game.
  • The ideas of 3 yards in a cloud of dust are obsolete, a receiver with room to work averages 8 yards a touch.


An Air Raid offense is, surprisingly, very loose in terms of requirements. For instance, how is Graham Harrell doing in Pro Ball (if he hasn’t left Canada already) how about Tommy Chang, or any other of those crazy yardage QB’s doing in the NFL today? Not so hot, the reason is that with the Air Raid offense, a QB is not magnified. In other words, his only task is to make the right read and execute, not make a super athletic play or use needlepoint accuracy; the plays don’t require that.

As for the Running Backs, they are considered as the X-Factor in many cases for the Airraid. A consistent running game that can get around 100 yards per game just makes the Air Raid even more deadly. RB’s have to be really quick, agile, as well as accomplished pass blockers, and excellent receiving backs. Just watch Baron Batch play this year some time, he is a prototypical Air Raid Running Back.

Receivers are a dime-a-dozen in this offense. Any strength can be used, whether it be size or speed, in this offense. Guys like Wes Walker are perfect examples of how the Air Raid can make someone shine, as well as guys like Michael Crabtree and Lyle Leong, who are showcasing speed with hands, as well as size with hands respectively. Of course, repetition in practice is the main reason why these receivers are so good at catching the ball, but the really remarkable thing about these receivers is their uncanny ability to block. The philosophy of the Airraid requires balance all over the field, and if you block for your teammates down field, it makes it easier for you to get open space and make plays.

Linemen are usually around superhuman in this offense. They are massive, 6’5" + and average 300 Lbs. They are all surprisingly quick and athletic, and use flat out mean tactics to keep out the defenders. What makes it easier for them is the massive splits that they use (spacing between linemen), are around 3 times bigger than the ones UCLA uses typically. It is harder to rush with using your down-linemen, and easier to blitz into, but all in all, the QB should have plenty of time regardless.


The Air Raid offense takes several different concepts and through massive repetition, as well as some lucky recruiting bounces, creates a deadly offensive attack:

1. The first, and the most prominent in the playbook of Texas Tech, is the Shallow Series. This concept originated with Shanahan, and kind of stuck on throughout the Air Raid system.



BYU Shallow Cross (via nolewr)

To sum it up, the play almost always has someone open. No matter what coverage the team is in, the shallow, or 10 yard dig (in route) is open, and 75% of the time, the post has a window for a deep play. It is very effective, and is very, very hard to stop when your slot receivers are quick (Wes Welker)

2. Mesh Concept

This particular concept originated with Kentucky’s offensive system (back when they ran the Airraid). It’s actually pretty funny to watch, the two defenders will actually run into each other on this play if they line up in man; it’s scripted, and part of the passing concept in this play.





Kentucky "Mesh" Concept (via bruceeien)

It is a quick hitting, fast, huge upside type of play, and is used pretty often in the Airraid. I can see UCLA backing off into Cover 2 against these plays.

3. Stick

Houston uses this play better than any team today, in fact Case Keenum is probably the best QB to ever use this concept, period.





Air Raid Offense - Y Stick (via EAPlayMaker)

This play is so fast, that the only way to stop it is to knock it down on the line of scrimmage. Case Keenum uses this play as a safety valve more often than not, so watch out if Bullough backs off in coverage, leaving room for the Y to "feel the coverage" and get 8 automatic yards.

4. Smash

Norm Chow might have a love affair with this play BTW. It is the easiest way, by far, to tear up a zone based defense. The cushion on a receiver, as well as the safety’s alignment are easily exploited on this play, and when run correctly, is just as effective as against man.



Smash Concept (via bruceeien)

I can see Rahim Moore getting an interception on this play, just as easily as I can see Sheldon Price missing a tackle... but alas, it will make an appearance this week, so choose your side.

5). 4 Verts:

I can’t break it down nearly as good as JT34 can so check out his article, here. But here is the collaboration, no analysis.



4-Verts (via otowncoach)

The final bit about the Air Raid is the uncanny ability to slow down the pass rush through screens. Mostly through bubble, and jailbreak screens, which involve terrific down field blocking by the wide receivers, let alone the 300 lb. linemen going to the 2nd and 3rd levels.

How to Stop the Air Raid

As I said in the beginning of this post, as well as in the Podcast this week, is that Bullough, more so than the players this week need to do a lot of things right:

  1. Keep Houston off-schedule (ie 2nd and 10/3rd and Long)
  2. Disrupt the passing lanes through creative, timely blitzes
  3. Play mistake free, disciplined, assignment football and stay true to fundamentals in the secondary.

Thanks to the various people that put up the videos, and to xwkdclwnx from NCAA Strategies for the collection of all the videos and diagrams.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.

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