ND Early Football

Nov 28, 2013

As you know, I have been doing a lot of research about ND in the early days...

I have been trying to learn about ND’s first forward pass.  I cannot find out the details.
While checking the newspaper accounts from our early games, I have seen the term “double pass” quite a bit.  I wondered what this meant.

I finally found an article called “How to Play Football”, from a magazine from the mid-teens.  In it, there is a nice diagram and explanation of the “double pass”.

The diagram is fascinating.

Picture what is called “1st position”.  This was back in the days of pre-snap shifts and before there were rules about how long players would have to be “set” before the snap.

Only the center is on the line of scrimmage.

The left end is one space to his left and one space back.  The left tackle, LT, RG, RT, and RE are each one space further back and one space further right, so the entire line, except for the center forms a “picket fence” at a 45 degree angle.  The backfield is in the same shape that we would have recognized as the former T-formation, with the QB in front of the FB and the two half’s where we would expect them.  The QB is just to the left of the RG and behind the LT.





        0   0

      0   0   0

         0        0

(NOTE—this is the best I can do, but the slant should be more angled toward the line.)

After the “shift”, the picket fence swings up to the line of scrimmage in what we would now call an “unbalanced line” right.  The QB moves two spaces to the right, with the LH right behind him and the FB behind him.  This looks like today‘s I-Formation.  The RHB is immediately to the right of the LH.  See my diagram below.

0  0  0  0  0  0  0

LE   C     LT   LG  RG  RT  RE    

      QB 0

   HB  0 0     

   FB  0

Keep in mind that these shifts are done quickly, so the defense does not have time to react.  The defense is a 7-man line (standard in those days) centered on the original starting point of the center.  Now, the offense has a decided advantage to the right and has shifted in that direction and the center snaps the ball to the QB………but they call it a “center pass”.  As this “student body right” play attacks the defense, the QB is the runner; the LHB is the lead blocker; the RHB is the second blocker; and the fullback is the trailer.  If the defense comes up on the QB, he can make a pitch back to the FB (the “double pass”), in the same way that Air Force used this pitch-back (“double option”) against the Irish.

Considering how ancient this play is (100 years ago), it’s interesting that it contains so many modern elements (shotgun snap; unbalanced line; pre-snap shift; T-formation backfield; I-formation; and option play). 

Happy Thanksgiving and Go Irish!

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