In this eleventh and final installment of this bowl game analysis, we're going to look at the option from under center and in a goal line situation. In case you missed the previous installments, here is Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, and Part X.
Here's the situation. Cal is facing a first and goal from about the 2 yard line. They are up 5 late in the 4th quarter and a touchdown here should just about put the game away. 23 personnel is in the game (3 TEs, 2 backs). Riley is the QB and under center.
Cal puts the fullback (Tau'ufo'ou) into motion. I've shown this with the blue arrow. Note that an Air Force linebacker follows Tau'ufo'ou showing man coverage (yellow line).
The play call is an option to the right (weakside). But before we get into that, let's talk about what would happen if this play were a regular run play with a QB handoff. If this were a regular running play, there would be enough defenders right of the offensive center (Mack) to block all the Cal blockers as well as an Air Force LB to tackle the Cal RB (Forsett). I've matched every AF defender right of Mack with their respective offensive player that they will cover. The LB covers Tau'ufo'ou at the top of the image. The three AF down linemen will take on the Cal LG, LT, and TE. This leaves an AF linebacker to tackle Forsett. Every offensive player is accounted for. I exclude Riley because if the play were a run right, then after Riley would hand off the ball he would boot to the offense's left thus coverage responsibility isn't on the left side of Air Force's defense (but rather on the right).
The thing about the handoffs is that the QB is taken out of the play because he is usually booting to the opposite side of the offense than which way the run is going. In this play, if the handoff is right, then the QB usually boots left. But this play is a option play (as in Air Force "option" not "option" as in choosing between two plays prior to snap). The benefit of the option is that it keeps the QB in the play and he must be accounted for on the side that the run is going to.
Below I've shown the man blocking scheme/assignments for the Cal blockers with yellow lines. Note that the three Cal blockers right of the offensive center (the RG, RT, and TE) will block the two interior Air Force down linemen, and the linebacker, but will ignore the AF DE. Thus, when Cal runs the option, the AF DE will have two men to cover, they are the QB (Riley) and the RB (Forsett). I've shown the two players that the AF DE will have to cover with the green lines. The AF DE will have to read the QB and react to whether the QB keeps the ball or pitches the ball off to the RB.
Below is the post-snap picture. Notice that the AF DE has slightly jumped outside to cover Forsett (shown by the yellow line). Riley sees this, keeps the ball, and heads towards the open area vacated by the AF DE (the area is the green triangle).
Essentially with option, the QB should properly read the DE such that the DE is always wrong. If the DE jumps inside to cover the QB, the QB should pitch the ball to the RB. If the DE jumps outside to cover the RB, the QB should keep the ball and cut inside of the defender. In this case, the DE jumped outside slightly to help cover the RB, and the QB cut inside of the DE.
What makes this play work?
(1) Great play design. Putting the fullback (Tau'ufo'ou) into motion removes the outside most Air Force linebacker who has the best chance of stopping the option. This removes the most dangerous defender from the point of attack, and clears up space for the QB to run. Also, the use of option play gives the offense more players on the playside than the defense has defenders. Look to the 3rd picture. In that picture I show blocking/coverage responsibilities of the players if the play were a handoff right. There would be 5 Air Force defenders (2 DTs, 1 DE, 2 LBs) against 5 Cal players (2 OL, 1 TE, 1 FB, 1 RB). But look at the 4th picture. By running an option, Cal gains a numerical advantage. There are 6 Cal players (2 OL, 1 TE, 1 FB, 1 RB, 1 QB) against 5 Air Force defenders (2 DTs, 1 DE, 2 LBs).
(2) Great read by Riley and Riley's footspeed. Riley's quick execution of the option gave little time for the AF DE to read and react. Riley also made a great read of the DE too.
(3) Great OL blocking. The last two pictures show it best. There isn't a single AF defender between Riley and the endzone. The OL did a fantastic job at the point of attack and pushing back the AF DL.
Check back in a few days for my final thoughts.