Fly or Die: An Inside Look at OSU’s Potent “Fly Sweep”


Published: November 28, 2008


Posted by: Chris Courtney

As Saturday’s much anticipated Civil War contest between the 19th-ranked Ducks of Oregon and 17th-ranked Beavers of Oregon State draws near, many questions regarding the game have already been answered.

Will true freshman sensation at running back for Oregon State, Jacquizz Rodgers, be fit to play?


Will the Beavers start junior quarterback Sean Canfield in place of Lyle Moevao and his ailing shoulder?


Yet, what hasn’t been answered is the question of, “How does one stop the fly sweep?”

Finding the solution to this question has been as elusive as finding bin Laden; opposing coaches, players, and fans alike scratch their heads and curse the perpetrators of this seemingly indefensible play.

For those who may not be as well versed, the fly sweep is a rather simple play in theory.  Essentially, the sweep comes off a play in which offense sends a receiver sprinting in motion behind the offensive line before the snap of the ball.  If lined up in a single back formation with the running back standing approximately five yards behind the quarterback, the player sprinting in motion will receive the hand-off from the quarterback, while the quarterback carries out a play fake to the running back.  What makes it so effective is the fact that the opposing defense is challenged vertically, typically off the illusion of an impending dive or run up the middle.  This causes the defense, in theory, to hesitate, allowing the player in motion to receive the ball at a dead sprint while the defense is frozen in trying to recognize the true ball carrier.

See the fly sweep in motion

In order to defend it successfully, Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti believes that, “there has to be some anticipation, some recognition of what’s happening, and some movement by a player who is not in the box and who cannot be blocked [easily].

“You also have to match speed for speed…your defense has to be in recognition of proper pursuit angles — because of the speed in which the young man is moving with the ball — and making sure you have outside containment, outside pressure to allow him to funnel [in] or change his launch point.”

While Bellotti’s explanation sounds easy on paper, it is anything but.  Sophomore wide receiver James Rodgers (Jacquizz’s older brother) has been the Beavers’ preferred weapon of choice in executing the fly sweep, rushing for 352 yards and five touchdowns off of 39 carries this season.  Last season, Rodgers scampered 25 yards for a touchdown against Oregon in overtime, effectively providing the knockout blow in a thrilling 38-31 victory over the Ducks last December.  Once again, the elder Rodgers figures to play a prominent role in the Beaver rushing attack on Saturday, especially with Jacquizz being sidelined for all intents and purposes.  With this as the case, the Ducks will be put to the test; hoping and praying to have the answer to the ostensibly unanswerable.

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