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Film Study: Arizona Wildcats

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The Huskies continue to give us one quarter of good football per week

NCAA Football: Washington at Arizona Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

A football game is 60 minutes, and we are getting about 15 minutes of well executed football per week.

Against UCLA, it was a 14 point 3rd quarter. In the Pac-12 opener, the Huskies outscored Cal 14-3 in the 2nd quarter. In Corvallis, the Huskies really only managed about a half of a good 4th quarter.

This past Friday night in Tucson, a good 4th quarter was all that was needed to beat a team that is really, really struggling. While UW still looks the part of a bad football team, there were some explosive plays. They will need so many more of those this season, as it looks like the defense will continue to surrender big yardage on the ground.

To the film:

2nd & 9:

First play up this week, we have a trey counter play that we’re big fans of here on Film Study, mostly because it pulls our athletic linemen and TEs to get favorable match ups in the run game. On this play, we have 11 personnel in a tight 2x2 doubles wing TE under center formation versus a defense lined up in a 3-3-5 stacked tite front. On a run play, the offense’s eyes (as well as those of the more X & Os focused fans at home) should gravitate to the defensive front’s alignment. This tells the offense a lot about what its intentions are. As you can see here, the tite odd front puts the NT on the center and both DEs either on the inside shoulder or head up on our outermost blocker attached to the formation (Fautanu on the left and Otton on the right). In terms of blocking angles, the Wildcats set themselves up pretty well. The tite alignment of the DEs make it difficult to run our usual inside zone because of how far the guards would have to kick over in order to get to the combo block, and it also makes it difficult to run gap plays to the perimeter because there is no easy down block angles that are also good for the second level combo block (unless the DEs pinch into the B-gap like they do here). They also have off-ball “overhang” players on both sides of the formation that make it difficult to outflank their defense if we decide to run a stretch play. The key to running on this front is how we account for all of these off-ball defenders.

Pre-snap, we put Rome Odunze in jet motion towards the strong side, which is consistent with our tendency to run motion towards the backside of our designed run (a pretty big tell if you ask us), but it does serve the purpose of occupying the backside contain player (the OLB #18 in this case). So far, our formation and motion would indicate that we’re running our usual inside zone to the weak side (disguising our real play), and we have at least one of the 4 interior off-ball defenders.

Up front, blocking is all about the point of attack. On a counter play, the blocking is basically the same as power. The play side OT down blocks to open one side of the run lane (the C-gap), the guard pulls around to kick out the first jersey that flashes in front of him (typically the end man on the LOS) to open the other side of the gap, and an auxiliary blocker (in this case a TE) pulls through the lane as the lead blocker. Despite the condensed formation, we should have enough blockers to keep the RB clean until the second level.

Where this play goes wrong is how we waste our potential numbers advantage at the point of attack. Bynum’s tight alignment brings him into the blocking picture because he now draws an extra defender into the box. It looks like he was assigned to block someone (we would’ve thought maybe the LB #8 for the best down block block angle), but instead he whiffs on blocking anyone. If Bynum blocked #8, then Bainivalu would’ve had a clean shot on the safety #3, and Otton could’ve pulled through the hole to tee off on the flowing #48 rather than both trying to seal both LBs backside. Regardless of what Bynum’s actual assignment was, he needed to be blocking someone.

Its fine if we bring extra auxiliary blockers into the blocking scheme. When done correctly, it can do a lot to diversify a blocking scheme. However, we need those extra blockers to execute.

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3rd and 2:

Up next we have one of the more frustrating 3rd downs of the game. With just 2 yards to go, it looks like we may have baited the DL into jumping offsides. A QB with a little more gamesmanship, and with a more in-sync offensive operation, might have tried to get the quick snap to draw the penalty and first down. From a lineman’s perspective, Coach B thinks that it’s too risky to snap this football immediately to catch the DL in the neutral zone, because of the possible disaster if the officials somehow miss the call and the football sails over Morris’ head.

Perhaps more frustrating than the missed opportunity to gain a free set of downs, was the complete misfire from Dylan Morris to a streaking Jalen McMillan. Just when everything else on the play looks to be coming together, we get bitten by another bout of inconsistency. Wildcats’ DC Don Brown dialed up one of his signature pressure packages with mixed coverage deep and some stunts up front. With that much complexity on the defensive side, we would’ve expected the offense to look a lot more disoriented, but the offensive line actually blocked this pressure up pretty well, Morris was set on his read from the get go, but he still missed his target. It’s one thing to come up short on the “shot” throw into the hole between the underneath CB and a deep safety, especially to the far side of the field, but when Morris is locked in on that side and see’s that McMillan is streaking past the slow reacting safety, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t have aired it out more.

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2nd and 9:

Here’s an example of how our talent on defense is apparent, but our inexperience and lack of cohesion is still biting us. On the play, Arizona gashes us on a simple jet sweep play that our defense should’ve seen 1000x in practice from our own offense (ok, maybe less than that given how infrequently we actually hand off on offense). Like outside zone, jet sweeps are all about pressing the edge, creating horizontal stress, and forcing the defense to maintain gap integrity. Without some sort of crack action from the play side WR, it’s very unlikely that the jet man was ever going to be able to hit the edge, so really its all about maintaining gap integrity.

On the play, we match Arizona’s 12 personnel with our 3-4 personnel package. Aligned in a balanced Ace formation, the offense is presenting 8 gaps for our 7 box defenders to defend, and there are only 7 blockers on 7 defenders. This is a pretty favorable run look for the offense, and all it takes is one miss tackle from the secondary to spring this for a big gain (more on that in a minute).

At the snap, the play side TE walls off Jeremiah Martin, the supposed force defender who should’ve been funneling the play back inside, and the center, guard, and tackle on the play side all give a quick chip on Tuitele and Tunuufi before releasing upfield, similar blocking to a screen play. Berryhill’s speed negates the fact Tunuufi immediately puts the center 3 yards into the backfield, and after cutting back inside the TE, Berryhill simply navigates his convoy of blockers to get the 30 yard gain. Tuputala and Bruener don’t have good reps here with Bruener essentially out of the play from the outset and Tuputala merely soaking up a block. You’d like to see Tuputala knife past the OL to make some sort of a play on Berryhill, but he’s a step too slow from the outset. Then there was Turner’s bad missed tackle behind Tuputala, which is yet another bad rep from our safeties. In the past, we’ve been fortunate to have excellent tackling safeties that let us limit these explosive plays, but when we’re getting gashed on the ground while playing conservative alignments, there’s something wrong there.

From the outside, it looks like there are mismatched techniques and responsibilities in play here. Martin’s technique at the point of attack looks like he’s trying to string the play out to the perimeter based on his shoulders and hips staying parallel to the LOS, but if that were the case, why are our DL attacking downhill so aggressively rather than flowing with the OL to maintain gap integrity (same goes for Bruener)?

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2nd and 8:

Yet again, we were gashed on the ground by a team that really shouldn’t have been able to out muscle us, but yet again, our lack of gap integrity did us in. On the play, the Wildcats come at us with a classic I-formation Power O play that we used quite a bit last year. Unlike the name would suggest, Power O is not all about being bigger and stronger at the point of attack. Instead, its about using angles, some athletic pulling blockers, and combo blocks to over power the defense at the point of attack.

As we’ve discussed at length previously, Power O at its core is block down, pull around, and lead through the hole. To counter this, the DL needs to anchor down against the down blocks, the edge defender needs to squeeze the kick out block, and the LBs need to flow with the pulling guard to match numbers at the extra gaps that the pulling guard creates on the play side. Then, its all about tackling.

Replay:

As you can see much easier on the replay back angle, our defensive front didn’t really check all the boxes. First off, Tunuufi, as the play side DE, basically got sling shot across the formation and out of the play. Not sure if he was supposed to be pinching down, or if he was just being a bit overzealous attacking the backfield. Either way, he basically takes himself out of the play and would’ve left a gaping hole in the LOS. That’s okay, because this time, Martin attacks the kick out block and successfully squeezes the hole. Also working in our favor, Tuli reads Power from the snap, and he nearly fights against the down blocks to replace Tunuufi, but the center catches him off balance right as he’s about to make the stop at the LOS, and he is thrown to the ground. Tuitele also nearly fights through the blocks to make the stop as the RB tries to hit the cut back, but he’s caught on an uncalled hold by the LG.

At the second level, we are again caught with our LBs playing relatively sound gap responsibilities, but they are still reactive a half beat too slow to make the impact play. You can see Bruener and Tuputala flow with the play like we want them to, but neither attack their blocks or force the issue by triggering downhill. Its almost like they don’t see the gaps developing, and they are playing too reactionary. It’ll come with time, and Bruener appears to be on a good trajectory, but we’ll be missing the playmaking that Eddie brought.

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1st and Goal:

As one of our staple runs out of our tight bunch under center look, this toss sweep should look familiar to everyone. Similar to the earlier counter play, the Film Study Crew likes this play because it again capitalizes on the athletic blocking from our OL and TEs. In our double TE bunch look, we are able to use Otton to set a crushing down block on the DE to set the edge in order to spring the 250 lb Culp and 310 lb Fautanu out to the edge to pick on LBs and safeties.

Replay:

On the replay angle you get an even better view of the wide open field that Cam Davis could navigate while running behind Culp and Fautanu. We have to give credit to all three on this play. Culp has come a long way over the last couple of years, and he has turned into a much better blocker than expected after having been a pure ball carrying skill player coming out of high school. Fautanu also looked pretty good overall in his first start. He didn’t look out of place on most pass protection reps, and his athletic ability on plays like this shows that he brings a slightly different skill set to the LT position. As for Davis, he’s been quiet over the last few games after getting a lot of looks early in the season, but he’s still the same talent that we thought could be our bell cow back before the season. We think that as we diversify our blocking schemes, Davis will find more traction and should continue along his upward trajectory.

The Huskies did not turn the ball over on offense, although having a punt blocked filled the void of self destruction in this game.

Washington faced an opponent that made more mistakes than they did themselves, and that’s what put them in position to win. Credit to the team and coaches for continuing to fight, and putting together plays on both sides of the ball down the stretch to snatch a badly needed win.

Now Stanford, who has been a passing team so far this season. Regardless, David Shaw will have an offensive gameplan in place to attack the Huskies on the ground.