Huskies Insider Blog

Matchup to watch: Defending Colorado's screen game

In today's TNT, John McGrath, who was helping me out yesterday wrote about Colorado's biggest offensive strength - the screen pass to Rodney Stewart.

Senior quarterback Tyler Hansen owns an excellent touchdown-to-interception ratio of 12-3. Hansen is a threat to run himself, but the play that has attention of the Huskies defense is the screen pass to the 5-6 scatback.

“We haven’t faced that many screen teams this year,” safety Justin Glenn said after practice Tuesday. “They’re a big screen team. So whoever has the running back needs (to guard) him every play. Whoever has the flat needs to be in the flat, because they’ll catch you off guard sending four guys deep.

“Then you’ve got six guys downfield in coverage, and you’ve got the defensive line trying to make a play on a shifty running back.”

Thanks to the screen play, Stewart has gained almost as many yards receiving this season (417) as rushing (431). And while he has no touchdown catches, he’s got a long gain through the air of 76 yards.

Yep, on a screen press.

“They are one of the best screen teams we have seen now in three years of preparing for opponents, and part of that is his stature,” Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said the other day of Stewart. “He can get caught in there and stuck in there behind offensive lineman and next thing you know they dip the ball out to him and he makes one cut, and they are huge plays.

“It happened again last week against Stanford – he had over a 70-yard completion on a screen – so his stature pays off for him mostly in the screen game because you don’t see him very well and then boom, he’s out.”

What makes Colorado's screen game so good? Well, the excellent blog - the Ralphie Report - breaks it down probably better than I've ever seen it.

If you watched the Cal game, you know a big part of the offensive game plan was screen passes. Screen passes are a great way to slow down an over-aggressive defense. When a defense blitzes and screen is called, it is one of the best plays to watch form. On the surface, screens seem like a relatively simple play but it takes patience, downfield blocking and a good amount of acting. In the NFL game, you see a ton of screen passes being used and this is clearly something offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy brought with him back to the college game. The Buffs ran this play at least five times. Rodney Stewart ended the day as the Buffs' second leading receiver, hauling in seven passes for 86 yards. Below shows his largest reception of the day, a 26 yard completion.