Concept Wednesday: Counter Constraints

I don’t think it’s a secret anymore that I love pulling offensive linemen.  There may be nothing better in football than a guard coming down the line of scrimmage and burying a 185lb cornerback.  When done properly, pulling plays send a message to perimeter defenders that they’re going to have to man up for 60 minutes or simply be overwhelmed by force.

As I kind of hinted in the season opening piece, the Arkansas State game showed Nebraska is back to pulling linemen in 2017 after a short hiatus the year before.  One of Langsdorf and Riley’s “identity” runs (I hate it, but the coaches use it so we’ll go with it) has been Counter OH.  Corn Nation did a great job breaking down the core Counter play, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel.  Instead, today for Concept Wednesday I’ll take a look at a couple derivatives of Counter that Nebraska uses to protect its core Counter play.

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Let’s Talk “That” Defense

When Nebraska announced Bob Diaco as its new defensive coordinator, the first thing you thought was “Bet he’s going to give up 500 yards and 27 points in the opener” right?  Yeah, me neither.  Nebraska’s game against Arkansas State ranks up there with Louisiana Tech in 1998 and Wisconsin in the 2012 B1G Championship Game in the “What the f*@$ was that” category.

In a lot of ways, the game felt worse than it was.  If I told you the Red Wolves ranked 71st in the country in yards per play after Saturday, you’d probably call me a fool given the collective angst of Husker Nation right now.  And yet that’s exactly where they are heading into week 2.  Nebraska’s biggest problem was the inability to get off the field on third down in the first half.  After two 3 and outs early because of untimely penalties, Buster Faulkner’s unit ran off a stretch of converting 4 out of 5 third downs in the first half to end it with 17 offensive points.  The Blackshirts cleaned it up in the second half, but the psychological damage was already done.

Let’s take a look at some of what went wrong and what that portends–if anything–for Nebraska’s remaining schedule.

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Sunday Recap: Stranger Things Man

So that was an interesting start to 2017.  You get two special teams touchdowns, two safeties, two onside kicks, one recovered, a touchdown celebration that starts at the 40-yard line, and 100 combined passes in a game that doesn’t involve Texas Tech or Washington State.  Yeah, okay. 

Here are some quick thoughts on that bizarre opener.

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Talking Bob: What to Look For Early from the Blackshirts

In case you haven’t heard, Nebraska hired a new defensive coordinator.  They tell me he’s extremely handsome and some sort of football genius.  What he isn’t, apparently, is Kevin Steele, though I fail to see any relevance in that observation unless you’re a hopefully soon-to-be-retired local media scribe needing to drum up some material because you don’t have anything relevant to say once Tim Miles’s season is over.

Woooooosah.  In any event, Bob Diaco steps into an interesting position as the new coordinator of the Blackshirts.  On one hand, the Blackshirts were statistically a top 30 defense last year, so it’s apparent he’s got some toys to work with in the starting lineup.  On the other hand, Nebraska’s defense faltered down the stretch and at times looked completely overmatched, giving up 500+ yards twice in the last six games and allowing 6.86 yards per play in December and January.  

As always, expectations are high for the Huskers’ defensive coordinator, and he’ll try to meet them with his hybrid system blending 3-4 and 4-2-5 principles to create a variety of looks throughout the game.  Let’s take a look some things I’ll be focusing on against Arkansas State and Oregon.

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Concept Wednesday: Slot Fade

New feature for this year.  Every Wednesday, we’ll take a look at a core offensive concept that Nebraska uses to put points up on the board.  Sometimes it’ll be a running play, sometimes it’ll be a passing play.  It may even be a trick play depending on what the Huskers offense calls the previous weeks.

This week, it’s one of Danny Langsdorf’s favorite concepts: the Slot Fade.  And with J.D. Spieman finally coming online for the Huskers after a redshirt year, you can expect Nebraska to use this concept frequently in 2017. Continue reading “Concept Wednesday: Slot Fade”

Season Kickoff: Let’s Get This Thing Started

Exactly six days left before kickoff, so I suppose it’s time to fire the Husker hype engine back up.  We’re going to tweak things a bit this year to save me some time, hopefully resulting in more content.  First, the Charting posts will no longer be an every game thing.  Instead, though I’ll still keep the chart for every game, I’ll throw a post up every third game so we can get an idea of Nebraska’s offensive trends.  Second, I hope to get a Concepts post up every week where we’ll take an individual look at Nebraska’s favorite offensive concepts and how they work with current personnel.  Finally, I’m always open for guest posts.  We ran a couple last year, but I’d really like to focus on them more this year.  If you have something to offer, let me know and we’ll work it out.

With that out of the way, let’s focus on a couple things I’ll be looking for early in the season from the Husker offense.  I know, I know, handsome Bob Diaco is the real offseason story.  We’ll get to him soon enough, but I think people are selling the offense short this offseason when they shouldn’t be.

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Let’s Talk Langsdorf and the Pistol Formation

One of the new things we saw offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf roll out this year was the Pistol formation.  It first made an appearance in the Illinois game for a solitary play, but as the year went on, we started to see more and more Pistol looks from the Huskers, including the opening play of overtime against Wisconsin.

Because I suspect the Huskers will roll out some Pistol looks against the Tennesee Volunteers in the Music City Bowl, let’s take a look at what exactly the Pistol formation is and how Nebraska has used it thus far in 2016. Continue reading “Let’s Talk Langsdorf and the Pistol Formation”

Charting Iowa – FULLBACK RUNS!

Let’s go ahead and skip the final score to get to what really matters:

FB Dive.gif

We probably should stop right there because never has a 1.01-yard gain looked better. Poetry in motion, so much so that we ran it one more time for another 1.01-yard gain.

Unfortunately, we also had 66 other plays, and the nature of this whole charting thing is we have to account for them.  So with that, let’s get this sad, rickety show on the road.

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Charting Maryland – Seniors Go Out in Style

2012.  Until this year, that was the last time Nebraska ran the table at home.  Before that, you have to go all the way back to 2001 to find another Husker team that held serve at Memorial Stadium for an entire year.  That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment for this year’s team, and they capped it off this weekend on Senior Day with a heavy contribution from that senior class.

Some of it was expected, and some of it certainly was not.  As he’s done most of 2016, Terrell Newby closed his career in Memorial Stadium in productive fashion, rushing 22 times for 98 yards and 3 TDs.  Jordan Westerkamp snagged 8 receptions for 85 yards and a TD, and seniors Brandon Reilly, Alonzo Moore, and Cethan Carter chipped in another 9 catches for 78 yards.  And of course there was the man of the hour, Ryker Fyfe.  It came against Maryland, but Fyfe’s workmanlike 220 yards passing along with 1 TD is no small feat for a guy who spent much of the last five years watching from the sideline.  Anytime you can win with your backup QB, you’re doing something right.

And most importantly, the senior class has put itself in position to be the first senior class since the Class of 2006 to win 11 games in a year.  Find a way to beat the Hawkeyes and then close the show in a bowl game.  That is a long way from where we were last year at this time.  Let’s take a look at how we got there in the Maryland game.

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Charting Minnesota – Too Many Athletes in Red

Welcome back Jerald Foster and Tanner Farmer.  These two major parts of Nebraska’s offensive provided much need relief from the struggles that have marked the last few weeks.  Though by no means was this an explosive offense performance against the Gophers, it was largely an efficient one, with the Husker offense rushing for 4.91 YPC and throwing for 7.8 YPA.  That’s the highest YPC that Minnesota has allowed this year and the third highest YPA as well.  On the Nebraska side of the ledger, that was also our second highest YPC in conference play and third on the year

How did Nebraska do it?  By getting back to more balance in the run game, attacking both inside and on the perimeter, along with a large dose of working the ball out to the Savage Professionals in space on screens.  Add it up, package it with a dominant second half from the Blackshirts, and you end up with a 24-17 win in a game where Nebraska played the backup QB a notable number of snaps.  It’s not great, but I’ll certainly take it.

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