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Texas DC Todd Orlando weighs in on controversial Oklahoma State alignment on fourth-down play

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Was the 4th and 1 play by the Cowboys legal?

Todd Orlando on Wednesday
Wescott Eberts

Make no mistake — Oklahoma State Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy and his players left it all on the field against the Texas Longhorns last Saturday in Stillwater.

One play that indicated the level of aggressiveness from Gundy, in addition to his willingness to push the boundaries of the rules, came on the 4th and 1 from the Texas 16-yard line with the game tied at 7-7 and 6:43 left in the first quarter.

The Pokes lined up in I formation, with two tight ends to the field.

The key to the play’s legality is whether Jelani Woods, the tight end lined up next to the right tackle, is an eligible receiver. According to the rule book, the tight end to his right must be one yard off the line of scrimmage. Otherwise, Woods is covered up and therefore ineligible to catch a pass or even go past the line of scrimmage.

So, was that tight end covering up Woods? It’s been a subject of discussion on the Longhorn interwebs over the last several days. A screenshot provides some perspective:

Since the play is arguably illegal — as it appears that the tight end was extremely close to being short of a yard off — I asked defensive coordinator Todd Orlando about it on Wednesday, not necessarily knowing whether it was something he would be willing to discuss.

“It’s not gonna get called,” Orlando said. “Any separation, in my opinion, in most leagues, any separation — he’s going to be good. So, to me, it’s one of those plays, if you take a picture of it from the side, from fans who don’t do ball a lot, they might look at that and say, ‘Yeah, he’s covered up.’ But we’re good with that. To me, that’s football. We see that the majority of the time — that separation, if you have separation, you’re good.”

Orlando’s perspective, then, it seems, is that defenders should anticipate that if there is any separation, they should assume the player is an eligible receiver because officials in the Big 12 are going to allow some leeway.

On that play, Texas had a busted coverage on the back end and Woods was able to score one of the easiest touchdowns of his career. Junior safety Brandon Jones was the single deep safety on the play — it appeared as if the Horns simply didn’t account for Woods before the snap as the linebacker bit had on the run fake.

Well done, then, Mullet Man.

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