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Decoding Langsdorf: The Best of Both Worlds

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The Huskers combine three of their core philosophies into one streamlined package

Nebraska v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

By now, the recipe for Nebraska’s offensive success in the wake of the NIU loss has coalesced into a streamlined philosophy that is predicated upon running the football and utilizing quick passes on the perimeter to mask Nebraska’s ails in pass protection. Leading up to the Illinois game, Nebraska had delved into this by running the Huskers’ pet RPO play, Inside Zone-Slant/Bubble. Against the Illini, however, a new play was unveiled, combing the inside run Duo play with a quick slant route by the X receiver. This is packaged within another core principle of offensive coordinator Danny Langdorf’s offense: setting the strength of the formation into the boundary (FIB).

As previously discussed, FIB forces the defenses to declare their gap and coverage integrity pre-snap, unless they wish to get out-flanked at the boundary point of attack (POA). Normally, the Huskers have used FIB concepts in the passing game, with a 3 man route combination to the boundary and an isolated route to the field to the X receiver. Against Wisconsin last year, this concept was used on the game-tying drive to force overtime.

In utilizing FIB principles against the Illini, Nebraska packaged Duo with the quick slant from the X receiver into one play, Tribe/Zip to Tribe Duo X Torch. X Torch is a simple tag to tell the X receiver to run a route depending on secondary coverage from the field corner. If a defense wishes to adequately leverage the boundary with even numbers, or a numbers advantage, they will leave the CB covering the X receiver on an island, typically in off-man coverage to prevent getting beat deep, with either late over the top help from the free safety or no help at all. If the corner is in off-man coverage, the X receiver will run a quick slant, hitch, or smoke screen for an easy underneath catch. If the opposing defensive coordinator feels that his corner wins the one-on-one match-up, the corner may be in press coverage, which results in the X receiver running a deep fade route.

On Nebraska’s first drive against Illinois Duo X Torch was unveiled for the first time this season, but unfortunately it resulted in a drop by Stanley Morgan Jr. On the second play of the Huskers’ second offensive drive, Duo X Torch was dialed up again, this time with better success, as SMJ was able to reel it in for a five yard gain. On the play, Illinois is in a Cover 1 look with an inverted strong safety who is the ‘Robber’ on the play to undercut any inward breaking routes like a slant route. To combat this, Stan converts his route on a sight adjust to a snag route in order to shield the inverted safety away from being able to undercut the route. The X Torch tag attached to inside runs is an NFL staple that you’ll see quite frequently on Sunday afternoons, but it was particularly popular, and lethal, for Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. Contemporarily, Drew Brees is quite fond of this concept in New Orleans.

Attacking the field out of FIB sets has long been a cornerstone principle in the Mike Riley era, but this was one of the first times that the Huskers utilized the run to leverage the boundary, typically choosing to utilize the quick game staple of the Spacing concept, with two slant routes and a flat route to force picks/rubs in the condensed area of the boundary. By pairing the FIB principles with NU’s best run play and NU’s best receiving threat into one streamlined play, the Husker offense can play to the strengths of what they do best while remaining simple, thus allowing for the onus to be on execution.

Because of the prevalence of FIB against the Badgers last year, I think that we’ll see a heavy dose of Duo X Torch out of FIB sets this evening, allowing the OL to stay simple in pass protection by executing Duo blocking principles and by isolating Stanley Morgan Jr. out on an island. If the Ditch Weasel cornerbacks or safeties begin getting aggressive in jumping the slant route, I fully expect that we’ll see a Sluggo (Slant and Go) double move to get behind coverage for a big play.

Prediction for Nebraska vs Wisconsin

I missed out on getting my prediction into the prediction article due to work constraints, but I had levied a prediction on the Five Heart Podcast of Nebraska 17 Wisconsin 14, with the first one to 14 being the winner. After thinking about it, I’m going to put an addendum on that score, going with Nebraska 17 Wisconsin 12. I think that the Husker redzone defense will rebuff the Badgers’ forays deep into Husker territory, forcing Wisconsin to settle for four field goals. The key to forcing field goals will rest upon defeating blocks, setting the edge on Wisconsin’s Counter play, and making sure Fumagalli does not get loose in the redzone. Offensively, I think we’ll see a heavy dose of Devine Ozigbo between the tackles, pick/rub routes against Wisconsin’s underneath coverage to spring an open man, and a few timely shots off of playaction.

As always, GBR!