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Film Study: Apple Cup Edition

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Washington turned a goal-line stand into a 98-yard TD drive and a fourth straight win over their in-state rivals

NCAA Football: Washington at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

If you think beating the Cougs is fun, you should try breaking down the film from a 45-17 victory. Our hands are sore from all the high-fiving. Washington jumped on Wazzu from the beginning and took a 28-3 lead in the first quarter. WSU made it interesting, but just when it looked like the Cougars would get within two possessions, the Dawgs made their second goal-line stand and subsequently took the ball the length of the field to ice the game.

The Huskies made a statement on their opening possession, overcoming two false start penalties on first downs to go 76 yards in seven plays. The drive culminated with this 3rd down TD run by Myles Gaskin.

3rd and Goal:

This play is a counter left, with man blocking up front. It’s a pretty simple play.

Here’s what makes it work: left tackle Trey Adams uses the momentum from the upfield step of the defensive end over him, and seals the end completely out of the play at the point of attack. Well done. WSU is running a stunt in the interior of its defensive line, with the two defensive tackles crossing. The man over Jake Eldrenkamp leaves to cross, so Eldrenkamp heads to the second level, and is in position to WSU’s inside linebacker, but the linebacker runs himself out of the play. Will Dissly is playing a stand-up tight end, and he probably gets the key block, driving the play-side outside linebacker well out of the way. Andrew Kirkland is uncovered on the play, so he double-teams the defensive tackle over center Coleman Shelton, but he fails to see the tackle crossing behind. That leaves H-back Drew Sample to not only pick up the weak side defensive end, but also to slow up the crossing nose tackle. Which he does, because he’s that good.

The tackle attempt by WSU’s safety is poor; as he comes up (late) to attack the ball carrier, he stops inside the end zone and waits for the ball carrier to get to him; at the point of contact, Gaskin is already in the end zone. He kind of Couged the tackle.

From behind, you can really see the three big blocks; Trey Adams, and the two tight ends. Andrew Kirkland doesn’t read the twist, so the nose tackle could’ve made a play, if not for the work done by Sample. Which, from this angle, you can see was truly great.

1st and Goal:

It’s WSU’s turn to come straight at the Huskies, and well, it doesn’t really work out so well. Mostly because the Cuogs don’t have Elijah Qualls and Greg Gaines on their roster.

WSU is running a little inside zone here. At the snap, WSU’s right guard crosses Qualls’ face, and attempts to push him to the offense’s right. The center and the left guard look to double-team Gaines, with the center then moving to the linebacker at the second level. Qualls works to maintain both of his gaps, and is pinching down on the hole. Greg Gaines shows how brute strength can be beneficial on a football field. He takes on the double team, and as the center leaves to head upfield, simply pushes the right guard backward and out of the way (and it should be noted that that guard is an Outland Trophy finalist, not just some scrub). Gaines then throws himself around the legs of the ball carrier and holds on until help arrives.

Good job here by inside linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven to avoid the lumbering block attempt by the center. But watch Greg Gaines do really impressive stuff.

2nd and Goal:

Math is what makes this an incompletion.

Greg Gaines is lined up over the left guard. Connor O’Brien is playing a seven-technique end position, and is the responsibility of the left tackle. The Huskies then blitz Ben Burr-Kirven through B-gap, and voila, the Huskies have one rusher unaccounted for. The left tackle leaves O’Brien to pick up the man with the shortest route to the quarterback (the blitzing Burr-Kirven). Due to good speed and those famous Air Raid wide offensive line splits, Burr-Kirven mostly eludes the left tackle on his way to the quarterback. O’Brien has a lot of ground to cover (also due to those wide splits), but also makes Falk uncomfortable. On the blitz, Psalm Wooching drops back into the zone vacated by Burr-Kirven’s blitz, and mostly takes away the slant of the slot receiver on the offense’s left, who Taylor Rapp can’t really cover. The rest of the secondary does its usual stellar job, and Falk simply has nowhere to go with the ball in the face of pressure.

3rd and Goal:

The Cougars then go back to “power” football, and look to run a blast play out of a two-back, pro set. It doesn’t really work.

There’s one good play, one funny play, and more Greg Gaines greatness to watch here. First, D.J. Beavers makes a great read on the play. He’s aided by Elijah Qualls, who not only sucks up the block of the Cuogs’ right tackle, but also slows the guard attempting to work toward Beavers. Had Beavers not slipped, this play likely goes for fewer yards.

Watch the lead block attempt by the running back on the offense’s left. I think Jojo McIntosh is laughing at him to this day.

Gaines gets a great jump on the snap, and is right into the center’s face. He proceeds to drive the center two yards into the backfield, get held, and still have enough to trip the ball carrier up as the help arrives in the form of the falling Beavers.

Nice.

4th and Goal:

Look how far the defensive line has shifted to its right. Psalm Wooching has his hand on the ground, basically playing a 3-4 strong end. Greg Gaines is at the nose tackle spot, and Elijah Qualls is playing a three-tech tackle. Budda Baker is over the slot as a strongside outside linebacker, and Connor O’Brien is playing a weak outside linebacker.

WSU is running an isolation play, but it’s dead from the get-go because Gaines, Qualls, and Wooching positively blow up the interior of the offensive line. Gaines moves his dance partner, the center, into the backfield. Qualls and Wooching both pinch hard to the middle, into the mass of humanity. Baker blitzes, and helps clean up from the back side.

But that interior line. Geez. There’s just no place to go.

With Baker and Connor O’Brien closing in from the outside, there was just no running room. The Huskies were able to move the trenches a yard behind the original line of scrimmage.

After stuffing WSU, the Huskies take over and face a key 3rd and 2:

The Huskies are setting up the tunnel screen to Chico McClatcher out of a slightly different look than we’ve seen so far this season. WSU’s middle linebacker Peyton Pelluer makes a good read on the play, and he’s far enough outside that left tackle Trey Adams can’t quite get all the way out to his block. McClatcher could’ve looked to bring the ball back into the middle a little harder, but he had Pelluer in his face almost right at the catch. Peyton Pelluer is a good football player, but he could chase Chico McClatcher around in an ATM vestibule for an hour and never lay a finger on him.

You want to see an exceptionally poor defensive play? Watch the cornerback on the opposite side of the field from the play. After Andre Baccellia releases down the field to block, the corner eventually finds the man with the ball. Instead of moving forward and making some sort of tackle attempt, he...well, looks like he’s not really in the mood to make a tackle.

2nd and 8:

About the only thing that went right on this play actually occurred back in February of 2013 when Lavon Coleman signed his Letter of Intent with the University of Washington.

So many things go wrong that it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on here, but it looks like the Huskies are running a stretch play to their right. The Cougars have a great defensive call on here, as they’re slanting into the play. Darrell Daniels makes a nice block, and actually has two Cuogs out of the play at one point—but every other man on the line is defeated, badly. At one point, WSU has five men in the backfield ready to make a tackle for a two- or three-yard loss. In the commotion, though, they all fail to find the ball, and even start to give up on the play; they probably assumed it was over. But Coleman stays patient in the traffic until he finds the edge, and then sticks his proverbial and literal foot in the ground and gets upfield. The once-beaten line manages to find a block or two, and Coleman powers his way through a couple of half-hearted arm tackle attempts to pick up 10 yards.

The Cougars were done at this point.

1st and 10:

The pass protection for Jake Browning was outstanding all day, and this play is an example of how that made things really tough on Wazzu. First off, this is a running situation for most teams: large lead, need to burn clock, can’t afford a turnover. Instead UW calls a play-action pass that brings eight Cougar defenders to the line of scrimmage as Browning drops back.

WSU isn’t in great position here, just based on alignment. The only receiver on the offense’s right is a tight end on the line of scrimmage, but the defense has a corner and a deep safety on that side of the field. Browning knows he has man-to-man coverage back to his left, and they’re the only receivers even out in the pattern.

This is a common route combination. The outside receiver on the left runs a deep streak to clear out space. The inside receiver, covered by a safety ten yards off the ball, runs hard to the middle before releasing back outside for the corner route.

And when a defense can’t get hits on a QB, they are more inclined to take a late one. This probably wouldn’t have been a penalty if the hit wasn’t to Browning’s head, but the frustration of being desperate to put Jake on the ground helped turn this into a 38-yard gain.

2nd and 10:

The Huskies run a little zone read on this one.

Great effort by Coleman Shelton here. At the snap, he gives a little double-team with Jake Eldrenkamp on the defensive tackle. Shelton then releases to the linebacker, but trips along the way. Instead of just being done for the play, he throws himself at the feet of the linebacker in an attempt to get any sort of block. That effort, coupled with the less than stellar one by WSU’s defender, is enough to spring Coleman from a “nice” gain to the dagger for this game.

WSU is running an end-tackle twist on their right side. Unfortunately for the tackle, that means he gets double-teamed by Kaleb McGary and Drew Sample. The defensive end makes a great hustle play, knocking Andrew Kirkland off-line from his attempted block on the inside linebacker, and almost catching Coleman from behind. That’s great effort. Nice job by Trey Adams and Jake Eldrenkamp on the left side of the line. Great perseverance by John Ross to stick with his block through the entire play, and to ultimately give Coleman an angle to dive for the pylon and paydirt.

The offense and the defense took turns shining in the 2016 edition of the Apple Cup. In the end, their combined efforts clinched the Huskies’ first Pac-12 North division championship, and got them a date with the Colorado Buffaloes this week.

11-1 feels pretty damn good. It’s great to be a Husky.