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Film Study: Huskies' Running Game Shines

We break down why Lavon Coleman looked like Emmit Smith running the power play against Arizona

Washington v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Washington Huskies escaped Tucson with a 35-28 overtime win last Saturday, and while there were plenty of questions about the team that arose from that game, an answer was found to one of the most troubling queries of the young season; can UW run the football? Against the Arizona Wildcats, the Huskies ran the ball an ran it well. 352 rushing yards on 51 attempts to be exact. 161 of those yards came courtesy of the four Lavon Coleman "power" runs we will analyze in today's film study.

Second Quarter - 2nd and 5

Jake Browning audibles to this play, which is an inside power to the offense's left.  Arizona's defense is aligned strong to the offense's right (note the position of the two inside linebackers), which is probably a reason Browning checked to this play.  With that alignment, plus the fact that the Huskies had two tight ends on the play side, this was set to be big.

Kaleb McGary effectively wins a stalemate, which is all that's needed from him. Jake Eldrenkamp and Coleman Shelton bury the much smaller nose tackle over Shelton.  Trey Adams does a nice job of using the momentum of the defensive tackle opposite him to push him back to the middle, and out of the play.  Shane Brostek pulls from his right guard spot and eats an inside linebacker sandwich at the point of attack.  While neither Drew Sample nor Darrell Daniels provide dominant blocks, both do enough to spring Coleman.  The entire defensive front is driven about three yards backward on this play.

Note that Coleman's initial cut is back into the middle of the field.  Arizona's inside linebacker on the defense's right should've been flowing to the play side, if he'd read his key of the pulling guard.  That flow should've set up Coleman's cut.  Instead, the linebacker runs forward into the the wash of the play, and makes himself a non-factor.  Coleman is able to read this, and cut back to the outside of the play and pick up big yardage.

Third Quarter - 1st and 10

Again, Browning audibles. This is the same play, but to the other side of the field; note that all of these big runs by Coleman were designed to attack the short side of the field, as opposed to going wide.

Note Arizona's alignment - the entire defensive line is shifted an entire gap to their right while the inside linebackers stay neutral, leaving right tackle McGary uncovered.  That is one of five keys that really make this play:

1.  Dominant block by Drew Sample.

2.  Dominant block by Darrell Daniels.

3.  Because no one is over McGary, he's able to work to the second level of the defense, and get to the strong inside linebacker (away from the play) to keep him from being a factor.

4.  Jake Eldrenkamp swallows two defenders on his pull block - simply fantastic.

5.  Coleman hits the hole hard, and simply follows beautiful blocking for a big gain.

Due to the defensive line shift, both Brostek and Coleman are executing one-on-one blocks instead of double-teaming the nose tackle.  Both easily win.

From behind, you can see the great blocks by both tight ends, and McGary working up to the inside linebacker. Eldrenkamp's near-double pancake parts the blue sea, and there's nothing but daylight for Coleman.  You can also see the "Oh @#$%!!!!" moment the inside linebacker has right before Eldrenkamp gets to him....

Coleman hits the hole right behind Eldrenkamp, and can see the open real estate back to the sideline.

This play was pretty much textbook all the way through.

Fourth Quarter - 1st and 10

Browning checks the Dawgs into this play as well. It was designed to go to the right, and follow left guard Jake Eldrenkamp.  But Arizona shows blitz from the inside linebacker on the wide side of the field before the snap. Coleman does an excellent job of keeping his eyes on the defense after the snap, and correctly reads the defense. Had he followed Eldrenkamp through the hole to the right, there wasn't much available.

While the play was designed to go the the right (the short side of the field), this isn't exactly "freelancing" by Coleman.  Frequently on this play, with an overpursuing and blitzing defense, this cut back to the opposite side of the play is available, and it's effectively the home run version of the power (but with a higher risk).

And here you see what makes this play a touchdown, versus just a nice gain. The defender over John Ross decided to put on roller skates for this play, which was a mistake in hindsight.  Dante Pettis shows the willingness and physicality to occupy his man long enough for Coleman to run past, and Coleman has just enough speed to outrun the exceptionally poor angle taken by Arizona's safety (#29).

Overtime - 1st and 10

This is the same play again, except out of the shotgun, and with a late shift from the two tight ends to the short side of the field.  This time, Arizona's inside linebackers do a much better job of filling, and it's only a late release by Jake Eldrenkamp from his double team that prevents this play from potentially being stopped in the backfield.

Coleman could've cut between the blocks of Will Dissly and the pulling Shane Brostek, but chose to take the ball wide, outside of Dissly's block.  Against a better defense, the middle might've been the better decision, but it's foolish to argue with the result.....

Here you can see where the cutback could've come.  But again, Coleman showed speed and agility against Arizona that he really hadn't showcased before as a Husky.  Arizona isn't a slow defense by any means; they just don't tackle well. Still, Coleman had the wheels to get to the corner, and make yet another play.

Coleman is listed at 228 pounds this season, as opposed to 222 in 2015.  But he looks leaner.  And more athletic. Whether it's due to a foggy memory of the 2015 version of Lavon Coleman, or if there was a renewed commitment to his physical condition doesn't actually matter.  Coleman was the player the Huskies needed against Arizona.  He delivered a huge game when it counted.

This play - the power run - is a staple of the Husky offense, and one you'll probably see several times on Friday against Stanford.  Arizona really didn't have an answer for it, but the sledding will be tougher against the Cardinal. One thing Arizona lacked that Stanford doesn't is a disruptive interior lineman that can blow up the timing of the play.  In each of these, you see a clean release by the pulling guard to get to the linebacker in the hole at almost the exact same time as the running back.  Solomon Thomas of Stanford has the ability to create just enough traffic in the backfield to really slow this play down. Coleman Shelton wasn't featured too prominently in this write-up, but he's going to play a key role in the success of the power this week.