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Golden Spotlight: Breaking Down Film of Cal's First Touchdown of 2016

Cal uses a 7-on-6 mismatch to score its first TD of 2016.

Mark Nolan/Getty Images
[This piece has been ghostwritten on behalf of CGB's film analyst extraordinaire HydroTech.  The following play caught his eye in the first quarter of Cal's win against Hawaii.  He wrote 95% of the text here and I (Bk97) have provided the images and video to illustrate the play.  All mistakes here are undoubtedly due to me and all praise should go to HydroTech.  Enjoy!]

It's the first quarter, and the game has just started.  Cal is facing a 2nd and 10 from the Hawaii 34 yardline.  Cal has 11 personnel out on the field (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs).  I am counting #99 Malik McMorris as a TE even though he is listed on the Cal Football roster as a TE/FB hybrid.

Cal is in a 2x1 formation, meaning that there are two WRs on the left side of the formation and 1 WR to the right of the formation.  The TE is off the line of scrimmage in the left B-gap (the space between the LT and LG).  The RB, Muhammad, is to the strong side of the formation (the offense's left side).  QB Davis Webb is in shotgun.

Hawaii looks to have its nickel defense (the 4-2-5 variety) out on the field which means they have five defensive backs on the field.  They look to be playing man coverage against Cal's WRs, and they have two safeties deep (not visible on the TV broadcast).

The offensive playcall is a weakside double trap.  The offense will run the ball to the right, and both the LG and TE will pull.  This is a man blocking scheme.  The gap the RB is aiming for is the right B-Gap (the space between the RG and RT).  This is a power run play to the weakside of the offensive formation (away from the strength).  The strength of the offensive formation is to the offense's left since that's the side that the TE and RB are aligned.  Since the play is being run to the right side of the offense, the right side of the offense is called the playside and the left side of the offense is the backside.

Hawaii only has six defenders in the box: 4 DL, and 2 LBs.  They are poorly aligned and outmanned to stop a run.  Note that Cal has eight offensive players in the box (5 OL, 1 TE, 1 RB, 1 QB).  That's 8 vs. 6.  Hawaii is down two defenders in the box.  Even if you don't count the QB as a run threat, it's still 7 vs. 6 in the box.  Hawaii is doomed.  Remember, football is a numbers game.  Unless you have rare and talented players that can draw double teams (think Brandon Mebane in the trenches or Desean Jackson in the secondary), you want a hat on a hat.  You want one player to match up against one opposing player.

Here's how the blocking unfolds.  The LT will block the backside DE (defense's RDE).  The C will block the backside DT (defense's RDT).  The RG will block the playside DT (defense's LDT).  The LG will pull and kick out the playside DE (defense's LDE).  The RT will block the playside LB (defense's LOLB) and the TE will pull through and block the backside LB (defense's ROLB).  That is six Cal blockers on all six Hawaii defenders.

That leaves zero Hawaii defenders in the box to account for the RB Muhammad.  This should be an epic gain for Muhammad if the Cal offense can execute the play properly... and they do!

In motion...

The only questionable moment occurs with the blocking of the two LBs.  When the ball is snapped the RT shoots off the LOS to his left (offense's left).  Based on this aggressive angle, it almost seems like he intends to block the backside LB (defense's ROLB) instead of the playside LB (defense's LOLB).  The playside LB (defense's LOLB) immediately darts to his right (offense's left) at the snap of the ball.  He's probably reading his key, the RG, who has downblocked the playside DT towards the strong side of the formation (offense's left side).  Thus, the RT could just be matching the quick movement of the playside LB and not really intending to block the backside LB.  In any event, the RT blocks the playside LB.  The backside LB (defense's ROLB) keeps his depth and hides behind the playside LB letting him absorb the block.  As the TE pulls through the hole, he looks for his man to block (the backside LB), and doesn't see him since he's hidden behind the playside LB.  So the TE blocks the playside LB too.  Since both the RT and the TE blocked the playside LB, it creates a redundant 2 on 1 block and puts Cal down one man in the numbers game essentially.  In essence, Hawaii should theoretically now have enough players in the box to stop this run because the numbers game in the box just became 6 on 6.  Below is how the man blocking matches up based on this redundant 2 on 1 block.

Matchup #1:  LT = backside DE
Matchup #2:  LG = playside DE
Matchup #3:  C = backside DT
Matchup #4:  RG = playside DT
Matchup #5:  RT & TE = playside LB [wasted double team block]
Matchup #6:  RB = backside LB

As you can see above, Hawaii theoretically now has an even 6 on 6 matchup, and the backside LB is free to make the tackle on the RB.  But that doesn't happen!  The backside LB keeps too much depth, runs around his playside LB teammate who is getting blocked by the RT, and opens up a huge running lane for the RB.  The space vacated by the backside LB opened up a huge hole for the RB Muhammad to run through.

Here's a look at the play from a different angle.

Towards the end of the play you can see one of the Hawaii safeties fly down into the box to try and fill a gap, but he's too late.  The RB ran through the backside LB's gap assignment, and the Hawaii safety is out of position to make any sort of touchdown saving tackle.

Muhammad then runs for a huge gain and a touchdown!

So why was this play successful?  Hawaii basically had a bad defensive set against Cal's formation, leaving them with too few defenders in the box.  Cal's offense executed just about perfectly, and the Hawaii backside LB vacated his gap leaving a huge running lane for Muhammad.

Remember, football is a numbers game.  It's also about execution and winning your positional battle.  On this play, Hawaii lost the numbers game, lost the positional battles, and did not execute as well as Cal.  Hawaii paid the price and gave up a touchdown.