This is part four of the Air Raid series. We’ve covered the history, offensive line, and skill positions of the offense. In this installment, we look at the play that jump-started the offense.
The bread and butter play under Hal Mumme’s offense was “92”, or more commonly known as “Mesh”. Mumme first “discovered” the play while an OC at UTEP. When facing BYU, Mumme noticed the same play being run over and over by the Cougar offense with the defense unable to contain or stop the play. Mumme began making trips to BYU to study the offense in the offseason, the product of head coach Lavell Edwards and offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
The Mesh has three parts -- a vertical release to stretch the secondary, the Mesh, and a flat outlet.
Despite the play being called Mesh, the quarterback’s first read is an outside receiver. This route is determined based on where the receiver lines up, as well as the play caller’s preference. Mumme preferred a post when lined up on the boundary side and a corner from the field side, while Leach prefers quick outs.
The Mesh is created by two receivers running crossing routes. The right-side receiver sells a 1-2 yard burst then curls the route inside. His aiming point is to cross over the center about 6 yards deep and in front of the middle linebacker. This receiver is “setting the mesh”.
The opposite receiver will similarly push up field before curling inward. His aiming point is to get shoulder-to-shoulder with the mesh receiver. Against a zone coverage, both players will settle into space and look for the ball. If the defense is in man, they will continue running to the sideline looking for the ball while pushing up field once they reach the hash marks.
The flat serves as an outlet pass. Run from either the running back or another receiver, the player gets to the outside flats behind the line of scrimmage by the numbers. This will typically be run to the same side as the out or corner/post route.
A quarterback’s first read is the outside receiver. If left in single coverage, he is the first option. If that receiver is covered or there isn’t a window to throw, the second read is the mesh receiver working under the mesh point. If this is covered up, possibly from the linebacker or safety recognizing the play and/or staying home, the flat outlet is the next read. If he is covered, the quarterback will work back to the mesh and locate the receiver who set the mesh.
When done in concert with one another, the play proves to be extremely effective against all coverages.