Counter Sweep (42/48 Counter Sweep)

Counter Sweep

Play call: 42/48 Counter Sweep

No play gets more linemen involved on the playside than the counter sweep. No play shows off the athleticism of the huge Nebraska linemen better either. There is no comparison of the physical skill required for two 300-pounders to pull all the way to the other end of the line, as opposed to passing team linemen who take three steps backward to pass block on almost every down. As Milt Tenopir writes in _Assembly Line_, when NU executes this play correctly, the pulling linemen look like All-Americans as they come around the corner, targeting much smaller linebackers or defensive backs to launch into the third row.

The counter sweep calls for the backside guard and tackle to pull around the other end to lead the I-back on a sweep. The center fills in for the pulling guard and the playside linemen generally block down to the middle to seal the interior for the pulling linemen.

Nebraska, at one time, ran this play with two guards pulling, similar to the Green Bay Packers storied sweep of the 60s. When the went to the guard-tackle pull, it took some years of experimentation to get the footwork right. The Huskers now pull the guard at one yard deep and the tackle at three yards deep. That helps defuse the defensive tactic of using the OLB to collision the guard and create a pile that the tackle tumbles onto.

Some teams like the guard to kick out the end man on the line of scrimmage and run under him. Nebraska always wants to run this play outside by having the guard log that man in whenever possible. If teams insist on forcing the play under the guards block, NU will move to calling the counter trap.

The quarterback opens away from the play as the fullback (if it is a two-back formation) dives away and fills for the pulling tackle. There is no real fake to the FB beyond his diving action. The I-back takes a counter step and then runs parallel to the line of scrimmage to take the hand-off, following the two linemen. In the third quarter of the 95 Orange Bowl, there is a great shot of Zach Wiegert steam rolling around the corner on a counter sweep and blasting a Miami defender into oblivion.

Counter sweep has not played as big a part in the offense in the last couple years. In _Assembly Line_ Tenopir cites Mike Rozier's great patience in waiting for his linemen's blocks to develop when running this play. He is credited with great patience in waiting for his linemen's blocks. Lawrence Phillips and Ahman Green were very effective running the counter sweep. Though the plays frequency seems to have decreased recently, 1999's best counter sweep was probably Eric Crouch's quarterback counter sweep from shotgun that scored vs. Kansas State.

Companion plays:

Shotgun QB Counter Sweep (42/48 QB counter sweep) The QB takes the shotgun snap and, after a pause, follows the pulling linemen around end. When NU first started running this play with the quarterback, the I-back, standing beside the QB in shotgun, would take a fake handoff away from the play by going in front of the QB. This year the Huskers ran it with no fake to the IB. The appearance of this play in the offense is an example of the Huskers commitment to using the quarterback as a power running back- with skillful and powerful runners like Frazier, Frost and Crouch, the offense has evolved to exploit those skills far beyond keepers in the option game.


Counter Sweep Bootleg is the play action pass off of the counter sweep. The guard still pulls with the I-back, but the tackle only does against certain defenses. The QB fakes to the IB and bootlegs away from the counter sweep action. The FB, the original fake, is now leading the play around end and the QB's first option is always to run. The next option is the TE or other backside receiver crossing at about ten yards deep.


Counter Sweep Bootleg Screen. A fabulous variation on the bootleg which scored the first touchdown vs. Florida in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. The counter sweep fake is now run with both the guard and tackle. The QB boots away from that action and the backside receivers drag LBs and defensive backs toward the QB with their crossing patterns. The QB looks at those receivers until looking back to the IB across the field who still has the guard and tackle caravan in front of him. Against Florida, this play was executed so well that the screen caravan held together 19 yards down the field; the linemen really didn't have anyone to block until the y reached the goal line, and by then, Lawrence Phillips had so much momentum that he just dived over the top. Nebraska ran this several times during the second half of 1999, including a big Correll Buckhalter play in the Tennessee Fiesta Bowl, which went for a TD but was called back for an illegal block.