Washington is the spoiler in the Pac-12 North this year. They have beaten ranked Stanford and Oregon State teams (I looked at the win against Stanfurd here) and those wins may play into the national picture as Oregon struggles to show a win against quality opponents. Both upsets came at home, in fact Washington has not won a game on the road this year. Both upsets featured the Husky defense; the Stanfurd game was a dominating performance. The OSU game was a different story...
In the final stats OSU had more rushing yards, more yards per rush, 100 more passing years, more yards per pass, more completions, fewer punts, etc. So what happened? Well the turn over margin in this game was 4 to 1 in favor of the Huskies, including an interception in the end zone. After the fourth interception, Sean Mannion was pulled from the game and replaced by Cody Vaz who nearly led a 4th quarter comeback. While Washington just tried to hold on in the second half, the tone for the game was set in the first half when UW was able to run the ball and stop the run. Let's look at a couple of plays that show how there were able to do this.
The second possession of the first quarter for Washington finds them backed up against their own end zone after a penalty. The Huskies are lined up in the I-Formation (Tailback and Fullback behind the Quarterback) with three wide receivers. Oregon State counters with 4 D-linemen, 3 linebackers, 2 Corners with a safety short in the middle and a safety deep off the screen. The receiver who motioned into the slot position at the bottom of the screen will move across the formation at the snap creating some misdirection. OSU will completely ignore him (which the UW coaches could, but didn't, use to their advantage with play action later in the game). The UW O-line will use the Right Guard to block the play side end and the Left Guard to block the back side Defensive Tackle. The Left Tackle will block the backside linebacker while the Center blocks the middle backer. The Right Guard will seal any pursuit from the back side of the play. The play side Defensive Tackle is unblocked by the O-line, and it is up to the Fullback to block him.
The rest of the run is all vision and moves by #25 Bishop Sankey. The 200 pound sophomore reads his blocks, going between the Fullback and Right Tackle and behind the Right Guard who has established the seal. Sankey is left one on one with the safety.
Sankey pull a move that nearly breaks the Safety's ankle, the deeper Free Safety is all that prevents an even longer run.
Running the ball was only half of Washington's first half success, they also stopped the run and here is an example. Oregon State is in I-Formation with a Tight End lined up tight to the left side of the O-line. They have two receivers who are not split out very far. This formation says "Run" but Washington only has 6 "in the box" (between the tackles and within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage). Those six are 3 D-line and 3 linebackers. There is a defensive end lined up "wide 9" which means he is lined up very wide of the Tackle (right Tackle in this case) which is a pass rush alignment since it would be tough for the tackle the correct angle to prevent this pass rusher from getting to the quarterback. UW also has 4 DBs, one corner lined up by the receiver at the bottom of the screen and one corner lined up 10 yards off the receiver at the top of the screen with a safety 10 yards off the Tight End and a deep safety off the screen.
The only reason for UW to line up with a pass defense in response to a run formation is that they saw something on film and expect a pass. At the snap Oregon State does not disappoint: the OSU O-line set for pass blocking while the quarterback starts his drop with his eyes down field. The Tight End releases across the face of the Defensive End (circled) across from him and heads towards a linebacker. The Fullback heads towards the middle linebacker.
But this isn't a pass, it is a run (I think I already gave that away but OSU did not). The Fullback and Tight End are well on their way to blocking the linebackers.
The running back reaches the hole but something is wrong. The Defensive End was charged with redirecting the Tight End on his release into what looked like a pass pattern, as a result he isn't charging up field at the Left Tackle. Instead the DE is able to plug the hole the running back was supposed to run through.
The running back tries to bounce outside but the defensive tackle, who was blocked from where the run was supposed to go, is in perfect position to make a tackle for a loss.
Good play by the Husky defensive line was able to make up for what could have been a disastrous play call by the defensive coordinator. Excellent defensive line play was a hallmark of UW in the Stanfurd game and in this game; I expect it to continue for the Cal game.
The Oregon State had more success in the second half and this run was where the game changed. The Beavers have two backs, a tight end lined up tight left (left end of the O-line) and two receivers split out. They put the receiver at the top of the screen in motion. Washington has five defenders lined up at the line of scrimmage, four of them with their hands in the dirt/carpet, the fifth is a linebacker lined up over the tight end. Washington is in Man-to-Man coverage (with what looks like a 2-deep zone), the cornerback at the top of the screen is pointing at the motion man to let the defense know that he is dropping into deep zone coverage and that one of the DBs on the other side of the field (a deep safety) is responsible for the coverage.
The ball is snapped as the receiver in motion reaches the back field. This creates a Wishbone formation look with three backs available for an option play (Wishbone is a 3 running back formation with a shallow fullback and two deeper tailbacks in Y formation which looks like a wishbone). The Fullback and motion receiver head to the right; the UW defenders on that side play assignment football and fly up to cover their responsibilities. The hand off goes to the tailback (#24 Storm Woods) who heads left, away from the misdirection.
A double team block on the D-lineman at the point of attack opens up a hole and the misdirection causes the middle linebacker to move out of position (remember that running plays nearly always follow the Fullback and the linebackers are taught to "key" off the Fullback). That combined with the two defenders covering their assignments allow Storm Woods to break out into the open field where the DBs all take terrible angles and allow a big play.
Oregon State followed this run with a short completion where the receiver out ran the defense for a touchdown spurring a comeback to tie the game. I believe that you should never let a team that is down feel like they have chance. Whether or not "momentum" exists on a football field is debatable but morale definitely exists and it makes a huge difference.
The change in morale was not only felt by OSU's offense, their defense also responded. This next play is not just an example of OSU's defense stepping up but an example of a curious UW passing play as well. #88 is Austin Seferian-Jenkins (a 6'6 266 lb sophomore) who, in case you didn't remember his two touchdowns against Cal last year, is one of Washington's most dangerous weapons and their second leading receiver (in terms of receptions - 40 - and yardage - 478) this year.
Washington comes to the line of scrimmage lined up with a bunch formation of 3 receivers to the right (including #88), one back lined up left of the quarterback and a single receiver split out to the left. OSU has four D-linemen, 3 linebackers (or 2 linebackers and a nickel back it is touch to tell) and 4 defensive backs. The corner at the bottom of the screen is matched up in Man coverage while the rest of the defenders are in zone coverage (I have roughly marked their zones below).
At the snap OSU only rushes the four down lineman. I have indicated the patterns that the receivers will run.
While dropping back the Washington quarterback, Keith Price, looks to the receiver at the bottom of the screen. The receiver is civered in a tight man coverage and the linebacker is on his way to help as the receiver is currently in his zone.
As Price drops another step he checks the linebacker in the middle and his short crossing pattern. Notice the defensive tackle circled in white, he has started a hard rush at the left guard's right shoulder.
At the end of his drop Price looks at Seferian-Jenkins (I realize I drew the arrow almost identical to the last but you will see on the GIF that he is actually looking to a different place). The other receivers are all covered but Seferian-Jenkins is just making his break and is open, if the ball is thrown NOW it will arrive as he completes his break.
Price hesitates and the coverage closes up in Seferian-Jenkins and the rest of the receivers. Price sees a hole and tries to make some yards by running but the OSU defensive tackle makes a great spin move to close the hole and get a sack.
It seems like Seferian-Jenkins is the primary receiver on this route but I wonder if Price is looking off the coverage or if the other looks are really reads that he could throw to before reaching his full drop. Seferian-Jenkins had three receptions against OSU, which was second on the team, but Washington will need to get the ball to him more often to have a productive offense.
Once you remove the sacks, Keith Price is the second leading rusher for the Huskies. Cal is going to have to account for his scrambling ability to complete a successful pass defense.
Washington has a hard hitting, run stuffing defense when they are at their best. Oregon State was able to use big plays to get back into the game in the second half. OSU showed that it is not impossible to run on UW but don't expect it to be easy. Cal will need to be explosive on offense. On defense the Bears are going to have to stop the run and not give Keith Price time to find weapons like Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Like everything this year all of that is easier said than done.