Bowl: Why We Couldn’t Stop the Run!

Running Defense Breakdown
(part one):

Running Defense Breakdown
(part two):

Cheat Sheet:

 1. This was a very hard one to figure out. Honestly, I don’t think it is one big thing that caused the problem. I think it’s several things that give Clemson a little advantage and those things added up.

2. Our DL did not play poorly. We did miss Walker absolutely. There seemed to be a fall off after Tapper, Wade/Romar, and possibly Dimon. Their RT is really good so it’s hard to know how much of it is due to that or how much is due to Dimon being not as good as the others. Ward also came in for Dimon instead of Walker. Tapper did really well and we will definitely miss him! Without him I’m not sure we stop any of their running game.

3. Our DL seemed to wear out after the first quarter, or maybe the Clemson OL woke up. But we didn’t do a very good job getting off blocks consistently after that first quarter. We didn’t get pushed way back except for against combo blocks. There is an occasional exception when a DLman got pushed back one on one, but we usually held our own.

4. Their OL is really good at combo blocking and that hurt us. A combo block is when you double team a DLman and use that two on one advantage to push him back and then depending on which direction the LB goes one of the OLman in the combo block peels off and blocks the LB. This is something our OL has struggled with this season, especially early on.

Part of it is due to how good the OLmen are and part of it is due to how well the DL plays it. To stop a combo block the DLman has to split the two blockers so that when one peels off he can still have leverage and make a play. When he does this correctly it usually results in both OLmen staying on the double team and the LB coming unblocked to make the tackle. They are usually coached to stay on the double if that happens as they’d rather have the RB on the LB than on a DLman.

They did a great job combo blocking and we didn’t do a very good job defending it. There were a few times we played it well, but most of the time we didn’t.

5. A big part of it is due to the QB being such a big part of the running game. If the offense is called well then the defense will never be able to outnumber the offense in the running game without putting both safeties into the box (or the equivalent). That means that the only way to defend it is by getting off of blocks.

6. Both their QB and RB are really fast! They were able to consistently outrun our LBers (who are not slow) to the outside and turn the corner without them even being within arms length. That hurts our ability to defend!

7. Their RB is very very good. He reminds me of Dom Whaley! He is not only quick, but he is fierce! He plays every play like he’s on fire. His feet literally never stop moving and there are multiple instances where he was met near the line of scrimmage but his feet kept going 100 mph and the pile eventually moved forward another 5 to 7 yards! He plays with desperation and that’s really hard to defend.

8. Our LBers were really good! Evans, Shannon, and Alexander all were almost unblockable by OLmen. They did a really good job of avoiding blocks. That and Tapper are just about the only positives for OU on this side of the ball regarding the run game.

9. Missed tackles were a problem, but really there were only 4 plays in the first 3 quarters that I thought were legitimate missed tackles. If a defender by all rights shouldn’t be able to make a tackle but uses his athleticism to get a hand on the ball carrier, I don’t count that as a missed tackle. To be fair, those missed tackles were really great plays by the ball-carriers so it’s not like they were just whiffing easy tackles. They were just playing against a different level of competition and just weren’t good enough at times.

10. One of the biggest differences in Clemson/Alabama’s running game and OU’s is that they know how to use numbers and leverage. That’s what a great running game coach does. They know how to use different blocking schemes to keep the blockers with as much leverage as possible and call plays to where the defense is weak. This is possibly the most important part of a running game. Riley didn’t come from a running scheme background like some of these other coaches (like Briles). The Deleware Wing-T and its offshoots have had a tremendous influence on many coaches. Riley and our staff don’t have that.

Conversely, our defense had some really bad alignment against some formations and basically gave them easy runs a few times. This is something we need to work on in both sides of the ball.