Eddie Gran would probably be the first to tell you that what the Bearcats do in the passing game is not all that radical or innovative. Much of what the Bearcats do comes from the original one back spread offense as practiced by Joe Tiller, first at Wyoming and then Purdue. Darrin Hinshaw and Blake Rolan both worked for Jim Chaney at Tennessee, and Chaney was the longtime offensive coordinator at Purdue. Most of Tiller's foundational concepts have been repurposed by so many coaches over the year that they have become ubiquitous across the country. In fact a great way to learn about the nuances of a particular defensive style is to watch how that defense plays the base concepts. Because these are plays that every offense has in the playbook every defensive coordinator knows them, and has their own unique spin on defending it.
With one exception it was not the Bearcats base plays that did in the Buckeye pass defense against the Bearcats, it was the wrinkles.
This play is basically an inverted 97. It is inverted because the usual roles for the concept are flipped, it is the inside receiver who runs the fade and the outside receiver who settles into the out. There are three things that make this play work. 1) The Buckeye's play their customary cover 4 which makes Von Bell, a safety, responsible for the inside receiver on vertical routes. So you basically have Von Bell locked up one on one with the Bearcats most naturally gifted receiver. 2) The Bearcats bring Chris Moore and Mekale McKay into the slot which creates favorable matchups with the Buckeye safeties 3) Von Bell has no ball skills to speak of. Gunner Kiel under threw that ball significantly. Against a defensive back with any positional awareness that play is probably broken up, but that is not Von Bell. Moore simply takes the ball from him.
Meet Mills. The Bearcats have run Mills more in this season than they did last year and it has been a huge part of the offense. This is a great play to call against teams that are running the cover 4 because it puts a ton of stress on the safety. The stress comes from the vertical stems of the receivers. Remember in a cover 4 the safety is responsible for the inside receivers vertical routes. So when Shaq Washington starts vertical it is the safeties responsibility to pick him up. So Shaq occupies the safety long enough with his vertical course that when he declares his route it is too late for the safety to be of help against another route. The means that Chris More is one on one with Eli Apple. Apple, who is probably expecting four verticals or maybe switch given the situation is not aligned to combat a post route. Chris Moore destroys Apple's leverage almost immediately, which puts Apple in trail position. All Gunner needs to do is put the ball in front of Moore, and for the first time all season he puts a deep ball in front of his receiver for the score.
This is probably my favorite play of the three because it really shows how much Gunner is growing as a quarterback. For most of the first half the Bearcats were using quick screens to the receivers on first and second downs to get positive yards and keep Gunner in rhythm. After being repeatedly beaten on these constraint plays the Buckeyes started to overplay them. Gunner threw one in the middle of the second quarter that should have been a pick because the Buckeye's jumped the route.
Gunner filed that away for later use, and it was on this play when he capitalized on the Buckeye's aggression. Watch the play again paying special attention to the three defenders on the playside. Gunner gives a little shoulder fake which sends everyone to Max Morrison running the flair. The flash fake from Hosey Williams holds linebacker Raekwon McMillan in the middle of the field removing the only person who could possibly stop Moore from turning that play into a score. Pitch and catch.
None of what the Bearcats do in the passing game is excessively complex. For the most part its simple concepts with their base personnel that are designed to put the defense in one on one situations and exploit those matchups for big plays. What makes it complex is the pace at which the Bearcats run the offense. The Bearcats were right at 2.9 plays per minute against the Buckeye's, which is as fast as they played against Toledo. Picking out the wrinkles the Bearcats use in personnel groupings and formations is very hard to do pre snap. It won't be Chris Moore going nuts every week, but it seems safe to assume that someone is going to have a big day every time out.