Texas A&M’s upset of Alabama in 2012 was considered by many to be the game of the year, as well as the catalyst that launched the Heisman campaign of Johnny Manziel and popularized the moniker ‘Johnny Football.’ Manziel made some remarkable individual plays throughout the game that were outside the framework of the offense. But what coach Kevin Sumlin game planned and Manziel executed that gave Alabama fits was the stick concept. A&M used the stick concept in many forms, both traditional and packaged plays and ran it out of multiple formations.
Early on their first drive the Aggies dialed up a stick-draw packaged play. It’s a simple concept, if the sam lined up inside the H works to the stick route, Manziel would run the draw. If the sam comes up, Manziel throws the stick.
Based on the close proximity & inside leverage of the sam it’s fairly obvious the stick route will not be there.
Manziel gives the stick route a quick look and then follows his running back on the lead draw for a 7 yard gain.
Later in the same drive you see the same stick concept packaged with an inside zone run. Alabama is in a quarters defense with their curl-flat defender leveraging #2 to the outside.
With the outside leverage of the sam, the inside linebacker or first player inside the stick route now becomes the read. With the linebacker forced to respect the zone action of the offensive line, Manziel throws the stick for a 6 yard gain on first down.
After scoring a touchdown on their first possession Texas A&M goes right back to the stick concept on their next drive, this time out of an empty set. The concept out of empty is for #1 to run off the cornerback isolating the curl-flat defender with two routes to cover and reading that defender.
The curl-flat player works to the out by #2, so Manziel throws the stick route to #3.
The very next play Texas A&M comes right back to the stick concept but to the opposite side of the field. This time Manziel throws the out to #2 for yet another completion.
All of the success that Texas A&M had with the stick concept setup the play that turned out to be the dagger that sealed the win for Texas A&M. With 9 minutes left in the game and trailing by 6 points, Nick Saban and Kirby Smart dial up a man coverage defense, unwilling to concede the ball control gains A&M had picked up with the stick concept throughout the game. A&M anticipating the man coverage dials up their “8” concept also known in other offensive systems as “Bash.” It features double under routes from #1 & #2 with a corner route by #3.
In this concept the corner route is the first read in the progression or alert versus man coverage. Manziel reads the man defense and throws the corner route for a touchdown that tuned out to be the game winner.
The multi faceted use of the stick concept combined with the unique ability of a QB like Manziel helped launch one of the greatest upsets in college football. Multiple packaged plays and formations can allow an offense many different ways to attack defenses by using just one concept.