• Thu. Dec 1st, 2022

UW Huskie’s Film Study: Boulder Middle School Varsity

ByKarla E. Kowalski

Nov 24, 2022

The Washington Huskies dismantled Colorado in a matchup that was just a no-win match for the Buffs. Penix was more conservative than we’ve seen him all season, and the Huskies relied on running play in their slow build-up to secure a blowout win.

Defensively, the Dawgs were able to quell the only offense Colorado had, their running game. The pass defense was hardly tested in the back area, but the pass rush was constant throughout.

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To the movie:

2nd and gate

To kick off the offensive fireworks against the buffs, we have the first of a handful of Red Zone Run plays that would be worthwhile. As we said in Film Study last week when we broke down Cam Davis’ TD vs Oregon, this core concept, Weakside Inside Zone, is one of our bread-and-butter run games. As many long-time readers will recall, this was one of our favorite tracks under John Donovan as well. So what made it work when it was so ineffective last year? It’s all about window dressing and how it builds the game with specific looks.

The game begins with a Formation into the Boundary (FIB) bundle look with Wayne Taulapapa aimed at the bundle with the shotgun. Conversely, Colorado plays a flat 2-high shell with base 4-3 staff and the DTs shadowed downfield. Based on coverage tendencies and their alignments, we can assume they are playing Cover 4. As Grubb likes to do, he manipulates buff defense through his use of pre-snap shifts. On this play, he fields Jack Westover across the formation to a wing-h-back orientation and Wayne moves to the field side of Penix. This shift flips the formation’s run strength, but Colorado only adjusts by knocking over its LBs to accommodate the change in passing strength, with the field OLB playing as an overhang defender. When you knock your LBs over to account for passing strength, you usually see some adjustment of the DL to account for LBs being in different orientations and swapping responsibilities for passability. However, since the DL didn’t shift to adjust and didn’t turn any of the fuses in the pits, we now have 6v6 in the pits and two double teams on the DTs, a very favorable inside run look.

The second key element of the game design that builds the TD is how we account for the containment defender. Zone blocking is great because the rules allow for maximum flexibility at the attack point, but they don’t account for the contain/chase defender at the back. To accommodate this, attacks either need an RB so incredibly talented that they can miss that defender in backcourt, or they need to accommodate that defender with some other schematic mechanic. This can be an additional extra blocker (like a TE or FB), a fake bootleg to keep the defender in check, a QB read (either option or RPO), or with movement like we’ve done here. Because Colorado didn’t bump the EDGE field outside of Westover after the shift, we can assume the overhang field is playing OLB containment. Again this is an ideal look for this game because we are using Jalen McMillan in jet motion to keep the contain defender face up and the further the containment defender is from the attack point the harder it is for that defender to do that to spy pretend and make a play on the RB.

With the double teams on the DTs down to the 2 Box LBs and the containment defender held in place, Wayne was able to hit the hole at full speed and split the gap between the safeties and the slow-reacting containment defender to head into the end zone roll . While we didn’t have that exact look every time, the staff clearly saw different aspects of Colorado’s erroneous run-fits against Weakside Inside Zone in their game planning because we used variations of that exact play on each of our 5 rushing touchdowns and Colorado never adjusted to to stop it.

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1st and 10th

Next we have this fun game design that we drove for a TD on the next ride. That jet sweep double reverse throwback screen is one of the coolest game designs I’ve seen from Grubb all year, and it’s a great example of why he’s such a good OC.

The key to “tricking” games like this is timing and how we manipulate the defense’s response to playing against them. Based on Colorado’s film, Grubb must have known that they had this 3-high wrap in their playbook and that certain down/distance/formation looks would draw them more towards that look. This ultra-conservative reporting look is key to this piece’s success because it gives this piece time to develop. On the snap, Colorado has only 5 defenders in the box and none of the CBs are within 5 yards of the LOS. Since the game involves double reverse action with 2 WRs moving into the backfield, any CB chasing the WRs into the box from a flatter orientation would have blown the game. The same could be said if we had one of the safes in the box. However, with such a conservative bias from the DBs, they are far enough removed that even if they diagnose the game, they are unable to make the game, thereby reducing our risk.

As for defense manipulation, this theme layers the different parts of the game to perfectly set up the throwback screen. The DL is in a tight alignment that gives up edges and relies on an aggressive running fit of the overhang LBs to curb perimeter runs. With the initial jet sweep, we attack the edge of the field hard and force a hard flow off the LBs. With the reverse action, we catch the defense off guard and force them back onto the field. However, due to the backfield eye candy and initial jet sweep, the defense completely ignores the fact that our OL is still coming out to the field side boundary with McMillan, so when Penix finally throws back to McMillan, we have a convoy of 6 blockers in front of our sneakiest yards -after catch receiver with only 3 initial threats and a defender (DT #99) that McMillan has to miss before hitting the 1st down marker. From there, McMillan does what McMillan does and puts the rest of the defense on skates on his way to the end zone.

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4th and 6th

As we transitioned to the other side of the ball, we wanted to highlight how staff made adjustments to better reflect our defensive strengths and weaknesses. Here, on the 4th and 6th, Colorado is in a pretty clear passing situation considering how poorly their rushing attack had been going on a down-to-down basis up to that point. Your offensive lines up in a nub-bundle formation to try to capitalize on our poor coverage against bundles and stacked WR formations. However, instead of playing the bunch from our 1-high shell with 3 DBs directly over the bunch and a deep safety mostly off-frame in midcourt like earlier in the season, we played a modified version of our 2-high shell .

Instead of trying to maintain the +1 coverage advantage for the field with 3 primary DBs and the deep security, we instead moved Eddie Ulofoshio to the overhang orientation as our additional cover defender and bumped Dom Hampton to a more traditional CB orientation while rotating Jordan Perryman backs away from the LOS to an almost safe alignment outside of Asa Turner. This is a fantastic adjustment as it impacts our staff.

Eddie has never been our best coverage LB, but he’s definitely useable when he just needs to provide inside support against shallow slump routes. Dom sometimes struggled when asked to carry WRs vertically or on breaking routes, but as an outside flat defender he can read the QB and WR all the way with the sideline for extra help behind him on breaking routes. Perryman wasn’t great at route breaking either, but his deep alignment allows him to sit on the ball, read, and drive on deeper breaking routes, rather than having to run a WR all the way through the route, and when he does must carry a WR vertically on the touchline, he has a 9 yard pad to protect him. Turner has been the most consistent coverman of the four in the field, so he bears the greatest responsibility. However, he really only needs to pick up the deep crossers and posts that would come out of the pile, so even then he’s well supported.

From a runnability point of view, this adjustment might seem a bit precarious as Eddie plays further out and we might open up to an inside run like the play Nix scored the other week. In theory, however, we should still be relatively sane even with our pass rush subpackage as Bright should be shielded from Voi and ZTF long enough to hit the fieldside B gap on a running play and Cook should have better boxing security than Cover Man, still plays a relatively flat alignment where he can factor in a border run fit.

It’s not an ideal fit for the run, but it’s good to see the defensive staff are willing to try new things to shore up weaknesses in our guards with the pieces they have on hand.

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4th and 2nd

Getting back to offense and what we broke down in the first game, let’s revisit our concept of the inner zone’s weak side. This time, however, let’s see what this piece looks like without all the window dressing and why it’s so important.

Here on the 4th and 2nd, we’re set up in a three-open formation, with Westover targeting near field and Cam Davis targeting passing strength. As in the first play, we move Westover into the blocking front, but this time it’s a short move to the same side of the field instead of across the formation. Because the pass strength doesn’t change, Colorado doesn’t adjust its alignment much other than moving the defender that was over Westover into the formation on the LOS and bumping the rim defender that side into the B gap. Colorado also has a late rotation of their safes, putting one in as a 7th box defender, likely because they were expecting a run.

Colorado’s DL orientation is also less advantageous for us in this game. Instead of 2 DTs shaded to the TE, they instead have a wide playside OLB on the LOS, a 5-tech DE, a 0-tech NT, a backside 3-tech, and the new backside OLB on the LOS. Due to the extra bodies and alignments on the LOS, we can’t get duplicate teams on both DTs like we were on the first game. Because we don’t use the move to hold the backside container player, Westover is forced to block him instead of moving to box safety, which eventually trips Cam Davis for a short win. While the game was still successful, it felt like we were trying a little too hard to play Bully Ball rather than using any of the additional aspects of game design that were so successful with the earlier TD game.

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