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Film Study: Browning, offense have their way with Oregon State

A four-year starter should tear apart a bad defense, something Jake Browning always does.

Oregon State v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Huskies managed a 42-23 win over the visiting Oregon State Beavers in a game that was 50% a blowout win, 50% a lot closer than the score made it appear, and 50% exactly what we should’ve expected from this team in this game. The miracle of the Film Study shows how the math all works:

2nd and 13:

The stretch zone play run to perfection. This is a wide run, but to the narrow side of the field.

Film Study on a play like this is a kudos to a bunch of great blocks.

First, on the play side. The wide receiver (possibly #28, Terrell Bynum?) negotiates some traffic and makes a great block to wipe out the cornerback. The tight end in the slot next to him (Drew Sample, #88 maybe?) takes his defender rollerskating into the Husky sideline. Note the pin-and-pull action on the right side of the offensive line—RT #58 Kaleb McGary blocks “down” (to his left), “pinning” the outside defender. RG #51 Jaxson Kirkland pulls around him and gets to the inside linebacker on the play side.

The blocking on the back side is what elevates this play from a “nice gain” to “huge play”: LG #76 Luke Wattenberg cuts off the backside flow of the Beaver defensive line before working to the second level. LT #70 Jared Hilbers comes all the way around the guard and seals off the inside linebacker on the back side, and Myles Gaskin hits the hole decisively and speeds on up the sideline. The one wag-of-the-finger on this play is to #1 TE Hunter Bryant; he doesn’t make any real effort to get to his block on the high safety. Had he hustled all the way through this play, it’s a touchdown. Instead, that safety employs his extensive knowledge of geometry to track Gaskin down inside the five-yard line.

3rd and 9:

Oregon State tries to catch the Huskies out of position and in poor matchups by running the ball in an obvious pass situation. There are a few interesting things to note on this play, besides the fine job by #8 OLB Benning Potoa’e.

First, the Huskies have seven defensive backs on the field. They’ve employed this at times throughout the season. Second, look at the alignment up front: #55 OLB Ryan Bowman is lined up as the nose tackle. #95 DT Levi Onwuzurike is playing a 7-tech wide defensive end. Potoa’e is a wide end on the other side. DB #7 Taylor Rapp is at the line of scrimmage, flanking Potoa’e on one side, and DB #3 Elijah Molden is outside Onwuzurike on the other. Rapp and Molden both come on the blitz, for a five man rush.

Oregon State’s left tackle has to get outside to pick up Rapp, which he does. That leaves the left guard to get out to Potoa’e, which he doesn’t. It’s an easy tackle for loss. Ryan Bowman actually does a very nice job beating the double team on the inside of this play; he’s in position had Potoa’e needed help. Elijah Molden was coming in hot to pick up the glory stat had this been a pass.

2nd and Goal:

We saw this same play work pretty much this exact same way for a touchdown against Arizona State earlier this year, when Ty Jones beat man coverage on a hitch/fade combo and made a highlight-reel grab in the end zone.

Right at the beginning of this gif, we can see Oregon State’s free safety sprinting toward the line of scrimmage. That means that Jake Browning knows he has man coverage on both receivers to his right. The outside receiver (Andre Baccellia, #5) runs a short hitch at seven yards. That leaves Aaron Fuller, who’s lined up on the hash mark, a huge amount of real estate with which to work, and a defender in off coverage with no help. The whole route tree is available. Fuller could run a slant, corner, post, dig, out; it’s pretty much all there. Fuller isn’t exactly wide open, but Browning throws about as beautiful a fade as any Husky fan could hope to see.

You can see the running back leave on a wheel route, and he is in fact wide open. There’s no one within ten yards of him. Browning never really looked that direction, though; he’s got immediate pressure from a blitz. “Peeking” to his left at the wheel route may have taken too much time if the Beavers had it covered (and the charge from the free safety right at the snap at least adds some confusion to who was going to be doing what). But for all of the criticism of Browning that he won’t throw to covered receivers or won’t “throw a man open,” that’s exactly what he did here.

1st and 10:

There are probably some broken aspects to this coverage, but it’s possible that a fairly atypical personnel grouping bred a little confusion on this play.

The Huskies have three eligible receivers to their right: a traditional tight end tight to the formation in Drew Sample (#88), Cade Otton (#87) in the slot, and Salvon Ahmed (#26) split out wide as a receiver. Over the last (nearly) two seasons of Husky football, this alignment has always screamed “SCREEN PASS TO AHMED!” to the defense. This time, the Huskies run a smash route to put some stress on OSU’s zone coverage, and it works.

Sample is running a post, and he draws the safety on that side of the field. Ahmed runs a stop route, at five yards, and he draws all sorts of attention from the defense. The corner and the linebacker that is over Otton both jump his route. That leaves Otton wiiide open; so open he can slow to a trot, turn, and run backward for the simple lob from Browning.

4th and 1:

The wildcat on fourth and inches, with the mesh point action between Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed coming across the formation in fly motion. Instead of a zone read, this play is a power read, with a pulling guard (Jaxson Kirkland, #51) coming from right to left to lead Ahmed if the ball is handed off.

On first blush, it looks like Gaskin makes a bad read, and should’ve kept it himself. In all likelihood he would’ve picked up the first down (this is MFing Myles Gaskin we’re talking about, after all), but there’s a linebacker right in the the hole, and that says to him that the play here is to hand off. And it might have been a designed handoff. This should’ve been a big play, but it looks like a mistake in identifying blocking assignments doomed it.

The down blocks from Jared Hilbers (LT #70) and Luke Wattenberg (LG #76) are great. There’s a tight end (Drew Sample, on the line) and an H-back (Cade Otton) outside of them, right at the point of attack on the handoff. It looks like this is where the mistake happens.

At the snap, Sample “reaches” all the way to outside linebacker, the furthest outside man. It’s a long way to go, and a very difficult block to make. Otton is looping even further to the outside. This leaves a defensive end with a free run to the mesh point of the handoff. As Kirkland pulls around, he hesitates when he sees the free end, but then heads toward the inside linebacker. That hesitation means he misses everyone. It’s possible that Kirkland was supposed to pick up the end. Doing so, though, would’ve left the linebacker unblocked. More likely, Sample was supposed to pick up the end, Otton was supposed to loop outside and seal the outside linebacker (that Sample blocked), and Kirkland was supposed to go straight to the inside linebacker. If all of that happens, Ahmed is in a foot race with the safety who had followed him across the formation as he originally came in motion. Instead, the whole thing ends up looking like a bad decision from Gaskin.

Anybody home?

Certainly not the left side of the Husky defense as they run themselves right out of this reverse. Things go from bad to worse down the field as the secondary doesn’t give the effort we’re used to seeing in reeling things in.

Oregon State sells the stretch to their left, and the Huskies are all over it. Both inside linebackers are crashing hard. The bad thing is OLB #8 Benning Potoa’e is as well—a fundamental no-no for the contain man on the line of scrimmage on the back side of the play. Potoa’e has to be ready for this. He sees the reverse coming, but just isn’t going to have the speed to get to the runner. To his credit he gives it everything he has, but to no avail.

The secondary doesn’t handle this well. JoJo McIntosh (S #14) sees the reverse coming and gets to the perimeter to contain the edge. As the action moves past him, he isn’t able to break free from the block to impact the play. Taylor Rapp (S #7) is next up, but he’s out of control and doesn’t have the feet under him that he needs to react as the ball carrier cuts. Byron Murphy (CB #1) is engaged well down the field with a receiver, and quite frankly, doesn’t look like he wants anything to do with this play. That’s just not close to the effort he’s proven time and again he can give in supporting the run.

3rd and 5:

This is a fairly well-designed play-action pass. It’s based off the zone-split run the Huskies frequently use, with a single receiver plus the running back as the only options for the throw, as everyone else is used to sell the run.

At the snap, Browning gives a play fake and sprints to his right as he waits for the lone receiver (Terrell Bynum) to cross back from the opposite side of the field. Myles Gaskin is flaring out into the pattern on that side as well. He’s picked up in coverage by the outside linebacker. The safeties, meanwhile, have picked up Bynum in coverage.

As Browning continues to move, the linebacker on Gaskin realizes he needs to be pressuring instead of covering, and leaves Gaskin. Browning waits another beat and takes a step back to create a throwing angle, and it’s a simple senior-to-senior connection for six.

The winningest senior class in the history of Husky football concluded their home careers with a comfortable win over the outmanned Oregon State Beavers. The game was a fitting home finale for the Husky fans frustrated with this team’s inability to dominate opponents, as the offense and defense each put up inconsistent halves of football that completed the other unit. In the first 30 minutes, the offense had 35 points and nearly 400 yards of total offense while the defense worked to find its footing. In the second, the defense held the Beavers to less than 100 yards of total offense, zero third-down conversions, and 7 points that came on a 3-yard drive against most of the second string defense following a blocked punt, while the offense did little of note except cash in on a defensive takeaway.

One final regular-season game for this group of seniors, and it just so happens to be for a berth in the Pac 12 championship and a potential trip to the Rose Bowl. It’s a great day to be a Husky.