Okay, I hate U$C. I do. In many ways. But instead of me ranting about why, I’ll leave that up to my blog-brothers.
Instead I want to talk about how I think we might gameplan $C this Saturday. $C’s base defense is the 4-3 under. It’s a variant of the 4-3 defense that puts a linebacker on the LOS across from the offense’s strong side. It looks like $C is often in a 5-2, but it’s not. Like I said it’s a 4-3 with the SLB on the LOS to the offense’s strong side. The FS will often drop into the weak side of the box to provide run-stop support on rushing downs. Putting so many men in the box obviously helps with stopping the running game and also with the outside containment. $C will probably use this formation against us in non-obvious passing downs when we utilize 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end).
While the 4-3 under is a solid defense against the run, I do expect us to still run against it. The key for the 4-3 defense to stop the run is keeping containment on the run and flowing the play back towards the WLB. I think the defense can be beat with strong side runs where an OL blocker takes out the WLB.
I’ve been theorizing ways to beat the 4-3 Under for the past 24 hours and came up with a blocking scheme that could do it. So I began searching through my Cal Football DVDs for film on us running a base running play out of 21 personnel (two backs and one tight end) against a defense to see how we like to block things. Normally we block with the backside guard pulling. I figured the 4-3 Under could be beat with the same blocking scheme as long as the backside guard can take out the WLB flowing to the play. But that seemed a little difficult considering that the backside guard would have to pull one direction, then turn around to look the way he came for the WLB (the guard would practically be doing a big U). I’ve seen them do this before so I don’t think it’s uncommon. Anyways. I began searching for film of us running this play. The DVD in my laptop was of the Oregon State game this year. So I began looking and found even better! I found a play of us running a running play out of the Strong-I against Oregon St., but not only that, Oregon St. was in the 4-3 Under! Exactly what I was looking for. So let me show you how I think Tedford will attack $C’s base defense on running plays out the I-formation with 21 personnel.
Look at the picture below. That’s everything pre-snap. Notice we’re in the Strong-I formation (strong because the fullback [herein referred to as the FB] is towards the TE Craig Stevens who is on the left side of the line). OSU comes out in a 4-3 under. Notice the four down DLmen. The 5th guy on the LOS is the strong side linebacker (SLB). This is what makes it a 4-3 under. The SLB on the LOS (line of scrimmage) on the offense’s strong side. The other two OSU LBs are on the 18 yardline shifted over towards the offense’s strong side (left side). Note that OSU’s MLB (middle linebacker) is just above the hash on the 18 yardline, and the OSU WLB (weakside linebacker) is just below the hash on the 18 yardline. Remember, I said the key for the 4-3 Under defense is to keep containment on the run and push the play back towards the WLB.
Just After Snap
Okay. Here’s what goes on right after the snap. Okay, I know the LOS is a mess with Cal and OSU players and it’s hard to see but stick with me. Notice that every OSU defender on the LOS is blocked. Also notice that the OSU MLB and WLB appear as if nobody is going to block them. Remember, the WLB is responsible for stopping plays to the offense’s strong side (as contrary as it sounds). If somebody doesn’t block the WLB then the WLB should be able to stop the play. THE MOST IMPORTANT thing to notice is that Mack (Cal’s center) and Malele (Cal’s right guard) are BOTH engaging in a block against OSU’s weakside DT (defensive tackle). I know it’s REALLY hard to see, but trust me, that’s what they’re doing. Everyone else has their defender. TE Stevens has OSU’s SLB. LT Gibson has OSU’s RE (right defensive end). LG De La Puente has OSU’s NT (nose tackle). C Mack, and RG Malele have OSU’s DT. And RT Tepper has OSU’s LE. Oh, and the two WRs have their CBs to block. But OH NO! That leaves Tau’ufo’ou, our fullback, left to block the remaining two OSU LBs (the WLB and the MLB). Note: we’re not counting anybody blocking the safeties because that’s Forsett’s responsibility.
Blocking the LBs!
Alright. Next thing to notice. Notice how OSU’s SLB and RE (the guys that are being blocked by TE Stevens, and LT Gibson) have outside containment - exactly as they should. They’re keeping Forsett from running off the tackle and trying to flow the play back towards the OSU WLB. Similarly, the OSU LE and DT have outside containment and cutback to the backside of the play (this run play is going to the offense’s left so right side of the offense is considered the "backside"). Forsett has nowhere to go but up the middle, just as OSU designed. But look at the OSU WLB on the 19.5 yardline. Somebody is blocking him. It’s Mack, the center! Remember, Mack and Malele, our center and right guard were both initially blocking the OSU DT. What happened is that Mack helped turn the OSU DT since Mack has a better angle, then passed him off to Malele. Mack then looks to the LBs and specifically the OSU WLB. Mack takes out the OSU WLB. This only leaves the OSU MLB unblocked (the OSU MLB is on the 20 yardline). The OSU MLB will be blocked by Cal’s FB Tau’ufo’ou.
[ADDITION: I forgot to note this originally, but another key thing to note is LG De La Puente’s block on the OSU DT. Remember, the OSU defenders on the strong side should be playing outside leverage (containment) and pushing the play back towards the middle of the field and back towards the WLB. But instead, we can see the OSU DT’s entire back, including his numbers (the guy is #99, I think, and is exactly on the blue LOS line). De La Puente did a great job of turning the DT and preventing the DT from obtaining outside leverage and pushing the play back towards the OSU MLB and WLB. Look at the very first picture. Look at where the big OSU DT across from De La Puente is located in relation to the hashes, then look at the picture below. It doesn’t look like much of a difference but De La Puente has moved the OSU DT slightly to the bottom of the picture and more towards the western hash (the hash towards the bottom of the picture). This is good blocking because it creates a bigger gap for Forsett to run through, but also causes the OSU MLB to attack the run more at an angle instead of head on. The OSU DT across from De La Puente should have stayed more outside and above the MLB in the picture (more towards the eastern hash), but in the picture below you can see he’s been moved below the MLB (and more towards the western hash).]
Notice that the Cal FB Tau’ufo’ou has blocked the OSU MLB (on the 21 yardline just to the upper right of OSU’s #99). All of Cal’s 7 blockers (LT, LG, C, RG, RT, TE, and FB) have blocked all 7 OSU defenders (RE, DT, NT, LE, WLB, MLB, SLB). This is PERFECTION. Indeed it is and look at the huge hole Forsett has to run through. Also notice that the WRs have taken out their defenders too. This play goes for a huge 1st down. The key to this play was not just every Cal player maintaining a perfect block against their defender, but more specifically the block against the OSU WLB by Mack. Remember, the key for the 4-3 Under defense is to flow the play back towards the WLB. That didn’t happen here. Not only did the Cal’s TE and LT block their defenders but they cleared them out creating space to the left. The OSU MLB maintained his gap but because the OSU RE and SLB got cleared out and pushed towards the upper sideline, it created a huge gap. Normally, the OSU WLB would be flowing that direction and be in prime position to stop the runningback despite the huge hole, but it didn’t happen because Mack’s excellent block (which I circled in blue) knocked the WLB out just long enough. Now Forsett has a clean space to the secondary and it’s up to him to shake the safeties.
This is how I expect us to attack U$C’s base defense with our 21 personnel set this Saturday. Obviously, we’re going to attack it differently when we have a different personnel set in. But when it comes to our I-formation personnel, this is how we’re going to do it.
I know a lot of people have been complaining about our stupid run plays which never get anywhere. Well, a lot goes in to run plays. A lot which most fans don’t realize. Tedford doesn’t call plays he doesn’t think will work or the players can’t perform. When things go right, it results in big plays. When things don’t, it’s usually because of blocking breakdowns by way of defenders outplaying our Cal players.
Anyways. I hope people have a new found understanding and appreciation of the complex schemes that go on during running plays. It’s not just a bunch of 300 pound jocks crashing into each other. They all have a job and a specific way of doing it. They’re smart too. Seriously. Just because they don’t carry the ball doesn’t mean they’re stupid.
So don’t hate on the run. Running is important. In fact, I think a lot of coaches will say that running is more influential in setting up the defense for play action than passing sets up the defense for draws. So I know running plays are less exciting because there is less probability that they will go for 20+ yard gains like passing plays, but that doesn’t mean running plays suck nor that we should just pass all the time. Running is an integral part of football andk our style of offense. Learn to love it or just stop being a Cal fan and be a Hawaii Rainbow Warrior fan.
Besides, the MLB in the 4-3 Under defense is EXTREMELY vulnerable to playaction because he has to maintain his strongside B-gap for runs but the entire short and middle zone on passing plays. So look for some playaction out of the I-Formation too this Saturday to see if we can’t catch the U$C MLB playing the run too aggressively.
Anyways. Love the run. Peace.
Oh, by the way (and I normally don’t do this but Twist is making me because it’s Hate-$C week, but…)