This is the third installment of my
procrastination investigation into what went wrong with the Cal offense against Nevada. I'm up to the third play of the second drive of the game, a drive that went a total of 2 yards in 6 plays.
Again, thanks to those of you who have said nice things about my first two efforts. I'm really flattered that these are interesting to others. I'm also glad I can give back to the CGB community, as it has been so generous with free awesomeness over the years.
So now it's 3rd and long. You know what time it is baby. It's business time.
Drive 2 Play 3: 3rd and 7 at the 37 yard line
Here's the video. This one doesn't hurt so bad, I promise.
Did you taste the pure golden richness of a converted 3rd down? Savor it, because Cal would only have 2 more during the entire game. Mmmmm. Competence.
Let's start with the presnap:
Now that's what I call a formation! The offense is in the shotgun with (it appears) 2 WR out wide, 1 TE (could be another WR) split out on the LOS, 1 H-back/FB lined up in the backfield to one side (I don't know what that's called), and a HB next to the QB.
The defense is in a 3-4 look, with the LBs showing blitz and the secondary playing 8 yards deep across the back.
From this look, Cal is probably going to pass, but how many receivers are going into coverage? And will the defense blitz? The next picture will tell all!
This is just after the snap. All of the eligible receivers are going out on routes. And none of the LBs blitz. Max pass against max pass defense!
We can also see that the LBs are shifting into four zones underneath. Although we can't see it, that means that the secondary is probably going into four zones across the top. Someone in another post said that Nevada was in a base "cover 4" most of the day. I think this is an example of that, with the difference being that they only rush 3, giving up one lineman for an extra underneath zone.
So now let's look at routes.
The WR at the top of the screen has gone 10 yards and is making a move towards the sideline. At the same time, the RB (Sofele) is running directly at the inside LB covering him. He's going to cut inside, but the LB doesn't know that.
Nevada's pass rush is non-existent. The RT is destroying his man by himself, and the LG and LT are walling off the other DE. The DT is doing a sexy little dance, trying to figure out how to get by the C and RG, or perhaps how to get his pants off over his shoes.
Let's see the next picture and we can break down what Cal was doing and why it worked.
Soak that in--it's a picture of awesome. The line has destroyed the 3 man rush. Bridgford is stepping into his throw. And Sofele is open coming across the middle. We will see why the LB is out of position in a second.
A couple things the intrepid reader may see though. First, the QB still has the ball in his hand yet the RB has already made his cut. Also, the RB is not yet across the first down line, and the LB seems to be trying to keep the play in front of him.
Okay, I can't resist. Just one more picture, though it tells me nothing .
Yup, that's the RB about to make the catch for the first down. It looks like he will take a hit, which he does, but FIRST DOWN BEARS! So now, let's see why the play worked.
WHY THIS FIRST DOWN?
On one hand, it's easy, the LBs are playing a cover 4 zone, and the RB gets underneath it and into the gap between the two ILBs.
But remember the 2nd down play? Similar circumstances, similar route, except the TE was blanketed in coverage. What's the difference here? In the previous play, 1 LB had to cover 2 receivers, here there are 2 LBs and 2 receivers, this should be more difficult, not easier.
To answer this, let's take a closer look at the reverse angle video. Why does Sofele succeed on a route so similar to Rodgers's incompletion under similar coverage on the previous play?
Did you see the difference? Watch again, and focus on the RB (Sofele). Right before he makes his cut he looks like this:
Hey, I've seen that before!
Guess who's all shook up? The answer has a big #42 on his back.
One of the big differences between Rodgers going out on a slant against a LB and Sofele is that only one of them is Elvis Presley. Watch the video again if you want. You'll see it--the spirit of Elvis descends on his rock chariot, enters Sofele's body and gets Cal one of the only first downs of the day.
But this can't be all sunshine, right? After all, this wasn't a touchdown!
WHY THIS NO TOUCHDOWN?
If you watch the video again, you'll see that it isn't quite a perfectly thrown ball. Sofele actually has to slow down and wait for the ball, which allows the LB to catch up and make the tackle. If the ball is thrown earlier, and if it led Sofele by another step, maybe touchdown!
Here is a good shot of just how burnt this LB's toast is:
Keep in mind, Sofele is already out of his cut and is really moving. The LB is stationary and hasn't even turned his hips. Sofele has to gear down pretty drastically to catch the ball, but if it's thrown leading him downfield, it could have been huge.
On Bridgford's behalf, though, he could not have known that the LB would be burnt that bad. And we can't see the safeties here--it could be that Sofele doesn't have as much space downfield as it looks. It's a safe throw for a first down, and we may all rejoice.
This play worked! It took advantage of the soft zones underneath, and since the LB was watching
Sofele Elvis instead of the QB, the juke takes him out of the play.
Bridgford deserves some credit for the play, he throws a competent pass, but it might have been even better.
The OL deserves some credit for the play, they display competence in handling a 3-man rush.
But Sofele deserves a LOT of the credit for running a good route, managing to dazzle the LB with a move straight out of "Jailhouse Rock," turning upfield without missing a beat and then catching the ball. Sofele looks pretty rock star here.
Okay, that's it for play number three. Three more to go!