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SMITH COLUMN: Wishbone a thing of beauty under Bellard

February 11, 2011


Emory Bellard became one of my favorite college football coaches over the years.
When I learned of the death of the former Mississippi State and Texas A&M coach Thursday afternoon, it was met with a great deal of sadness.
Bellard was the first head coach of the Bulldogs that I can remember well.
While I was in junior high school in Starkville, I found out that MSU had hired a coach who was going to bring a unique offense with him. They called his offensive formation the wishbone.
The wishbone, which is seldom used anymore, had a third running back a yard behind the quarterback and was flanked by two more running backs a few yards behind to form what appeared to be a "Y."
In that offense, the quarterback had three options after taking the snap from center. He could hand off to the fullback, keep the football to run himself, or pitch to one of the tailbacks.
The formation, similar to the two-back veer, could cause tremendous matchup problems for any defense as a player had to be assigned to the fullback, quarterback and one of the three tailbacks.
The wishbone offense became my favorite to watch, probably because of the unpredictability of it. When it is run correctly, it can be a thing of beauty and Bellard knew how to put it together. He got his chance to do that with the Bulldogs from 1979-83.
John Bond became one of the greatest quarterbacks in MSU history while running the wishbone for Bellard.
With Bellard, Bond and the bone, it created quite a bit of problems for opponents of the Bulldogs from 1980-83.
There was no telling what Bond was going to do once he got the football in his hands. He was a good enough passer that he could hit wide receivers down the field, but he also had the athletic ability to get chunks of yardage on the ground.
Critics of the wishbone said it leaned to heavily on the running game and there wasn't much passing. Bond seemed to prove that theory wrong.
Bond finished his MSU career second all-time in total offense with 2,280 yards rushing and 4,621 yards passing for a total of 6,901 yards.
It's probably safe to say that Bond wouldn't have been as productive at quarterback if it had not been for Bellard and his system.
Bellard was a good man as well as coach. He will be missed.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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