The start of Conference USA play ushered in the era of the TrontiCat formation, where Tronti enters as part of a change-of-pace run-first scheme. That package assumed greater importance in Saturday’s victory over Western Kentucky, when coach Lane Kiffin turned to the TrontiCat in the closing minutes to grind out the clock.
“We put him in, in a four-minute, because it is obviously harder to defend quarterbacks who are really good runners and then sometimes, we put him in as a change-up, as we did earlier in the game, to set up the reverse pass.” Kiffin said.
That reverse pass added an additional wrinkle to the package, one installed earlier in the week. Tronti caught a pass from little-used wide receiver Brandon Robinson, who received the ball as part of a reverse before heaving to his wide open quarterback for a 41-yard gain.
“The catch, it was different, something I have never done before,” Tronti said. “It was cool.”
Showing how tough it is to plan for him, Tronti also completed a pass for 10 yards and rushed for 35 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown run.
Tronti is the only Conference USA quarterback to have a reception, a rush and a pass completed on the season.
Though the Owls add wrinkles to the TrontiCat offense each week, Tronti is never certain when he’ll get the call.
“Normally it is like, ‘You’re in,’” said Tronti, who began the season as the third-string quarterback behind starter Chris Robison and Justin Agner.
Kiffin says he chooses when to employ the TrontiCat based on the feel of the game.
Both quarterbacks have to be ready on the sideline prior to each possession as sometimes they do not find out who is in at quarterback until they huddle prior to taking the field.
With the uncertainty of not knowing who will get the next snap, Robison and Tronti both figured out how to make it work.
“I don’t think there are any challenges,” Robison said. “Both Nick and I are ready on the sideline. Especially on first down, we don’t know if it will be Nick or I. We both go up to the huddle and whoever they call goes in.”