The search for explosive plays

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One of the few complaints about last year's offense was that the Bearcats would actually score too fast. People cited time of possession and a worn-out defense as the inherit issues with hitting explosive play after explosive play.

This year's Bearcats are hoping to have such problems.

Butch Jones said on Tuesday the biggest area the team needs to improve is in the area of explosive plays on offense. In this morning's Breakfast I pointed out a few numbers concerning the team's struggles in gaining big chunks of yardage.

2010: 6 yards per pass (92nd nationally), 10 yards per catch

vs. Fresno: 5.3 yards per pass, 9.1 yards per catch

2009 UC: 8.5 yards per pass (11th nationally), 12.9 yards per catch

The numerical dropoff is pretty significant.

A deeper look inside the numbers shows that against Fresno State, UC tallied four passing plays of 20 yards or more. Two of those went to D.J. Woods, including the 23-yard TD pass. Isaiah Pead broke a short pass for a long run and Vidal Hazelton caught a 24-yard reception.

Against Indiana State, UC managed a 22-yarder to Woods and the 29-yard TD to Binns.

They are without any passing plays longer than 30 yards thus far.

Last year, 10 different players had at least one reception of longer than 30 yards. Against Fresno State, UC had a 56-yard reception for Mardy Gilyard that set up a score and a 33-yard TD pass to Ben Guidugli.

Though, putting this year's team up against last year's this early is an unfair comparison. Obviously, Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard brought a different dynamic to the big-play aspect of the offense. In fact, the Bearcats'   

So, I asked Jones about taking shots downfield. My memory obviously didn't serve me very well because I didn't remember there being many shots taken downfield against Indiana State, but Jones corrected me and said they threw nine deep passes. My bad on that one.

Still, he admits the offense to be more efficient in that area.

"We are always going to take shots," Jones said. "We threw nine deep balls Saturday. So I think that is your fair share. Now, we have to complete them and we completed two of them. The big thing about our offense if you said what's one area we have to have improvement it is our explosive plays. The first game we really didn't have many plays over 30 yards and the same thing Saturday. Being in a spread offense you need explosive plays. So we have to do a great job of when we call those shots we have to execute those."  

An even more important aspect of the search for explosive plays is not only how many are being connected, but how the offense reacts when they don't.

Jones explained his philosophy on taking his shots vs. being efficient to ensure higher rate of connection when they do.

"The big thing is when you throw a deep ball, you take a shot, it's second-and-10," Jones said."It's what you do on second-and-10. Now that play has to be successful because offensive football is all about staying on schedule. First down is the only mystery down in football. You can be run or pass, we like to be 50-50, you play the law of percentages second and third down. The big thing for us is when we do pick our shots if we are unsuccessful we need to come back and gain at least five yards on the next play call."

The bottom line is the Bearcats offense hasn't been very explosive in the passing game this year. That's no secret. Like Jones said, the spread offense demands explosive plays. It hasn't happened yet. It will be a statistic well worth watching on Thursday night.  

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