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UCLA at Texas A&M: The Definitive Guide to Noel Mazzone’s Offense

This guide has been fact-checked and is 100% accurate. Trust me.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

My teacher friends have told me that one of their traditions is that you irresponsibly spend your first paycheck on something you don’t really need. So, I decided I wanted to do the same thing here with my first Bruins Nation paycheck (editor’s note: this doesn’t exist) by buying something irresponsible. Luckily enough for me, all of this money I got (editor’s note: again, $0) was the right amount necessary to buy myself a copy of Noel Mazzone’s playbook.

So, after 10 minutes of studying the playbook (it wasn’t that big), I feel confident that the following analysis is completely accurate and will probably be helpful to the Texas A&M fans wondering how their offense will work. And, if you follow the steps I’ve outlined here, you too can have an offensive coordinator job for the next decade.

1. Run play up the middle - This is your bread and butter, and you have a lot of variations you can do to achieve this:

  • Designed hand off
  • Zone read
  • Run-run option (both options go straight forward)
  • Run-pass option (run must always be chosen)

Every single one of these plays will go for 1 yard, and will be very ineffective. And that is fine, because the goal of this play is to Keep the Defense Honest (trademark Noel Mazzone 2001). You will also run this every 2 out of every 3 plays, because once a game it will strike gold and gain 18 yards (usually around the middle of the 2nd quarter) and you’ll spend the rest of the game as a degenerate gambler, chasing that big score again.

1A. Outside run - Every 6th run or so you should try a run to the outside. This play will gain a solid chunk of yards every time, except for the one time where the defense actually does its job. At that point, you should abandon the outside run because it obviously isn’t working.

2. Deep pass - This one is fun. You will only call this play 2 times a game, and you will do it at completely inappropriate times. Here are a few examples:

  • 3rd and 3
  • Up by 3 and needing to run the clock
  • Opponent just scored? Better go deep to try and answer
  • Inside the red zone (don’t ask me how)

Here’s the other key to this play: you’ll want to make sure to run the play with a wide receiver who maybe shouldn’t be the one running it. Either try and go deep with a wide receiver who isn’t fast enough to break away from defenders, or with a speedster with a catching ability that can be described as "questionable at best". This play only works once every 4 weeks, so good luck!

3. Bubble screen to outside - Now, in the book this is actually labeled as a "long handoff" which confused me for a good 5 minutes, wondering momentarily if Noel Mazzone had rewritten physics to allow for a handoff that stretches 20 yards. But no, this is just a bubble screen. It works out pretty well, to the point that you will call this play 20 too many times and begin to wonder why the defense has abandoned the middle of the field.

As a side note, this does not apply when used against a Clancy Pendergast defense, as he will happily let you continue to run these bubble screens until you score because adjustments are for the weak.

4. Inside screen pass - This play is literal definition of insanity, and you will attempt this play at least once a game. The best possible outcome is a 10 yard loss.

(If you’re wondering what the actual issue with this play is, it’s designed poorly. The play is some poor combination of a base and jailbreak screen, except it is sold so poorly that the defense always knows to sit on it. Thus, you’re stuck either throwing the ball away for nothing, forcing the ball for a loss, or turning the ball over. UCLA was lucky for 4 years that they managed not to turn the ball over on this because they came close at least 8 times).

5. Quick slants - These plays will sit and gather dust, and you won’t begin to use them until after the second loss that can be attributed to your poor playcalling. In your head, you’ll think of yourself as a genius for adding a new layer to the offense, and your supporters will applaud you for figuring out basic football concepts.

6. A pass over the middle that is always open thanks to your dogged determination to "spread the field" and attack horizontally - lol no.

Now, there are other parts of the playbook, which is helpfully titled If I Did It: Confessions of a Fake Offensive Coordinator, that I intentionally left out, because I don’t want to spoil it for you all. But suffice to say there are a few good chapters in there, such as:

  • Adjustments and Why They Are Unneccesary
  • The Art of the Family Grift (foreword by Steve Alford)
  • Branding 101
  • Quarterback Recruiting: Why Bother?
  • Aww Shucks

Really this was a fascinating read and I wish I got paid even more (editor’s note: seriously, stop saying we pay you) so I could buy you all a copy.