Wilson the Passer vs. Wilson the Runner

There’s been lots of chatter in the comments and in the forums about Wilson not looking to run. I don’t think that is the case, and the stats back that up. Wilson had 11 rushing attempts last night, compared to an average of 11.56 per game last year (in the 9 games where he played most or all of the game).

But many of you are also missing that even last year, Wilson was far more dangerous as a passer than a runner. Wilson’s 2008 yards per passing attempt (YPA, along with TD/INT ratio, the key QB effectiveness stat)? 7.11. His yards per carry? 3.4. It’s also quite safe to say that Wilson is more likely to fumble on a rushing attempt than to throw an interception, especially on a per attempt basis.

Running is important to control time of possession, and to keep defenses honest. But an effective passing attack is how you win games. And last night, the threat of Wilson’s running ability did lead the Gamecocks to play lots of single coverage on intermediate and deep routes. State took their shots, but didn’t deliver (the fault lies with both Wilson and with the WRs).

There was much to be concerned about with last night’s effort and execution (crappy tackling and dropped passes being 1A and 1B). But Wilson being “coached away” from being Russell Wilson isn’t one of them.

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

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68 Responses to Wilson the Passer vs. Wilson the Runner

  1. phillypacker 09/04/2009 at 1:41 PM #

    When the offensive line, especially the tackles, play as poorly as last night and the receivers can’t catch passes, I don’t think play calling matters so much. RW was not sharp and did look a step slower but the line and receivers are the biggest issues in my mind.

  2. Alpha Wolf 09/04/2009 at 2:01 PM #

    “You guys are certifiably crazy. You’re ready to ditch the All-ACC quarterback over a single performance where, let’s face it, Spurrier had our number called.”

    Dude, no one is saying ditch RW.

    Speaking for myself, I am saying that if Wilson gets hurt, it would be better to have a Glennon who has actually seen some game time.

    It’s not like Russell Wilson has ever gotten injured or anything, so maybe I am worrying too much.

  3. elvislives 09/04/2009 at 2:04 PM #

    Offensive play calling is everything. It dictates the pace of play. It is what keeps the opposition off-balance and exposes their weaknesses. It is what separates average teams from becoming a good team (think Boise State in their upset win against Oklahoma a few years back). It is what gives the offense the opportunity to score points.

    Maybe you’re right and I’m overreacting. But for an offensive coordinator, giving your team a chance to score points should be paramount. And last night the play calling seemed to be uninspired at best – until they started passing on every down late in the 4th.

  4. phillypacker 09/04/2009 at 2:07 PM #

    I think the play calling was trying to some degree was trying to compensate for parts of the offense that were not working.

  5. elvislives 09/04/2009 at 2:24 PM #

    True, the adjustment made to abandon the run and go pass-heavy in the 4th quarter looked to be a reaction to getting no offensive rhythym going during the first 3 quarters. Hopefully the “let’s try something else” button can be pushed a little earlier next time. Or ideally be avoided all together with a better game plan.

  6. elvislives 09/04/2009 at 2:32 PM #

    3 NFL Offensive Coordinators have been fired this week due to lack of production. The Bill’s just canned their coordinator.

    “Schonert becomes the third offensive coordinator fired this week, after Kansas City’s Chan Gailey was fired on Monday and Tampa Bay’s Jeff Jagodzinski was let go on Thursday.”


    Jagodzinski was TOB’s offensive coordinator for 2 years at BC in 1997-98. Just sayin’.

  7. BSIE80 09/04/2009 at 2:54 PM #

    TOB is supposed to be an OL genius. So has he recruited the wrong players or does it take a few games to coach them up?

  8. Wulfpack 09/04/2009 at 3:21 PM #

    SC won that game because they hit us in the mouth and we didn’t hit back. They were the aggressor all night long. That’s what is most concerning to me today. All that “hype” did nothing to motivate our guys to go out there and hit somebody.

    RW had a bad game, a very bad game. I’m going to venture it will be the worst of his career. He will bounce back. The key question is, will the team follow?

    We sure do know how to pick the best moments to lay an egg.

  9. BJD95 09/04/2009 at 3:36 PM #

    As I’ve been saying all offseason, you will see a prototypical TOB offensive line starting in 2010. OL recruits generally take longer to develop. The staff likes what they have coming up the pipe, but doesn’t want to expose them before they’re ready.

    I am extremely confident that you will REALLY like the product we put on the field from 2010-12. After that, TOB probably retires and we’ll suck forever after.

  10. VaWolf82 09/04/2009 at 3:41 PM #

    I have no problem with high expectations and I have no problem with the bitching the morning after.

    I do. I’m sick and tired of unrealistically high expectations followed by a bitch-fest when they aren’t met.

  11. Par Shooter 09/04/2009 at 3:53 PM #

    I’m afraid that next year we’ll be in a serious rebuilding mode on the OL after losing 3 seniors, including our center. Like everyone else I’ve heard good things about the guys who redshirted last year but I was pretty underwhelmed by what Wallace has apparently learned in the last year. Hopefully he can learn from last night but he was absymal.

    I really felt like our entire O looked unprepared. We were very basic in everything we did. Very little pre-snap motion. We basically only ran one running play from one formation all night. It looked like something you’d expect after about 1 week of practice with a young squad and a new OC, not a veteran bunch in a much anticipated first game following 2 years of coaching stability.

    Last night was really the first time that I have been disappointed in Bible & Co since they got here. I think he usually calls a very good game and is not too predictable. Our O isn’t often flashy but it seems well balanced and seems to keep the D off balance. We’ve certainly had ugly O performances at times but the guys playing QB (and OL) then had a LOT to do with that. Even our tempo on O was really bad last night until mid-3rd quarter. We definitely got some bounce in our step after the INT and looked a little better after that but up to that point they just seemed totally dead. Hoping to see much improvement next week.

  12. bradleyb123 09/04/2009 at 3:53 PM #

    ^^^ “There’s been lots of chatter in the comments and in the forums about Wilson not looking to run. I don’t think that is the case, and the stats back that up.”

    I disagree. For most of the night, it looked like Wilson almost never intended to step beyond the line of scrimmage. He may have had the same number of rushing plays as he averaged last year. But that doesn’t in any way mean he INTENDED to run. Mostly, that just means he was back to pass and took the sack (which counts as a rushing play).

    Last night, it looked as if he was heck-bent on NOT tucking and running until there was ABSOLUTELY no other option.

    It also looked like we were trying to make him more of a pocket passer. I was talking with a guy sitting next to me for pretty much the entire first half about how Wilson was not scrambling outside of the pocket. When he did that last year, he was most dangerous. It bought him more time to pass, and often enabled him to run a long way as well. Last night, he stayed in the pocket, which seemed to implode on him most of the time.

    I just don’t think he was looking to run much at all. It sure didn’t look like it. I don’t think any stat refutes or backs that up. Stats really don’t tell you anything about his intentions. Sometimes they just tell you what actually happened.

  13. tj foose 09/04/2009 at 4:15 PM #

    Last year, Wilson was a threat to run. That changed defenses and the way they played us. Whether he ran or not, his ability to do so effected the game.

    Wilson, for whatever reason, was sluggish last night and his legs never posed an effective threat. Wilson never hurt SoCar with his scrambling or pure rushing. That hurt our draw plays, our running game as a whole, and our passing game since pressure was rarely put on players in pass coverage.

    Wilson was effectively neutralize by SoCar’s front four and Norwood. That did not happen last year.

  14. tj foose 09/04/2009 at 4:26 PM #

    rdjennin – “Wilson is slower, is playing more timidly, and according to an insider, his mind has been set on baseball and his own “big picture” in life… Enter Mike Glennon.”

    Wow?! After one game you want to bail on Wilson huh? Let’s see… last year’s All ACC QB, all the commentary on his character, his faith, his leadership, etc and you want to unceremoniously drop him and put in Glennon.

  15. Dogbreath 09/04/2009 at 4:30 PM #

    A lot of good observations, albeit different assessments of what went down last night.

    My take is that the coaches did deliberately design a gameplan to keep Wilson in the pocket to make plays downfield. I believe the coaches scouted a USC team that had a very young secondary and a depleted front four. The middle tier of their defense was very good , experienced, and athletic. I don’t think the staff felt confident in the TE matchups, and they probably wanted to avoid situations where Wilson was running in the open edge, exposed to hits from the LBs.

    I think the staff hedged(wrongly) that we would have better protection out of our zone scheme, and that the young secondary would make a few mistakes that would yield big plays. Credit to USC for not having any breakdowns out of their young defensive backfield.

    Our staff had a very risk averse gameplan (that’s NC State’s modus operandi anyway). We played the odds and lost.

  16. BJD95 09/04/2009 at 4:36 PM #

    I think TOB likes next year’s pending R-SO dominated line more than this year’s SR dominated one. He just doesn’t like them better as R-FR. In fact, RJ Mattes did slide into one starting spot already. Perhaps as the year moves on, more will follow.

    The 2010 OL will grade out as a B/B+, followed by As in 2011 and 2012. Just MHO, based on what I’ve heard and inferred. And for God’s sake, you know I’m no cockeyed optimist or anything.

  17. Broccoman 09/04/2009 at 4:48 PM #

    RW as a pure passer wasn’t putrid. He got a crappy hand and didn’t make it worse. He missed a few throws by a bit, but he’s not PR, and PR missed a few at State too.

    The real issue was the OL, an “experienced” front line like that means that things were even worse before, and a sign of how bad the situation was when TOB got here, and the progress that was made (still a fair bit to go, but we are getting there).

    My main issue with the gameplan was the playcalling at the end. TOB was playing not to lose when he needed to be playing to win.

  18. Dogbreath 09/04/2009 at 4:55 PM #

    That’s what I mean by a risk averse strategy. We always build our gameplan around what the other team will grant us, as opposed to actually trying to dictate and play to our strengths.

  19. john of sparta 09/04/2009 at 5:00 PM #

    will Television Gods ever believe in us again?

  20. tj foose 09/04/2009 at 5:05 PM #

    Par Shooter – don’t worry about the long term future of our O-Line. In fact, the interior of our line (G-C-G) played relatively well last night. Larsen was a MAN most of the game and Mattes, though not overwhelming, played solid for a RSFr. Roughly 90% of our OL issues last night was from the edges.

    Yes, O-Linemen are the most difficult players to develop. They usually require the most physical and mental training, and are often the most intelligent players on the field. They have to be, since outside of a QB running a complex, pro-style offense, their position is the most mentally challenging on the field.

    Occasionally you get a 1st or 2nd year player who can be a solid contributor, but that is the exception. TOB has said we are progressing, but we still are not were we need to be . More experience, more development, more depth is still needed.

    Also remember that w/ V’s injury we had 4-5 different lineups out there in the line… we had to change the 2 deep on the fly since Wallace was obviously not ready… Because Wallace fell short, 2 other starters were swapped around, thus only 2 of the starters where in their ‘natural’ position once Wallace was benched.

    That being said, our O-Line as a whole still got whooped last night. It is what it is, one game. The steepest learning curve is from game one to game two. Let us all hope NC State’s is practically vertical.

    TOB has said changes will obviously be made to the 2 deep of the OL. Don’t give up on Wallace (TOB won’t). He’s a talented freshman, he just wasn’t ready.

  21. highstick 09/04/2009 at 5:12 PM #

    Dogbreath, if you’ll search my posts, you’ll see where I said that Stephen Gilmore was the “real deal” for a freshman. He made a few mistakes but he’s gonna be a darned good player for SC. Have to brag on my local kids from Rock Hill. Wasn’t Holloman a State recruit also?

  22. Mike 09/04/2009 at 5:23 PM #

    I am not an expert but I think I know football. Geesh, now I sound like Fowler 🙂

    Conservative play calling – we get the ball inside our 15 and not able to contain their pass rush. Let’s 7 step drop and throw it deep? Not exactly a great spot for a screen either. Run it and hope to break a tackle or two and give you some room to play action or throw.

    RW passing – kid has a cannon for an arm, but again no time to throw. Oh yeah, receivers have to get open too. Somehow if they get open, they have to catch with the bricks for hands they have been given.

    Glennon passing – See above. Kid also has an arm, but RW gives us a better chance of winning.

    RW afraid to run – yes, coaching staff is teaching him to run less. 11 rushes, 6 were sacks so he was running less. Maybe the staff is also looking out for the kid’s future, not wanting him to have a career threatening injury. Keep RW healthy for the rest of the year and not have him through his determination possibly suffer a career ending (baseball) injury. Protect him from himself.

    Referees – so what, whining about referees is Coach K and UNX crap. score more points. Face mask miss? 15 yards helps but we still started on the 50. Obvious hold on Cash? ok, they missed one but officials could call holding on every play. My only beef with the officials was the Saunders kick – unsportsmanlike should have gotten 15 yards.

    Finally, we lost. I hate losing. The world goes on. We were not going 12-0 anyway. Knowing our staff, they were playing it conservative, building for the ACC. That is what counts. Dont show too much on film. Next 2 games will be very similar. Pitt may be as well, and then the real season starts. Lots of football left, DONT JUMP OFF THE LEDGE YET.

  23. tobaccordshow 09/04/2009 at 6:08 PM #

    “Dude, no one is saying ditch RW.”

    AlphaWolf – Not talking about you, but the general tone of some people in this discussion like the following is what’s insane.

    “TOB is trying to fit a square peg in a round hole with russell wilson. If russell wilson is not allowed to play his way, we will be vastly unsuccessfull. Wilson is slower, is playing more timidly, and according to an insider, his mind has been set on baseball and his own “big picture” in life. Lets all be thankful that we had him to salvage a year and deliver us to a bowl. But I think we all know what is about to happen, its what was going to happen all along. For better or worse.

    Enter Mike Glennon.”

  24. Par Shooter 09/04/2009 at 6:26 PM #

    I’m not worried about the OL long term but my earlier statement related to next season, especially early next season. Unless some of the young pups supplant seniors this year or we have more injuries then we’ll be pretty inexperienced up front this time next year. I would think that by the end of next year we’ll be playing as well up front as we have since at least 2002 and perhaps a lot further back than that.

  25. 61Packer 09/04/2009 at 7:36 PM #

    john of sparta: “will Television Gods ever believe in us any more?”

    Absolutely! Last night’s performance only enhanced our standing as the flagship team for ESPNU.

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