Armed Forces Bowl Review: Part I: Run Blocking Problems

Well, here's my bowl game analysis.  Once again, excuse me for the extreme tardiness of these posts.  Finals and school prevented me from doing this for the past few months. 

Usually, in the past, I'd provide statistical comparisons to demonstrate what worked, what didn't, etc.  But in this analysis, I'm going to just go over plays to demonstrate what worked, what didn't work, and why.

So this is the first of about a 15 part analysis which will break down various plays which will hopefully and definitively provide concrete analysis on why the team's offense struggled so much while Longshore was the QB, and why the team's offense suddenly exploded once Riley was the QB.  This analysis will start at the beginning of the game, then work towards the end.  I have not chosen every single great play, nor every single bad play, but tried to choose the ones where something interesting and conclusive can be shown.

Let's begin.

One of the big questions post-bowl game, was why the Cal offense couldn't put up points with Longshore as the QB.  Some blamed Longshore - which was quite inappropriate considering he played very well.  Others blamed... well, I don't know who else people were blaming. 

But as we'll see below, I think we were losing the game in the trenches for the first quarter. 

So below is the pre-snap picture.  It's early in the first quarter, 3rd and 1.  Cal in a 22 personnel set with Hawk put into motion.  Cal is most likely going to run.  They have extra blockers in for this play, and presumably, one yard is pretty hard to defend -  especially for smaller Air Force defensive lineman when being blocked by Cal's larger and stronger OL.  Notice the strength of the offense is to the left (because the TE is left), and backfield is an "heavy" formation (because the fullback is behind the guard to the side of the TE).  Air Force is defending with a 3-4.

Cal_a1_medium

Here's the post-snap picture.  So far, everything looks good.  Cal is blocking with a basic man-scheme.  The play is a run to the weak side (because it's away from the TE).  The Cal OL has set up a nice wall.  All they need to do is create a small hole and not let any defenders into the backfield. 

Cal_a2_medium

But the problem with this play occurs when the AF right end (RE) gets Cal's LT turned (circled below).  The RE gets past the the LT (Teofilo) enough to the point where the Teofilo is almost committing a holding penalty.  Forsett might have been able to get the first down had he cut back to the strong side (offense's left) since that would put Teofilo between Forsett and the AF RE, but Forsett tries to put on a juke and continues to head weak-side.

Cal_a3_medium

So, the AF RE gets into the backfield.  He puts a momentum stopping tackle on Forsett, and stops the play for a loss.  Cal punts the ball and goes 3 and out. 

Cal_a4_medium

So what have we learned here?  One badly executed block on the OL led to a loss of yardage on 3rd and 1 resulting in a punt. 

The fact that Forsett couldn't juke the defender in the backfield is irrelevant because the defender should have never been in the backfield to begin with.  Sure, great players will juke defenders in the backfield who shouldn't be there, but it's not the RB's fault for not converting the first down in this play.  Forsett's lack of bulk has nothing to do with the offense's failure to convert for a first down. 

I truly believe that cliche saying that football games are won in the trenches.  In this play, AF won the battle. 

Part II to come in a few days. 

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