The 2013 University of Washington football season began with a bang. The Dawgs were able 'buck' the Broncos of Boise State with a resounding 38-6 victory.
The most discussed topic following the victory was the new-look Husky offense. The reports from Spring and Fall ball indicated that Coach Sarkisian wanted to increase the 'tempo' ('tempo' has been a buzzword for all of football over the past year).
However, little was known exactly HOW the Huskies would increase their tempo and how it would look formation and personnel wise.
The Huskies opened in the Pistol formation (it should be noted that the Pistol can be considered both a formation AND an offensive system, i.e. Colin Kaepernick at Nevada). Very quickly, the Huskies demonstrated exactly what they meant by increasing their tempo, as a majority of their snaps happened within 15 seconds of the ball being placed. For the rest of the game, the Huskies lined up only in the Pistol or Shotgun. They went under center zero times with the first team offense!
Increasing the tempo can have a dramatic effect on what teams do personnel-wise. Generally, teams who increase their tempo choose not to or cannot substitute as easily or as a team that huddles. Because of this, the bevy of skilled wide receivers/running backs and the suspension of Austin Seferian-Jenkins resulted in the Huskies almost exclusively using 'Posse' personnel (3 WR's, 1 TE and 1 RB) and 'Jet' personnel (4 WR's and 1 RB). This a stark contrast from what Sarkisian has usually done, which involved more tight ends and fullbacks with his personnel.
Another wrinkle that was on display was the use of 'Rocket' motion, primarily by Jaydon Mickens. The 'Rocket' motion is typically used by Wing-T or Flexbone (Georgia Tech, Army, Navy and Air Force) teams but has also been used by Baylor (although I can't recall if they used it during 2011 Alamo Bowl). Mickens was exceptional, finishing with nine catches for 109 yard. He caught most, if not all of his passes after running in 'Rocket' motion. However, most of plays would have been negated if it weren't for the excellent blocking by Husky wide receivers. Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith were very effective blocking Boise's defensive backs.
Tempo, personnel changes and some offensive creativity resulted in an excellent offensive performance by the Huskies. 592 yards of total offense (324 passing and 268! rushing) and 38 points. A midst this amazing performance, it is hard to believe it was 10-6 halfway through the third quarter. After a long completion to Williams, Price returned to Williams for 19 yard touchdown pass. Let's dig in a little deeper into that touchdown pass...
7:59 left in 3rd quarter
1st & 10
'Posse' personnel (3 WR's, 1 TE & 1 RB)
Boise in Cover 2
In the picture above, Kasen is lined up on the outer half of the numbers. When running a fade route, as Smart Football's Chris Brown has noted, it is very important that while running upfield is to lean into the defender, which will cause the defensive back to change his center-of-gravity and momentum going the wrong way.
The slot WR (I believe it is Mickens but I couldn't tell) does a fantastic job of running vertical and breaking inside at 10 yards, forcing the Safety to honor him. This allows the one on one match-up Sark wanted for Kasen.
Keith and Kasen had great timing on this play. The ball is in the air as Kasen begins to fade after he had leaned into the defensive back. The result is an easy catch about midway in the end zone.
The next play I wanted to cover was Keith's second touchdown pass of the night, an 18 yard pass to Josh Perkins. This touchdown effectively sealed the game for the Huskies and showed that Keith may be back to his 2011 form.
1:44 left in 3rd quarter
2nd & 8
'Posse' personnel (3 WR's, 1 TE & 1 RB)
Boise in Cover 0
Perkins is flexed out to create a 'spread' 2 x 2 formation, rather than being lined up next to the right tackle (like he was on the Kasen touchdown). Boise has seven men on the line of scrimmage, ready for an all-out blitz. By bringing seven, Keith knows it will be man to man coverage. Keith also knows he only has six to block seven.
After a play-fake to Bishop Sankey, Price immediately sees a crashing Boise linebacker and quickly decides to evade left and manages to keep his eyes down the field. Perkins no doubt saw Keith avoiding pressure and smartly broke off his post to work across field.
After evading the rush, Keith does a great job at squaring his shoulders and throwing a missile, as if this was a typical 'bootleg' play.
As stated above, tempo, personnel changes and some offensive creativity resulted in an excellent offensive performance by the Huskies. 592 yards of total offense (324 passing and 268! rushing) and 38 points. I must add though, I barely mentioned Bishop Sankey! Sankey was fantastic and after re-watching the game, I'm confident the best word to describe him is "slippery". I swear his uniform is greased with oil. The first tackler never brings him down and he manages to shift and turn while moving forward. I'm excited to watch him evolve and run by and through Pac-12 defenses.
Looking forward, I also can't wait to see how the new UW offense evolves. Some things I'm keeping my eyes on:
- How the Huskies evolve their use of 'Rocket' motion
- How the Huskies evolve their use of the bubble screen
- If the Huskies will let Keith Price run the football
I also want to shout-out Chris Brown (Smart Football/Grantland), Matt Bowen (Bleacher Report/National Football Post), and many, many other sites that I am forgetting but spent so many hours learning the game of football. I'm not even close to the caliber of those guys but that is what I'm striving to be.