Rutgers' Kyle Flood turns to zone read as run game falters
Kyle Flood said Sunday that Rutgers isn't equipped right now to run the ball effectively within a traditional offense. It led to Rutgers using the most zone-read principles to date Saturday in a 28-17 loss at Connecticut.
"If you can line up with two backs and a tight end and hand the ball off to somebody and run effectively, that's great," Flood said during his day-after conference call. "But we're not in a situation where we can do that right now."
Zone-read plays require a quarterback in shotgun to read a number of defensive tendencies before handing the ball off to a running back, keeping on a run or usually throwing a seam route to the tight end.
The Scarlet Knights showed glimpses of it earlier in the season, but it only complemented a traditional run game, usually out of the I-formation or off-I.
The Knights ran 60 of 67 plays Saturday out of shotgun or pistol.
Rutgers' rushing attack has averaged 2.96 yards per carry during the last six games, five of which ended in losses. Outside of a 204-yard, two-touchdown performance Nov. 16 against Cincinnati, those numbers shrink to only 326 yards overall and a 2.4 yards-per-carry average.
["If you can line up two backs and a tight end ... that's great. But we're not a situation where we can do that right now." — Kyle Flood]
"We're going to have to look at all options," Flood said. "When I look at our running game after watching the film now twice, we're just not effective enough running the football with Paul James in there. We've got to be more effective."
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The zone read becomes effective when there is a threat to run from the quarterback. Chas Dodd managed only 1 yard on three carries, including a speed option early in the game with James.
The zone read comes with pre-packaged plays, a set of counter options for a quarterback depending on the defense's front. For example, Dodd targeted tight end Tyler Kroft several times on seam routes when he could have also kept the ball or handed off on the same play.
"A couple of them were effective and a couple of them weren't so effective," Flood said. "Not all of them were executed perfectly, which is not surprising because it was the first time we had done that much of it in a game. It's something I think we can be better at."