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BCS Championship Review

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Chris Brown, over at Smart Football, reviewed the BCS Championship game. His second point is what really stuck out to me during the game. I watch a lot of PAC 10 ball, so I was really amazed at how Chip Kelly called the game.

Really, I think both coaches outschemed themselves.

First, Chip Kelly. His modus operandi this year has been:

1.  Zone read and variations

2.  Play action/Screens

3.  under 15 seconds between plays

I’m not sure coach Kelly has these defined  like this, but maybe he should.

The first two points are what many teams do frequently. The third point is Oregon’s strength. When I Tevo an Oregon game, I cannot skip ahead 30 seconds between plays. When a play ends for Oregon, I have to rewind 20 to 30 seconds, and then skip 30 seconds forward so that I don’t miss a play.

In the BCS Championship Game, Oregon started out with spread passing. 3-and-out. Then there were 2 drives that Oregon operated under the afore-mentioned parameters. Oregon 1)ran the ball effectively (3+ yards per) and 2)mixed in screens and play action, while 3)maintaining their usual pace. In fact, their pace was incredible- I had to rewind a full 30 seconds then skip 30 second in order to catch the next play. They were spending less than 10 seconds resetting and snapping the football. Auburn was gassed- evidenced by a 12 men on the field penalty and DL player taking a knee on the sideline. You weren’t hearing Nick Fairley’s name, except when a 15 yard penalty was involved.

Oregon got out in front and got a 2-point conversion. It felt like Oregon football. It was tough going, but it was fast-paced and methodical.

And then Kelly came out 1&2)throwing,  going 3-and-out, especially in the second half, and 3)letting the play clock roll down into the 10 second area- unheard of. A lot of gadgets and misuse of the field (bunching to the boundary which naturally limits available grass) and Fairley and Co. get a second wind and tee off on Oregon.

Oregon’s offense was generally ineffective and overschemed. The ball was not put into the playmakers’ hands enough and the fundamentals of the system were ignored.

Auburn took advantage and held Oregon to 19 points.

Auburn’s offense is based on misdirection power football. They are dependent on a bigger line that can pull and lead, and a big QB to pick up 2-3 yards when needed. Passing is based on man routes, and this game showcased double-moves and formations creating natural mis-matches in coverage. The Auburn OL was impressive in protecting Newton, who I think is overrated at QB, but indispensable to the scheme in picking up the 2-3 yards sometimes needed (like Tebow).

Auburn’s running game became effective in the 3rd and 4th quarter, when they leaned on it more. Dyer picked up chunks, it fed the play action, and Newton himself converted 3rd down and short a number of times.

Auburn’s passing game with man routes counted on wide open receivers or throwing the ball up and counting on bigger, better receivers to get it. Auburn had both, and Cam Newton found those well. And when coverage was good, he found yardage with his legs.

Oregon was generally effective in limiting Newton’s big plays, limiting the Auburn run game, and limiting big plays. Auburn’s most effective offensive plays seemed to be bubble screens, flat throws, and out-and-up patterns.

Auburn’s offense was not dominant, nor was it particularly effective. 22 points would be a goal for any defense to be proud of holding Auburn to.

Overall, I think I learned some limits to the Spread Running game. Urban Meyer made a good comment post-game: the spread option offense has the need for a big back or QB to get the yardage in the red zone/GL+5 (Oregon lacked this, Auburn had this) and reinforced the importance of sticking to what one does best.

I thought it was a sloppy, unintelligent game overall, with both coaching staffs overscheming. In the end, Auburn settled into their bread and butter first (out of necessity to run the clock) and came out on top. There is a certain strength in knowing what you do best and doing best what you do best.

In the end, the defenses get the game ball, for making plays and capitalizing on offensive wonkiness. For the game ball, I would give it to Nick Fairley, if he wasn’t such a dishonorable player, so I give it to Auburn’s #5 Michael Dyer, who made tough, determined yards and won the game for Auburn.

If Oregon wins, the ball goes to Casey Mathews, who caused a game-changing fumble out of Cam Newton’s hands as well as being in the thick of the Auburn offense all evening. Yet another underrated Matthews. (I coached his older brother Bryce in High School- nowhere near the motor/determination of Clay jr. and Casey).

For me, the game was a snoozer- Two struggling running offenses trying to do too much outside of what they do best and man passing routes that ended up looking and feeling clumsy an simplistic. Not a great offensive game, regardless of the yards earned an not an interesting game, really.


Written by Jon Ellsworth

January 11, 2011 at 1:15 pm

How BYU got to Sam Bradford

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The reigning Heisman athlete in college football, Sam Bradford, was literally coached into the ground. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a shame to see an all-American kid like him get hurt. These things happen in football.

So how did BYU get to Sam Bradford?

The Spread

The interesting thing about the spread offense in football is that it tries to level the playing field. If you can put your athletes in one-on-one matchups or scheme them into large holes in zone coverage, you can win with less talent or put up ridiculous points with more talent.

At the same time, this strategy puts enormous pressure on the offensive line and Quarterback because they, too are put in more one-on-one matchups. If the defense can figure out how to get number advantages in the small areas between linemen, and can figure out how to cover the field with less defensive backs, the offense can be in for a long day.

Such is the case with Oklahoma and BYU.

This article focuses on BYU’s pressure and coverage package. Oklahoma runs a standard 4-3 defense and put a cover two and cover four shell behind it most of the time. And they could match up man-for-man to pressure because of a distinct talent advantage. So there is nothing interesting about them.

What’s more, the Oklahoma offense was disadvantaged only one NFL-quality tight end. They had the rest of their starting talent on the field. Talent that should be able to put a Mountain West Conference team like BYU in its place.

So what is intriguing is what the underdog did to take down the more talented big dog.

BYU’s Pressure Package

BYU’s defense was impressive all-around. Run support was phenomenal, though sometimes spotty. Most impressive was BYU’s commitment and success in pressuring the passer.

BYU’s successful pressure package took the form of a number of zone blitzes. BYU doesn’t match up man-for-man with Oklahoma’s receivers, so it is necessary for BYU to utilize zone support underneath Oklahoma’s pass schemes, even when pressuring.

What is impressive about BYU’s pressure is that it necessitated vacating one zone coverage defender in order to put an extra player into a blitz. Oklahoma never seemed to find that opening. One particular zone blitz was extremely effective and ended up putting the hurt on Oklahoma, literally.


In this blitz scheme, BYU came from the boundary side. This was also the QB backside, so it was less conspicuous to a right-handed QB like Bradford.

Defensive Line Play

The defensive line was in BYU’s “even” front- a shift of the whole defensive line one man over.

Ends (E) are lined up with one over the tight end or over where the tight end would be, and the other End lining up over the backside Guard.

The Nose Tackle (N) is lined up over the call side guard.

The outside linebacker (S) will then fill in to make an even look, taking a position over the tight end, if present, or over where the tight end would line up, if not present.

The End on the blitz side takes an outside leverage rush, taking the left tackle wide.

The Nose Tackle slants hard away from the blitz, aiming hard for the A gap ad taking the Guard wide away as well.

The other End now takes a hard slant away to control the B and C gaps on the away side, either applying pressure upfield or playing a pseudo-zone position on the edge to discourage a QB scramble and to discourage a quick pass to the short hook/curl zone.

Linebacker Play

The Will (W) and Buc (B) linebackers will be pressuring in this case. Buc strikes first to occupy the Left Guard or Running Back on the blitz side. On this play, it was the running back.

Will follows through, looping inside the End/left tackle and having a free path to the QB if there is no remaining blocker.

The Mike (M) linebacker checks run and then runs hard for the No. 2 defender on the blitz side- a long way to cover. Mike will have responsibility for walling and shadowing under #2 in covering the hook/curl zones on the blitz side.

The Sam (S) linebacker checks run as well and then breaks fast for the No. 2 receiver to wall and shadow No. 2 underneath and cover curl, flat and wheel zones.

Mike and Sam make up the only underneath support coverage.

Safety Play

The Safeties in this scheme cover deep halves and the Corners cover flat and wheel zones in cover-two fashion.


In the instance of Bradford’s injury, the running back came up to block the Buc linebacker and Will ran past the reach of the left tackle, who tried to get back to close his inside gap. Bradford half-rolled away from pressure, but the Will caught him just at release and the rest is history.

Sam Bradford was leveled at least two times from this blitz on his final drive of the game. The second time he left the game with a shoulder sprain. BYU continued to run this blitz against the backup, Landry Jones, who was hit by the free linebacker as well.


It is interesting to note that in one of BYU’s greatest accomplishments as a football team, head coach Bronco Mendenhall found his defensive Coordinator, Jaime Hill, after the game and gave him a big hug.

Why? BYU was well-prepared and well-coached for this game and it showed. They did not waste a single player in space, putting everyone in a position to cover someone and make a play.

Most football teams have a goal defensively to hold opponents to 17 or fewer points per game. That’s two touchdowns and a field goal. Against the likes of Oklahoma, such a goal seams out of reach.

Thirteen points later (1 TD, 2 FG), the story of the day was BYU’s defense. It seems that Bob Stoops was outcoached again.

Written by Jon Ellsworth

September 10, 2009 at 10:29 pm