Texas-Iowa State: Inside the wishbone trick play that honored DKR

Cooper Neill

The Texas coaches and players share their perspectives on the trick play that the Longhorns ran to start the game offensively against Iowa State.

When the news that former Texas head coach Darrell Royal had passed away first broke on Wednesday, one of the first things that current head coach Mack Brown did publicly was announce via Twitter that the team planned to honor the late and great DKR by lining up in the wishbone for the first play against Iowa State.

The wording of the phrase made some wonder whether Texas planned on lining up in the wishbone and then motioning out into a normal set.

From a gameplan perspective, it would have made more sense to do the former, but Brown was apparently serious about actually going through with a play from the set.

Only, it wasn't going to be easy, Brown said after the game:

We put ourselves in a little bind when I told the coaches I wanted to dedicate the first play to [former head coach Darrell] Royal with the wishbone. All the coaches said, "It’s Wednesday, and we don’t have one. So what are we going to do?"

Panic? Since that wasn't an option, Brown put the creative Texas offensive braintrust to work. The result?

So these crazy young coaches come back to me with a double-reverse pass. And I said, "You are kidding. That would make him madder than anything if we do that."

Ever known as a conservative coach, Royal probably would have felt that way.

The coaching staff came up with some rather screwy reasoning to justify the play:

So we decided that the only way I could justify the double-pass was that Coach [Royal] said, "When you throw a pass, three things can happen, and two of them are bad." So I thought if you throw it twice, that means two good things can happen. So, that was the only way I could figure out how to make it work. Bless his heart.

Not sure about the logic there, especially since twice as many bad things can happen, too, but sometimes it is what it is.

An unconventional way to honor a coach with Royal's disposition. Also an effective one, since it succeeded. And despite his toughness, all those fantastic quotes from the Oklahoma native over the years showed off his wry sense of humor, so he probably had a little smile about the irony of it all as he looked down on the play.

Calling the play and getting it set up was only half the battle, however.

The Texas players still had to execute the play they called "flex."

For wide receiver Jaxon Shipley, who started the play off by receiving the pitch from quarterback David Ash, the key was just making his read on his lateral:

All I was focused on was seeing if David [Ash] was open. After I saw him open, I knew it was going to work.

Keeping the defenders from targeting Ash quickly was the key:

You can see the play develop as he snapped the ball and then pitched it to me. At that point, I really did not have any idea at that point if it was going to work because I didn't know if he was going to be open. When I turned around and saw that David was wide open, I knew from there he could run it because he had a ton of room, or he could throw it down the field.

Ash was indeed open, as was Daniels, who found that space on the post corner route away from the play, having come from the run side of the pitch from Ash to Shipley.

Unmolested and with his target wide open, Ash put the ball right on Daniels (video here).

Tight end Barrett Matthews, who caught a touchdown pass later in the game, said that his position group was honored to be the target of the trick play:

We were very proud, especially when it was coming to [sophomore TE] Greg [Daniels]. He has been working so hard, coming from the defensive side of the ball and getting involved with the tight end position, to make that big catch to start off the game and jump start us and get us rolling. That was pretty exciting. It was pretty honorable for us to do that for Coach Royal who put so much into this program.

Shipley also shared some perspective on the playcall:

We were just thinking that nobody would believe that we were going to do this. I don't think anybody knew. I don't know if Coach Royal would agree with the play call, but it worked and that's all that matters.

But the play was far from the only way that the team did honor and will continue to honor the DKR's memory.

Even before that play, which came on the first Texas possession following a nine-play drive by the Cyclones that netted only 36 yards. The decision to give up the football after winning the toss was also one made to honor coach Royal:

And we deferred because he always wanted to defer. He never wanted to take the ball. He thought it was stupid football when you do that. Some people said, "Oh take it so you can have the first play of the game out there." I said, "No. He’ll be really mad about that."

And after running a double pass out of the wishbone, Brown probably didn't need to take any more chances. He continued:

We miss him. A lot of people in that stadium had good memories of Coach [Royal]. And I thought it was a fitting way to honor him. I kind of really wanted to wait until TCU to have more time to think about it and do it. But today was special.

indeed. So special that Brown wanted the late Mrs. Royal to have something to commemorate it:

We gave the game ball to [Coach Royal’s wife] Miss Edith [Royal] after the game. We gave it to [Athletics Director] DeLoss [Dodds] and [University of Texas President] Bill [Powers]. She’d already gone home. So they’re going to give it to her afterwards.

A nice gesture as well giving to ball to DKR's widow. If there's one thing that Brown has always been able to do, it's get these type of moments right.

Texas will also keep the helmets and field looking the same way they did for Saturday's game:

We are going to keep the DKR in the middle of the stadium for the TCU game. We are going to keep the DKR on the helmets for the rest of the year, so the tributes that our staff and players gave to Coach Royal will continue.

Obviously, it's not uncommon for teams to honor and commemorate the loss of important persons in some way for the entire season, so it makes sense for Texas to get the field and the helmets the same for the rest of the season. It's resonating with the fans and since the players all had a chance to be around him a little bit, it seems safe to assume that they feel the same way.

But what about the wishone, will it make a return at any point, in a more straightforward guise? It doesn't look like it, as Brown declared the Longhorns "out of the wishbone business" following the game. But, hey, that one play that worked as well as possible.

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