Loading the shotgun

Typically, the shotgun formation is utilized when facing a tough third down and long situation or when a team is far behind and needs points quickly.

Typically, the shotgun formation is utilized when facing a tough third down and long situation or when a team is far behind and needs points quickly. At Portland State, the shotgun has become the normal offensive set for the Vikings.

In 1960, San Francisco 49ers head coach Red Hickey devised the scheme to better protect his quarterback and put a defense’s players on their toes. The scheme puts four receivers on the field, with the quarterback lining up approximately five yards behind center and a fullback positioned on either side of the passer.

“[Hawaii] has been running the shotgun for the last few years,” said Viking offensive coordinator Darrell “Mouse” Davis. “We don’t want to do away with the under center formation or the shotgun, but right now it gives us a little more time to see the field.”

The Vikings installed the shotgun offense and used it nearly exclusively against San Diego State last Saturday. This was primarily because senior quarterback Brian White had been sacked on 10 occasions against Sacramento State a week earlier. White has lay on the ground often throughout the entire season, as Portland State has allowed 25 sacks during the first four games.

The implementation of the shotgun played a significant role in White throwing for a career-high 408 yards and completing 36 of 53 pass attempts. Though, most importantly for the Vikings’ coaching staff is that White was sacked only three times while setting up in the shotgun against the Aztecs.

“I do like the shotgun better,” White said. “We still are trying to keep the defense off balance by running the ball and throwing screen plays, but I do see the field better and it helps with our protection.”

Offensive lineman and the Vikings’ only preseason first-team All-American, Brennan Carvalho, started the season at center, then moved to right guard. Now, he has moved back to his original position of center because he is the team’s best shotgun snapper.

Despite the shuffling, Carvalho and his fellow offensive linemen have responded to shotgun, sealing blocks better and providing White with time to deliver the ball.

The drawback to the shotgun is that it limits the offense’s ability to call rushing plays and catch defenses napping. When teams line up in the shotgun, defenses immediately expect a passing play and if it’s a run, the fullback has less time to get a running start before taking the handoff. This should be a major concern for the Vikings, as they are last in rushing offense, averaging only 21.8 yards per game.

“It shouldn’t limit us,” Davis said. “It gives (the quarterback) more time to see the field and run through progressions. It also gives the offensive lines more time to read blocks.”

When facing Eastern Washington this weekend, Davis plans to use the shotgun, but not exclusively like he did against San Diego State. The Eagles have forced more turnovers than any other team in the Big Sky and will look to capitalize on any of the Vikings’ mistakes.

“They have a pretty darn good defense and a good secondary,” Davis said. “We just want to get what they give us and hopefully it will work out for the best.”

Head coach Jerry Glanville expects Eastern Washington to pose a challenge for the Vikings.

“Really they are a good football team that protects the quarterback well,” Glanville said. “Last year, they put a freshman behind center and threw to three freshman receivers. They have come a long way. The best compliment I can give them is that they are a sound football team all around.”