Cole McDonald Returns to Wildcat Roots With Houston Roughnecks

Cole McDonald Returns to Wildcat Roots With Houston Roughnecks

After throwing for over 8000 yards and 69 touchdowns in 2018 and 2019 for Hawaii’s high-octane run-and-shoot, Cole McDonald became one of college football’s most exciting quarterbacks and obtained cult hero status for Hawaii teams that played in two straight Hawaii Bowls.

Yet, before his days as a gunslinger, McDonald was a wildcat specialist for Hawaii in his freshman season of 2017.  In 2017, McDonald completed five of his nine passes for 22 yards and ran the ball 16 times for 138 yards. In Wildcat situations, McDonald carried the ball 12 times for 55 yards, gaining four first downs, including converting both of his short-yardage opportunities. McDonald also had a success rate of 41.7 percent as five of his rushes were deemed successful.

The Action Network definition of a successful play is below.

A play is defined as successful if:

  • It gains at least 50% of the yards required to move the chains on first down
  • 70% of yards to gain on second down
  • 100% of yards to gain on third or fourth down

Below is the full breakdown of his Wildcat rushes in 2017:

Cole McDonald Returns to Wildcat Roots With Roughnecks

McDonald also proved to be a passing threat out of the Wildcat, completing both of his pass attempts for 13 yards including a 4-yard touchdown against San Jose State. His other wildcat completion went for a nine-yard first down on 2nd and 8. 

McDonald was effective in the Wildcat last Saturday in the Houston Roughnecks 33-12 win over the Orlando Guardians. McDonald carried the ball three times in goal-to-go situations for nine yards and ran for a game-sealing five-yard touchdown on a read option with H-Back Garrett Owens leading the way with three minutes left in the fourth. 

Along with the occasional goalline duties, McDonald was also the Roughnecks’ extra point quarterback. McDonald did have trouble in this aspect, as the Roughnecks converted none of their four one-point opportunities, but the run game looks were fascinating. 

The first conversion was a read-option with Garrett Owens at H-back and Max Borghi at running back. Slot receiver Nick Holley motioned behind Borghi and McDonald before McDonald handed off to Holley on the read.

The orbit motion behind McDonald could be a look worth keeping as the Roughnecks could run a quarterback draw with that motion out of an empty set with the defense spread apart. 

The Roughnecks’ next one-point conversion attempt was a speed option under center from a singleback trips formation that only gained a yard on the inside. This play has potential if McDonald strings the option outside more, but it looks like the Roughnecks just need more practice.

Finally, McDonald’s threw two out routes into tight windows that fell incomplete. This is not a good judge of McDonald’s decision-making as these looked like quick reads on the conversions, but the Roughnecks could use swing passes to their advantage once McDonald establishes himself more as an inside runner. 

Cole McDonald returned to his roots on Saturday and an underrated storyline is how the Roughnecks use McDonald in short-yardage situations and conversions.