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Armed Forces Bowl Review: Part IV: More Run Blocking Problems

[Editor's Note:  Hydro is slightly busy discovering new Amazonian tribes, so it might take him a while to respond to any comments.  But when he does, it'll be worth it!]

In this fourth installment of approximately a 12 play analysis, we're going to look at more run blocking problems during the 1st quarter.  In case you missed the previous installments, here is Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Let's begin.

Here's the situation.  Cal has a 2nd and 10 in their own territory.  They are using 11 personnel (3 WRs, 1 back, 1 TE).  The QB (Longshore) is in shotgun.  The strength of the offense is right since TE (Stevens) is right.  There are trips WRs to the left, and RB (Forsett) is "weak."  Air Force is actually defending in a nickel defense (4 down linemen, 2 LBs, 5 defensive backs).  I hear a lot of people say they can predict what play Tedford has called (which isn't that hard in the first place).  So here's your chance.  Based on the formation below, you should know which two plays are most likely to occur.  Take a moment to ponder (reader pondering). 

Okay, if you thought zone read and bubble screen, you're correct.  How do we know a zone read is likely?  First, the formation.  Notice Forsett's location relative to the QB.  Forsett is a yard further back than Longshore.  This gives Forsett a better angle of attack to the LOS to the right.  Who else is to the right?  None other than blocking stud TE Stevens.  So the fact that Forsett is slightly further back in the formation and that he's angled towards Stevens should tip off in your mind that this is a zone read.  The other possibility is a bubble screen.  How do you know?  Trips WRs.  Bubble screens to trips WRs is common.  2 WRs will block while one of the slot WRs will backpedal outside to take a pass and try and break a few tackles.


The play is actually a zone read.  I've covered the basics of a zone read before (which can be found here ).  Longshore reads the weak-side DE, and hands the ball off to Forsett.  Unfortunately, we have another bad block on the strong side of the OL (circled below).  Forsett sees the problem and begins looking for an alternative route.   


Unfortunately, the AF weakside DE is pretty darn fast and has already cut off Forsett (circled below).  


Due to the bad block, and the speed of the AF weakside DE, this play resulted in a loss of 3 yards.  Below is a better picture of the blocking.  Cal's RT is going to block the AF DT (defensive tackle).  The AF DT is the defender just to the right of the "Con" letters on the field.  Cal's RG (#55) is going to kick out the AF LE (left end), the defender just to the upper right of the RG.  Essentially the two blockers' paths are going to cross.  Doing this gives both blockers a better angle to block, instead of the RG taking on the DT, and the RT taking on the LE.  


In the picture below we see the Cal RT attempting to block out the AF LE but the speed of the AF DE prevails and the DE gets into the gap ready.  Forsett has two options, cut back between the A-gap of the center and LG (left guard) or bounce the play out really wide right.  Forsett tried to cut back, but the AF defender was already on him too quickly and stopped the play for a 3 yard loss. 


On this play, Longshore actually might have been better off keeping the ball himself.  The AF weakside DE (the RE), is a fast guy, but he also had made up his mind that he was going for Forsett rather than Longshore.  In the picture above, you can see that Longshore has just handed off the ball, and the AF weakside DE (the unblocked defender on the yard line to the left) is on a cut-off angle for Forsett.  The weakside DE knew that because of Longshore's lack of speed, there was little threat to wait and see whether Longshore handed off the ball or not in case the QB should run with it.  This is the problem when you don't have a QB who is fast enough to pose a threat to keep the "read" defender honest.

So perhaps Tedford was better off calling a different play, such as a draw or the bubble screen (and if you look at the 3rd picture above, you see Hawkins performing the bubble screen.  This suggests that this was an "option play" - meaning the QB had the option of choosing between the zone read or the bubble screen, or the play was just a predetermined zone read with the WRs acting like it was a bubble screen to act as decoys.). 

Longshore's (lack of speed) was a factor in this play because it allowed the AF weakside DE to immediately key in on Forsett.  But the bad block at the point of attack by the RT was probably the biggest factor in this play.  Had the block opened up a whole, even a small one, Forsett would have undoubtedly hit the hole since Forsett knows there is an unblocked backside DE hot on his heels.

So once again, Cal lost the battle in the trenches.  Alternatively, Longshore might have been better off keeping the ball.  And furthermore, Tedford might have been better off calling something other than a zone read.  Nevertheless, Cal was just still getting outplayed in the first quarter. 

Check back in a few days for Part V....