It took Will Clapp a second to realize what was happening when he lined up to snap the ball with 2 minutes, 20 seconds to play in the third quarter of last Saturday’s game at Alabama.
For most offensive downs this season, every time Clapp looked between his legs he sees Danny Etling ready to receive the snap.
But this time, instead of the 6-foot-3, 215 pound quarterback from Terre Haute, Indiana, Clapp saw a 6-foot-1, 230-pound running back from Marrero.
For the first time this season Darrel Williams lined up in the wildcat formation for a direct snap from Clapp while Russell Gage was set in motion for the jet-sweep option.
It was a play offensive coordinate Matt Canada drew up during the off week just for the Crimson Tide.
It was, by far, the most successful play call of the night.
Williams pulled back from the handoff and sprinted up the middle for 54 yards, avoiding several would-be tacklers for the longest run against the Tide by an LSU player since 2005. Williams broke into the end zone two plays later for LSU’s first touchdown in two years against Alabama.
“He does a great job,” said coach Ed Orgeron. “Darrel is one of our most valuable players. That is something that Matt came up with during the open date. It is something he felt would be successful, and it was.”
Williams was not made available for interviews this week.
While the play was in response to what Canada saw on film while preparing for Alabama, players didn’t rule out a possible repeat performance over the last month of the season.
LSU ran the wildcat three times on Saturday, twice with Williams, including the long run in the third quarter, and then once with Derrius Guice. The other two runs were for little or no gain.
After the game, Orgeron said LSU might have to run more of the wildcat with Williams since it was so successful.
Possibly the biggest difference in the formation was Etling lining up as a decoy wide receiver.
The quarterback joked about feeling good out wide, but admitted to being worried about getting jammed at the line of scrimmage.
“I was sprinting down the field. I was going to go get a block just in case,” Etling said. “I just didn’t want to be jammed like Mark Sanchez. I prefer to be off the ball on the line of scrimmage.”
As for the offensive linemen, Clapp said this week, as far as blocking is concerned, it isn’t much different than regular run blocking.
He even suggested tackle KJ Malone or Toby Weathersby might be the next ones to step into the wildcat with Canada calling the plays.
“It’s really not a change for the offensive linemen,” Clapp said. “I’m sure most of them didn’t even know it was wildcat. The only reason I knew is because I was looking between my legs for the signal to go. Darrel did a great job. He made his reads well out of that. You know, it kind of changes the timing for a running back, but he made his reads well all week and did a good job.”