When was the last time Husky fans had so much to complain about after a 41-17 win over a Pac-12 foe?
Welcome to 2016.
Things mostly went well for the Washington Huskies on Saturday night. Some fantastic play design, some precise execution, and a little bit of WTF.
To the film:
2nd and 10:
This is a very well-conceived play for a 2nd and 10 situation. The Beavers are playing run-heavy, with all 11 members of their defense within seven yards of the line of scrimmage at the snap. The outside linebacker on the defense’s right has the tight end in man coverage, leaving the middle linebacker to cover the running back out of the backfield man-to-man. But in this case, the running back is actually wide receiver Aaron Fuller. Oregon State fails to recognize Washington’s personnel on this play, and is playing the run fairly hard.
Fuller runs to the sideline on a half-wheel, half-corner route, and the middle linebacker appears to be expecting help from a safety over the top (or he realizes that he’s just plain beaten and gives up). That safety, however, has picked up tight end Darrell Daniels, who simply runs him out of the play, in man coverage. The safety on the other side of the field stays wide both before and after the snap. Had he read Washington’s personnel correctly, he likely would’ve rotated to the offense’s left side. But that would’ve left Oregon State’s cornerback in man coverage against Dante Pettis, with the whole field to work with.
The execution is pretty good, but the design and play call were what made this a touchdown.
2nd and 6:
You can see the Huskies playing around with formations here just a bit, to add an layer of confusion to what the defense is seeing. David Ajamu is playing H-back on this play, but he’s essentially at fullback depth at the snap. It’s not a look Washington has shown in the past, and something as simple as lining up a couple of yards further back from the line of scrimmage creates one more thing the Beaver defense needs to think about prior to the snap.
This play is just the power lead, with Ajamu serving as the lead blocker. Andrew Kirkland is the pulling guard, and he kicks out the Beavers’ defensive end, who left tackle Trey Adams has left unblocked (a trap block). Adams instead blocks down on the defensive end. Kirkland swallows the end on his power block, and Ajamu follows to play the outside linebacker. However, Ajamu hesitates in the hole, and the linebacker is eventually able to make the play - 14 yards down the field. If Ajamu makes that block, Gaskin could’ve stayed outside, and possibly turned this into a much bigger play.
Jake Eldrenkamp does some fine work on this play. He initially blocks down on the defensive tackle in a double team with Coleman Shelton. After that first block is taken care of, Eldrenkamp releases to the linebacker at the second level, and would still be pushing him backward to this day if not for that pesky whistle.
Nobody is going to complain about that gain, but there was more to be had on that play.
1st and 10:
The power sweep. This is a play that was a staple of the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi. If you’re a football historian with ten minutes to kill, you can watch Lombardi diagram and explain this play here. As Lombardi says, “There’s nothing spectacular about it, it’s just a yard gainer.” If you watch the video, you’ll notice that the Packers run this play with two running backs. In the Huskies’ case, the role of the fullback is taken by tight end Will Dissly, who’s on the offense’s right.
It’s a wide run that’s designed to go wide all the way, something you don’t see all that frequently from Washington. The Huskies pull center Coleman Shelton and play-side guard Andrew Kirkland as lead blockers. Dissly’s job is to seal off the linebacker on the play side, which he mostly manages to do. Kirkland comes through and cleans up the noise. Shelton fails to make an impact, partly because there’s no one to hit, and partly because he’s simply not as fast as Myles Gaskin.
Jake Eldrenkamp has a difficult job on this play, made even tougher by a late shift from Oregon State’s tackle. Eldrenkamp needs to reach all the way across and cut the defender over Shelton, and he’s unable to quite get there. That tackle (#97) very nearly makes the play in the backfield. Instead, Gaskin is untouched until he reaches the third level of the defense.
1st and 10:
A very well-blocked power lead, run to the short side of the field. Jake Eldrenkamp is the pulling guard, and he easily takes care of the left defensive end. David Ajamu makes a nice lead block on this play as well, effectively taking both inside linebackers out of the play. The only thing that would’ve been prettier is if Shane Brostek had released from his initial double team with Coleman Shelton and picked off the backside inside linebacker himself.
Credit to John Ross; after initially looking to run off the cornerback over him, Ross stays with his block long enough to screen his man and create a lane for Myles Gaskin. The deep safety gets just enough of Gaskin to slow him down and the pursuit manages to finish the play.
3rd and 1:
It’s 3rd and short - about a yard, and the Huskies bring in three tight ends to really sell the run on this play. Dante Pettis is in a tight slot position to the left side, which really packs in the Oregon State defense. At the snap, the corner fails to respect the pass even remotely. His eyes are in the backfield, and he’s fully committed himself to come up in run support. Drew Sample is the only other person who runs a route on this play, and it’s done to occupy the safety on the wide side of the field only (note the egregious hold on the safety, by the way).
Even if the cornerback over Pettis had read the pass, he still would’ve had a difficult time covering the middle of the field, as he’s well outside of Pettis at the snap. Stopping this play would’ve taken the supreme alertness of both the cornerback, as well as the safety coming from the back side of the play and taking away the middle, to prevent this touchdown.
The execution of this play was great, but this was a touchdown that was scored on Tuesday or Wednesday when this play was developed. Oregon State’s secondary is very aggressive, but were sometimes slow to react as plays developed. That was the case here.
1st and 10:
This play is similar to the power sweep we saw from the Huskies, but instead of pulling the center and the play side guard, the Beavers pull their center and the back side tackle. Juxtaposed with the way the Huskies ran this play, this version is horribly slow to develop, as that tackle has about five yards further to run than Andrew Kirkland did when the Huskies ran it; you can see he has no chance to make an impact on this play. The only way this slow-developing play makes sense is if the Beaver coaches were hoping to catch the Huskies over-pursuing, and that tackle was in position to seal off a defender on a cutback by the running back.
To make matters worse for Oregon State, Keishawn Bierria is coming in hard to what happened to be the play side. But none of it matters, as Connor O’Brien simply makes a great football play here. He recognizes the power block coming at him, stays parallel to the line of scrimmage so that his outside arm stays free of the oncoming block, and steps in to the center. He does enough to win the battle that he’s able to disengage and still be in position to collect the tackle for loss (with some cleanup work from Bierria and a couple of other friends). This play is entirely reminiscent of the one made by Joe Mathis against Oregon that we profiled here two weeks ago. Fantastic fundamental football work from O’Brien.
1st and 10:
Nobody throws the ball at Sidney Jones, so he has to be an All-American against the run this year. And this is a phenomenal play by him, make no mistake.
This play is the power-read, like the one profiled last week that Arizona used to torch the Huskies on Brandon Dawkins’ long TD run. Oregon State adds the element of a fullback to serve as the lead blocker if the quarterback hands the ball off.
That’s what happens here. At the snap, Connor O’Brien gives just enough of a read of staying home to “force” the quarterback to hand the ball off. The receiver at the top of the screen is releasing off the line to crack back on Keishawn Bierria, and the notion is that the lead block of the fullback will take out the unblocked cornerback.
Instead of all that happening, Sidney Jones decides to go all Superman on us. First, he reads the crackback block attempt, and knocks the receiver to the ground. Next, he easily avoids the lumbering attempted lead block from Oregon State’s fullback. And to complete his badassery on this play, he manages to reach up and take the feet out from the hurdling ball carrier, while slipping and falling down.
Jones didn’t get a “glory” stat from this play. No interception, no pass breakup, and probably not even a tackle for loss (although it’s close). But his awareness, his willingness, and his effort are second to none on this play. He’s great against the pass, but what he does against the run is starting to separate him from other great cornerbacks that have played at UW.
3rd and 9:
There’s a bit of good fortune for Oregon State on this play, as they’ve called a screen pass at the same time and to the same side that the Huskies are running an end/tackle twist. Because the defensive line has a “goal” in mind other than just reading and reacting to the offense, they fail to see the offensive line releasing down the field and setting up the screen. The result is that Oregon State has three linemen ready and able to block Washington’s two inside linebackers. Only after the ball is well downfield is Azeem Victor able to work through the convoy and slow down the ball enough for the secondary to finish up the play.
It’s plays like this that make Pete Kwiatkowski loathe gambling with his defense. Washington didn’t actually do anything wrong, other than fail to guess correctly. In base sets, the defensive line has been a huge component is stopping or slowing down screens like this by reading the offensive line’s release, and working to find the ball instead of continuing a fruitless pass rush. This time, they were occupied with a particular playcall.
4th and 3:
This was one of the few plays that Oregon State ran with its quarterback under center on Saturday. It’s designed to get the defense flowing hard to one side of the play, with a misdirection pitch back to the opposite side. The fly motion is a decoy, as it was the majority of the night.
Connor O’Brien loses his outside containment right from the snap, as he’s left unblocked and crashes down hard on the quarterback. He manages to recover just enough to keep the ball carrier moving laterally, right in to the waiting arms of Jojo McIntosh, who has done his job beautifully and stayed home for a play just like this one. It’s an easy stop for no gain, and when you see it stopped in such a textbook manner, it’s easy to wonder how it could ever work. Getting the level of discipline shown by the Huskies isn’t all that easy to achieve, and it wouldn’t have taken many steps in the wrong direction from McIntosh to turn this into a pretty decent gain for Oregon State.
1st and 10:
But things weren’t perfect on Saturday, and the defense ended up being the primary culprit. This play appears to be the inside zone split. The running back’s first read with the ball is to his left, and then the middle, and finally all the way back to his right, behind the kickout block from the H-back coming back across the formation.
In this instance, the Huskies are blitzing with Keishawn Bierria to the play side, likely taking away the primary read from the running back before the snap. Greg Gaines penetrates too far up the field, and gives away the gap on his left by overcommitting to his right. Psalm Wooching entirely gives up contain by running straight toward the mesh point.
The Huskies had difficulty with Oregon State’s inside zone running much of the second half. The breakdowns were similar to the ones against Arizona, mostly caused by the line losing gap integrity and creating natural running lanes.
Here you can really see Gaines getting too far to his right, and losing any ability to affect a play to his left. Additionally, you can see how Wooching is nowhere near the play (although he would’ve had to take on the kickout block had he maintained his contain position). Keishawn Bierria was held, but both he and Azeem Victor probably could’ve done a better job of pinching down on the ball carrier.
1st and 10:
Here’s one of the few times that Oregon State actually handed the ball off on the fly motion. This is a well-designed play by the Beavers. This play becomes a power zone read, but by running the fly motion to the side of the running back and the tight end, Oregon State has effectively given themselves two lead blockers in addition to the pulling guard.
The dominoes start to fall against the Huskies when Connor O’Brien runs himself into no-man’s-land; he’s too far up the field to offer any outside containment, nor is he in any sort of position to force anyone to block him. Jojo McIntosh gets himself too wide, and while he does keep the play inside to a degree, he’s in a bad position to take on a block when he turns perpendicular to the line of scrimmage. Keishawn Bierria attempts to work around the seal block of the H-back, but goes the wrong way; he should’ve cut behind the block, not in front of it. Azeem Victor has too much noise to deal with, as the pulling guard that should’ve been forced to block O’Brien is instead free to work on Victor. Kevin King lets himself be blocked far too easily on this play; after reading the run, he should’ve worked back through the wide receiver instead of attempting to run up the field around him. Toss in a collision between Azeem Victor and the only player with a chance to chase down Victor Bolden (Budda Baker), and you’ve got a 75-yard TD run.
The Huskies mostly dominated this game, especially when it really counted. Chris Landon described it well when he called it “perfectly imperfect.” After a typical fast start, the Huskies failed to maintain their focus for the whole sixty minutes at peak level on offense, defense, or special teams. The coaching staff is certain to have something to say about that this week, as the Huskies prepare for a much tougher test.