Category Archives: eMAWgazine

_FANalysis: ReDunn or Samsing New?

The bottom line of it is Jake is a good, young quarterback, and Daniel is a good quarterback. You’ve got two guys that deserve and need to be on the field and we need to continue to find and cultivate ways to utilize both of them. I think it’s to our advantage to be able to do so as long as we do it the right way. That’s not the easiest task, but both of them are good enough to be on the field.

– Bill Snyder

So far the 2013 season has left K-State fans thinking they are seeing something that has happened before. A JUCO quarterback known for his arm comes in and displaces the young, dynamic run-first quarterback that has already been in the Snyder system. Granted, some of Waters’ early numbers are much better (70+% completions/9+ YPA compared to <50%/<6 YPA for Dunn), but the subpar TD to INT ratio (1:2) stands out. Plus the numbers show that good things happen more (like scoring) when Sams comes on the field (more on that later). Snyder insists that this is a different set of quarterbacks and that the plan and desire has always been to use both, but that won’t dispel a good fan generated controversy. The fact that Sams came in with just under 11 minutes left and led a fairly easy 6 play drive for K-State’s final score after a very sub par 3rd quarter didn’t do Snyder’s desire for no controversy any favors.

Personnel

In the K-State’s game against Louisiana the Wildcats used a lot of one back sets and specifically attacked with 3 WRs to one side of the Cajun defense. K-State specifically used 13 trips formations (either with 1 TE and 2 WRs or 3 WRS) to do so, but also used Hubert out of the backfield to 2 WR sides of formations. Mixed in was quite a bit of power running game.

1 back formations proved to be effective the entire game, averaging 7.5 yards per play and no 1 back set averaged less than 4.6 yards per play. The running game was most effective from 1 back sets at 5.8 yards per rush and not surprisingly all of Sams’ runs came from 1 back formations.

Not surprisingly, the the most dramatic difference came in the 2 back running game compared to 2 back passing game. Granted, a heavy used of 2 RB/2 TE formations (used 13 times) contributed because that usually means short yardage plays, but 2.5 yards per carry on 20 runs is still very poor output. Also, Robert Rose ran for 18 yards out of 2 back sets on K-State’s last 4 plays while running out the clock.

 

Play Calls

K-State did get back to a much more balanced approach between run and pass, and the running game was much more successful than last week’s poor performance. However, I don’t think anyone would claim that Louisiana’s defense is on par with NDSU’s, and neither is on par with the best defense’s K-State will see in the Big 12.

K-State relied heavily on the power/lead running game again and had much more success, but much of that is because of the success Sams had running the football. 2 back power/lead only averaged 3.2 yards per carry. The Cats used a bit more option; Hubert had a nice run to begin the game on zone read and scored on a speed option pitch, but other than that option football wasn’t very successful.

In the passing game play action was most effective, but Waters did a nice job in the drop back passing game as well. However, he seemed to get out of rhythm to start the 2nd half and the offense was largely ineffective until Sams 4th quarter scoring drive.

 

QB Production

That leads us to this week’s final breakdown; quarterback production. A play per play chart for the season favors Sams (7.9 yards per play on 15 plays to 6.1 yards per play on 109), but this chart breaks down even more simply to drives with Waters only and drives where Sams was mixed in (some of those are only 1 to 2 plays). Still, the production value thus far this season when Sams enters is clear; K-State has scored 3 touchdowns on 7 drives that involve Sams (with no turnovers and one drive to run out the clock) while 16 drives with Waters only at QB have led to 3 touchdowns, 2 field goals, and 4 turnovers. PPD in the chart is points per drive and the production is more than double when Sams is involved. Meanwhile PPP (points per play) on drives when Sams is used is .52 compared to .39 without. Rushing in drives with or without Sams are nearly identical, but just the 13 snaps this season that Sams was on the field for rushes are nearly twice as effective as without him.

Conclusion

Many will argue that the sample size is simply too small, and there is probably some truth to that. However, when one of the games resulted in one of Snyder’s most embarrassing losses as a head coach, that doesn’t matter much. The production value is evident and if Snyder insists on using a 2 quarterback system as his quotes suggest, then its clear that he and his staff must find a way to get Sams involved more than 1 out of every 5 plays (vs Louisiana) and definitely more than 1 out of nearly every 10 for both games combined.

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_FANalysis: Bohled Over

I think all the FCS head coaches and programs, we believe we play real quality football. And there’s somewhat of a movement or thought that college football needs to be more exclusive, with these hard-line divisions. We as FCS coaches, we don’t necessarily think that’s good for college football. - NDSU Coach Craig Bohl

Its been nearly 11 years since Craig Bohl made a trip to Manhattan, KS. That mid-November day in 2002, Bohl’s Cornhusker defense gave up 415 yards rushing and over 7 yards per carry. Ell Roberson rushed for a K-State quarterback record of 228 yards highlighted by a 91 yard touchdown run.

This year’s Wildcats, the defending Big 12 champions, didn’t even run for half of the yardage Roberson gained on that single carry this time against Bohl’s team.

Bohl landed at North Dakota State after being fired from Frank Solich’s sinking ship at Nebraska and now he coaches the best FCS program in the country, but no Wildcat fan feared his experienced Bizon bunch. However, NDSU dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage and came away with a last minute victory that soured the opening of K-State’s new West Stadium Center. K-State fans were left wondering “what went wrong?” In the days following the loss, the explanations for what happened last Friday night have been plentiful. This post won’t address all of them, but it will look at some of the trends that show up when looking at the use of personnel and play calling on offense.

Losing Snyder’s Staples

One of the staples of Kansas State’s terrific 2012 season was mistake free football; featuring great special teams, very few turnovers and penalties, and winning time of possession. Last year K-State controlled the ball for over 32 minutes per game. When combined with dynamic play on special teams and lack of turnovers, the Wildcats’ gained huge advantages over opponents. Friday night NDSU completely dominated TOP, holding on the ball for an incredible 36 minutes and running 73 offensive plays to only 52 for K-State. Turnovers essentially finished even (2-1 to NDSU with Waters’ late desperation INT) and penalties weren’t a huge problem for either team (NDSU 1 for 5 yards, KSU 2 for 10). NDSU’s outmatched K-State in converting 3rd downs (NDSU 10 of 17, KSU 2 of 10) with 4 on their final game winning drive. Finally, the game featured only 1 big play on special teams, and that was NDSU’s punt return to set up their first score.

Personnel

(Reminder; these numbers are based on play calls and not simply passes/rushes from the box score. For example, Waters’ longest run of 11 yards came on a scramble on a pass play, so that play is included passing plays in this breakdown, as are sacks.)

The variations were very balanced, and K-State primarily used the same 2 personnel groups as last year. (See last week’s _FANalysis) However, in this game Snyder and his staff relied much more on 2 back sets than last year, specifically 2 back sets with 2 receivers. One positive was that 2 back/2 receiver formations were pretty successful overall; gaining 149 yards on 19 plays for 7.8 yards per snap. However, the running game with 2 back sets was awful, gaining only 26 yards on 11 runs, good for 2.4 yards per carry. By comparison, the running game out of 1 back sets was slightly better; gaining 22 yards, but only on 6 carries (3.7 per). In the passing game, 1 back formations gained 135 yards on 18 snaps (7.5 yards per). One conclusion from this is pretty simple (as well as from watching the video); against 2 back sets NDSU loaded the box and brought pressure. If you watch the safeties, one or both was very quick on run reads, stacking in the box as soon as he saw run. Plus, in passing situations NDSU consistently brought 1 or 2 extra defenders on blitzes. Combined with inconsistent play from the offensive line (more on that later) that led to a disastrous game running the football, which contributed to K-State’s inability to control the clock and sustain drives.

Another conclusion was that K-State simply didn’t use formations to take advantage of match-ups. NDSU had pretty solid corners, but in twin receiver situations the Cats always had a distinct advantage in the match-up on the inside receiver, whether NDSU was in man or zone. On the 6 snaps that K-State ran doubles formation with 1 back and 4 receivers, K-State gained 72 yards (12 yards per snap). However, all were pass plays and K-State made no attempt to run the ball out of that formation. K-State simply seemed to refuse to use a formation that gave them better athletic match-ups in space and one that negated NDSU”s ability to bring pressure. Plus the large use of 2 back sets played right into NDSU’s aggressive defense,  especially when combined with the poor blocking for much of the game.

Play Calls

While the balance of run/pass calls was heavily influenced by K-State’s inability to run the ball, completely flipping the run/pass ratio from last season was a surprise. Even in the early 90s when K-State was successful but but before Snyder’s infusion of the QB run game, K-State still ran the ball nearly 60% of the time. It was anticipated that Waters would throw more than Klein, but 2/3 of the play calls wasn’t expected. Again, that largely came from the fact that K-State simply couldn’t run the ball; only 2 called running plays on the night gained more than 5 yards. A big contributor to K-State’s lack of running game was the fact that NDSU set the tone in the first half in stopping the run. On K-State’s first 4 run calls of the game, 2 K-State blockers on each play completely missed their blocks. The problem was it wasn’t just one position with mistakes; offensive linemen, tight ends, and receivers all contributed. Hubert simply had no chance and as a result gained 2 yards on those 4 snaps. Then on 2 of K-State’s next 3 running plays, NDSU used perfect run blitzes. By the midpoint of the 2nd quarter, K-State’s 7 run calls had netted only 10 yards, and the tone for the night was set. The next 5 runs were K-State’s most successful, gaining 37 yards, however 2 of those were 17 yard runs (each) from Hubert and Sams. K-State had only 2 more drives (not counting Waters last desperation INT) and one featured no run calls. The last one, while nursing a 4 point lead, had 4 run calls that gained no yards. When the game was on the line and the Cats had an opportunity to extend the lead, K-State simply couldn’t run the ball.

In the middle of the game, when Waters got some time, K-State was able to pass the ball well. K-State’s 2 quick scoring drives featured a few underneath route concepts and bubble screens that set up deep balls to Thompson and Lockett. After the NDSU INT, K-State was able to use some quick pass plays leading to Sams’ run for a score. The problems with the running game contributed to the final drive’s failure to score, but the other 2nd half drive that failed featured 4 straight passes. Besides the INT Waters’ threw in the 2nd quarter, this drive probably had his 2 worst throws of the game. Overall, Waters’ game throwing the ball was very good, but with the lack of a running game combined with a drive in a crucial situation where he missed some throws, it simply wasn’t enough to get it done.

Conclusion

With the inexperience K-State has on defense, the Wildcats simply cannot have games like last Friday’s on offense. The Waters/Sams debate will continue throughout the season, but regardless of who the quarterback is the offense has to get more consistent blocking and execution from all positions, especially early in the game. After watching four years featuring Daniel Thomas and Collin Klein, K-State fans are used to having an offense where the running game sets up the passing game. With Sams that would probably continue to be the case, but it appears in the near future Waters is going to be the starter and that philosophy on offense will have to be adjusted. Snyder stated that he expects to use more Sams this week, but regardless he and his staff will need to do a much better job of identifying the deficiencies on offense along with the match-up advantages, something they simply weren’t successful with against NDSU. Plenty of season still remains, and there is enough talent on this team to have a successful season, but the entire offense (coaches and players) are going to have to perform much better for that to happen and avoid a repeat of what we saw from Snyder teams in 04 and 05.

 

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_FANalysis: Looking Back to Look Forward

A memorable 2012 K-State football season is a memory and the entire 2013 season is ahead. Not one Klein run, or Harper catch, or Brown tackle, or Williams sack from last season will make any difference for this year’s team. However, it can be helpful to look back at the Klein/Harper era and learn from offensive tendencies for play calls and formations to anticipate what we might see from this year’s Cats.

When looking back we must remember that last year’s offense was one of K-State’s best ever; arguably the 3rd best in the Snyder era, only behind 1998 and 2002. K-State averaged 6.21 yards per play (4th best under Snyder) and .60 points per play (3rd best under Snyder) while turning the ball over only 12 times. The numbers for this breakdown don’t include every game from the 2012 season, but it is gleaned from charts featuring formations, play calls, and yards gain from 8 games. The picture it gives of last year’s offensive footprint is more than adequate.

Formations/Personnel

One of the strengths of Snyder’s offense has always been the variety of personnel and formations that K-State uses, putting a lot of pressure on opposing defenses to not only defend offensive schemes, but get aligned correctly on each snap. As the chart shows, the variety was very broad last season, and there were even more variations for each personnel grouping. Still, the Cats had two primary personnel groups; 1 back sets with 3 receivers and 1 tight end, and 2 back sets with 2 receivers and 1 tight end. Nearly 2/3 of the offense snaps had one of these groups on the field. Every formation/personnel grouping was successful, and most featured gains of over 6 yards per play. Keep in mind when looking at the yardage gained that 3 back sets and 2 back sets with 2 tight ends were most often used in short yardage situations.

 

 

 

1 back set with 3 wide receivers and 1 tight end. This is a balanced formation with 2 wide receivers at the top and the tight end and 3rd receiver to the bottom of the screen. Used on 8% of the snaps.

1 back set with 3 receivers and 1 tight end. This features a trips formation to the top with the tight end and 2 receivers and 1 receiver to the bottom of the screen. Used on 20% of snaps.

2 back set with 2 receivers and 1 tight end. This set features a receiver and tight end to the top and a single receiver to the bottom of the screen. K-State also used twin receivers with the tight end opposite or unbalanced twins with the tight end and receivers to the same side. The formation below (or slight variations such as shotgun/pistol) was used on 22% of snaps.

Schemes/Play Calls

The Cats were primarily a running team with an effective passing game last season and this chart gives a pretty comprehensive view of the general running schemes and passing schemes used. Zone lead/power from 2 back sets was K-State’s primary running game, but varieties of option football were also featured. The zone lead/power game was very balanced, with nearly a 50/50 split between quarterback and running back carries. Both were effective, but the QB running game at 5 yards per carry stands out. With the option, zone read was featured and speed option was most successful. You can go back and look at last year’s FANframes to get more detailed breakdowns of these option schemes.

Through the air, K-State’s drop back passing game was used frequently, but it is no surprise that play action featured the biggest plays on offense. Play action passes gained over 10 yards per attempt, and out of 2 back sets that number was an impressive 15 yards per attempt. The effectiveness of K-State’s running game forced opponents to load 8 or 9 in the box, opening up huge holes in the secondary for throws down the field. While K-State’s passing game was only used on 1/3 of its snaps, the effectiveness led to nearly 9 yards per attempt on the season to rank #5 nationally. K-State ranked in the top 5 in a few other offensive categories; points per possession, turnovers lost, and penalty yards per game.

 

The question becomes what will K-State’s offense look like in the post Klein/Harper era? Clearly some things will change because K-State no longer has a quarterback with the body of a tight end or a huge outside receiving threat. However, the thought that K-State will become a pass happy offense if Waters maintains the #1 spot at quarterback seems premature, though its probably safe to anticipate the passing game will be used more than 1/3 of the time, especially if the rumors of Waters’ accuracy and throwing abilities prove to be true.

The running game has always been a big part of Snyder’s system. Even if we go back to the successful seasons (93-96) before the QB run game (and Michael Bishop) became integral part of Snyder’s offense, the running game still accounted for 57% of the play calls. That was averaging only 3.4 yards per carry during those 4 seasons and when the QB run game schemes were a fraction of what we see in Snyder’s system today. With the size of Waters (and Sams) its also likely the use of the QB in the zone lead/power running game will decrease. Neither seems equipped to take the abuse that Klein took, so more zone read schemes will likely be used than last year.

Either way, with the inexperience on defense, the offense will need to be the strength of this team. With a strong offensive line, an experienced and successful running back, and some nice receivers returning its going to be up to the success of whoever becomes quarterback to lead this team. It will be interesting to watch the evolution of this offense as the season goes along, and especially the changes Snyder brings to his offense.

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_FANframes: 5 Key Plays for a Championship

In this week’s _FANalysis I looked at how K-State adjusted against Texas and dominated the 2nd half. This week’s _FANframes will look at a few of the key plays; Hubert’s big run to start the half, a new twist on speed option, ultimate power football with power toss, and 2 big pass plays to Lockett.

#1 – Weakside Counter Lead (youtube link)

K-State’s offense struggled in the 1st half as the terrible rushing numbers showed; 38 yards on 12 called runs. Even worse, K-State only ran 3 lead/power runs and gained 9 yards. What was once the base of K-State’s offense seemingly had disappeared and a reliance on the passing game led to a disappointing offensive half to finish against Baylor and an even worse first 30 minutes against Texas. However, K-State used a big run from Hubert to set the tone of what was to come in the 2nd half.

K-State came out in an I formation with FB Wilson offset to the TE side. They also motioned blocking WR Torrell Miller (see the breakdown of the Miller Time Package) behind the TE and as a result Texas overloaded the strong side (TE side) of the formation. They key blocks were simple, the offensive tackle and guard to the weakside (purple arrows) execute a double team on the DT and LB while the pulling guard (white arrow) seals the DE. K-State is helped by the Texas LBs stepping to the strong side ( red arrows, toward Miller) initially because of K-State’s overloaded formation.

Klein’s initial drop to the hand off helps sell the power run behind Miller, but Wilson is already routing from his strong offset alignment toward the weakside. K-State’s tackle (black line) has a great angle on the LB who has stepped toward Miller and the pulling guard (white line) is set up to block the defensive end.

K-State is able to completely seal the weakside giving, Wilson and Hubert the corner to get to the second level.

This play featured excellent blocking not only at the line of scrimmage, but also in the 2nd level. Wilson approaches his block on the safety as Hubert gets to the edge and cuts into the vertical crease created in the defense.

More excellent downfield blocking is shown in this frame, allowing Hubert to cut back at about the 20 yard line.

One final block by Miller allows Hubert to get another 15 yards as Hubert cuts behind him to the sideline.

#2 – A New Twist on Speed Option (youtube link 1, youtube link 2)

K-State ran a lot of conventional speed option against Texas, but they also ran a version that we haven’t seen all year. The Longhorn defense often loaded the box, here with 7 defenders. K-State is in a variation of doubles, with a TE and widely split WR to the bottom of the frame and twin WRs to the top. Thompson is split wide to the bottom of the screen. The play here is designed to take advantage of UT’s corner in space in a cover 2 concept (though he’d likely jam and sprint with any deep vertical route), here he is checking Thompson (red line) but also peaking inside (red arrow) to help on any perimeter runs. The safety to his side for help is nearly in the middle of the field, so he it will be tough to him to get out to the sideline.

At the snap, Klein immediately attacks the wide side of the field with Pease as a lead blocker. The corner has to make a decision to help with the run or stay with Thompson. Texas’ aggressive safety is also stepping up to help on Klein.

The corner cuts Pease to take away Klein’s lead blocker as Klein throws; Thompson sets up on the sideline at the line of scrimmage. The key to this play is the WR staying at or behind the line of scrimmage because Klein’s pass will likely be forward; if the receiver is behind the line of scrimmage the offensive line is able to go down field and block without a penalty.

The catch by Thompson is made at the line of scrimmage (actually a little in front which makes it illegal for the offensive line to be downfield) and Thompson is able to gain 10 yards down the sideline before the safety can make a play. This was the same play K-State ran later (see 2nd link above) that led to Klein’s illegal forward pass penalty. Texas defended it much better the 2nd time and the corner stayed with the receiver until the last moment leading to the penalty. The concept of the play is sound and creative (attacking a corner in space as the speed option “pitch man”), but its a tough play to execute as both of these examples showed, especially against the speed of Texas.

#3 – Power Toss (youtube link)

K-State used 3 back sets for short yardage situations in the early 2000s, going back to “Nick, Vic, and Thick” (Nick Hoheisel, Victor Mann, and Ayo Saba) in the old power I. Against Texas, K-State inserted a 2nd FB (Zach Nemecheck) with Wilson and Hubert in a double tight end set. Its one of the ultimate “football in a phone booth” fromations and the scheme a concept you would expect to see in a small class football game or even middle school. Texas has 7 down on the line of scrimmage with 2 LBs and 2 safeties. K-State is essentually saying we’re going to put more bodies at the point of attack than you have and set up a one on one play between our RB and your safety at the goalline. Its one of the ultimate toughness and physical plays in football.

The play starts with Nemecheck motioning to the top of the formation, Texas shifts their LB with him.

Nemecheck and Wilson will lead to the play side (purple arrows) while the guard (black arrow pulls). Klein will pitch the ball instead of a deep hand off so he can reroute and block the backside DE (white arrow). This gives K-State 6 lead blockers to the right of the center and an opportunity to overpower the Texas defense and gain the short yards necessary for a score.

Hubert’s depth allows for the pitch and gives him space to see the hole develop, but once he gets the ball he must make a quick decision and get down hill. You can see the narrow gap develop as Hubert makes his vertical cut.

K-State is able to account for all the UT defenders except one, and Hubert’s final job is to finish the play through him at the goal line. The 2nd clip above shows the back to back plays K-State ran later for another goalline score. The first time UT was able to make the play at the goalline, the 2nd time Hubert finished untouched in the endzone. The play is an ultimate show of toughness and characterized the offensive attitude in the 2nd half when K-State ran the ball 30 times for a 148 yards with only 3 passes.

#4 – 2 Level Route Play Action (youtube link)

K-State used an unbalanced formation with play action for 2 of their 3 big pass plays in the 2nd half. The route concept of the first one also helped set up the second one for a big score. Here the TE (black arrow) is ineligible, covered by Lockett and Harper split to the bottom of the frame. Klein will play fake to Hubert, and then roll short to the play side with Tannahill and Hubert having key blocks on the DE. With the box loaded and the influence of run action, Texas will only have 2 defenders to cover K-State’s 2 WRs. Wilson’s route to the flat will hold the outside LB while the run action pulls the aggressive strong safety (lined up deep over the TE). Harper runs a deep post (purple) while Lockett runs a deep out (white).

The play fake holds the safety and OLB as Lockett starts his route hard off the line of scrimmage; he has nearly 10 yard gap with the safety.

(Note the corner to the top of the screen has no responsibilities because there are no receivers and both backs go away from him. He drops deep to help in the middle of the field; K-State will make a slight adjustment on the 2nd play to help prevent him from getting back to help on Lockett)

After Klein’s short roll he sets up in the middle of the field. Texas’ DE was able to beat Tannahill, but fortunately Hubert was able to pick up enough of him to allow Klein to set and throw.

Klein makes a great throw as Lockett cuts to the sideline in front of the Texas safety. Harper’s vertical route pulls the corner deep.

2 Deep Route Play Action (youtube link 1, youtube link 2)

A key play came a few minutes later to set up K-State with a 2 score lead. K-State came out in the same unbalanced formation, but with a pistol set in the backfield. As noted above, Texas was able to drop the top corner deep to help on the previous play, but this backfield changes his responsibilities. Out of this backfield K-State will often run zone read, and after the fake the backfield action will split instead of going to the same side as in the previous play. This zone read tendency and the run action will hold the corner longer, and this is what frees up the middle of the field for Lockett’s deep post route.

The 2nd link above shows the breakdown of the play after K-State kickoff. While the commentator correctly explains the strong safety’s aggressiveness against run action, he fails to note the difference in how the corner played the run, nor does he explain how the safety over the top of Lockett anticipated the same out route a 2nd time. To be fair to the commentator, it is difficult to notice those subtleties without re-watching both plays together.

Lockett sells the route again with the same 10 yard gap to the safety. Again, the run action holds the UT strong safety, but more importantly the top side corner.

As Lockett breaks into his post cut across the field, notice the safety is anticipating the same out route he saw before as his hips are already turned toward the bottom of the frame. He was also likely expecting help from the backside corner (UT defender at the top #50), but the help never came because the run action held him too long and he’s in no position to help on the post.

The space created for Lockett leads to an easy touchdown and K-State’s first two score lead of the game. K-State used the momentum created to easily beat the Longhorns and capture a Big 12 title.

K-State’s offense came back to its identity in the 2nd half as these plays show. A foundation of physical running football, mixed with option (that put more pressure on UT’s secondary), and finally well designed play action for a few big passing plays. Now the task is to put together a similar game plan against an explosive Oregon team in the Fiesta Bowl. While Klein will have to make some throws to win it, hopefully the lesson was learned that K-State cannot abandon physical football like they did against Baylor and in the first half against Texas and expect to win.

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_FANalysis: A Tale of Two Halves

“I want to congratulate Kansas State on being Big 12 champions.  They have a really good football team and you understand that after watching them play.  Collin Klein did some great things in the fourth quarter and was physical and he also made the perfect throw that really put us in trouble.” - Texas Head Coach Mack Brown

With 2 quarters of football remaining in the regular season, there were many questions from K-State fans on how the 2012 season would finish.

Would a team that was #1 in the BCS a few weeks earlier finish with 2 straight losses? What had happened to a once explosive offense? Were the injuries to Klein and Lockett more significant than we thought? Were injuries to the offensive line finally taking their toll on the power running game? Had defenses simply figured out the K-State offensive scheme?

Yes, K-State still could finish with 10 wins, but the possibility of finishing with 2 losses while also losing the identity that had made the 2012 team special was at stake. K-State’s season had been built on a physical running game blended with option football and a timely passing game. Similar to the debacle in Waco, the patient running game that led to big plays had disappeared, replaced with a reliance on the drop back passing game that yielded inconsistent results. At halftime K-State went to the locker room with 25 plays for 114 yards for only 4.6 yards per snap. This for an offense that had averaged over 7 yards per snap going into the TCU game just a few weeks before. Called runs had only gained 38 yards on 12 snaps, a paltry 3.2 yards per carry. The passing game had a few highlights, but finished 4 or 9 for only 72 yards (4.8 yards per attempt), a red zone interception, and the only points set up by an interception and weird turn of events that gave the offense the ball at Texas’ 1-yard line. K-State’s biggest play was basically a Hail Mary; Klein hit Harper from the 1 yard line with a 36 yard jump ball in between a pair of Longhorn defenders.

Fortunately for Wildcat fans, the questions were answered emphatically in the 2nd half.

Personnel Breakdown

K-State’s offense was again quite diverse by formation, relying on 1RB/3 WR formations and 2 RB/2 WR formations the majority of the time. This week also saw the use of a 3 RB/2 TE formation in short yardage situations and it was productive as K-State scored 3 touchdowns in 5 snaps out of it.

1 RB formations gained 203 yards on 33 snaps for a respectable 6.2 yards per snap. The running game gained 102 yards on 22 snaps and the passing game gained 101 yards on 11 snaps. The most productive formation featured 1 RB, 1 TE, and 3 WRs, gaining 119 yards on 20 snaps.

2 RB formations were extremely efficient, gaining 151 yards on only 17 snaps for 8.9 yards per. The running game gained 87 yards on 15 carries, but most importantly 2 play action passes gained 73 yards, including Lockett’s big 55 yard touchdown. Both of those came from unbalanced 2 RB formations, with twin WRs to the same side as an ineligible TE.

Play Breakdown

The adjustment at halftime was clear, get back to power/lead football with both the QB and RB. After calling run plays less than half the time in the 1st half, the 2nd half saw K-State call runs over 90% of the time, and nearly half of the play calls were power/lead runs. K-State also mixed in some option football, including more speed option than we have run all year. The 2nd half saw only 3 pass plays, all 3 were play action completions and netted 102 yards for 25.2 yards per attempt and a score. An out route out of twin WRs to Lockett set up the big touchdown throw later and Klein went back to the QB run action throw to Tannahill for another big gain. K-State’s use of lead/power with the QB and RB was also very balanced and the tone was set on the first play of the half when Hubert broke off a 28 yard run on a power/lead run with counter backfield action. By mixing option and lead football with some counter action, K-State took advantage of a very aggressive Longhorn defense, particularly the DEs, LBs, and safeties. K-State tried in the first half to take advantage of Texas’ heavy use of man coverage by running a lot of crossing or pick routes and some of that was successful. However, Snyder, Dimel, and Miller went completely away from that in the 2nd half and called no drop back passes.

Clearly the message at halftime was sent to the K-State offensive line, running backs, and Klein that the offense was going to get back to its identity of physical football. They all answered the call leading to a big home win and a Big 12 title. The only negative thought coming away from this game is what if that had been the decision in the 2nd half in Waco, but K-State fans will never know the answer to that. Despite one night of terrible football, a couple weeks later K-State came back to its identity in its final 30 minutes of football for 2012, and as a result K-State fans are celebrating a conference championship and the best season in K-State football history.

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_FANframes: QB Run Game and Tight End Variations

K-State’s biggest play in Fort Worth, a 62 yard pass from Klein to Harper, was K-State’s most memorable play in a game that didn’t feature a lot of big plays. The play action pass didn’t feature a lot of new things and relied mainly on a good double move by Harper and excellent throw by Klein, similar to things we’ve looked at in previous weeks. However, in spite of not having a lot of offensive success, K-State did some interesting things with offense against TCU. This week we’ll look at a couple schemes in K-State’s QB run game, first a lead for Klein with draw action (leading to both of K-State’s touchdowns), and 2nd, a power/lead play off of stretch read backfield action. Finally, while not breaking down each play, I’ll look at different ways K-State used the tight ends in formations, which may be even more important this week with the injuries to Sexton and Lockett.

#1 – QB Lead with Draw Action (youtube clip 1, youtube clip 2)

K-State has run the ball with Collin Klein plenty this season. We’ve seen the action plenty of times; lined up in shotgun with a back to one side (or to either side), Klein catches the snap, pauses, and follows his lead block and perhaps a pulling lineman through the hole. As the season goes along K-State has added tweaks, either with formations or backfield action, and last week against TCU was no different. K-State scored twice on Klein runs, and both came on QB lead plays, but with draw action, simply meaning Klein paused momentarily as if setting up to throw, and then followed lead blockers. K-State has run draw looks multiple times this season, but typically it has been from no back, empty formations. Against TCU both came with 1 back and both illustrated the value of the QB in the run game and the “extra blocker” offenses can gain when running the QB.

K-State is lined up here with trips (3 WRs) to the top of the frame, a TE to the bottom, and a single back along with Klein. The purple lines illustrate the basic blocking scheme and show how K-State had the numbers to match the TCU defense. With good blocking, the only question on the play was whether or not Klein would beat the safety.

As Klein shows a pass set in the pocket, the offensive front and RB line up their blocks. A key to the play will be the center and right guard combo blocking to the NG and strong side LB along with Hubert’s block on the inside LB.

As Klein gets to the line of scrimmage, K-State has TCU’s defensive front completely sealed. The hole isn’t huge, but Klein usually doesn’t need a big hole. The difficulty of the play is the amount of time it takes to hold the blocks because of the draw action.

The final block from Tannahill on the TCU DB allows Klein the room to get to corner and score from 34 yards out.

The 2nd link above shows K-State’s first score of the game on the same play call. K-State didn’t block the TCU LBs quite as well, but since it was#2 near the endzone Klein was able to find enough of a crease to score.

#2 – QB Lead off of Read Action (youtube link)

On this play, K-State combined an unbalanced formation with stretch read action into a power running play. Here K-State has the TE lined up to the top of the formation with 2 WRs (the TE  is covered by one of the WRs and ineligible), meaning to the bottom of the screen K-State has only the guard and tackle. However, K-State will attempt to get a numbers advantage by a) sending both backs to the weak side to block and b) pulling the uncovered offensive lineman (the center) to the weakside. K-State also uses read action to help freeze the LBs.

As Klein and Wilson mesh on the fake read, the pulling center is in position to kick out the DE, Hubert is leading to the DB, and the right guard and tackle are combo blocking from the DT to the LB. This still leaves one defender unaccounted for, but Wilson will come off of the read action and lead.

Wilson has the key block now for K-State as they seemingly have everyone else on the play side blocked. Again, the hole is narrow, but there is space there, and the only unblocked player left is the safety, who is right in front of the referee on the 20 yard line.

As Klein gets into the hole, he isn’t able to quite get to the outside of Wilson’s block (purple arrow) which would’ve given Wilson a better chance to complete his block. Plus Wilson is way too high on his block, allowing the TCU LB to get underneath him and get underneath his block. Still, Klein slides by the LB and has a nice 6 yard gain on the play, but like many plays against TCU, K-State could have had a much better play had they executed and held blocks just a little longer.

#3 – TE Variations

One key going forward, and especially going into the Baylor game with injuries to Sexton and Lockett, is K-State’s ability to use the TE. The TCU game gave a feel for how this can be done, as K-State aligned the TE 0r TEs in many different formations than we’ve typically seen this year. This series of frames won’t break down each play, but will show the different ways K-State can use Tannahill and Trujillo.

This first one shows the tight end lined up as an offset FB one of K-State’s better running plays of the day, a reverse to Lockett. Here Tannahill aligns to the same side as Lockett, but will lead to the top of the screen on the reverse.

K-State uses 2 TE formations quite a bit, but this game also saw K-State use both on the same side of the formation, with 1 TE split out in a WR stance. On play in the top frame, Trujillo will motion to a FB position, then be the lead blocker in K-State’s power zone read play. On the 2nd play, K-State will send both TEs on routes, splitting down the middle of the field. As we saw often Saturday, TCU’s pressure forced Klein from the pocket and he had to throw the ball away.

On this play, K-State lined the TE up just outside the offensive tackle, again almost in a FB alignment. Here K-State has an excellent play call again with a quick TE seam route, but TCU’s DE is able to get into Klein’s throwing window which forces him into a late throw behind Tannahill.

The final play is one of K-State’s two empty formations play calls, this time without 5 WRs. Here Hubert splits to the top of the screen late while Tannahill splits as the inside WR to the bottom of the formation in trips. Tannahill is open on a short out route for first down yardage, but the ball gets tipped at the line of scrimmage.

K-State is going to have to use more variations like this week with Sexton likely out and Lockett questionable. The K-State running game needs to be much more effective and Klein will have to be careful on zone read, because I’d expect Bennett to employ some of TCU’s aggressive tactics like they did here and here. Baylor’s defense is the worst in the league and one of the worst in the country, this seems like a good opportunity to get some big yardage and much needed confidence going into a week off. Granted, the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been for K-State football, so we’ll see the maturity of this team and how they continue to handle the pressure of a historic season. I expect that this week we’ll see the offense do very well in Waco.

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_FANalysis: Another Grinder, Another Win

“They had a presence, and we have had those teams before when we were older. We need to understand that when we play against teams like that we have to have a presence. You need to have a swagger, and you have turn the knob up from the very beginning. You can’t hope that they are going to make a mistake. That can’t be the answer. You have to give Collin Klein and those guys a lot of credit.” – TCU Coach Gary Patterson

12 games over 14 weeks. Its nearly impossible to be at your “A game” for all 12. In last Saturday’s trip to Fort Worth, K-State’s offensively didn’t have its best performance of the year; partially due to TCU’s defense (especially the defensive ends), partially due to poor execution, and partially due to some conservative play calling. However, thanks to great play by the Wildcat defense and special teams, K-State still built a 23-0 lead in the 4th quarter and coasted to the 13 point win. And to be fair, K-State’s conservative play mainly showed up in the 2nd half; in the 1st half K-State ran quite a few different wrinkles and formations while destroying TCU in the first quarter but then the 2nd quarter saw K-State’s worst offense of the season. Sometimes good plans just don’t work (and aren’t executed well), I’d say that was much more the case in the first half than Snyder not calling much offense.

Offense by quarter

1st – 17 plays for 126 yards. 7.4 yards per play. 9 rushes for 46 yards, 5.1 yards per rush. 3-8-1 passing for 80 yards, 10.0 yards per attempt. 10 points.

2nd – 16 plays for 34 yards. 2.1 yards per play. 9 rushes for 22 yards, 2.4 yards per rush. 3-4-0 passing for 20 yards, 5.0 yards per attempt. 1 scramble for 6 yards (on 3rd and 15). 2 sacks for -14 yards. (sacks/scrambles not included in rush yards) 3 points.

3rd – 12 plays for 66 yards. 5.5 yards per play. 5 rushes for 46 yards, 9.2 yards per rush. 3-5-0 passing for 26 yards, 5.2 yards per attempt. 1 sack for -6 yards. 10 points.

4th – 12 plays for 39 yards, 3.3 yards per play. 8 rushes for 23 yards, 2.9 yards per rush. 2-4-1 passing for 16 yards, 4.0 yards per attempt. 0 points.

The 2nd quarter was particularly bad; this is when the TCU defense tore up K-State the worst. One thing TCU did twice in the quarter was defend zone read differently than anyone else we’ve seen all year. Most teams teach their defensive linemen to read the blocks of the offensive linemen, and when a DT or DE is unblocked because they are the read player, they stop in the hole and either defend QB or RB depending on the defensive call. In this game,  TCU automatically sent the unblocked defensive lineman (Klein’s read) hard at the mesh between the QB and RB, which resulted in a 6 yard loss for Klein and a 4 yard loss for Hubert (after the muffed punt). TCU did not use this technique every time, but they did enough that it really confused Klein’s reads. If you anticipate this from a defense, you could really exploit it for big plays, but K-State clearly did not and TCU used it to kill a couple of drives in that 2nd quarter (Incidentally, we did the same thing on defense later in the game). In addition, we struggled at both OT and FB with blocking their defensive ends in passing situations, which didn’t allow us to take advantage of our passing game and talent at WR.

All that said, I do give the offense credit for at least maintaining field position (we drove from our 7 to near midfield on the second 2nd quarter drive to pin TCU inside their 20) and we did get 3 points off of the muffed punt. For what Snyder focuses on most in a defensive game; winning field position and not turning the ball over, K-State did well. Especially considering TCU got several hits that could have caused a fumble ,which eventually they got on Pease, but after the game was decided.

Personnel/Formations

This game saw K-State use more diversity in formations than they have all year, not only switching from drive to drive, but from play to play. As the chart shows, K-State was nearly equal in using 1 back sets with 3 WRs/1 TE, 4WRs/0 TEs, 2 WRs/2TEs, and traditional 2 back sets with 2 WRs/1 TE. K-State also lined up in trips formations (either with 3 WRs or 2 WRs/1 TE to the same side) on 22 snaps, 40% of the total. The success of 1 back and 2 back offense was similar; 34 plays for 159 yards (4.7 per) from 1 back and 19 plays for 100 yards (5.3 per) from 2 back. The running game was most success from 1 back sets, gaining 91 yards on 16 carries, including both of Klein’s touchdown runs. 2 back provided the best in the passing game, but that was largely due to the big 62 yard throw to Harper.

 

 

Play Calls

K-State maintained consistency in run calls to pass calls similar to other games this season. Keep in mind, those percentages account for play calls, but scrambles/sacks account for running plays/yardage. Also, K-State ran what was essentially a power running play, but with a shovel pass to Wilson, and I included that in the running game. Klein’s running and the QB lead/power game was K-State’s most successful running game while TCU completely took away the RB lead/power run. K-State did a good job mixing up the initial look of the QB lead/power runs, 3 of them initially looked like read action then Klein followed the mesh back and both scores were QB lead draws and initially looked like pass sets. K-State also ran considerably more option, but struggled for the most part, largely because of the aggressive way TCU defended read option. K-State completed only 1 play action pass, but it was the huge throw to Harper setting up Klein’s first touchdown. The drop back passing game was effective at times, but also came up short mostly because Klein got pressure or had to settle for check down throws to RBs.

The numbers show that K-State had two pretty good quarters of football, the 1st and 3rd, with 2 that were below par. TCU did some nice things and other teams may be able to try to use the same plan, but I also think most of the issues for K-State are things that can be fixed. Very often K-State was one block away from having a significantly more successful play and more often than not this season that block has been executed and Saturday it was not. I don’t think its unreasonable to expect to have a game or two where that occurs. This week K-State faces the worst defenses in the Big 12 (and one of the worst in the country), I will be highly surprised if the offense has major issues moving the ball and scoring. K-State fans should be disappointed if the Cats don’t get at least into the mid-40s scoring, and with our defense and special teams, that should be more than enough against Baylor.

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_FANframes: Attacking Aggressive Defense and Modern Triple Option

OSU Defensive Coordinator Bill Young’s plan was pretty simple; load the box and limit K-State’s running game, play extremely physical with the front 7 (or 8/9), and any time you have a shot on the quarterback take it. In some ways it worked, K-State’s running game struggled much of the night and Collin Klein left the game in the 3rd quarter, but K-State’s passing game also gashed the Cowboy defense for big plays and consistently took advantage of OSU’s aggressive play. This week’s _FANalysis showed Klein’s impressive numbers, finishing 16 of 22 for 245 yards and over 11 yards per attempt in less than 2 1/2 quarters. In _FANframes I’ll break down a play action passing scheme as well as a drop back passing scheme that K-State utilized multiple times in the OSU game for success. I’ll also look at K-State’s two biggest pass plays, the first to Lockett and the second to Harper. Finally I’ll breakdown K-State’s spread triple option wrinkle that they’ve utilized the past few weeks multiple times.

#1 – Read Play Action (youtube link 1, youtube link 2, youtube link 3)

K-State has used play action passing game to much success all season, and against OSU’s aggressive defense this trend continued. A key to the success of these plays is the action of the backfield and offensive line and as these clips show, K-State doesn’t just feature token fakes. The formations may change, but the key features are consistent; excellent mesh with Klein and the back (the back aligned in the pistol in each) along with the offensive line selling stretch run blocking action (black arrows). K-State also doesn’t run a lot of true bootleg, but this play has a some of that action as Klein rolls opposite of the movement from the back and the offensive line. Against the Cowboys, K-State also was able to isolate receivers against single coverage, in this case Harper against the corner on this hitch route. One of the keys to this isolation is the middle route from Tannahill which holds the deep safety. Also keep in mind the clips below are from K-State’s first play of the game, a clear sign Snyder, Dimel, and Miller knew they were going to be facing an aggressive defense and wanted to keep Young off balance with his defensive calls.

Another aspect of this play was a pre-snap shift that K-State often uses with Braden Wilson. The original alignment above featured 2 receivers and 2 tight ends, but here Klein is shifting Wilson back (which also means the top receiver is on the line of scrimmage). Generally Wilson then motions across the formation and K-State runs zone lead or power behind him, but here Klein leaves Wilson to help protect against OSU’s stand up defensive end. Again, notice the match-up with Harper on the corner (red arrow), and OSU’s main help at the deep safety (white arrow).

You can see the flow of OSU’s defense with the mesh action between Klein and Hubert and the movement of K-State’s offensive line selling stretch zone run blocking. After the fake, Klein will roll out to the bottom of the frame, keeping Wilson into block allowed plenty of space for Klein.

Unlike the coverages we saw when K-State gashed West Virginia’s defense, OSU’s corners often bailed deep, leaving plenty of space for K-State’s receivers to work underneath. The run action has pulled any OSU defender out of flat coverage, here Harper easily cuts back underneath the OSU corner (red arrow) after selling the deep route. Again, Tannahill’s route down the middle of the field holds the safety. (white arrow)

The other two clips show different versions of the same play. The last one is probably one of K-State’s most used play actions out of one of K-State’s most common formations; a 2 back shotgun set with the running back aligned in the pistol. I broke down this scheme in _FANframes from the OU game.

#2 – Drop Back Vertical Out Route (youtube clip 1, youtube clip 2)

Another scheme K-State used often against OSU, especially on 3rd downs, was a vertical route by the outside receiver(s) combined with an out route be the inside receiver. Again, OSU committed as many defenders to the box as possible and this simple route scheme was open for two reasons, a) K-State got a favorable match-up with Lockett or Thompson against a safety and b) OSU had no option to drop underneath the route into the flat to help. OSU tried to help with that by how they rushed their defensive ends, often trying to get into Klein’s passing lane and get their hands up to knock down throws. However, more often than not K-State was able to make a play, and this example is one from K-State’s first drive of the game. You can see OSU committing 6 defenders to the box; they rush 5 with the middle LB checking the back. They have one high safety (white arrow) which takes away K-State’s deep routes down the seams, but he can’t help on the out route. Harper runs a vertical below the numbers while Thompson gets to the first down marker and runs an out.

K-State gets good protection, but its a pretty quick route so Klein doesn’t need a lot of time. As Thompson goes into his break at the first down mark, he already has the safety on his inside hip.

Thompson is easily able to get open after he breaks on the out route and get the first down.

In the 2nd link above, K-State runs the same route scheme, but out of a trips formation. Both outside receivers run vertical routes, with the inside receiver again running an out and gaining 1st down yardage. You’ll notice OSU has an unblocked defender come off the edge, but the route is quick enough that Klein easily gets the throw off.

#3 – Double Move Against Single Coverage (youtube link)

K-State’s first big play of the game on their 2nd drive was fairly simple, but executed well with a great route and good protection. OSU has 8 in the box at the snap, but only rushes 4 (red arrows). OSU is in man coverage on the outside, and Lockett’s great stop and go route combined with a Klein pump fake freezes the corner. Again, K-State uses Tannahill down the middle to hold the safety (white arrow).

The video in the youtube link that isolates Lockett shows his move better, but you can see Lockett’s stop in the top left corner of the frame here, along with Tannahill breaking his route down the middle to hold the safety.

Lockett easily beats the corner and Klein drops the ball over his outside shoulder. The safety is able to come off late and make a play, but only after a 50 yard catch and run.

#4 – Flea Flicker to Harper (youtube link)

On K-State’s first drive of the 3rd quarter, K-State is in one of their most common formations, 2 back shotgun pistol. K-State will successfully run a gadget play, and protection while not allowing any penetration (note Wilson picking up the LB) is a key to the plays success. You’ll see how the run action pulls OSU’s defense, allowing Harper plenty of room to work against the corner. Harper sells the route very well also, coming deep inside the defense to sell run block, before breaking into his deep route and reading the coverage of the corner to break off his route.

As Pease stops behind the line of scrimmage to turn and pitch the ball back to Klein, he has plenty of space to easily make the pitch. The biggest breakdown in K-State’s early attempts at similar gadget plays was allowing too much penetration which blew up any chance for the play to be successful. Note Harper is still selling run block at the safety while the corner continues to check run before dropping deep.

As Harper breaks into his route and Klein sets up to throw, notice that OSU now has 9 defenders in the frame. That leaves the 2 receivers on deep routes against 2 corners. As I stated earlier, OSU’s corners often bailed deep instead of trying to play tight man, especially on Harper, so you’ll see that Harper breaks his route into a deep corner.

As Harper breaks outside for the catch, the corner stumbles as he tries to reroute. This allows Harper to get by the defender and gain an additional 20+ yards after the catch.

#5 – Spread Triple Option (youtube link 1, youtube link 2)

The last few weeks K-State has gone to a form of modern triple option football, with a shovel pass instead of a FB dive and a bubble route instead of a pitch. K-State has used this play before, most notably on Carson Coffman’s game winner against Central Florida a few years ago. On this play the QB has 2 reads, in this case he will read the outside LB (#1 circled) for the shovel pass and the safety (#2 circled) for the bubble throw. K-State also pulls the backside guard to get an extra blocker for the middle linebacker.

As Klein gets to the edge, he sees #1 (representing Klein’s first read) come inside the block of Tannahill on the defensive end which keys him to keep the ball and run outside of Tannahill’s block. However, notice that Tannahill has a pretty tough blocking assignment; 1st to get the edge sealed so Klein has space to make the read, but also to give up a defender to the outside as #1 fills behind the DE. On this play #1 comes inside, so Tannahill releases the DE and blocks #1. The timing of the play is also difficult because Tannahill has to release in order to help block the inside defender in case Klein shovels the ball to Pease. Essentially this release makes the defensive end Klein’s first read instead of the LB, but by the time it happens Klein already has the edge angle against the DE.

That leads to Klein’s 2nd read on the safety. The safety has already widened to defend the bubble route, opening up the running lane for Klein inside the safety, but outside of the defensive end.

Klein was able to get a nice first down gain of 8 yards, but did take a good hit from another of OSU’s safeties at the end of the play.

For the third week in a row, K-State saw another defense try to beat the offense by forcing the Wildcats to pass. Klein responded by throwing for over 800 yards at 11.6 yards per attempt and 5 touchdowns with no interceptions, all while completing 78% of his throws in those 3 games. However, 0pponents have gotten more hits on Klein, especially in the OSU game which combined more called runs for the quarterback with very physical defensive play. As long as Klein stays healthy, there is no doubt that his play along with great receivers and solid offensive line play gives K-State more than enough to take advantage of these defensive game plans. K-State has showed they have multiple ways to attack aggressive play, and eventually Snyder, Dimel, and Miller will find a weakness. No doubt Patterson and TCU will likely use a similar strategy next week; as long as Klein is healthy, K-State should be able to ride a steady running game with big pass plays to more success. It will be interesting to see if the K-State offense, especially the running game, utilizes some different schemes to limit the hits on Klein.

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_FANalysis: Enough Offense to Win

“Well they did a good job and took care of the ball. I don’t think they turned it over. They were better in the areas that we needed to win in, in order to have a chance to win the football game.” – Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy

A strange game; mainly because of the injury to Collin Klein, but also mixing in a great night in the return game, a poor night in return coverage, and 5 forced turnovers while giving up 400+ passing yards from the defense. A strange combination; feeling comfortable starting in the 2nd quarter because K-State built and maintained a 2 score lead, but also always feeling a sense of uneasiness because OSU seemed one play away from making things really uncomfortable most of the night. K-State didn’t play its best game, “only” scoring 30 points from the offense, but had an efficient enough day to consistently move the football into position to score points. And over everything was the uncertainty of what was going on with Klein after he exited the game following the first drive of the 3rd quarter.

Personnel/Formation Breakdown:

I not only broke down this game in total yardage, but also looked at the split between when Klein was in the game compared to Sams. While the personnel breakdown was similar in terms of 1 and 2 back formations, not surprisingly the package with Sams in the game was much more simple.

With Klein in the game K-State did more with formations than they have typically used this season; mostly featuring traditional 2 back/2 receiver formations and 1 back with 3 receivers, usually in tight end trips (a TE with 2 WRs to the same side), but also mixing in a significant amount of 1 back with 2 tight ends and 1 back with 4 wide receivers. K-State gained 196 yards on 31 plays from 1 back sets (6.3 yards per play) and 148 yards on 15 snaps from 2 back sets. (9.9 ypp) The 1 back offense was very balanced as well, with the running game gained 91 yards on 15 runs (6.1 yards per carry) while the passing game gained 105 yards on 16 attempts (6.6 yards per attempt). 2 back run was limited gaining only 23 yards on 9 snaps (2.6 yards per carry), but it set up OSU’s defense for big pass plays, gaining 125 yards on only 6 attempts (20.8 yards per attempt).

The game plan with Sams was quite different, but having a 2 score lead had a lot to do with that. K-State ran mainly 2 formations with Sams; 2 back/2 receiver sets, usually with shotgun/pistol alignments, or tight end trips with 3 receivers. 1 back formations gained 104 yards on 14 snaps (7.4 ypp) while 2 back sets gained 29 yards on 9 plays (3.2 ypp). The most success came from Wildcat formations; all of them runs out of tight end trips formations, gaining 56 yards on 6 snaps (9.3 ypp).

Play Call Breakdown:

K-State’s run/pass breakdown remained true, though the balance in play calls while Klein was in the game was 50-50. While the total rushing numbers for the game ended up solid (4.4 ypc), K-State’s run game struggled much of the night, especially the featured zone lead/power running game. Also, K-State ran the QB more so than usual, and that wasn’t just affected by the Sams or Wildcat running plays. However, K-State stuck with its game plan and used OSU’s aggressiveness (and 8/9 in the box) for big plays in the passing game. Klein finished with 9 completions of at least 10 yards, including the big 50 yarder to Lockett and the 42 yard flea flicker to Harper, and an impressive 11 yards per attempt. The option running game was limited, with the most success coming on Klein runs with a shovel pass/bubble option.

Sams had solid success on 3 play action passes, including a pair of nice throws to Lockett and Tannahill. The running game was limited after he replaced Klein, with the most success coming from Pease in the Wildcat.  (in the chart, Wildcat plays are included in QB lead/power numbers). K-State finished with 7 runs of 10 yards or longer, and Pease had 4 of those out of the Wildcat.

While not playing their best game, K-State still showed that they are a legit national title contender against Oklahoma State. The Wildcat defense gave up more big plays than they have all season, made multiple special teams mistakes, and played a back-up quarterback for nearly 1/3 of the game, but still won by 14 against a ranked opponent. The offense wasn’t always pretty, but still maintained an impressive efficiency while showing that if teams continue to load the box to take away the running game that the passing game will generate big plays.

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_FANframes: Spread Run Game and Passing Plays Against Tech

This week’s _FANalysis broke down how K-State attacked the Texas Tech defense, which came into the game statistically as one of the best defenses in the Big 12. _FANframes will break down multiple ways K-State’s defense exploited weaknesses, namely the play of Texas Tech’s safeties against both the run and the pass.

K-State’s running game had the most success this week in 3 or 4 receiver, 1 back formations and here we will highlight 4 of those plays. First we’ll look at a pair of zone read plays that borrow from an old option football concept called the midline read. Then we’ll look at the use of an old power football concept, the counter trey, and how K-State used read action to set it up and gain a numbers advantage. Finally, we’ll look at how spread formations expose gaps in a defense and how K-State used a simple QB zone lead to gash Tech for another big running play.

 

Option football and the wishbone formation came about in the late 60s and by the mid 70s it took over college football, not unlike the spread offenses of today. In option football there are various reads while the offense leaves a defender unblocked, and one of the most basic reads is the quarterback reading an interior defensive line man (nose guard or tackle) with a fullback dive. The midline read is a basic play in which the fullback’s route is right through the middle of the center (thus midline) while the quarter back reads the closest defensive lineman to the center. If the defensive lineman can tackle the fullback, the quarterback will keep and usually follow another blocker 1 hole wider. There is typically a pitch man with this play, but the design is really a 2 man option between the quarter back and the fullback. Like much of option football used in spread formations today, this concept has became a variation of zone read and K-State used it very successfully multiple times in the 3rd quarter against Texas Tech.

#1 – Midline Zone Read vs a Defensive Tackle (3 Tech) (youtube link)

On this play from the first drive in the 3rd quarter, K-State used midline zone read against a defensive tackle lined up on the outside shoulder of the guard (red circle), commonly referred to as a “3 Tech” by coaches. As you can see in the clip, Tech shifted their defensive front over one gap toward the bottom of the frame before the snap, but that was a simple adjustment for the offensive line in a zone blocking scheme. In addition to the read, K-State has two key defenders to account for, the inside LB (red arrow) and the outside LB (white arrow). K-State’s doubles formation with 4 receivers helps widen the outside LB, which will give Klein the angle for a big play. The right guard will be able to release to the inside LB with a nice angle since the LB is lined up over the center.

As Klein and Hubert mesh, the read is easy as the defensive tackle penetrates toward Hubert’s path. You can see the angle for the right guard’s block (purple arrow) as well as the inside receiver holding the outside LB (white arrow).

As the play develops, Klein has a huge running lane. Before he gets into the 2nd level, the benefit of the spread formation leads to a poor pursuit angle for the Tech outside LB. (white arrow) You’ll also see Klein use the umpire (bottom of the PowerCat) almost as an extra blocker. (and more of that later)

As Klein nears the 45, the poor angle taken by the defender as well as the umpire’s “block” help Klein gain an additional 8-10 yards on the run.

#2 – Midline Concept Zone Read vs a Nose Guard (shade) (youtube link)

On K-State’s 2nd drive of the 3rd quarter, the Wildcat’s went to midline zone read again, this time against a nose guard, often called a “shade” by coaches. K-State is in a trips (3 receiver) formation to the bottom of the frame with a tight end to the top. This alters Tech’s alignment and allows for K-State to block (purple lines) all but one defender, the deep safety (white arrow). The center will release to the inside LB while the right guard and tackle can account for the defensive end and outside LB.

Again, the nose guard goes toward the back, making Klein’s read easy. K-State seals the remaining blocks, leaving a one on one situation with Klein and the safety (white arrow).

As Klein reaches the line of scrimmage he has a huge running lane. In addition, he is helped that the safety is following the back (white arrow).

By the time the safety reroutes (white arrow) from his fit toward Hubert, Klein has him beat. The safety lined up over the trips is too wide to make a play, and Thompson’s stock block route changes his run fit enough (even though Thompson doesn’t actually touch him) for Klein to score untouched.

#3 – Counter Trey off of Midline Zone Read (youtube link)

On K-State’s first drive of the 4th quarter, K-State uses the same trips formation and Tech is in a similar defensive alignment. Here K-State will use a power concept off of a zone read look. Counter trey pulls 2 linemen to get more blockers to the point of attack, usually the back-side guard and tackle, but here K-State pulls the left guard and center (purple lines in the backfield). With zone concepts K-State can account for all of Tech’s defenders (purple lines) except for the safety (white arrow), but again the action of the play will give him a poor angle.

The nose guard goes unblocked and penetrates, but he is froze by the zone read action. You can see the blocking lanes developing here and Hubert’s route behind his pulling linemen. The safety’s initial assignment is to drop, which will help the play later on.

Both pulling linemen block to the outside, leaving Hubert an inside running lane right off of the tight end, but he’ll have plenty of space to make a move back outside and beat the angle of the safety (white arrow).

After getting into the 2nd level, Hubert cuts to the outside and beats the safety to the goalline.

#4 – QB Lead from Spread Formation (youtube link)

Here K-State’s spread doubles formation gives the offense a numbers advantage and great blocking angles (purple lines) in the box on a simple lead play for Klein. The key to whether the play will score is with the safeties (white arrows), and here Klein’s speed along with another nice “block” from the umpire will create the running lane for a score.

Klein shuffles to the back’s side, allowing his back to route to the inside LB while the left guard gets out to the outside LB to the top of the frame. Again, note the angles of the safeties (white arrows).

Klein again has a nice running lane, and as he passes the line of scrimmage you can see the play is helped by the width of the bottom safety which creates a rougher run fit angle, and also by the umpire, who ends up right in the path of the top safety.

The bottom safety is too deep and can’t adjust while the “block” by the umpire gives Klein the space he needs to score.

#5 – Big Play Action to Harper (youtube link)

Following a blocked FG in the 2nd quarter, K-State used a big play action pass to set up points for the first lead of the game. Klein is under center with 2 backs, forcing Tech to account for the run (note the outside LB lined up on Lockett) and allowing for a simple 2 receiver route to become K-State’s biggest play of the day. The route concept is a double post, which will put pressure on the 3 defensive backs that Tech drops into coverage. The corner on Harper drops deep with him to the outside, but the free safety (black arrow) must make a decision on which route to help with while the strong safety (white arrow) picks up Lockett as he crosses the middle of the field.

As the receivers release, you can see the initial drops of Tech’s defensive backs. Harper stems inside to get inside position on the corner, while Lockett’s post route in front of the saftey (black arrow) will pull him over, leaving an easy opening for Klein to throw.

As the ball is in the air, you can see the inside position Harper has on the corner, while the 2 safeties have both converged on Lockett. Harper uses his size to come down with the catch and a huge play.

#6 – Deep Post Route Exploits Man Coverage (youtube link)

On K-State’s first score of the second half, the Wildcats were able to take advantage of another issue spread formations create for a defense. Here Tech has 2 deep safeties, but they are in man coverage which only leaves one safety free (white arrow). The outside LB at the bottom of the screen has to account for the back, especially with K-State’s use of Hubert in the passing game (Hubert finished with 3 catches for 31 yards). This leaves a tough match-up for Tech with Thompson one on one against a safety. Thompson does a great job stemming his route outside and then back inside to create enough space for Klein’s throw.

As Thompson hits the 15, the outside LB passes him off to the safety so he can pick up Hubert. (red arrows)

At the 10, Thompson completes his outside stem and begins to cut back inside. The other safety (white arrow) stays with the inside receiver to the top of the frame, giving Thompson plenty of room for inside position in the endzone.

The leaves a big window for Klein’s throw between the safeties (white and red arrows). Of course, this is a route that takes a lot of time to develop, so the offensive line gets quite a bit of credit for this play as well.

Another week, this time against one of the Big 12’s best, and K-State finds different ways to exploit another defense. Each week an opponent will focus on one aspect of K-State’s offense only to have another completely destroy them. Klein’s ability to check plays is huge, but you can also see Snyder, Dimel, and Miller making adjustments throughout games leading to big plays. The season just passed the 2/3 point and big things lie on the horizon; there is no reason to doubt the ability of this offense to continue to make plays. For K-State fan’s this should make for a November to remember.

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