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Film Room: Failure Up Front

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The Tiger run game was awful.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

I said in one of my Pregamin’ Vanderbilt responses that if Missouri “let [Vanderbilt] hang around too long, let them start to believe they can win... Mizzou could have a dogfight on its hands late in the game.” When I wrote it, I believed the operative word to be could. I meant could in the most abstract sense—as in, anything is possible—not actually thinking it could really happen.

It really happened.

Last week, loyal reader BigDB suggested I offer analysis of plays where the defense had breakdowns rather than successful plays as I do most frequently. I thought this idea a good one— there’s as much to learn from plays that went poorly as those that went well. Maybe more.

Little did I know how immediately relevant BigDB’s request would become: there is so much that went wrong against Vandy, how could I avoid giving poor plays my attention?

I could focus on the 120 yards of penalties, but what is there to say really? The Tigers should stop violating the rules that govern football so often?

I could present a scathing critique of an abysmal passing attack, but it’s difficult to analyze receivers with only the tight-lensed broadcast footage at my disposal. I can only assume that, snap after snap, the Tiger receivers were failing to shake the Commodore coverage.

So let’s look at the Mizzou run game, a phase of the Tiger offense that withered in the face of an energized Vanderbilt defensive front, by looking closely at a few plays.

Case One: Outside Zone Wham

The Tigers set up in a Trips formation with tight end Daniel Parker Jr in the backfield. Vanderbilt counters with an even front.

A diagram of the alignment:

The scheme is Outside Zone. The line blocks playside gap, trying to reach the playside number of the defender. Parker (#82) slashes across the formation to kick out the backside end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOL).

In this next diagram you can see the two double team blocks that should combo (meaning one of the double-teamers will stay on the down lineman and one will release to the next level) up to the linebackers.

These are the key blocks, and the frontside combo is the breakdown on this snap.

Watch the play again, focusing on the combo block of the center and left guard.

The playside defensive tackle flows with the backfield action. The Commodore linebacker lets the defensive tackle wash past him and shows up to the inside. This means center Trystan Colon-Castillo (#55), the backside of the double team, should climb for the linebacker, leaving right guard Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms (#75) on the DT.

Wallace-Simms takes the nose tackle. Castillo-Colon climbs to the linebacker.

Castillo falls down though, allowing the linebacker a clear path to the back, Larry Rountree III (#34). Castillo’s flailing legs might do as much damage to the play as his missed block, preventing Rountree from taking the ball to the edge, away from the free LB.

The nose tackle also slips off Wallace-Simms’ block to get in on the tackle.

One last look at the play:

Case Two: Draw

This play was ugly.

The Commodores linebackers and safeties are in loose alignment. Dooley hopes to fool the Vandy LBs even deeper by giving them an initial pass read.

Alignment diagrammed:

Dooley gets what he wanted out of the linebackers. Both are at seven yards when the ball is handed off. It’s all for naught, however. Badie is drilled just as he receives the ball.

When I saw the play live, I figured it was a popular RPO called Stick/Draw. This play puts pressure on the Mike linebacker (the red B in the digram below) who can either play in the box to defend the Draw, or cover the Stick route by the number three receiver, leaving the defense with a five-man run box. The quarterback decides whether to throw the Stick or to hand off depending on the Mike’s movement.

On a second look, the play is revealed to be a straight Draw. Rather than run the Stick route, the number three receiver, Albert O (#81), tries to root out the Mike with a block.

Excuse me for going on about this, because none of it matters. Badie never has a chance. The play is made by the Commodore right defensive end, who crashes through the middle of the offensive line, throwing left guard Wallace-Simms to the ground on his way.

The cause of the penetration is the left side of Mizzou’s line’s inability to pick up a Vanderbilt T/E stunt. The T/E has the tackle slant outside with the end looping around him, attacking an interior gap.

Left tackle Yasir Durant (#70) and left guard Wallace-Simms (#75) do a decent job of passing off the stunters, but Wallace-Simms finds himself on his heels as he makes contact with the looper. It takes a deft jump cut by Tyler Badie (#1) to avoid the projectile that Wallace-Simms’ body becomes, but no juke could keep him from being enveloped by the end immediately thereafter.

BigDB’s Profile Pic

Please allow me a brief, hopefully attitude-altering aside. (If you’ve made it this far, you could use some inspirational words)

The aforementioned member of our Rock M community, BigDB, has a profile photo of a rabbit with a tiny pizza on its head.

This image, I believe, suggests an important lesson for all Mizzou fans at this painful moment: this cute little guy was wearing his precious pizza hat before the Tigers unraveled on Saturday, and he’ll still be be cute wearing it at seasons’ end, no matter how things shake out.

Really puts things in proper perspective, doesn’t it?

Doesn’t it?

...Anyway. Back to the messed up plays.

Case Three: Outside Zone

Dooley employs two tight ends here, Okuwegbunam and Parker, one on either side of the formation. Vandy is in an odd front here.

(Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, who got some deserved face time on the broadcast, did a nice job showing several looks to the Tiger offense, by the way. The Commodores jumped between even and odd fronts, covered in zone and man-to-man, played two-high safeties as well as one-high, frequently spun a safety into the box to help with the run. And they did it all well.)

Diagrammed:

The offensive scheme is another Outside Zone. The Vandy front does well to string the play out, keeping Rountree moving laterally. From there they rally to the ball, giving up only a modest gain.

Zone blocking means all linemen are moving to the playside, trying to create a crease for Rountree to hit.

Out of the odd front Tarver often slanted his line away from the back, presumably to keep his linemen in playside gaps against Missouri’s zone-heavy run attack. I can’t tell if they’re slanting here or if the defensive linemen are just doing a great job keeping the offensive blockers off their playside shoulders. Watch the left defensive tackle use a powerful rip move to stay in his gap to the playside. Rountree is forced to bounce backward because right guard Case Cook (#59) can’t reach the outside shoulder of his man.

Is it just me, or has Wallace-Simms become too fond of lunging at defenders’ legs this year, rather than keeping his feet and driving through them? I don’t remember him doing that in the past. At any rate, that’s the technique he uses here, failing to chop down the backside linebacker who gets in on the tackle in the hole.

The playside Commodore safety reads run quickly and comes down as an unblocked defender who makes initial contact with Rountree. Because Rountree is forced to bubble back into the backfield, the outside linebacker is able to run around Parker’s (#82) block and converge with his compatriots on the tackle.

One last time.

Case Four: Inside Zone

Another Trips formation with an H back on the strong edge. Vandy is again in a three-down front.

Alignment:

The play is an Inside Zone that cuts back into the arms of the unblocked backside linebacker.

The diagram depicts the proper blocking based on the initial gap-alignment of the defensive front.

The gap assignments change though, as the line slants away from the back and toward the play’s frontside. The backside outside linebacker also slants into the C gap off the left tackle’s hip.

Left tackle Durant (#70) and H back Parker (#82) do a good job washing their slanting targets down the line, but the movement prevents Wallace-Simms from climbing cleanly, allowing the backside inside linebacker to slip backside and square up Badie, bringing him down for a short gain.

The defense of the play diagrammed:

And a last look at the play:

Case Five: Quarterback Counter Trap Read

The last play we’ll look at comes out of a spread Trips set. Once again, the Commodores deploy an odd front.

The alignment:

The play is QB Counter Trap Read.

Counter Trap calls for the playside linemen to block their backside gaps while two pullers from the backside attack the playside. The first puller looks to kick out the playside EMOL, in this case an outside linebacker. The second wraps around the down blocks for the playside inside linebacker. In this case the pullers are the backside guard and tackle.

The read is on the backside EMOL. If the EMOL were to crash down, following the pullers, Bryant would hand the ball to Badie on a sweep.

In this case the backside EMOL rushes upfield, attacking Badie. Bryant pulls the ball and follows his pulling blockers.

In spite of the outcome, I like the play call. With Vanderbilt slanting away from the running back out of the odd front, the use of the back on misdirection works in the offense’s favor. The playside linemen should wash their defenders down as they slant away from the play.

And it would have worked except for one mistake. Right tackle Larry Borom hits the playside defensive tackle, but inexplicably lets him go. The defender makes the tackle on Bryant in the backfield.

But for the mistake, look at the seam that would have come open.

Alas.

Conclusion

Alas indeed.

Adversity is a catchword among coaches. Keeping a team from quitting during adverse situations is an important part of a coach’s job. Barry Odom is a master of seeing his team through tough times: it’s kinda his thing. I expect, therefore, this Mizzou team to make corrections in the run game, and improve their play overall now that their backs are against the wall.

But adversity can be self-inflicted, and too often this is the case with Odom’s teams. Weathering adversity is impressive, but avoiding it is ideal.