I know I promised some game analysis at the beginning of the season but since I am back in school I have found myself to be a little busier than expected. I really don’t have the time to do a full game analysis but I will instead try and deliver smaller mini-analyses.
I FINALLY got around to watching the Tennessee game and took some notes. My usual notes consist of formation, personnel package, down and distance, types of plays, etc., and I found a few interesting things.
As you may recall, I noted that Tedford is excellent at setting up the defense. In my Audibles and Options post, I explained that often a play will be called which will look like a play already called, but it is in fact a play which counters the defense’s counter. The relevant excerpt is here:
"An additional benefit of option plays - besides the aforementioned ability to choose the better play - is the possibility of setting up the defense. Often defensive players will be trying to decode the offense’s hand signals and verbal codes. After a few instances of verbal or physical signaling, the offense will continue to use those signals regardless of what the real play may be thus confusing the defense (because the defense will have seen the same signals result in two different plays). An even deadlier trick is when the offense calls a play that is a counter to the defense’s counter to what the defense thinks the play may be. For example, if the defense thinks that the offense is calling play A, they will call their best counter defense such as play B, but the offense is really in play C which is not only a counter to the defense’s play B but gives the same look as play A (for an example of this refer to Cal @ Washington in 2002). Naturally, Tedford is very good at this because he is a master at chess, a genius, and God."
Although in that paragraph I was referencing the use of similar looking plays for "option plays" (in the audible sense and not the Air Force Triple option sense), the same theory applies for regular plays too.
We have seen Tedford "set up" the defense before. The most notable example, which many of you may know since I always reference it, was against Washington in 2002. Tedford called a WR screen play, then later showed the same formation and called a fake WR screen which was actually a pass play to the TE and resulted in a touchdown.
If you were at the Tennessee game, you also saw Tedford "set up" the defense again. In fact, you saw Tedford do more than just set up the defense, he did it multiple times with multiple plays. For this first mini-analysis I will only go over one of those plays.
Play 1: The basic setup
The first step in setting up the defense is showing them your "bait" play (the term "bait" is not some official football term, not to my knowledge at least, but it’s what I’ll use to describe the first play). The first bait play is out of shotgun with a bunch formation. Look at the first picture, the pre-snap picture. Something to notice beforehand is that Forsett is towards the strong side of the formation prior to the snap (the side of the bunch).
(The bait play aside, here’s a quick note: notice that Desean Jackson is at split-end by himself (at the bottom of the frame). This formation is smart because it takes advantage of two threats: the bunch and THA1. Normally, a defense will adjust and slide towards the bunch to respect it, but doing so can also leave their flanks vulnerable to THA1. Essentially the defense is forced to choose. Respect THA1 or respect the bunch?)
Now prior to the snap, the second TE (Morrah) is motioned over towards the weak side of the formation (picture below).
The ball is snapped, and the "bait" play is a run towards the weak side of the formation from shotgun (picture below). This play resulted in a loss of 3 yards (Tennessee might have thought this was a good thing but their over-confidence will come back to bite them later).
Play 2: The add-on
The second play builds off of the first play. I’ll just call it the "add-on." Once again, Tedford comes out in the same formation. Shotgun, bunch formation, THA1 at split end opposite of the bunch, and Forsett towards the strong side of the formation (the fact that the formation is flipped from the first play is irrelevant for the purposes of understanding the set up and Tedford’s genius).
and the same pre-snap motion of the second TE (picture below).
The play itself is different though. Longshore fakes the run (picture below)
and instead will pass the ball (picture below).
This in itself is a trick (but I shall not garner it with the ultimate "trick" label because there is more!). The Tennessee defense, was probably thinking Cal was going to run the ball. Of course they know a pass is always an option, but the fact that they had seen this formation before and it was a run probably had more of the defense inclined to believe it was a run. This particular play against this particular defense and with Longshore’s particular decision resulted in a pass to Morrah for 6 yards.
Play 3: The (ultimate) trick
Here is why Tedford is considered one of the leading minds in offensive football and one of the best "chess" players out there. For the 3rd play, Tedford AGAIN shows the same formation. Shotgun, bunch, Forsett towards the strong side, and THA1 at split-end away from the bunch (picture below).
Tedford AGAIN shows the same pre-snap motion, Morrah in motion to the weak side (picture below).
The ball is snapped (picture below). Longshore hands off the ball to Forsett! It’s a run! It’s the first play that Tedford showed! But then Forsett tosses the ball to THA1 on a REVERSE! It’s NOT the same play as the first play (the set-up) or second play (the add-on). The Tennessee defense is caught off guard. I’m sure many of you guys/gals remember this play, this play resulted in a 1st down and big gain.
Final Analysis Thoughts:
One thing I purposefully didn’t mention at first, was down and distance. Did you happen to catch what down and distance all those plays were called on? If you did, great! If you didn’t, before you go back and look, take a guess. What would be the most logical down to call all those plays if you’re purposely baiting the defense? The answer is 1st and 10 (do it again, go, bears!). Tedford called all three plays on 1st and 10s. This IS NOT a coincidence. Besides being the first new down, and very memorable to the defensive coordinator, he wants the defense to think that they’re on to one of his tendencies. That is, a tendency to call that formation on 1st and 10, and also to run out of that formation (We’ll say he wanted Tennessee to think his tendency was to run since the basic set up play was a run, and the add-on/mini-trick play was a playaction play).
Notice how Tennessee came out in the same formation all three times to defend the play. They came out in a 4-3 with the LBs shifted over towards the bunch in a quasi 4-3 under formation (but not really a true 4-3 under formation). The defensive’s consistency in defending this formation with this particular defense probably means two things: they played right in to Tedford’s hands (by chance/luck) or Tedford scouted Tennessee and knew that they would come out in that formation to defend a shotgun bunch and built plays to take advantage of their defense.
Lastly, keep in mind the evolution of the play calls is paramount. A playaction play is most effective AFTER the defense has seen the running play out of the same formation. And a reverse play is most effective AFTER the defense has seen the running play out of the same formation.
These three plays above are an example of the "chess game" that you always hear about. The game which is waged between each team’s offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. Tedford is a God when it comes to chess. He SETS UP the defense. He has counter plays for his normal plays. They may look the same pre-snap but can be 2-3 different plays.
And I know a lot of fans have been complaining (such as over on the BearInsider) that the offense has been a little vanilla lately (against CSU and LA Tech) but I think there is a reason for this. Tedford doesn’t want to use all the tricks in his book. If he can beat weaker teams with a vanilla offense he will. There is no need to play all his trump cards or tricks on CSU if we don’t have to. Remember, other teams down the road (some of which happen to be sort of good, and I’m thinking of a team whose name helps spell the word "suck," and another team who has ugly uniforms year after year, and possibly another team which wears pansy baby blue) are going to be watching film on us. Do you think Boise State’s statue of liberty play would have worked if they had used it during the regular season? Maybe, but less likely. Oklahoma said they watched every game and had seen every two-point conversion play. Had they seen the play before then the element of surprise is gone.
And I know that sometimes the playcalling might look a little predictable but there is a reason for that too (this sort of ties in with the vanilla offense). I’m sure many fans thought they knew what the play was going to be, and lo and behold when the play was what they thought it was they "knew" it was going to be that play. You’re thinking like how Tedford wants the defense to think. You’re falling into his trap. He wants to you think you know what’s coming. Because as soon as you think that, he’s going to give you the good ol’ 1-2 punch and haymaker you to the floor.
So the next time you "think" you know what the play will be, ask yourself if you really know what’s coming. Do you really know? Or do you just think you know? Are you going to see the "bait" play again? Or the "trick" play?