Broadcast Terminology: The Pistol, The Stutter-Step Curl Route and More from UCLA vs Oregon

This following is an explanation and/or further details on terms and statements the broadcasters referenced in Thursday night’s UCLA vs Oregon Game

The last time Oregon was ranked #2 in the BCS Standings was in 2007: That year it looked like Oregon would be playing LSU for the National Title.  But Dennis Dixon suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter against Arizona (Week 12) and instantly his season ended along with his Heisman Trophy hopes.  At the time of his injury, the dual threat Quarterback was leading Oregon to over 500 yards of offense per game.  Without a proper Quarterback to run their offense (they tried 3 different options) Oregon lost their remaining regular season games and finished 23rd in the AP Poll and 24th in the Coaches Poll.

The Pistol Offense: The Pistol appears similar to the Shotgun (where the Quarterback stands about 5 to 7 feet back from the Center), but the Quarterback is only about 3 to 5 feet away.  The key to this formation is that the Running Back stands directly behind the Quarterback rather than being offset (standing to either side him).  This provides instant deception for defenses as the position and motion of the Quarterback in front of the Running Back can block their line of vision.  It is especially difficult for Linebackers who are trained to watch the Running Back in order to identify the direction of the play.   Although it can be used for Play Action passes, it is most effective for a team looking to run the ball.

The Pistol is not conducive to playing catch-up: Because the Pistol Offense is run-oriented, it takes longer to execute than a pass-oriented offense.  Offenses can use passing plays to gain a large amount of yardage in a short period of time.  But running the ball generally gains yards in smaller increments and requires more plays.   If a team is behind and needs to score quickly, this can present a problem if they are running the Pistol.

The Most Significant Regular Season in Sports: Its lack of a playoff is what makes College Football the “most significant regular season in sports” as eloquently stated by Rece Davis.   The fact that the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision previously known as Division I) doesn’t have an official playoff bothers some people.  But those against the playoff (including 73% of Head Coaches) believe the fact that the FBS doesn’t have one is what makes it so successful and competitive every single week of the regular season.

Double Move Curl Route or Stutter Curl Route: A Double Move is the same as a Stutter Step, which is a momentary hesitation or false step by a runner done to fake a defender out of position. It is often used by a Receiver running a Fly Route (which is straight and deep downfield) who will use the Double Move to make defenders think he is running a Curl Route. A Curl Route is a turn made by the Receiver in the shallow region of the field about 10 yards past the Line of Scrimmage.   If the Double Move is done successfully the defender will move up in position to cover the Curl Zone, while the Receiver continues straight downfield on the intended Fly Route.   In the situation where this occurred in the UCLA v Oregon game, the Receiver appeared to be making the typical Double Move on a Fly Route.  He stuttered, but the defender did not move up.  The defender may have been back too far to come forward into Coverage or perhaps he wasn’t fooled by the Double Move and stayed back.  Regardless and whether it was planned or not by either player, the Receiver turned and ran a Curl Route where he caught the ball.   The broadcasters were pretty excited by this because it’s not something you see very often and it turned out to be a successful play.

Keeping 3rd Down Manageable: One way to keep 3rd down manageable is by having a good 1st down play.  What this means is that if an offense is able to gain 5 or more yards on 1st down, they only need 2 or 3 yards on each of the next two plays in order to reach 10 yards (and therefore earn a fresh set of downs).  3rd down is an important down because if an offense doesn’t reach a 1st down or score on that down, they will most likely be kicking the ball on the next play.  A team can either run or pass on 3rd and short because they have just a few yards to gain.  But on 3rd and long (with 6 or more yards to gain), the plays are more limiting because the defenders have more space to allow plays that they know will not achieve a 1st down for their opponent.  Most teams will pass on 3rd and long because it is easier to gain more yards on a single play passing than running the ball.


  1. UCLA 2011 says:

    […] year the big story about UCLA was the pistol offense, especially when Texas had no answer for it (although it turned out Texas didn’t have very many […]