Indiana – The Lockdown U Show

333 total yards, 2.9 yards per carry, two interceptions, including one pick 6, and 3 sacks.  The Hoosiers offense in 2016 may not be what it was in 2013, when it finished inside the top 10 in total yards and generally ran and threw it over and around everyone.  But it isn’t nearly as bad as the Blackshirts made it on Saturday either, holding the Indiana squad to its second lowest total yardage and yards per play this year.  We haven’t talked a whole lot this year about defensive coordinator Mark Banker’s defense for reasons discussed here, but halfway through the season and coming off a game where they bailed out an injured, stagnant offense, it’s time to change that.

Banker’s modus operandi this year focuses on two core principles.  One, stop the run by freeing up the Blackshirts linebackers to attack the line of scrimmage.  They do have coverage responsibilities, but by frequently playing his base Quarters for much of the year, Banker has permitted his linebackers to play run first while knowing they’ve got safety help behind them on play action.  Two, keep everything structurally sound in the secondary to prevent the long pass play.  This was Nebraska’s Achilles’ heel in 2015, but they’ve cleaned it up a bunch in 2016.  Sometimes that means the Huskers defense gives up yards between the 20 while allowing throws in front of DBs, but it’s the cost of doing business when you want to make an offense earn it down the entire field.  It’s also a pretty solid strategy when you’ve got an emerging secondary filled to the brim with above average defenders.  Lockdown U.  It’s bold, but so far they’ve lived up to it.

Against Indiana, Banker used the Lockdown U road show to dial up both zone and man blitzes agains well traveled QB Richard Lagow.   Before we get there, though, let’s take a look at Nebraska’s base coverage in the Nickel and then we’ll turn to how Banker’s pressure packages added up to 3 big sacks for 24 yards.

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Charting Indiana – Back In Black

Jerald Foster.  Cethan Carter.  Jordan Westerkamp.  David Knevel.  By the second play against Indiana, those preseason Husker starters, which include two of its top five offensive players, were no longer a factor.  It didn’t get any better when All Everything offensive tackle Nick Gates rolled his ankle shortly thereafter.  

As we discussed last week, at that point, it becomes a “by any means” necessary game.  And when that happens, unless you have elite talent waiting on the sidelines, you need a defense ready to show up and slow the opponent down.  Right on cue, the Blackshirts answered the bell, holding Indiana to 333 yards and a pedestrian 4.83 YPP.  In case you’re still sleeping on Mark Banker’s crew in 2016, they’re now 29th in total defense, 16th in scoring defense and 13th pass efficiency defense.  That’s a monster change from 2015, and it’s something we’ll look at in our next write up.

For now, though, let’s take a look at how offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf tried to ride out a hard regression to the mean from Tommy Armstrong and a MASH unit up front that made getting into a rhythm difficult.

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Scouting Indiana – Defense

It used to be that you could count on Indiana being a one-trick pony, with a potent offense and a defense somewhere between Bo Pelini meets Melvin Gordon and John Papuchis meets Baylor’s bowl game single wing offense.  Now, however, the Hoosiers have stepped up their defense in 2016, though by no means are they an elite unit yet.  49th in total defense and 51st in scoring defense.  The good news is that while their passing defense has been solid, at 73rd in the country their run defense still tilts toward poor.

Let’s take a look at what has changed for Indiana in 2016 and why the Huskers’ offense can’t sleep on them in this game.
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Scouting Indiana – Offense

After a bye week hiatus, we’re back with the scouting report.  Up next, the Indiana Hoosiers.  This is the first time the Huskers and Hoosiers have matched up in the Big 10, and though the Blackshirts may have liked the match up a few years ago, that’s far less true today.  In a statistical oddity, Indiana’s offense is ranked 39th in total offense but only 84th in scoring offense.  As can be expected, that is largely due to a putrid red zone offense, sitting at 124th (out of 128) in the country.

In other words, this is the perfect type of game to get Nebraska fans needlessly riled up, and not in a good way.  The Blackshirts have shown a tendency to give up yards before ultimately tightening up inside the 20.  If that holds against Kevin Wilson’s Indiana offense, it’ll make for some serious heartburn for total yardage watchers.  Let’s take a look at how Indiana likely puts up those yards.

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Glossary – the Husker Motion Package

After reading various articles, and more specifically the Charting posts, a number of readers have asked me if there was a glossary they could reference while looking at the posts.  As always, the glossary at Inside The Pylon tends to be a great resource for a number of terms or phrases you’ll read here at Husker Chalk Talk.  That said, as good as it is, it doesn’t apply specifically to the Huskers and it doesn’t provide the visual clues that some need to understand a concept.

Accordingly, this is the first post of many I’ll call the “Glossary Series.”  These won’t be the typical deep dives you’ve seen thus far from the site, but rather surface level posts in which I’ll post descriptions and/or film cut ups of certain words or phrases that you’ll see in the Charting posts.  And so if you’re ever confused about a particular concept and the Inside The Pylon glossary doesn’t answer your question, this series will hopefully have something in it to solve the riddle.

For our first post in the series, let’s take a quick look at the types of motion that we’ve seen from the Husker offense in 2015 and 2016. Continue reading “Glossary – the Husker Motion Package”


Illinois – Tricking the Beast With Four Heads

That Illinois defensive line.  Whoa.  When you see future All Big 10 offensive tackle Nick Gates hook a guy on the first play and hope he doesn’t get called for a hold, you know it’s going to be a long day.  Gates has been an absolute animal this year, but he had his hands full all day with Illini end Carroll Phillips.  And as Husker fans witnessed all too frequently, the other side fared even worse, with Dawuane Smoot living in the Nebraska backfield for a large portion of the game.

Nevertheless, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and his patchwork offensive line found just enough cards in the deck to play a few tricks on that impressive Illini line.  In this write up, we’ll take a look at a new play designed to put Gates in motion, and we’ll touch base with another concept that the Huskers have cleaned up and modified substantially since the beginning of last year.  Without these types of plays, Nebraska probably doesn’t beat the Illini by more than a handful of points.  With them, they pour on 21 points in the 4th quarter to win going away.  

We’ll also get some bonus footage on the defensive side of the ball, taking a look at one of the Blackshirts’ man coverage blitzes as well as the progression of Chris Jones, whose rapidly rising coverage skills makes blitzes like that one work.

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Charting Illinois – Survive and Move On

When Cethan Carter left the game with just under 12 minutes left in the first quarter, Nebraska was missing the following offensive starters from the first day of fall camp: Alonzo Moore, Jerald Foster, Tanner Farmer, Cethan Carter.  As Huskers fans saw, they’d also lose Jordan Westerkamp and David Knevel to injuries later in the game as well.  With injured Knevel and his replacement Cole Conrad going up against a future 1st round draft pick and arguably the best defensive end in the Big 10, the mantra shifted from winning pretty to just winning.  Such is life when your offensive line depth is tenuous at best and you’re going up against a team with at least 3 NFL caliber defensive linemen.

Thankfully, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf called another brilliant game, Tommy Armstrong overcame a couple of YOLO moments to deliver another solid performance, and a patchwork offensive line leaned on the undersized Illini front just long enough to open up some holes late.  And when they did, little Terrell Newby, at a generous 5’10” and 200lbs, came through big for the Huskers offense and ran like a much bigger man.

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Scouting Illinois – Defense

With Lovie Smith stepping into the head coaching role and a defensive line full of athletes that most coaches dream of having, the Illini defense was supposed to be the strength of the team.  Smith is, after all, a Tampa 2 legend, having served as the LB coach in Tampa Bay for 5 years after coaching LBs and DBs at various college stops for the 13 years before that.  And while the Illini defense has been adequate, ranking 40th in total defense, they’ve given up too many points and currently sit at 79th in scoring defense.  Let’s try and figure out why.  
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Scouting Illinois – Offense

Scouting report is back this week.  Though Illinois is a conference foe, they’ve undergone a coaching change, with Bill Cubit out and Lovie Smith in.  With that, the man of the hour is Garrick McGee, the piece of shit fine offensive coordinator who stole Desmond Fitzpatrick from wide receivers coach Keith Williams late in last year’s recruiting cycle.  I suspect there will be no pleasantries exchanged pregame between McGee and Williams, though the #w4l signal might get thrown across the field a few times.

But we’re here to talk about McGee ON the football field, not about him wooing sketchy fathers off of it.  So let’s take a look at what his first-year Illini offense has to offer.

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Northwestern – It’s Time to Break Some Stuff

Early season is when you run your core plays, working on their timing and the personnel running them so that you know what’s going to work when you get to conference play.  We saw much of that over the first three weeks, as offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf worked both 11 and 12 personnel, leaned heavily on inside zone and QB runs, and generally pared down the passing game to manageable concepts for Tommy Armstrong.  We also saw some new stuff emerge, as Langsdorf continued to expand on his Split Back Guns look, including the flare screen and the QB Draw off of it.

Eventually, though, those core plays start to form offensive tendencies that defenses pick up on as the year goes on.  A certain formation paired with particular motion means outside zone.  A back lined up opposite a tight end off the line of scrimmage means QB Counter OH is coming.  Sending your RB in Rip/Liz motion tips off the flare screen and triggers safeties to fly down.

When that happens, it’s time to break those tendencies and dial up conflict plays to keep defenses honest.  And that’s what happened in the Northwestern game, as OCDL continually broke tendency to give Northwestern new plays we haven’t seen this year.  We’ll take a look at two of them, and we’ll also discuss a “new” formation that Nebraska rolled out to set up the mismatch that is Cethan Carter.

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