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Film Study: Offense vs Oregon State

You like handoffs? Then come on in.

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskies rolled up 267 yards on the ground against a stacked front for Oregon State. Was this a huge departure from what we saw during the Chris Petersen era? No. Not really. A lot of the same concepts, a new wrinkle or two (start empty, motion in the RB; more of that than we have seen). Maybe more jet sweeps, but Petersen would have had a run heavy emphasis in this game for sure, even after going down 7-0 early. 51 carries? Probably.

Film Study guru Brad Johnson is on a hiatus (and no, we will not give details on how long our Film Study contributors will be out; consider him week-to-week), so we asked if he thought what we saw Saturday night was still a Chris Petersen offensive philosophy:

Very much so. And to this point, almost the entirety of Lake’s career as a college coach has been under Petersen’s mentorship. Yes, it’s Petersen’s offense (philosophy).

To the Film:

1st and 15:

First up on film study we have a play that pretty much defines the entire game plan vs. the Beavers. Here we have 21 personnel (2 ‘backs, 1 TE) in the I-formation running weakside lead-inside zone. There’s nothing fancy or clever about the play design, but it was a the right call relative to what the defense was showing. On a night where we were committed to heavy personnel and inside running, this is how you should do it.

As you can see better with the endzone angle, the entire line taking the first step to the left in unison indicates that this is in fact inside zone, even though the presence of a fullback tempts TV commenters to want to call this iso. For those trying to recognize this in real time, a nice give-away that this is inside zone is the fact that we ran it to the weakside. Many defenses set their DL to be shaded towards the run strength of the formation trying to match size with size (as OSU did by shading their NT towards our right). By using the formation strength to our advantage, John Donovan gave Luke Wattenberg and Henry Bainivalu much easier angles to combo block the NT up to the ILB.

The last pieces of the puzzle were Jack Westover making a fantastic wash block on the LOLB, Tyrell Bynum making a decisive block on the CB, and Sean McGrew reading the leverage of his blockers to weave between the blocks in the lane.

This touchdown is just simple, old-school grit and execution.

3rd and 5:

We didn’t get many opportunities to see Dylan Morris chuck the ball, but I was pleasantly surprised in his poise and ability to do what was asked of him. He identified what the defense was giving him pre-snap, and he kept things simple for himself.

Against what initially looks like some sort of pressure package, Donovan dialed up a quick hitting all-slants concept. Using the formation to his advantage, Morris identifies Cade Otton & Terrell Bynum as having the best match ups within the concept. With Otton as the #3 receiver to his right (as counted from the sideline inward), Morris knows that he can key off of the ROLB’s initial drop when deciding where to throw the ball post-snap. If the OLB blitzes or takes a drops out to the seam/curl zone, there should be a soft spot underneath for Otton to make a catch for the first down. If the OLB matches up in coverage with Otton breaking inwards, then he opens a passing lane for Bynum to make a catch. With the Bynum’s defender playing back at the line to gain and with no clear leverage, its 100% on Bynum to get separation and be ready for the ball if the passing lane opens up.

As you can see from the endzone angle, this is the exact progression that Morris makes. However, you can also see that Morris doesn’t see the late safety rotation that drops a defender right into Bynum’s would-be passing lane. Fortunately, the safety has a false step following Otton, which is just long enough for Morris to squeeze in his pass to Bynum. In quick concepts like this (in this case this is a 1-step-hitch out of shotgun), it is imperative that Morris makes his decision in rhythm on his last step, like he does here. Any hesitation trying to squeeze the pass into the passing window throws off the timing and lets your WR run into coverage.

For a first-time starting QB, this is a nice rhythm throw later in a tight game, which is harder to execute than the box score would suggest.

1st and 10:

Unlike the first play, this is an example where we didn’t execute well against a front that wasn’t as favorable to the play we called. Again this is 21 personnel out of I-formation with the TE set to the right of the formation, and again this is weakside inside zone lead. However, unlike the earlier play, we are facing a heavier front (9-man box vs. 8-man box) that is aligned head-up (not shaded). This already puts us behind in terms of numbers (7-blockers vs. 9-defenders), and we don’t get the advantage of angles.

In my opinion, the wide angle of #3 on the backside pretty much eliminates him from the play, so McGrew should’ve been able to get some yardage with a decent push up the middle. However, the angles are the key to any success on this play.

From the endzone view, you can see how important the angles are in zone runs. Instead of Wattenberg being able to get a quick double team on the NT before getting the ILB, he now is responsible for the NT with no help, and Bainivalu has to work from the backside up to a hard-flowing ILB. Additionally, the DL over Bainivalu is playing a much tighter shade where Ale cant just wall him off from the A-gap. The spill over affect of Ale’s more difficult (and slower developing) block is that it gums up the backfield timing.

What was less evident in the earlier play is that inside zone lead is heavily reliant on the FB-RB combo playing in-sync. Unlike lead runs in gap blocking (ex. iso), both the FB and RB are required to read the developing blocks in front of them. If the FB reads a developing lane differently from the RB, then we are going to get a situation like this play where McGrew isn’t following is blocker.

Ulumoo Ale and Wattenberg not providing a quick lane in the A-gap forces a much more difficult read for Westover and McGrew to be the page for. Without knowing exactly how Scott Huff and Keith Bhonapha coached this play’s reads, I can’t say for certain who, or if someone made a wrong read. Either way, this wasn’t a high percentage play against this front.

Should Westover have gone inside of Ale? Not necessarily.

2nd and 6:

Really, this isn’t that innovative of a play design since the core blocking scheme is that of a toss crack play, but it illustrates how with the right combination of talent and window dressing we can produce a diverse and explosive run game. Not only are our OL road graders up the middle, but we also have guys like Bainivalu, Ale, and Jaxson Kirkland who can throw blocks 10 yards downfield in space, as well as a renewed grittiness on the perimeter, so every play design is on the table.

The key to this play really is Puka Nacua’s fantastic block that set the edge for Kirkland & co to get into the second level ahead of the backside flow that was a step slow due to the jet motion. On the topic of jet motion, we regularly used the jet motion throughout the game, which is such an easy wrinkle to add to our run plays, and is a concept that sets us up to capitalize on other misdirection concepts later in the game...

2nd and 7:

Speaking of jet motion, here is an example of us going to the well one too many times. Earlier in this possession we got Bynum loose on the edge for 17 yards on a jet sweep that we had been setting up all game. However, in that play, we were facing a much different front. We had faced a 4-down front and an 8-man box, but on this play we are facing a 7-man front and 9-man box. The large number of defenders on the line increased the number of gaps that could get shot at the snap, and it was this penetration that resulted in the loss on the play. The way the blocking on the edge was schemed up against this front (with Otton essentially blocking 2 defenders), pretty much killed this play before it started since it gave Rome Odunze enough time to shake the unblocked defender. Either Donovan or Morris should’ve recognized this and checked out of this play.

This is a good example of where we may look to improve both in play calling and in execution. Hindsight being 20/20, we may not want to have tried to get fancy here with another jet sweep. A simple pitch play to immediately get away from the defensive front, like we had utilized earlier in the game, might’ve been a somewhat better play. Also, knowing when/where certain plays won’t work is a good coaching point for Donovan and Morris to go through this week.

Did the Huskies play this game “not to lose.” Yep. Kind of.

I’m sure this infuriates some fans, but it’s really just another way to say “Play to win against an inferior team.” Lake’s hat might be saying the Huskies will run 50x per game, but he loves to mislead, and we have a hunch that’s what he’s doing this week.

This is a pro-style, balanced offense, and what we saw in the running game is exactly what we should expect all season. Some weeks it will be “Why didn’t we run McGrew more?” Some weeks, “Why not more Newton?”

Overall, plenty of room for improvement, but not a bad start to the season offensively. A couple plays made by the receivers and the game script probably goes more UW’s way.

1-0. On to Arizona.