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 Ohio State – Next Game Please

Woah.  I said before the game that I didn’t think Ohio State was a great match up for Nebraska and that I wouldn’t be shocked to see Urban step on the gas, but I didn’t see it being 62-3 bad.  Though inflated a bit from playing Ryker Fyfe for so long, Nebraska was never in that game from the first minute.  Just complete and utter destruction (no pun intended) by the Buckeyes.

We’ve discussed for the last few weeks how the wheels were falling off the Huskers’ offense because of line issues and injuries, and to a lesser extent, steadily regressing QB play that seemed anchored to that nosediving offensive line.  The Ohio State game was more of the same, but unlike the Badgers, Boilermakers, Hoosiers and Illini, the Buckeyes had offensive talent and a College Football Playoff committee to impress.  

Chalk it up to an unfavorable match up, one team playing its best game in a month, and the other playing its worst game of the year.  When that happens with the current talent discrepancy between the two teams, it gets ugly fast.  In any event, let’s look at what worked for Nebraska, which was pretty much nothing.

Continue reading “Charting Ohio State – Next Game Please”

Charting Wisconsin – All Good Things Must End

We’ve talked about how the Nebraska offense has largely danced on razor’s edge the last few games, as injuries have played a substantial role in bringing a once formidable ground game to a crashing halt.  They found ways to survive those injuries against Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue, but the Badgers brought a top 10 defense into the game (though nursing its own injuries) and it wasn’t meant to be.

What played out against Wisconsin was simply a more exacerbated version of what we’ve seen since the competition got a little better and we got less healthy.  Difficulty getting any consistency with the inside zone game, and an inability to get consistent pass protection or accuracy from the QB spot in the passing game.  Those two things, coupled with some excellent defense from Wisconsin, added up to a meager 305 total yards and 17 points.

The Nebraska offensive line was licking its wounds and somehow got even less healthy with the early loss of Tanner Farmer, so let’s take a look at what they tried to change against the Badgers to overcome those issues.

Continue reading “Charting Wisconsin – All Good Things Must End”

Purdue – Let’s Talk Offensive Line and Terrell Newby

We’re going to switch up the format a bit this week.  Nebraska’s offense didn’t show more than a couple of new things against Purdue and what it did show was largely limited by the 1,500lb gorilla in the room: the Pipeline’s major struggles.  So rather than break down three plays as we usually do, we’re going to drill a bit deeper into where things are going wrong for Nebraska’s offensive line.

We’ll also take a quick look at the main man running behind them, Terrell Newby.  Despite the offensive line’s struggles, Newby has managed to put up two 100-yard games in his last three and a combined 324 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns.  How?  Mostly by making a lot out of nothing, and also by logging big runs when the line does open up holes.  Newby doesn’t have eye popping stats, with only 511 yards on 103 carries for the year (4.96 YPC).  But given the issues up front, he’s saved Nebraska’s offense from completely shutting down.  And with the line issues not going away anytime soon, he’ll need to have an efficient game against Wisconsin if the Huskers want to put up points.

Continue reading “Purdue – Let’s Talk Offensive Line and Terrell Newby”

Charting Purdue – Slogging Through It

I mentioned way back in the Wyoming write up that I had pretty substantial concerns about the interior OL.  Unfortunately, with Nick Gates now working on one leg and David Knevel dealing with his own injuries, those concerns have now spread to the entire offensive line.  Not exactly what you want in October staring down the barrel at two straight games against top 15 teams.

There was no escaping that it was a complete s*^&show against Purdue for much of the game.  With 484 yards and 27 points, the overall numbers weren’t horrible.  But it’s how Nebraska reached those totals that is increasingly becoming the problem.  Nebraska’s inside zone series, the base of its entire run game, has started to go off the rails.  A bunch of plays going for 2 yards or less before finally popping one for big yards.  That makes the box score look good, but it also means a lot of punts until you bust one of those big runs.  Such is life with the state of Nebraska’s offensive line right now.

Let’s take a look at how Nebraska squeezed as much as it could out of its offense on Saturday against Purdue.

Continue reading “Charting Purdue – Slogging Through It”

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.

Continue reading “Charting Indiana – Back In Black”

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.

Continue reading “Illinois – Tricking the Beast With Four Heads”

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.

Continue reading “Charting Illinois – Survive and Move On”

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.

Continue reading “Northwestern – It’s Time to Break Some Stuff”