Thanks for the support so far! A warning: this play analysis isn't going to be much like the other three, for reasons that will soon be obvious.
Cal has just converted a 1st down on a nicely executed pass to Sofele. 1st and 10 do it again? Let's see what happens. . .
1st and 10 at the CAL 44 yard line
First, the video of the play:
Jeez, who farted, right?
Not only does the broadcast miss the snap, but KA loses his footing and our helmets are still white. One might think this is a play to skip. But to me, ALL of our horrible plays should be equally pondered and mined for the deep rich veins of disappointment they hold.
So it seems there's not much to analyze. But I think there are two questions that might be answered by slowing things down: What was the original play design and formation? Would it have worked?
Let's look closely at one of the first frames of the video and see if we can, like paleontologists of fail, reconstruct what happens right before the play.
Aha! Brush off that dinosaur bone fragment and check it out! We can see through a gap in the PAC-12 logo! And what do we see? Sofele's upraised right arm, like he's getting a handoff. It's a play-action pass!
The fact that we're looking through the Pac-12 logo tells us something else, too. The offense caught even the broadcast booth off-guard: we're in the no-huddle. This was one of the faster no-huddle transitions of the day.
Now, let's look at another picture and see if we can figure out what formation we missed:
Ah, that's much better. It appears the formation was out of the shotgun, with 2 WR at the top of the screen, 1 at the bottom, KA lined up that weird H-back position (halfway between line and QB, off to the side), and 1 RB in the backfield. I think it's similar to the formation on the third play of the drive, except we've put KA into the position the TE was in before.
What's with this? I think the strategy was to get the defense to lose track of KA. I think he was on the other side of the formation the play before.
Let's slow it down, focus on the line, and see if we can squeeze any more information out of this dessicated corpse:
I know, the audio. "keeeenaaaaan . . ." droned mournfully by robot announcers as he slowly tumbles to the turf.
Ok, let's look at that line, here's one frame with the blocking assignments drawn in:
The OL is run blocking on this pass play, maybe because it's such a quick hitter that they don't have to worry about going too far downfield, or maybe because the play is designed to be a backward pass (KA takes a few steps back to get about parallel with the QB.) What's cool about this is that it TOTES FOOLS the linebackers into biting on the play fake.
Look at how fooled they are.
But wait a second, there's something else to notice. The DE on the playside is supposed to be left unblocked! The LT is trying to get out to the LB, but is getting held by the unblocked DE. You can see the difference just by noticing that the center is already out to his LB assignment, yet the LT, who has a similar assignment, is still on the line of scrimmage.
Here's a closer look:
The DE refuses to be unblocked! I'm not even sure if this is legal, but it is smart. He recognizes that the LT is trying to release to the LB, and just grabs him. Luckily, the LB bites so hard on the play fake that there's still a chance the LT can make the block.
Of course, none of this matters because KA greased his cleats before the game.
But still, the idea was to seal the LBs from the play, throw over the head of the DE who, hopefully, would be biting on the play fake, and then block two of the secondary with the two WRs.
And then let KA go to work.
So, here's the question. If KA hadn't slipped, would the play have had a chance? Let's look at the next picture:
Okay, he looks like he has some room here. And remember that, if the LT had been able to do what he was supposed to do, the DE would be out of position and the LB would be blocked.
Well, that's what's supposed to happen, anyway. Still, KA looks like he has a lot of space, but only for a moment.
Here's the next look:
GAH! what is happening here? Even though both WRs are making blocking guys (you can see the topmost WRs guy getting cut at the knees in the corner of the screen) there's a safety who has correctly read the play and is in position to make a play. Even worse, the WR blocking cannot get his guy out of the play, forcing KA to have to choose one side or the other. That means KA has to make his ankle-breaking cut WAY before it would be effective--the safety can wait to see which side KA chooses and then react.
But that's not all.
The inside route is going to be cut off by #28, #51, and possibly even #94. It doesn't appear like KA will be able to cut through that mess even if he had traction. But it is KA, so who knows? Maybe this was almost a TD.
Yet conventional wisdom says, even if he didn't fall, this play was probably only going to go for a few yards at most.
WHY THIS NO TOUCHDOWN?
KA falls down. The LT isn't able to release to the LB. And the safeties read the play correctly and close quickly. Why are the safeties in position? I wonder if they weren't spying KA, or playing their usual 4 deep zone. The play develops slowly (remember that there was a play fake, a floated pass), and that may have given them time to get up to the playside.
If the play is run correctly, and all of the blocks are held, it should put KA one-on-one with the safety. But not only does the LT miss his block (though it won't matter), WR #1 is unable to get position on his block and turn his defender inside. This is, I think the main reason the play failed.
Who do we blame for this? It would be easy to say that KA just slipped, but the only reason he slipped was because he was trying to put an ultra-awesome cut on a safety from a full twelve yards away. Why was he trying to cut so hard? Because the safety was not fooled at all and the CB had pushed his block into the play.
I think we can draw a few conclusions:
(1) The Nevada DE played with discipline, correctly read the LT's intentions and kept him from doing it.
(1a) The Nevada #54 (CB? LB?) played with strength, pushing his blocker into the play.
(2) The play-fake completely fooled the LBs, especially since the offensive line jumped out in a run-blocking scheme.
(3) The play-fake did not fool the safeties, or at least, not enough. The playside safety--the one that forces KA to make his cut--is definitely not fooled. Maybe they have one dedicated safety keying on KA?
(4) The no-huddle didn't seem to disrupt Nevada's poise.
(5) Keenan Allen butters his shoes.
But if I had to pick one thing that spelled doom for this play it was the blocking by the WRs. Better blocking from the WRs, and KA doesn't have to try such a hard cut, he doesn't fall down, and Cal scores TD.
See what I did there? I took one of the uglier plays of the day, polished it off, cut and pasted some defenders around, and showed how it could have been a TD! You're welcome!
Okay, I got through that mess. Not much film to work with, and even less excitement when someone just trips over his own awesomeness.
Thanks for reading! Only 2 more to go!