Nick Saban on Texas A&M and Kevin Sumlin’s “Freeze” Play

Gotcha that time, didn’t I?

But Saban isn’t content to merely have his most productive defender on Johnny Football duty. Thursday night, he pulled a page from Texas A&M’s playbook and tried to recruit a 12th Man to help eliminate one of Sumlin’s most effective schemes. “There is one aspect of this game that nobody has said anything about,” Saban said. “These guys have a hard count, and they’ve gotten the other team to jump offsides an average of at least four times a game. One time at Houston, they had [an opponent] jump offsides 11 times in a game. Now, they don’t just get you to jump offsides. When you jump offsides, they do what Sam Wyche used to do at Cincinnati. Everybody runs a takeoff. So they throw the flag. The defense is offsides. The defensive players stop. Everybody takes off. Free play. And they throw it up. Three or four times a game. … These guys have to communicate some kind of way. They can use hand signals. We can make it difficult for them. Those kind of things affect them as well create a lot of passion and enthusiasm for our players with the kind of atmosphere we create in that stadium Saturday. I’m telling you, this is the most important one of the year from that standpoint.”

That’s from an excellent piece on this weekend’s matchup between Alabama and Texas A&M, from Andy Staples. Make sure to read the whole thing. Also, how do we think Saban knows about the game when Sumlin and Kingsbury were at Houston? Was that part of their game prep?

In any event, I note that Saban is right this has been around awhile — Wyche did it, and more directly for the coaching tree Mumme and Leach always did this — but it was also a big Conference USA thing. Back when Sumlin and Todd Graham used to battle at Houston and Tulsa (with offensive coordinators Holgorsen and Kingsbury for Sumlin and Gus Malzahn, Herb Hand and Chad Morris at Tulsa), both of those teams ate people alive with their “freeze” plays. Tulsa in particular had an entire package where the entire offensive line stayed still, and they could run sprint out passes with guys downfield or even throwback screens.

Check out the video below for an example from Sumlin’s Houston days with Case Keenum, though it’s a poor camera angle (but you can see the defensive tackle jump over and then try to get back):

  • The hard count worked today in the most delicate moment of the game!