Toledo has been a rushing mecca for more than half a century, and it’s been that way thanks to one of the oldest tricks in the book.
The wing-T was developed around 1950, and the buck sweep with it. It’s a play that’s led the Indians to several 1,000-yard rushers and plenty postseason berths. Running it well, though, requires lots of little things, and not large linemen.
The play might start with the center, but it succeeds with the guards.
The interior linemen create an opening along the edge of the offensive line so the back can get around one side of the tackle and force the linebackers to run parallel with the line of scrimmage, which forces poor pursuit angles.
Toledo has several ways to run the buck sweep, and tailors each set to use the defense’s strengths against it.
“It’s so effective that you can run it with so many different looks,” coach Mike Christensen said. “You can put yourself in the position that the defense won’t know what’s coming.”
Toledo’s main objective, beyond gaining chunk yardage, is to create opportunities to run other plays off the sweep. Whether it’s the program’s newly minted passing offense, an inside trap, or belly run, the Indians want to keep their opponent off balance.
That’s part one of the wing-T: to get defenders moving one way, so that the ball can move the other. Sometimes that starts with a motioning receiver; other times it’s with a dummy back shooting to the outside just after the snap.
However it happens, the buck sweep hasn’t been around Toledo for the last 50 years for no good reason. Coincidentally, Toledo wasn’t running the wing-T when Christensen was its quarterback. He operated an offense known as the “broken bone,” which he described as a kind of wishbone hybrid.
It didn’t take long before the Indians made the switch back to old faithful.
The buck sweep is arguably the most successful play in football history, and it’s something that’s helped Toledo remain relevant in Washington’s football ranks for decades. The Indians just tweak it a little to fit their opponent and personnel.
“A lot of our offense is built around the threat of running the buck sweep,” Christensen said. “You can run it with small linemen, big linemen. It really transcends the kid that you have. It puts a lot of pressure on the edge of the defense and in conjunction with other things you can do out of the same look, it doesn’t allow defenses to cheat to stop it.”
And when the defense does cheat to stop it, everything else is wide open for the taking.