In beating the Oregon Ducks, the Huskies used a balanced offense to control the ball in the first half. Penix and company controlled the first half methodically by overcoming penalties, converting 3rd downs, and allowing Oregon’s offense just 4 first half possessions. When they did have the ball, it took the Ducks 37 plays to get their 10 first half points.
The second half was a different story, but in a 30-minute track meet, this Husky offense can hang with anyone. The defense rose up and made a pair of critical stops down the stretch on plays where the staff basically said “You ain’t passing here.”
This was a 100% team win, and honestly there is no other way the Huskies get out of Autzen victoriously with anything less.
To the Film:
2nd and Goal:
Not to start off this week’s Film Study on a negative note, but more to emphasize an important point later, we’re taking a look at Bo Nix’s big TD run near the end of the first half. As we saw throughout the game, Nix’s legs are a key component of Oregon’s offense. Whether its through designed QB runs like this, the threat of a QB keeper on option or option-looking run plays, or his elusiveness on called passing plays, Nix’s mobility turbocharges Oregon’s otherwise simplistic offensive philosophy (not to be confused with being a simplistic offense).
Here on 2nd & goal from our 10-yard line, Oregon lines up in an empty formation with ultra-wide splits for their stacked WRs on the perimeter. Casual viewers might’ve been asking themselves why Oregon would’ve lined up in such a spread out formation down here in the red zone, but those of you who are well-versed in Spread-to-Run tactics or were already worried about Nix’s rushing might’ve understood why. What Kenny Dillingham is trying to do is create maximum horizontal stress on our defense to soften up the run defense. The stacked WRs on or outside the numbers are an extreme way of drawing defenders away from the box, and the slot WR is only in there at a more conventional alignment because a more extreme alignment might’ve forced us into a coverage adjustment (like locking Turner in man coverage over the slot) that would allow Tuputala to be more engaged in the box. To maintain our coverage integrity against the extreme offensive splits, we bump Bright and Cook out to the boundary to squeeze the passing window against quick in-breaking routes and to keep a 3v2 coverage advantage to the boundary, and we widen Tuputala and Turner over the slot to provide vertical and in-breaking support against the slot WR, with the field-side WR stack largely on an island with Dom and Javion Green.
Having spread out our defense and softened up the front with the formation, Oregon calls a pre-snap quick screen-QB blast RPO with the slot running a quick hitch to hold Tuputala. With the perimeter screens holding the DBs on the perimeter and the hitch holding Tuputala, Nix is set up with a 5v4 advantage in the box that he’ll be guaranteed a 5 yard gain and possibly a TD if he can make one defender miss. That’s a run option you’d want your QB to take all day long, and I’ve used similar concepts and formations in HS-level offenses where I had a dynamic athlete at QB. It’s a simple pre-snap read for QBs, but the formation does a lot of the heavy lifting, and its an effective tactic.
Here on the replay angle, you can see just how easy of a decision it was for Nix to make pre-snap and how effective the formation was at setting up the run. With our front shaded towards the field, all the OL had to do was wall off the DL from the interior and one OL to pick up Bright since he was the most immediate threat to the play (albeit not that big of a threat). Voi Tunuufi almost makes the play after shedding the LG’s block, but with only four defenders accounting for six gaps and no second level help up the middle, Nix had tons of space to side step Tunuufi.
The replay angle also shows just how inconsequential Cook and Turner were in this play. Neither ever really move off their spot or impact either the run or pass, and the quick hitting nature of the play basically turned them into spectators in an 11v9 situation. Exactly what you’d want to force the safeties to do if you were an offensive coordinator.
2nd and Goal:
Jumping over to the offensive side of the ball, and on a much more positive play, we’re taking a look at our first scoring rebuttal of the second half. Here on 2nd & Goal from the 3-yard line, Cam Davis powers his way in for a TD. There’s nothing particularly innovative or tricky with this play design, but that’s part of the beauty of this play. We’re running a weakside inside zone run play out of a wing trey shotgun formation with 11 personnel (albeit “11 personnel” includes Hatchett at TE for us), something that we’ve done dozens of times throughout the season. Oregon’s almost daring us to either take the low percentage fade or run into the teeth of their defense with their inside-shaded man coverage on the perimeter and the rest of their defenders at the LOS or in the box. Most would assume that we’d lean into our pass-heavy tendencies, but instead we went full bully ball mode.
Unlike in the past, Davis and our OL dug deep and earned the tough yards in this short yardage situation despite being both outnumbered and not being known for these types of gritty runs. Typically on weakside inside zone, Davis is aiming to the play side hip of the center and reading the flow of the LBs and the blocking front to see if there’s a backside cutback lane behind the TE. However, on short yardage runs, there’s more emphasis on getting the necessary yardage behind the most advantageous double team. Oregon’s running with a 4-down 6-man front that has every play side gap and the backside B & C gaps covered by a defender, so there’s only one real double team to run behind, and that’s between Bainivalu and Rosengarten on the backside 3-tech. Oregon was likely daring us to hit the backside A-gap where the MLB can take the 1v1 in the hole for no gain, but they weren’t prepared the the whoop ass that Bainivalu and Rosengarten had in store for them.
As we all know, our run game has been average at best for most of the season, and some of it was blamed on us not having a great run blocking OL. However, despite what the box score says, this was a breakout game for our run game. Bainivalu and Rosengarten executed an excellent double team on the DT and dumped him in the lap of the MLB. Even with the DE crashing inside across Hatchett’s face, there was a nice crease for Davis to cut through for a minimum of 2 yards.
On the replay angle you can see that Davis really took it from there for the extra yard into the end zone. Despite completely eliminating the DT and MLB with the blocking, Hatchett’s defender and Sewell were able to make an attempt at the stop, but Davis with a full head of steam and a great second effort powered through the contact.
We won’t knock Davis too much for the iffy ball security at the end as he made the extra effort to get the TD while dragging a couple Oregon defenders with him. UW has struggled when it comes to getting a single yard this season, so Davis fighting his way across the goal line was huge.
2nd and 7:
Flipping back to the defensive side of the ball, we wanted to take a closer look at what exactly went wrong (or right) in our rushing defense. Oregon racked up over 300 yards on the ground on plays very similar to this, and even though we ended up making the stops that mattered, it was more in spite of our flaws rather than because we did a ton right in the run game.
The first thing that stands out is how easily Oregon gets to the second level of our defense. At the snap, our DTs are shaded to the boundary and away from the RB with Bright and Tuputala in the box and with Powell lurking in the box right behind ZTF at the boundary EDGE spot. With only 6 blockers in the offensive front, we should’ve had every play side gap accounted for. Prior to the snap it looks like ZTF sets the edge, Tuitele gets the B-gap, Bright gets the A-gap, Tuli gets the backside A-gap, and Powell should be a free hitter on the play side. If the RB cuts back, into one of the two gaps that Tuputala is responsible for, then there is at least Cook to that side to provide run support.
The problem here is our gap discipline and the specific gap assignments. Tuitele cuts inside to the play side A-gap and never really gets there. Bright takes on the backside A-gap, which is OK, but with the RG uncovered, he gets a free release on Powell, which is less than ideal. Then, with Tuli trying to slant into the backside A-gap as well, we seem to have a bit of a double up that then gets compounded by the fact that Tuli tries a spin move and vacates the middle of the field.
The RB hits the hole behind the center, makes a quick jump cut, and he’s untouched the rest of the way...
2nd and 11:
Again flipping back to the offensive side of the ball, we wanted to take a look at one of Penix’s bombs that set the stage for a 2nd half shoot out. Lots of other sites focused on Penix’s TD later to Taj Davis, which is an elite NFL throw, but this TD to Polk was much more of a team & scheme effort.
As is his MO, Grubb sets this whole play up with the formation. We’re in 11 personnel lined up in a basic trips formation with Cam Davis to the field. However, the wrinkle to the formation is putting Devin Culp out wide as the #1 WR in the trips. Oregon plays a fair amount of Cover 4, and against trips formations. they like to run what’s known as a “Mini” adjustment. What this means is that they lock the field CB in man coverage with the #1 WR and play quarters coverage rules against the two slot WRs, thus creating a “Mini Quarters” to the field. Since Culp is the #1 WR, he’s taking up the man coverage assignment, and Grubb can focus on attacking the Quarters look with his best deep threat WRs.
Grubb chose to attack the Mini Quarters look with a Mills concept, an excellent Quarters beater, run with Polk and McMillan out of the slot. The Mills concept is a 2-route concept that pairs a post from the outside receiver and a deep dig from the inside receiver, with both routes being run from the same side. Against a quarters look, the deep dig crossing the safety’s face is meant to draw him up and away from the post route that is running into the space behind the safety. Since Oregon locked their field CB in man against Culp, who’s running a simple hitch route to occupy the CB, Polk was able to draw a advantageous match up against the nickel CB and simply toasted him on the route.
The other half of this play was the solid protection to allow the routes to develop and Penix standing tall in the pocket and delivering the pass while under duress. Prior to the snap, Oregon is showing a 4-man rush with the 4 defenders on the LOS, but they drop the EDGE into zone coverage and bring Justin Flowe on a delayed blitz up the middle. Our OL absolutely stone the initial 3 rushers and maintain a pristine pocket for Penix. However, Bainivalu gets a little carried away trying to help Luciano with the DT and loses his balance, preventing himself from picking up the delayed blitz. Regardless, Penix had a clean enough pocket to read the defense and know exactly where he had to put the ball.
Great play design. Great routes. Solid protection. Beautiful pass. TD result.
3rd and 5:
Last play this week we wanted to take a look at the final defensive stop on Oregon’s clock killing drive in the 4th quarter. Oregon is in an almost identical set up as Nix’s TD run that we broke down earlier, but the result on this play was much better for our Dawgs. The big reason here is that we learned from our mistakes, and unlike so many other times over the last couple of years, the staff was willing to make adjustments on the fly.
Oregon again lines up in their ultra-wide split stacked WR empty formation and is running the same pre-snap RPO with a QB blast run option. On Nix’s earlier TD, we had Green and Dom take on the stacked WRs on the field side in quasi-man coverage and kept a 3v2 on the boundary with a CB, LB, and safety. However, this time we reshuffled our coverage approach to make sure we had the interior gaps covered. Instead of keeping a 3v2 over the boundary WR stack, we left Kris Moll and Javion Green in a 2v2 coverage look. On the field side, we put Dom in man coverage against the slot and left Turner and Powell in their own 2v2 look against the other stacked WRs. This leaves Tuputala and Cook free to play the potential run really aggressively. Unlike the Nix TD play, the staff made sure that the safeties were in active roles on the play, either in the run fit or in active pass coverage, and when it’s a full 11v11, it all comes down to execution. Cook made an excellent tackle in the hole and that play made all the difference in this tight game.
A win is a win, except when it’s more.