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Inside The Play: Pistol Counter

In an effort to replace Benny Snell, Kentucky is turning to a three running back platoon in 2019 in hopes of continuing their ground and pound success. In the season opening win over Toledo, those three backs combined to rush for 176 yards on 28 carries and each of them technically scored a touchdown. However, the one that made the biggest impact in the game was the redshirt freshman from Wetumpka, Alabama.

Before the victory, we have only see Kavosiey Smoke on a limited basis. In the Louisville win and spring game, the late addition to the class of 2018 has shown the ability to be a home run hitter. The 5-foot-9, 225-pound tailback again provided the splash play element to the offense in the win. On seven carries, Smoke collected 78 yards but 40 of them came on fourth quarter run that gave UK a two-possession lead with eight-plus minutes left in regulation.

On this week’s Inside The Play, we will take you into the film room and show you a run we really didn’t see much in the first three years of Eddie Gran’s offense. To take advantage of the speed at running back and the athletic ability at tight end, UK dialed up some outside runs instead of trying butt heads in between the tackles. It created a new look and will be something that could be a challenge for opposing defenses.

After a big time reception by Lynn Bowden, Jr. that got Kentucky into Toledo territory, the Wildcats came out in the pistol formation (shotgun but with running back behind the quarterback) with 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers). In this formation, both wide receivers are lined up in the field (wide side of the field) with Justin Rigg in-line next to the left tackle and Keaton Upshaw in an H-back spot lined up behind the right tackle and a yard in front of the quarterback. What comes next is a lot of moving parts.

On the snap, Kavosiey Smoke takes a false step to the right before taking the handoff in an effort to get the defense moving the wrong way. While he is doing that, right guard Luke Fortner is pulling around to block the Will linebacker while Keaton Upshaw is leading the tailback through the second level to hopefully get a block on the safety at the final level of the defense.

Justin Rigg does a great job winning his one-on-one against the play side corner that allows for Keaton Upshaw to get to the safety. After helping with the corner, Upshaw gets to the safety and that frees Kavosiey Smoke for the touchdown. Everyone on this play does their job and it resulted in a big play touchdown to cap off a seven-play, 92-yard drive.

With Benny Snell taking the rock, we saw the Kentucky offense pound the ball in between the tackles with inside zone, split zone, and power out of the wildcat formation. Now the offense has two backs with some breakaway ability and that means that Eddie Gran is going to try to take advantage of that speed by getting his guys on the edge. Counter runs are a good way to do that.

The down blocking by the center and the backside guard and tackle can look similar to the staple zone runs UK uses. That can allow for some big plays on the outside if everyone does their jobs. For most of the game, both Justin Rigg and Keaton Upshaw struggled blocking at the point of attack and that is something that cannot continue. Even in a rough day, they came through big on this play in the fourth quarter and that will be something to build on moving forward.

Look for UK to continue to dial up some outside runs as the season progresses. Expect to see some counters out of the wildcat formation and with Terry Wilson in the quarterback run game moving forward. It’s a great play to run with 12 personnel and fits the strengths for multiple individuals on Kentucky’s offense.

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Article written by Adam Luckett

Twitter: @AdamLuckettKSR

9 Comments for Inside The Play: Pistol Counter



  1. secrick
    3:02 pm September 3, 2019 Permalink

    There was 2 great blocks on this play.



    • michaelb
      4:28 pm September 3, 2019 Permalink

      Yea the tight end made 2 key blocks on the td run . Hope we see lots more of ths



  2. dvb0378
    3:34 pm September 3, 2019 Permalink

    Why not just run it with 14 or 15 personnell. It would be way better.



    • Brutal Hustler
      4:11 pm September 3, 2019 Permalink

      What is way better than a play where a RB goes untouched to a touchdown?



    • RealCatsFan
      9:23 am September 4, 2019 Permalink

      Just please don’t ever try it with 10 personnel again.



  3. ukspanky
    4:31 pm September 3, 2019 Permalink

    Perhaps the greatest name in 2019 NCAA Football, KAVOSIEY SMOKE!! Made better by the meaning of his Alabama hometown: Wetumpka is a historic Creek place word meaning “rumbling waters”. (Yeah, I Googled it.) He was RUMBLIN’ and SMOKIN’ Saturday.



  4. jondrums
    4:33 pm September 3, 2019 Permalink

    loving the in depth analysis, Adam. 11 Personnel is also great. Do you see this counter game working consistently against SEC competition if the TE’s had trouble blocking all game?



  5. RealCatsFan
    9:26 am September 4, 2019 Permalink

    Um, I don’t claim to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but can someone explain to me how we can play with “12 personnel” on the field? Mama taught me how to count to 11 without getting arrested, and I clearly see 11 men on the field. 😉