Programming note: due to the short game week, this week’s Charts and Decoding Langsdorf articles will be in condensed into one breakdown. Short week, short breakdown.
After a week in which Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst was sacked by the powers that be, there was yet a game to be played and the game perfectly encapsulated the rollercoaster nature synonymous thus far with the 2017 football season. A solid start followed by a stretch of doldrums was how the day unfolded, before giving way to a Nebraska offensive approach that looked directly out of 1999, with 22 personnel, the hand-off run game, and an offensive line getting into a lather. This breakdown is dedicated in your honor, #RTDB Guy.
Nebraska ran the ball 47 times out of 73 total snaps for a total of 197 yards, paced by tailback Devine Ozigbo at 101 yards. Following Ozigbo’s gritty performance were tailbacks Mikale Wilbon with 78 yards, and true freshman Jaylin Bradley with 16 yards. All told, Nebraska’s tailback triumvirate combined for 195 yards on 44 attempts, for an average yards per carry (ypc) of 4.43.
After QB Tanner Lee’s third pick-six of the season against Rutgers, the triage unit was mobilized to assess Nebraska ails and place a priority on what needed to be fixed and how. Starting on the 3 yard line at the 10:59 mark of the 3rd quarter, the plan to cure the offense’s ails was put into action by going on 17 play drive that included only one run concept being ran on 8 out of 17 plays. That play would be the nasty, resolute, and downhill play known as Gap-Duo, which we’ll hereafter refer to simply as ‘Duo’. Duo allowed Nebraska to work natural angles and double teams to their advantage, while also reducing penetration on plays involving a puller from the Rutgers defensive line.
Duo: Nebraska ran Duo a grand total of 31 times out 44 total tailback run attempts for a total of 130 yards, at 4.19 ypc. Duo is an NFL run game staple, with the Cowboys, Raiders, and Steelers all being very fond of the play. At the college level however, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team that runs Duo, let alone at the rate Nebraska does. Their loss.
Counter: Nebraska unofficially ran the Counter concept 4 times for 9 yards, for a ypc of 2.25 yards (one Counter play was blown dead due to a procedural penalty). Officially, the Huskers ran Counter 3 times for 12 yards, for 4.0 ypc.
Pin & Pull: Against the Scarlet Knights, the Huskers only dialed up ‘Steeler’ one time for no gain. For those keeping track at home, 1 attempt, 0.0 ypc.
Inside Zone: Nebraska’s usage of the Inside Zone was dependent upon utilizing the Slice variation of the play. All told ‘Slice’ accumulated 43 yards on 4 attempts, 10.75 ypc. Slice was generally utilized as the run component on Nebraska’s favorite RPO concept, which you can read about over at www.huskerchalktalk.com
Outside Zone: The Huskers dusted off the Outside Zone blocking scheme and it netted the Huskers 0 yards on 1 attempt.
Ancillary Runs: OC Danny Langsdorf did not dial up any ancillary runs against Rutgers.
Power: Yes, you read that right. For the first time since the Foster Farms Bowl against UCLA in 2015, Nebraska ran the true Power O run play, in all of its nasty, resolute, and downhill glory. For the game, Nebraska ran Power 3 times for 13 yards, an average of 4.33 ypc.
As you’ll recall from the June install of the Duo play in the Decoding Langsdorf series, Duo was referred to as “power without a puller” by offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh at the 2016 Nebraska Coaches Clinic. By not pulling a guard and thereby gaining an extra double team on the line of scrimmage, the blocking surface hedges against any potential run-thru’s by linebackers and also mitigates any issues in lacking the personnel to pull and/or any frontside penetration issues. However, this brings us to the Decoding Langsdorf portion of this condensed breakdown, power with a puller. Power, also colloquially known as ‘God’s Play’ in some vernaculars, is typically ran to the 3 technique side in order to get a frontside double team block at the point of attack. There are two main schools of thought on Power, that differ based upon defensive response: if there is no down defender inside of the TE threatening C gap, the in-line TE (Y) will block down to the MIKE to pin him inside. If there is a down defender threatening C gap that is aligned inside of the TE, the TE will pin this defender inside and the kick-out man will block the EMOL.
On the frontside, the TE or wing player will block down to pin either MIKE or the EMOL inside, while a fullback or H-Back will kick-out either the EMOL or the force player; the latter of which is similar to Nebraska’s Lead play. The backside guard (BSG) will pull around to the POA to block #1 FSLB.
On the first play of Nebraska’s second to last drive of the game, the Huskers come out in a Formation Into Boundary (FIB) set out of 22 personnel, a contrast from Nebraska typically utilizing FIB from 11 personnel. Rutgers does not over-extend themselves to leverage the boundary, operating out of a 2 high coverage shell to better defend the field, with 7 men in the box aligned in a 3-4 Under alignment. With the 3 tech set to the field in the Under front, Nebraska is without the double team at the POA, but has the defense out-leveraged by being able to account for the both the MIKE run-thru into the open B gap with the pulling guard, while also accounting for the MIKE playing over the top into the C gap with the H-Back looking to pin him back inside.
Power is an attitude play, working angles and double teams to assert the offense’s dominance over the defense in order to punch holes into defensive fronts. For the tailback, Power is read on an inside-out tract, as he will read his ABC’s for a crease in the defense, going A gap, B gap, C gap. The logic for this is if there is a 3 tech on the frontside of Power, the double team block will eliminate the 3 from slanting into the A gap or holding his ground in the B gap, while the pulling guard will induce frontside flow toward the POA from the MIKE. If all else fails, with the 3 tech slanting to the A or holding B and the MIKE flowing frontside, the tailback will take the ball into the C gap behind either a pulling guard or the kick-out of the fullback.
In the video, you’ll see that Ozigbo takes the ball up the B gap, off of the down block of Tanner Farmer, as Farmer is able to block the 2i down*, with brief help from Brendan Jaimes on a ‘Doctor’ call. Speaking of line calls, the blocking assignments on the frontside of Power are identical to the frontside of Counter. In fact, the two plays are identical, except that the BSG pulls and wraps rather than pulls and kicks; in addition to the pathology of calling Power. Power is an attitude play that coaches love to call regardless of circumstance, but especially so when the EMOL is anchoring to the outside or flying straight up the field. Although Power resided within the pages of the Osborne Nebraska playbook, Power was rarely called due to the fact that most DE’s and EMOL’s were keying in on the QB on the option, rather than flying straight upfield or out to the perimeter.
*The Rutgers defensive line shifts just before the snap in attempt to confuse to the Husker offensive line. Center Michael Decker, in his first start, did a fantastic job of keeping everyone on the same page with the correct line calls.
Anytime a team starts the season with struggles and a less than desirable record, it always necessitates two things, a “come to Jesus” moment and a triaging of what is precipitating the struggles. Lee’s third pick six of the season may have been the come to Jesus moment of the 2017 season, while the corresponding 97 yard drive came as a result of triaging our issues and opting to work down blocks and double teams with Duo. It’s always difficult to reconcile what a coach thinks an offense can be with what an offense presently is in the here and now, but here we are. Going forward, I think that a reliance on the run, particularly Duo; paired with the quick passing game and play action, will allow the #Wideouts to get open downfield in the vertical passing game.
In conclusion, consider this article my formal application for probationary membership into the #RTDB Club, as that gives us our best recipe to win until we can troubleshoot the QB, pass pro, and lack of separation issues in the vertical passing game.
As you all know this week marked the passing of Corn Nation’s venerated leader, Brian Towle. Although I never met Brian in person, I conversed with him in some form or function nearly everyday for the past year. It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting in the UNO Criss Library when my phone buzzed with a Twitter direct message from Brian asking if I’d be interested in doing these breakdowns for Corn Nation. Although I had never considered doing something like this, I am glad that I did as I am deeply honored to have known Brian, if only electronically. I know that I’ll miss discussing Husker football and a wide range of topics with BT. I am indebted to the opportunity he gave me to write about the X’s and O’s of Nebraska football and for that I will forever be thankful. I always enjoyed hearing his stories about his family; Kelly, Brock, and Emerson, and they have my deepest condolences.
RIP, my friend.