Despite the Miami game being a general cluster the point that the offensive game plan was out the window by the second quarter, Nebraska did show a few new looks that were successful. In this write up, we’ll take a look at Nebraska’s Counter OH Read play, the appearance of the Cross/Janovich combination in a Wing T on short yardage, and a dip into Nebraska’s bag of two-point conversion plays.
Play 1 – Counter OH Read
Personnel: 11 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs)
Formation: 2 x 2 (Y Off)
I’ve already discussed this play a bit in the Miami Charting post, but let’s take a deeper look at it because there is a lot of stuff going on. Initially, this is a great companion play to the inside/outside zone series. Because the left side of the OL down blocks, the action from that side doesn’t look much different from a zone run. This is important, as it encourages the LBs on that side to flow to the right with those down blocks. After running a few zone plays, astute offensive coordinators will see the LBs start to cheat by fast flowing on the play.
This flow is what the offense is hoping for, as it counters that by pulling both the RG and the Y (lined up in the more traditional H-back spot) back to the left. The RG is the “trapper” in this play, responsible for kicking out the end man on the line of scrimmage with a trap block. The Y, or tight end, is the “wrapper,” designed to work inside the RG’s kick out before sealing any interior pursuit defenders. In this play, you see Kondolo kick out the LB and Cotton wrap up into that vacated area to block the SS:
To encourage that fast flow from the LBs, Langsdorf also tags this play with jet motion from Brandon Reilly, hoping to encourage the defense to chase that action. In this case, it works to perfection as the SS reacts heavily to the motion and creates a natural angle for Cotton pulling.
The other element to this play is the “read” component. Nebraska does not block the LB on the right side of the line of scrimmage, instead allowing Armstrong to read him no different than a traditional zone read play. If that LB steps down to help with Newby, Armstrong can pull the ball and follow Reilly around the jet sweep as Reilly throws a block. In this case, the LB steps out to cover the sweep, and so Armstrong hands off with a numbers advantage to the left side because of the two pullers. What you end up with is a RB in the open field bearing down on a DB, a major win for the offense.
Play 2 – Wing T ISO
Personnel: 22 (2 RBs, 2 TE, 1 WR)
Formation: Wing T motioned to Wing Opposite
When Nebraska fans saw this, they should have been excited. 3rd and 1 means big boy football, and it also means a fullback and an extra tight end. Nebraska came out in a traditional Wing T formation, with Carter lined up in a wing position behind Cotton, Cross directly behind Armstrong, and Janovich offset behind Alex Lewis and Dylan Utter.
Nothing fancy here. This is a pure power football play, with man blocking up front and Andy Janovich throwing an isolation block on the Miami LB to the playside. Carter motions out of the wing spot to take the right LB a bit wider and create an angle for the double team that should eventually work to him from the LG and C. Without a doubt, this play rises and falls on Janovich’s isolation block. And boy does he pull it off, decking Raphael Kirby and keeping him from stopping the play near the line of scrimmage:
Play 3 – Bunch 2-Point Conversion
Personnel: 11 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs)
Formation: 2 x 2 motioned to a Tight Bunch
After a series of big time plays by Tommy Armstrong capped by Stanley Morgan catching his first career TD, Nebraska needed a 2-point conversion to force overtime. They had already converted on one two-point conversion, in which they went to 12 personnel and found Cethan Carter in the back of the end zone.
This time, they come out in 11 personnel and use Brandon Reilly to motion into a tight bunch formation with Carter, Westerkamp and Reilly to the field side and Morgan in single coverage to the boundary. The tight bunch is a classic red zone look because clustered receivers create natural opportunities to pick defensive backs and free up other receivers.
In this case, they go with a variation of the Spacing concept. In this concept, Carter runs an in route, Reilly runs a skinny post/comeback, Westerkamp runs an arrow route and sits down inside, and Newby runs a flare route. This is a great horizontal stretch, as Carter, Westerkamp and Newby force the defense to defend the entire width of the field to that side. It also creates a horizontal stretch, as Reilly’s skinny post acts as a hi/low with Carter:
I like how Miami defends this, though they ultimately bust coverage (other than that, how’d you like the play Mrs. Lincoln!). Miami’s defensive coordinators isn’t content to sit back in coverage and instead brings 6 men. With Nebraska only keeping five men in to block, Miami gets a man free to Armstrong. That’s all you can ask for in this situation as a defense. Miami is also playing man coverage and playing triangle technique on the bunch. The FS will jam the point man of the bunch (in this case Carter) and take him man-to-man. The SS and CB will then match the #1 and #3 receivers (in this case Reilly and Westerkamp respectively) on a first in/first out basis. The CB mans up on the first WR to go out and the SS gets the first receiver that goes in or vertical. In this case, the CB should take Westerkamp and the SS should take Reilly. There’s some miscommunication, though, as the SS cuts Reilly loose and instead jumps Carter’s route. The CB sits too far outside and lets Westerkamp work inside of him, focusing on Newby’s flare route and reacting too late to Westerkamp.
I also like the execution and call by Nebraska. Reilly’s motion and the SS traveling across the field with him tells Nebraska that Miami is most likely in man coverage. And although Miami gets a man free to Armstrong, he buys just enough time to hit Westerkamp in the end zone. Ideally, you’d like to see the ball go to Reilly, as he’s wide open, but often times that’s easier said than done when a LB is bearing down on you with a clean shot and your time to read the coverage is compressed. It’s a huge throw by Armstrong in a pressure situation.
Wrapping It Up
The Miami game didn’t go down the way anyone wanted it. Too many big plays for Miami’s offense created a scoring buffer that made Nebraska one-dimensional. Though the Huskers battled back, ultimately it wasn’t to be in overtime. Nevertheless, Nebraska did find a couple of solid two-point conversion plays and some success in using Power/Counter as a complement to their zone runs. And Andy Janovich’s blocking likely gave more than a few Husker fans flashbacks to the mid 90s. As we’ll see in the Southern Miss game, the taste of Janovich in the Miami game would become a full-blown explosion the next week.