Vs. Syracuse: The 1st Quarter - Drive by Drive Analysis - Part 1.

Washington's first quarter wasn't ugly, but it wasn't good, either, despite an impressive 3-and-out effort by Washington's defense on Syracuse's first possession. Penalties on special teams, a key missed tackle by Mason Foster and Cort Dennison on Ryan Nassib's 28-yard touchdown run defined the first quarter of Washington's home opener. Mistakes at key moments by the Huskies allowed Syracuse to jump to a 10-0 lead.

The quarter started with a Folk kickoff to the the Syracuse 3-yard line that was returned to the 50-yard line. It ended with a Huskies finding their rhythm, going 49 yards for a field goal, with Syracuse holding a 10 to 3 advantage on the between, it was a mixed bag of positives and negatives. Not ugly, but not entirely good, either.

Despite this, the 1st quarter teaches us a few things: The Huskies  should be a really, really good team when they play mistake-free football. Think top -15 good.

Nate Williams is one of the best safeties in the Pac-10, and if he continues his play all season long, he should easily be in the discussion for All-Conference honors. Same with Mason Foster.

We also learn that Cort Dennison struggles at shedding blocks and lacks speed, even in short bursts. He compensates considerably for this by being the smartest player on the field. It shows in his play. He rarely guesses wrong in where the ball is going to go. When kept clean, he will be found near the ball carrier.

After the jump, you will read about Washington's first defensive drive. I won't include the first quarter in its entirety, so that will have to be broken into parts.

Syrcause - 1st and 10, on the 50.

Syracuse starts in Ace formation, with the WR's "snugged" close to the O-line, using an H-back set very similar to Joe Gibbs' H-back set, buti nstead of a TE behind and outside the LT, Syracuse employed a FB.

Washington breaks in the 46 formation, with Nate Williams walking up alongside the linebackers. Washington sense "run". They are correct.

 Nassib, lined up under center, motions the FB to the right side, behind the RT. The ball is snapped. The WR proceed 3 paces to block various LB's, and Syracuse's center and RT disengage from the line of scrimmage, wheel around to the right to engage a defender. The RT engages Mason Foster and succeeds in de-cleating him from the field. The center does not factor, but didn't need to as the RG and the LG have successfully engaged the D-line and turned them left for a step or two, which was all they needed to do.

This play would have worked and succeeded. However, it did not. Nate Williams saved the day with a tackle 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage. This play was all him.

After the ball is snapped, the FB sweeps right, the RB, having been handed the ball, follows. The FB doesn't engage anyone. Instead, he is engaged by Nate Wililams about one yard behind the line of scrimmage. Had the FB put a hit on Nate Williams, and I mean a hit the way a FB is meant to hit, Nate Williams would have been out of the play, and the RB would have enjoyed a sizable chunk of yardage ahead of him.  Instead, Williams blasts into the FB. The FB staggers back about 3 yards, and this allows Wiliams, still on his feet, a clear shot at the RB. Williams makes a sound textbook tackle.Three yard loss. Nate Williams all the way.


2nd and 13, on Syracuse's 47

Syracuse again comes out of the huddle in the Ace formation, but with 4-WR package. The WR's, like the play before it, are snugged near the O-line. Washington again responds with the 46 formation, but this time it is Nate Fellner who lines up with the LB's and the CB's line up in press coverage.

Nassib motions the right flanker, Nick Provo. Provo runs left behind the guard and then back to his original spot. Fellner backs off. Washington is back in a base 4-3 formation. The ball is snapped. Provo runs a 3-yard out, Nassib doesn't make any reads, and promptly passes to Provo. Nate Fellner missiles up to Provo and tackles him after a gain of 4 yards.


3rd and 9 on Washinton's 49.

This play illustrated Trufant's ability to cover and Washington's ability to play zone and position themselves in passing lanes, eliminating the opposition's chances of finding soft spots in zone coverage.

Syracuse again breaks in Ace formation. This time with 3 WR's and one TE. The TE is underneath and outside of the LT. To the left of the TE are two WR's, and a lone split end on the right. Washington responds with a Cover 1 nickel package. Nate Williams steps up to the box pre-snap.

Trufant is opposite the split end on the right in press coverage. Nassib audibles to the split end. He's aware that Washington is emplying Cover 1 zone against them. 

After the ball is snapped, Nassib drops back five steps, makes no reads, and fires away an incomplete pass that goes near Orangemen. In looking further, the play failed because Washington's linebackers covered any passing lane that Nassib might have enjoyed, and because Trufant's cover on the split end was terrific.

On the play, the split end did a jab step to the right and steps inside to the left for a 10-yard post. Trufant bites on the jab step, but recovers instantly, negating any chances of the split end ever had of getting a step on him. However, it must be noted, that despite Trufant's excellent coverage, such that he was in position to make a play on the all had the play transpired that way, the split end still had the inside track on a pass.  Nassib looks left briefly to his slit end, but when he recognized there were no passing lanes, Trufant's tight coverage, he proceeded to throw the ball away, a smart move, but foolish decision on ball placement because his pass could have been picked by Nate Fellner.


4th and 9.

Somebody screws up the chance for Washington to start their first offensive drive by getting called for a facemask penalty. Syracuse gets the first and a fresh set of downs.

This is where things start to go down hill for Washington in the first quarter.


Syracuse - 1st and 10 on Washington's 35. 

Syracuse breaks in I-formation for the first time, with the FB offset on the strongside. Instead of just one TE on the strongside, there are two. The split end is on the right side.

Washington lines up in 4-3 over in Cover 1, with Mason Foster covering the inside TE on the strongside and Quinton Richardson on the other. Williams is in the box with the linebackers. Trufant is lined up against the split end again. I don't know who the Cover 1 safety is, but I presume that it is Fellner. 

Nassib hands off to Carter. The left side of the O-line pulls left and turns Washigton's D-line somewhat left, but don't create much push; Ta'amu holds his point against a double team. The FB runs to hit outside of the TE's, while Carter hits the hole outside the LT. Foster and Williams meet him and tackle him after he gains four yards.


2nd and 6, ball spotted close to the Washington 30

Syracuse breaks in a two-tight end I-formation set, with the FB offset to the right side. Washington is in a classic 4-3. Nassib hands off to Carter. FB runs outside the TE, takes out Trufant. Carter doesn't follow, runs up between the RG and the RT. Dennsion, who is kept clean, meets Carter after he enters the gap, Foster joins Dennison and the two combine to stop Carter for a gain of two yards. Defense wins this play. 

3rd and 4, on the Washington 28.

Mistakes will happen with a young team, and on this play, mistakes certainly did happen.

Syracuse employs an Ace formation with three WR's and a TE next to the LT. Washington is in 4-3 over.

Nassib drops back 5 steps. Reads left. Both WR's on the left are running an "in". Neither get open. Nassib decides to scramble left by wheeling around his O-line who successfully crowds and prevents Washington's D-line from crashing the middle successfully. Ta'amu actually breaks through, but too late, and is in the middle of a crowd of O-line by the time Nassib is scrambling around them, and no longer factors. Nassib hopes for a corner to turn when he gets there, and gets one. When his two WR's to left see Nassib scramble, they immediately turn left to block someone. The outside WR successfully blocks Quinton Richardson. Syracuse's TE successfully blocks both Nate Williams and Cort Dennison.

Dennsion should have been able to shed this block, but was too slow to remove himself from being in position to avoid the block and pursue the QB. To Dennison's credit, he, as well as Mason Foster, who missiled his way to Nassib, was able to meet Nassib about one yard before the first down marker, but they both miss the tackle terribly. Nassib races to the end zone with no safety near him. Fellner, while having already headed in the direction of Nassib, is too far away from the play, not because of any inability of his, but because it appears that he assumed that Dennison and Foster would stop Nassib, so he doesn't hurry there to prevent the play from getting worse. Had he hurried there, he would have saved the Huskies from getting scored on. This play falls on Dennison, Foster, and Fellner.

In essence, this play fails not because of any superiority by Syracuse, despite the fact that they showed remarkable ability to create on the fly when the play broke down, but because of mistakes that the Huskies made Despite Syracuse's remarkable improvisation, the Huskies should have stopped the play from succeeding. Mistakes cost the Huskies dearly on this play.

More to come tomorrow.

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