The running game presented a very interesting story. In the videos below I breakdown what was new in the running game and the adjustments made on both sides during the game. Why did Alabama stop the run so much better coming out of half time? What exactly was going on?
First Half Breakdown:
Second Half Breakdown:
[UPDATE: After further review, I noticed that of all the times we pulled a lineman in the first half, only once did we run it away from the 3 Technique (DT lined up just outside the OG) side. And on that one play the DT slanted toward the Center thus allowing an easier block. So, there was no reason to scrap it completely in the second half. We just needed to make sure that if a DT lines up as a 3 Technique that we run toward his side and not away!]
How did we go from a terrible offense to one that scored 31 points in a half against one of the best defenses in the country. What happened?
The run game struggled in the second half. Why? I sought the answer to these questions. The passing gameplans have been very good the last few games, while the run game has been where I’ve had the most beef with the offense over the year. There were some very good things in this game and some negatives that result from the type of offense that we run.
In order to understand what happened, you have to understand what our offense is and how it works.
- One big problem I’ve had with our zone read (and been harping on all season) is that we run it where the RB and the QB go to the same side as the read man. The vast majority of the time the read man ended up making the tackle. And when I say the vast majority, I’m not just exaggerating or saying that out of nowhere. I mean literally. I’ve diagrammed every run play the entire season.
The only times it has worked for more than just a couple of yards (other than KSU, whose DE just wasn’t athletic enough) are when the RB bent it back to the backside (hence ending up with the QB and RB going to opposite sides).
As the season has gone along I’ve noticed that more and more often the RB has bent it to the backside like this. And in the last couple of games all of them have that bend where it looks like the RB’s aiming point is actually the backside guard instead of the frontside guard. Finally!
Josh said that it’s been a learning curve with the pistol zone read. I can’t help but wonder if this is a large part of what he’s referring to.
Even better, most of the zone reads we ran were new plays with the QB and RB going in opposite directions and it was much more successful (at least in terms of not allowing the read man to make the tackle).
We were still reading LB’s off the ball a lot instead of linemen which is another frustrating thing. I think this led to some of the problems we had running the ball in this game.
- I think there’s a misconception among many fans that all plays are called in the heat of the moment, as if there’s an infinite number of plays they can call (like a video game).
For example, the end around for a score at the end of the first half…it’s not that it was a great CALL (even though the timing was good), it’s that it was a good play package.
That play was set up by several different plays in the first half. Right before that on the previous possession 2 identical plays were run close together to make sure the defense would remember and react to it. They faked that play with the receiver sneaking around and going the opposite direction. They knew before the game started that they were going to call the play like that.
- I think there’s another big misconception about our team in regards to adjustments.
Because of our offensive philosophy we can’t really “adjust” like other teams. That’s why I was so concerned going into halftime. I knew Saban would make the right adjustments on defense, but we can’t. Sure enough, they made a few critical adjustments (which I go over in the video) that shut down our running game. And we weren’t able to run the ball much at all after that.
The reason we can’t adjust like other teams is because we don’t have plays that do that. You can’t just draw up a brand new play in the locker room and go out and run it. It has to be something that’s in your gameplan that you’ve practiced.
The great offenses all have something in common. All of their plays have a purpose and relate in some way to their basic scheme, their bread and butter play(s). They have a few plays that they know they can have success with against anyone. Plays they have perfected that they believe are really powerful and difficult to stop, plays that take full advantage of their players.
They also know everything a defense can do to stop it and they have plays that take advantage of these defensive adjustments. These plays look like their basic scheme to keep the defense from keying on the formation or player movement.
So, in games it becomes a back and forth chess match with the defense adjusting to take away something the offense is doing, then the offense will run something to take advantage of that adjustment, this forces the defense to either stop doing that adjustment or add another adjustment to stop this new play.
If the defense stops doing their initial adjustment then the offense goes back and runs their main play/scheme, forcing the defense to either go back to their first adjustment or try a new one. This back and forth happens the whole game.
- For example, in the first half Ford had a really big run on a certain trap play. When we went back to it, the DE squeezed down the line to fit inside the pulling guard, not allowing the trap. It ended up in no gain.
Ideally, you’d then run a play out of the same formation (or something similar) that takes advantage of the DE squeezing down (which makes him easy to reach block and/or seal inside) and once he stops squeezing down you go back to the play you had success with.
But, we have no such play. So, Josh just scrapped it and never went back to it again.
- Something I’ve noticed about Josh is that he is way too quick to abandon something that works. For example, in the first half we were having a lot of success running the ball by pulling a lineman. Most of the running plays we ran in that half pulled a linemen.
But on the first running play of the second half their DT aggressively shot like a dart into the backfield so that the center couldn’t have time to block him (the center has to block him, even though he’s lined up over the guard, so that the guard can pull). The DT came through unblocked and hit the QB in the backfield.
This might be because we were running the play away from the 3 technique DT side. The 3 tech DT lines up between the OG and OT, way away from the Center making it really hard for the Center to get to him. The DT on the OTHER side is lined up over the gap next to the Center. It’s possible that the solution would have been as simple as only running the pulling plays away from the 3 technique.
Regardless, from that play forward Josh didn’t pull a single linemen. This, probably more than anything, killed our running game.
But, there’s no reason to give up on it. At the very least sprinkle it in every now and then. The defender will forget about it as he’s busy trying to adjust to the other plays. Ideally, though, try to take advantage of this adjustment and scare him from doing it again so you can go back to what was working!
Thankfully, I think this is something that can be learned and is likely due to him being relatively new at calling plays. I can understand a young play-caller overreacting and over-adjusting like that.
- The way our running gameplan works is that we have a bunch of unrelated “packages” that are brand new and get put in every game. They are brand new formations and often new schemes. And those packages often consist of a few plays that look similar but attack different things.
That’s good, except we only run them once each and then that’s it. Then it’s off to a different package. If there’s a play that was really successful he might run it once, or maybe twice, later on in the game, but that’s it.
There’s no rhyme or reason to it, we just run all the plays once each. Even if they don’t adjust to the first play, we’ll still run the other play. It’s never a case of all 3 or 4 plays in the package working. It’s always only one or two that work. That makes sense seeing as how they attack different things.
But, running 3 or 4 plays only to have half (or less) of them work is not a good percentage. That means you’re wasting a couple of downs (or more) on a given drive.
Since all the different packages are completely different from each other, it’s impossible to predict which plays will have success. You can’t look at how they are playing and strategically choose which one will be most likely to work (and which ones definitely won’t). It’s just a crapshoot.
None of the rest of our more standard recurring plays have counters in the game plan. So, if the defense stops one of them all we can do is try something else and see if it works, and Josh usually abandons the previous one completely.
- In the sugar bowl we were fortunate that all the packages used in the first half worked really well (minus a play or two from each) and at very opportune times.
The packages were very smartly designed and difficult to stop! Kudos for that are definitely appropriate!
In the second half we had no more packages (or maybe Josh refused to run them because they involved pulling a linemen?) so we were left with our basic plays.
One adjustment he did make that did work (although only once) was to try the outside zone play which we hadn’t run all game. This makes sense to do when the DT’s are sprinting into the backfield at the snap and DE’s are pinching down. We ended up getting about 6 yards on the play.
However, it didn’t work after that. One time was because of a LB, but the other time it was because of the safety being really aggressive (the other big adjustment Alabama made at halftime), other than that the blocking worked great and would have been a big play had the lead blocker blocked the charging safety instead of helping out on a LB.
We never ran it again after that.
We did run one play from the first half that worked for about 5 yards. The rest were just base blocking which wasn’t very effective except for when Clay made an amazing play reversing field and going the other way. But that wasn’t scheme.
We didn’t run plays to take advantage of that overly aggressive safety, which would have been pretty easy to do with play action, I would think. We didn’t call running plays to take advantage of the blitzing in the 4th quarter (like the speed option or going back to the outside zone).
- So Alabama definitely won the adjustments battle on this side of the ball. But, our QB and RB made just enough big time plays, josh called a couple of brilliant screen passes, our defense came up big, and we were able to beat the mighty Crimson Tide.
Our OL did fantastic! Especially since they were so moved around. Savage did really well and will be great next year. I couldn’t be more proud of them! Really proud of the fight in our guys and the execution of the players. And I’m glad to see Josh growing in his understanding of the zone read! There’s definitely reason to be excited about next season!
You must log in to post a comment. Log in now.