I asked O’Colly writer Brendon Morris to break down some film for us this week from the Texas game. Our play of choice: the big Walsh draw at the beginning of the 4th quarter. Morris does a great job explaining formations, roles of different positions, and why Walsh is able to go for the big gain. Hope you guys enjoy.
by: Brendon Morris
1. The Longhorns line up a nickel formation with two down lineman, two outside and two inside linebackers, three corners, and one safety deep while the other played shallow. They obviously wanted to stop the run that had been killing them all night, so they packed ten defenders within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage while the eleventh player is a safety that isn’t in the screen because he’s standing on the 30-yard line as their last line of defense.
Oklahoma State knew they were loading the box1 up, and lined up in one of their running formations with Kye Staley in the backfield to block for Joseph Randle.
2. Before the snap, Walsh motions Randle into the flat on his right and the weak side (or right) linebacker and shallow-safety follow him. The Longhorns did their homework, and know this is a screen play That tells Walsh two things:
1) That the defense is playing in man coverage2, meaning every defender is assigned to cover a receiver, and
2) There are two fewer players in the box.
The dead giveaway on any play is the offensive line3, and here they drop to pass block. That, combined with Josh Stewart blocking his defender in the slot, tells me this is a designed screen pass to Randle. Against a zone coverage, this play works, but against man coverage there’s now two extra defenders that they weren’t planning on blocking, so the percentages tip in the defense’s favor.
3. Remember the two things that Walsh knew when the linebacker and safety followed Randle? The second one was huge. At the snap of the ball, Walsh has to decide if he’s going to Randle, checking down to Staley on the other side of the field, or pulling it down and running. He knows that linebacker isn’t on the left side of the field anymore, so he decides he’s running.
The two defensive lineman rush and are picked up by the offensive line, so the only people in the way are the linebacker, cornerback, and that deep safety. The linebacker blitzes to the opposite side and takes himself out of the play, while the cornerback is blocked by Isiah Anderson on the edge. If Anderson doesn’t get that block, Walsh is stopped for a short gain because it’s the corner’s responsibility to stop this play.
As I said before, Texas had all of their players close to the line of scrimmage, so when Anderson seals the corner and Walsh hits the hole, the only defender that can stop him is that deep safety that still isn’t in the picture. Meanwhile, Staley began running his underneath route (he’s at the 14 yard line), but realizes Walsh is running behind him, so he sets his sights on the last guy, the deep safety.
Staley blocks him while Walsh does his best Usain Bolt impression by sprinting up the sideline. Eventually he gets caught by the backside cornerback who took a great angle on the play, but not before Walsh rips off a monster gain.
- The “box” is a football term to describe a section of the defense. The box is an imaginary area that is as wide as the offensive line, and about 5 yards deep. If a team is trying to stop the pass, the box will have less defenders in it. If a team is trying to stop the run (in this case), they put more players in it. ↩
- The other type of coverage is zone coverage, meaning that instead of each defender being assigned to a player, they’re assigned to a zone of the field. ↩
- In a pass play, the offensive line can’t pass the line of scrimmage, so they drop back and create a pocket for the quarterback to stand in while he finds a receiver. On a run play, they fire towards the defense. ↩