California coach Sonny Dykes and WSU coach Mike Leach’s relationship dates to 1997, when Dykes was a graduate assistant at Kentucky under offensive coordinator Leach and head coach Hal Mumme. Both have shaped their offensive philosophies as a result of that connection.
California coach Sonny Dykes and Washington State coach Mike Leach’s relationship dates to 1997, when Dykes was a graduate assistant at Kentucky under offensive coordinator Leach and head coach Hal Mumme.
Now in his first head-coaching job at a Power Five school, Dykes’ Golden Bears are ranked 24th nationally and gunning for a 5-0 start for the first time since 2007.
Leach’s Cougars travel to Berkeleyon Saturday hoping to avenge last year’s stunning 60-59 defeat to Cal in Pullman.
As that game showed, the Golden Bears’ high-octane offense — Cal has the nation’s 10th-best scoring offense, averaging 45.8 points per game — has been instrumental in their success.
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The prevailing notion is that the Cal and Washington State schemes are so similar that fans have christened Dykes’ system the “Bear Raid” in homage to Leach’s Air Raid, which Dykes studied and helped to refine from his formative years at Kentucky and at Texas Tech.
But take a more nuanced look at the California and Washington State systems, and it’s clear that the offense Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin have installed is no longer that similar to Leach’s system.
“A lot of guys that run it have the same base plays,” Dykes said. “We took it and added our own personality to it and our own stuff.”
Much of that has to do with what Franklin — who also studied under Mumme and Leach at Kentucky — brought when he joined Dykes’ staff at Louisiana Tech as the offensive coordinator in 2010.
Franklin spent five years out of college football in the middle of his career. During this time, he devised the Tony Franklin System based on the Air Raid and made a living teaching his system to high school football coaches nationally.
Through working with high school teams that had varying personnel strengths, Franklin identified two elements instrumental in a successful football team: “To win a championship, you have to run the ball adequately and almost always have a good defense,” he said.
Combine that with the Air Raid principles that Franklin cut his teeth on, and you get the Bear Raid.
“The biggest difference is that we want to run the football and take great pride in trying to run the football,” Franklin said. “The other thing is that usually we play faster than what they do and we try to sometimes maximize the control of the game.”
Cal’s commitment to the run is evident from the stat sheet. The Bears have rushed 167 times and attempted 152 passes this season for a 52:48 run/pass ratio.
In contrast, WSU has attempted 66 rushes and 156 passes, putting the Cougars at more of a 30:70 run/pass split. And that’s even an increase from last season, when the Cougars passed roughly 75 percent of the time.
But that’s Leach’s system. WSU’s offense is very much unchanged from what he and Mumme ran at Kentucky in the late-1990s.
“Mike is still very similar to what we did at Kentucky, even though Mike tries to throw the ball even more now than what we did then,” said Franklin, the running backs coach at Kentucky from 1997 to 1999. “They are unique in what they do. … Mike is one of the best offensive minds in football. He’s is really creative and innovative.”
In the more run-friendly Bear Raid, Cal is averaging 192 rushing yards per game, and 10 of its 22 touchdowns were scored on the ground. Committing to the run also opens up opportunities for the Bears to employ play action, and this is part of their effectiveness.
However, Leach disputes Franklin’s notion that Cal plays at a quicker tempo, instead explaining the differences between WSU and Cal’s offenses this way: “They run more quick game, and we run more down field. They run more off their quick game looks.”
“Quick game” refers to a style with shorter routes, throws and quarterback dropbacks.