Check The Tape – QB Video

No, really. I’m seriously doing this. I’m so starved for Illini football film (or is it attention?) that I’m CTT-ing the highlights they showed in the latest “Illini QB” video. Yes, I am. Really.

Is there much to learn? Of course not. Is this a fairly pointless exercise? Of course it is. Am I doing it anyway? Yes. Because this is my team, and I can’t not pour over every available video.

To the “tape”:

Shedding Blocks

When you’re watching film of your team playing your team, you see both the good and the bad on one play. “Yay, the defense did that well! Wait, that means the offense did that poorly.”

So when going through this first clip, keep that in mind. This is either Simon Cvijanovic holding his block really well… or BJ Bello really struggling to shed a block to get to the ballcarrier.

Goal line play, Josh Ferguson is getting the handoff, and Simon takes on BJ Bello (#10):

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To keep him from scoring, Bello needs to get off this block right here. But he doesn’t.

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Which means Josh Ferguson has a one on one at the goal line with a safety. With that much of a gap, and a one on one situation, and only one yard needed, there’s really nothing a single safety can do if Bello can’t get off that block.

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Did Simon hook under his shoulder and give him a tug that was fairly close to holding? Yes. Do I want Simon to do that on every play because there’s holding on every play but you just have to disguise it? Yes.

Run The Receiver’s Route For Him

Want to learn how to get a few interceptions? Just read the route after the snap and then beat the receiver to the spot where the ball will be thrown.

In the video, Aaron Bailey had just made a nice throw to Kenny Knight for a 30+ yard gain. On the next play, he launches one for the corner of the endzone:

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This next pic makes it look like a great throw. Receiver one step in front of the corner, ball placed where only the receiver can grab it.

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Wait, no. The guy in orange is the cornerback (Bentley). The guy in blue is the receiver (Whitlow). So that’s not a touchdown – that’s an interception.

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We only had one angle at it, but I don’t blame Bailey for that INT one bit. He threw it to the spot. It’s just that V’Angelo read the receiver, likely jumped in front when the receiver curled for the corner, and then outraced him to the spot where the ball would land.

Do this 12 times this season, V’Angelo.

Little Things

I’d like to pause here to point out the ridiculousness of doing a Check The Tape post based on three minutes of highlights shown at the end of a video about the QB battle.

THAT SAID, here are some little things I noticed:

Devin Church (#23) lined up in the Josh Ferguson spot. I’ve been hoping he’s more tailback than slot receiver, so I like seeing this.

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Want to see the difference between a senior offensive tackle and a sophomore? In this screencap, on the snap of the ball, senior Simon Cvijanovic is firing into his shuffle step immediately to get leverage on the defensive end. On the other side, sophomore Austin Schmidt is still in his stance. That half second, right there, is sometimes the difference between positive and negative yards:

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Oh, and I also figured out why our QB’s are having a solid spring. At the end of each practice they touch the Hand of Manberg. #handofmanberg

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You Tell Me

A new feature on Check The Tape! I did a screenshot of all three quarterbacks throwing the ball. I have my thoughts, and I have reasons I froze the tape at each spot, but I’m curious if you see the same things.

Here’s all three. Let me know what you think.

Lunt:

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O’Toole:

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Bailey:

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Play Of The Day

The scrimmage was closed to the media, but according to the announcer guy, this was the top play: a long touchdown pass from Wes Lunt to Dionte Taylor. Let’s break it down.

The arrow here is pointing to safety Zane Petty. The fact that he’s running parallel to the yard lines tells me that Dionte Taylor has done his job. He’s sold the inside route.

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So when Taylor makes his turn – a sharp turn there is the key to this entire route – Petty will have to reverse field.

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And if Lunt makes a perfect throw, this play is over. Saftey chased it inside, receiver made a sharp cut, quarterback put the ball to the outside where only the receiver could catch it… touchdown.

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After the TD signal, Wes Lunt and offensive guard Joe Spencer celebrated. The celebration was… interesting.

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Check The Tape – Purdue

Decided: it’s 14.9 times more fun to check tape when you win.  Science!

This one probably needs a disclaimer: it’s Purdue.  They’re really bad on tape.  So when we make a devastating block, yes, it’s awesome, but it’s Purdue.  They’re us one year ago.

Which reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about.  For a long time I’ve referenced Indiana’s drop when Kevin Wilson was hired.  They were 5-7 under Bill Lynch, hire a better coach, and go 1-11.  Then Tim Beckman takes over for Ron Zook after a 6-6 season and goes 2-10.

And now this year it’s even more frequent.  Purdue was in a bowl last year but they fired Danny Hope anyway.  They hire a better coach… and are winless in the conference and headed for 1-11.  NC State was in a bowl last year but they fired Tom O’Brien anyway.  They hired Dave Doeren from Northern Illinois… and are winless in conference and headed for 3-9.  Arkansas had a tough season under interim coach John L. Smith.  But they still have more talent than Illinois, Purdue, and NC State combined.  They hire Bret Bielema… and are winless in conference and headed for 3-9.

Rebuilds almost always take time.  “But he took over a bowl team” really doesn’t mean much.  New systems are almost always confusing.  Talent rarely matches the scheme you’re trying to implement.  Sometimes you’re Jim Mora and you take over a talented team and simply tweak the playcalling.  But that’s the exception, not the rule.

Alrighty then.  Not sure why I felt the need for that mini-rant, but there it is.  To the tape.

Make Your Choice

Good offensive coordinatin’ is about making a defender choose.  And sometimes, even when they choose correctly, you still get a big gain.

Here’s the Jon Davis catch in the first quarter.  The play is designed for the two receivers to draw the corner and safety, the tailback to draw the linebacker, and (hopefully) Jon Davis turns it upfield in space all to himself.

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Going well so far.  The middle linebacker is rushing the passer, so there’s one less player to cover that side of the field.  Which means the outside linebacker either has to choose Josh Ferguson coming out of the backfield or turn and go with Jon Davis.  Miles Osei and STEVEHULL are streaking deep and dragging the corner and safety with them.

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Jon Davis makes his turn up the field, and the linebacker decides to leave Ferguson alone (the field side outside linebacker probably has that responsibility now) and run with him.  That’s the right choice here.

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Nate has two options here.  Nearly everyone has been dragged deep, so a dump to Ferguson here is an easy 15 yards.

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But he likely reads that the safety doesn’t have time to drift over to Davis, so he likes his chances there one on one with the linebacker.

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This is such an athletic play by Davis.  Identifies the path of the ball and starts to turn.

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Spots the ground after he catches it.

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And gets the foot down.

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Here’s the safety arriving too late, and Davis high-pointing the ball.

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And getting a foot down.

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Fantastic play.  Jon Davis and Matt LaCosse will likely be huge parts of the offense next year.  They have 44 catches between them so far – with all the wide receivers graduating, I’d like to see them get 44 catches apiece next season.

“Busted Play”

Here’s the play the announcers thought was a busted play.  Ya been Cubited, BTN announcers.

This is similar to the long bomb we completed to Hull in the Wisconsin game.  Sell the QB run, then have him back up and throw it. Here’s the formation at the snap:

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Keep an eye on the cornerback as Scheelhaase tucks and runs.

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He identifies the run and let’s Hull run right on by.  Now it’s up to the safety (in the box).

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But Nate backpedals back into a pocket, leaving only the safety to cover Hull.

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Nate fires…

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…and Hull is pretty much all by himself.

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Picking up 20 yards

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This is where the announcers were saying that we “somehow” made something out of this “busted play”.  #Cubited.

You Mean I Can’t Just Run And Catch Passes?

If you’ve ever wondered why certain freshmen receivers don’t play very much, the answer is almost always “blocking”.  In high school they could just run and jump and catch.  If they want to play in college, they’ll have to learn how to block.

I like freshman WR Dionte Taylor.  I think he’ll be a big part of our offense in a few years.  But he has a few things to learn about blocking first.

Here he is lined up on the numbers, first down.

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The pitch is going to Josh Ferguson running his way, so Taylor has a cornerback to block.

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And he engages that corner, but, um…

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yeah…

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Look again at the screencap above.  If Taylor pins his guy to the outside, Ferguson might have scored on this play.  I didn’t see any safety help come into view.  But the corner sent Taylor flying and made the tackle:

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Again, you take any college receiver, go back to their freshman year, and you’ll find film like this.  It just takes time.  So the next time you find yourself saying “why don’t we pass to so-and-so more”, there’s your answer.

There’s Lucky, And Then There’s This

There is now a five-pack of lucky bounces that have gone against us in the last 10 years.  Five plays that leave you with “why do these bounces always happen to us?” feelings.  They are: 1) Rose Bowl forced fumble that bounced straight up in the air and hit a USC receiver in stride, 2) Rose Bowl bounce to Joe McKnight, 3) Fresno State 2-point conversion deflection, 4) Terry Hawthorne deflects a pass in the 2nd overtime at Michigan and it deflects right to their receiver in the endzone, and now 5) we force a fumble at Purdue and they have a guy trailing the play who picks it up and runs 35 yards.

So how was he trailing the play anyway?  The box shows the ballcarrier, but the arrow is pointing to Akeem Hunt will pick up the fumble.

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As the returner slips a couple tackles from Tyler White and Cedric Doxy, Hunt is blocking TJ Neal.

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Neal sheds the block by shoving Hunt behind the play.  Well isn’t that fortunate.

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So as Dillan Cazley and Mike Svetina force the fumble, there’s Hunt trailing the play.

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The bounce the ball makes here is unreal.  It hits right and Hunt’s feet…

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but instead of bouncing back towards the endzone (where Doxy could have likely picked it up), it pops up right into his hands.

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So he can now, you know, take it 35 yards and get tackled at the 50:

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Some day a ball will bounce like that for us.  It’s gonna happen.  Luck always evens out.  It has to.

Chunky And Teko

You’ve heard it a lot from me this fall, but here it is in pictures.  The future of this defense: Chunky Clements and Teko Powell.

This is the TFL that Chunky made, but I was maybe more impressed by Powell on the play.

Here’s Chunky lined up at defensive end (how dumb do I feel for yesterday’s “Chunky is at DT right now but I’m guessing he moves back to DE next year” yesterday? Then I check the tape and he’s already back at DE.)

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Purdue’s left tackle and left guard completely whiff on Chunky.  But watch Teko.  The right guard chucks him as he comes across his face.

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And then the right tackle tries to cut him.

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But Teko steps out of that and is in the backfield.  Oh, hi Chunky, nice tackle.

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So if the tailback steps out of this tackle by Chunky (he didn’t), Teko was there to clean him up.

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Another angle on Teko.  Right guard across his face.

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Here comes the right tackle.

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Tries to cut him.

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Teko isn’t having it.  Oh, hi Chunky, nice tackle.

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That’s the future.  Chunky pass rush, Teko clog up the middle.  Too bad they’re true-frosh and true-soph.  We need them to be seniors by August.

Defensive PotD

Defensive play of the day goes to Mike Svetina.  This… this is just fantastic.  Svetina slides up to the line of scrimmage at the snap.

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Tight end tries to take him on.

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He maintains his balance and sends the tight end stumbling.

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Now both the pulling guard and the tight end are double teaming Svetina.

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But he’s not having that, either.

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He gets the corner, there’s the ballcarrier…

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Tackled for no gain.

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He’s still out of position (an inside ‘backer playing outside), but that’s all we can do this year.  In the next two seasons, I expect much more like this out of Svetina.

Teko II

OK, a little more Teko before we’re finished.  This kind of film makes the coaches very happy.  Teko is at DT here.

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He starts the pass rush.

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But after the ball is thrown to the tight end underneath, he turns and pursues the play.

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And when the tight end spins out of TJ Neal’s tackle.

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Guess who is there to clean him up.

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I’m not sayin’ but I’m just sayin’ – Teko and Chunky are the future.

Not To Be Outdone

But it wasn’t all just great defensive plays on Saturday.  Here’s Teddy Karras going beastmode.  On the snap, Teddy takes on a defensive tackle.

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And Teddy decides “you know what? I’m going to take him over there.”

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So he does.

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And with the defensive tackle out of the way, Josh Ferguson has a big seam for a 15 yard gain.

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Two more years of that.  The last one hopefully an All Big Ten year, too.

Play(s) Of The Game

Two plays of the game, really.  Two PBU’s.

Eleven minutes to go, the receiver has a step on Jaylen Dunlap.

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Not so fast my friend.

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1:15 to go, the receiver has a step on V’Angelo Bentley.

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Not so fast my friend.

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And with that, an Illini win.  Finally.

Now let’s go take it out on the Wildkittens.

Check The Tape – Ohio State

I’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to check good tape.  This losing streak is even taking a toll on CTT.  I just… I just want to Check The Tape without a feeling of dread.  Can you imagine how fun it would be to check the tape for, say, the 2007 season?

Yet here we go again, slogging through another losing season, trying to figure out what went wrong.  I hate everything I choose to be.

OK! Now that we’ve started on such a positive not, to the tape! [Read more...]

Check The Tape – Indiana

I’m kind of a moron. For some reason, I felt like the Indiana game – our 19th consecutive Big Ten loss – called for a Check The Tape post with 74 screencaps. A post that six people will care about, and I spend, what, 13 hours now working on it? What? Why?

I really don’t have an answer. If I told you I enjoy it, which I do, you would call me insane. So let’s just say I’m a director who shot 3.5 hours of footage and the studio wants it to be a 2 hour movie and I look and I look but I can’t find anything to cut. Because I seriously thought about cutting some of this stuff, but it’s all too important. Right to it.

Creativity

Since April I’ve been saying the same thing: this defense, with 9 new starters and so many underclassmen, is going to give up yard after yard after yard. It’s just going to happen. Which means this team will sink or swim on the ability of that defense to make big plays – turnovers, forced field goals in the redzone, big third down stops.

We haven’t really seen any of that. And I keep looking for some creativity on those big plays. Like Indiana did on this third down.

IU doesn’t have much of a defensive line, so they’re playing true freshmen like Darius Latham. Here he is lined up at DT:

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On the snap, it’s just a normal pass rush.

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But then Latham retreats.  IU’s defensive coordinator thinks we might try the slant on third and three, so Latham’s instructions are to bring the pass rush and then back off to spy.

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Here he is backpedaling further as Nate starts to fire the slant to STEVEHULL.

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Notice that Hull, if he catches this, is probably going to get a lot more than just four yards and a first down.  But Latham has made the read and is reaching for the ball.

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He knocks it down and we have to punt.

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I’d give anything to see us try that.  How many sacks to our defensive tackles have this year?  Maybe two?  So if they’re not going to get to the QB or even collapse the pocket, why not set them up with a play call like that?  Playcalling is a lot more than just “when to blitz”, Tim Banks.

He’s Only A Sophomore

Josh Ferguson just continues to impress week after week.  This play, to me, was probably his most impressive run of the season.  Here we have three tight ends on the right side:

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Pay attention to Matt LaCosse here, as he’s going to get a great block.

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LaCosse stands up his guy as Jon Davis goes linebacker hunting.

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This is what was so impressive about Ferguson on this play.  He was all set to cut this inside, but he senses three great blocks so he bounces it outside.

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And when he does, it’s now a one-on-one battle with the safety.

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Actually, make that a one-on-three battle.  Ferguson makes a fantastic read here, seeing that he has just enough space to cut inside the safety and avoid the linebackers.  Also note that Justin Hardee has the cornerback blocked to the outside at the ten.

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I love this picture.  Ferguson turns on the burners and leaves three guys having missed diving for his feet.

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He gawn.

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Thanks to that hamstring injury as a freshman that led to a medical redshirt, Aaron Bailey and Wes Lunt will have two years of Josh Ferguson in the backfield, not just one.  That’s a good thing for the future of this program.

Damned If You Don’t, Damned If You Do

Again, the story for this defense is redzone third downs.  Just get some stops and force field goals.  Make the halftime score 14-13 instead of 21-14.

Here’s a third and three from the seven.  Get a stop here and they’ll kick the field goal.

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I’d like to maybe see a blitz here, but our play call is to rush four and drop seven.

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And it mostly works.  Indiana leaves seven guys in to block, so our seven guys we dropped into coverage only have to cover three receivers.

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Jonathan Brown is the spy here in case they dump down to the tailback or Sudfeld tries to run with it.

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Here’s where the first down is made.  Look at Brown in the photo above.  Now look for him here.  For some reason, he drifted to his right.  But Sudfeld, under pressure from Teko Powell (who keeps getting better every game), takes off in the opposite direction.

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By the time Brown recovers he’s somewhat pinned himself behind the umpire.

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And Sudfeld has just enough room…

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…to pick up the first down.

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They score, it’s 14-7 instead of 10-7, and the same song plays over and over and over.

Should we have blitzed?  Well, on the next big redzone third down we did just that.  It’s 14-14 now, and IU has third and five from our 17.

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This time, instead of rushing four, we rush seven.  Meaning Taylor Barton’s job is to cover the center of the field.

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Which means Darius Mosely is on his own outside.  Normally he’d have free safety help here, but we were in a soft zone because of the blitz.  So when Cody Latimer catches the pass…

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He can stretch for the first down instead of being stood up by the safety help.

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Which is just enough for the first down.

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So on the very next play…

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yeah…

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I don’t blame Mosely for either play here. It’s going to be a long learning process, and he was inches from making both plays. Maybe as a junior he’ll make a play on both throws. But for now, he’s learning on the job.

Pride Goeth Before The Fall

Indiana is just like us, playing a lot of true freshmen on defense.  Here’s freshman linebacker Clyde Newton making a solid tackle on Jon Davis.

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And Newton is pretty excited.

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Really happy with himself, continuing to chest-thump.

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The camera cuts back to him thirteen seconds later and he’s still at it.

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So on the very next play, he lines up over our wide receivers.

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And STEVEHULL gets him to open his hips to the outside.

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Which means Clyde is in trouble.

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Big trouble.

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Um, Clyde, you’re getting dusted by a converted safety with a bum shoulder.

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And I mean dusted.

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Great game for STEVEHULL.  I was hoping he’d be gifted athletically.

Fall Goeth Before The Pride

Clyde Newton did make a solid play not long after that.  First, here’s Tim Beckman’s reaction when he says to go for it on fourth down and he sees that Nathan Scheelhaase is on the sideline.

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“Um, Bill, it’s fourth and three and my senior quarterback is standing right here.” (not an actual quote)

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Cubit says something to him and they settle in to watch the play.

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This play actually sets up fairly well.  We just forget about Clyde.

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A nice pocket of blockers is set up for Bailey, but here comes Clyde.

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You can’t see him because of #93, but this is where Clyde makes the tackle.  If Clyde’s not there, Bailey tries to shoot that gap between Karras and Heitz and maybe he’s still running.  But Clyde was there, and we turned it over on downs.

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So many little things in this game.  We go for it on fourth down and fail.  They go for it and pick it up.  We have to kick a field goal in the redzone.  They pick up all of the redzone third downs.  Just do those things, and this is a different game.  Little things, man.

Hey Ref

And now for our weekly Bad Call Ref segment, brought to you by Bill Lemonnier’s Retirement Home.

Big third down, pass going to Spencer Harris, and, um, the cornerback can’t grab his facemask like that, can he?

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You mean the corner can just yank his head down right when the ball arrives?

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Causing it to doink harmlessly off his helmet?

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Apparently, you can.

But as I do each week, here’s a call that went our way.  And this one was egregious.  Maybe our most fortunate spot ever.

Early in the third quarter, third and two, and Josh Ferguson is tripped up.

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He lands at least a yard short of the first down.  This screencap was a little late, as his elbow hit before this.  The correct spot for this ball would be right at his hip.

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Ferguson tumbles forward to the 34…

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… and they gave him that spot for the first down.  At least a yard and a half if not two yards ahead of where he was down.  A few plays later, busted coverage for IU and STEVEHULL touchdown.  Thanks, refs.

But wait, there’s more.

So there’s this targeting rule that says don’t lower your helmet and strike the opponent in the helmet.  So naturally…

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That’s what this IU defender does to Ferguson, striking him in right in the earhole with the crown of his helmet.

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And the Illini coaches are all screaming for it… and the ref is right there…

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but nothing.

What’s the point of the rule if it’s going to happen not even ten feet from an official, is clear to everyone standing on the sideline, is crystal clear on film, and the officials do nothing?

*weekly disclaimer stating that better officiating wouldn’t have won this game, but it’s still annoying*

So Close, Yet…

This is the turning point of the game.  We score to make it 28-21 good guys.  We then hold them a yard short on third and two, forcing fourth and one.  Even though they’re at their own 39, they go for it.

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Make a stop here, and we’re in business.  And it starts well, as Kenny Nelson crashes hard.  Mason Monheim is the player to watch here.

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Roberson has to bounce it outside, and here comes Monheim.

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But he can’t get his feet.  Again, a tackle here and we have first and ten at the Indiana 35 with a chance to go up two touchdowns.

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Alas, Monheim couldn’t get his feet, and Roberson picked up the first down.

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They tied the game a few plays later, yadda yadda yadda, 19 game Big Ten losing streak.

Sevetinaland

In games where we give up yard after yard after yard, I always find myself asking for a run blitz.  Just crash a linebacker and maybe make a TFL.

That’s what we did on this play.  Mike Svetina is lined up out at Star.

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And before the snap he crashes down to the line of scrimmage.

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So as Tevin Coleman heads around the corner, Svetina is inside.

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Which means as Coleman finds a seam, there’s nobody home in Svetinaland because he crashed the LOS.

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And with nobody home in Svetinaland, it takes one jab step to open up Earnest Thomas and Coleman was gone.

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75 yards, Indiana regains the lead, ballgame.

Little Help Please

Nate had another fantastic game.  And he handled the loss with class.  But if I’m him, I’d be pretty upset that he’s getting no help out there in crunchtime.

Take this drive.  Our last chance to get back in the game.  First down, Matt LaCosse is on the wing.

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Nate finds some time in the pocket and launches a pass to LaCosse… but LaCosse isn’t looking for the ball.  He had position, the ball was there, it might have been a touchdown, but LaCosse didn’t expect the throw.

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OK, second down.  Keep an eye on the Indiana defensive tackle.

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He splits Teddy Karras and Alex Hill, which mean Nate can’t stay in the pocket.

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And has to just throw the ball away to avoid the big loss.

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Third down is a slant throw to Spencer Harris.  But he drops it.

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Three straight plays someone failed him.  If we’re going to kill this streak, we need 22 guys playing like Nate.

Sometimes It’s So Simple

When they named Latimer player of the game, they showed a little highlight package.  And it became so clear again.  The main difference in this game was an experienced receiver burning true freshman cornerbacks for touchdowns.  Here…

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…and here…

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…and here…

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Ballgame.  19 straight.  With Ohio State coming to town.

Don’t expect a 74-screencap Check The Tape next week.  This one is going to get ugly fast.

Check the Tape: Alabama State

What is someone supposed to do at 9:00AM on a Saturday morning after taking his dog out for a walk? In my world, it is load up WatchESPN on my laptop (for the live version of the game, I watched it on the AppleTV), pray that I didn’t get the Russian Cable Access version of the feed that I got at times last night, and then Check the Tape.

[Read more...]

Check The Tape – Penn State

I promised myself I wasn’t going to watch the end.  I was going to stop after Josh Ferguson’s leaping touchdown.

And I mostly pulled it off.  I didn’t re-watch any of the overtime.  But I did watch Penn State’s drive to tie it with the field goal.  So painful, even days later.  We’ll get to that at the end.

First, I want to go back to something from last week: Big Ten officials spotting the ball not at just the nearest hash, but at the nearest full yard line (20, 25, 30, etc).

Here’s Josh Ferguson’s screen pass at the beginning of the game.  Because he was tip-toeing down the sideline, I went back and watched it several times to find the exact spot where he was pushed out of bounds.  Here it is – right between the 16 and 17 yard line.

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So of course they spot it three and a half yards away at the 20.

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Look, I know officials aren’t standing right there for a play like this.  They have to come running in and approximate a spot.  But this call isn’t difficult.  You’re staring at the sideline, when you see his foot step out of bounds you stare directly at that spot and you run to it.  What you don’t do: just say “I think he was kind of close to the 20″.

This kind of ball-spotting even helped us later in the game, as Nate went out of bounds about a yard short of the sticks on a scramble.  Yep – official spotted him just past the sticks.  Right on a yard line.  I’ll never understand this.

4-1-6 Defense

You know how during the NFL draft they put up those “best players available regardless of position” lists?  Or how college basketball recruiting experts put together lists like “best players in Illinois regardless of class” and list a few sophomores ahead of some seniors?

This is our “best pass rush regardless of position” defense.  And it was probably our most effective defense on Saturday.  How do you generate a pass rush?  Well, you take your four best pass rushers – three defensive ends and a linebacker = and you make them your “defensive line”.  DE Tim Kynard went to nose guard, DE Kenny Nelson at 3-tech DT, with Houston Bates at one DE position and then Jonathan Brown at the other.

We then had one linebacker (Mason Monheim), four (yes, four) cornerbacks (sophomore Eaton Spence, freshman Caleb Day, freshman Darius Mosely, freshman Jaylen Dunlap), and two safeties (Zane Petty and Earnest Thomas).  Here’s the formation.

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And it worked pretty well.  Probably our best defensive formation of the day.  My favorite part of the whole thing:  the way Jonathan Brown lines up when he’s at defensive end.  Like he’s in a track meet:

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I’m hoping to see more of that defense in the next few weeks.

A Blitz! No, Really, A Blitz!

I know we’ve blitzed this year.  But we haven’t really blitzed, you know?  Well, here in the first quarter, we got our first sack in a long time with an all-out blitz.  Watch Jonathan Brown (far side) and Eric Finney (near side) here:

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Finney is obviously blitzing here, so the tailback comes to his side to pick it up.  Brown we’re not sure of yet – is he going to stay with the tight end?

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Tight end is released, and the right guard is busy blocking Teko Powell, which means Penn State has only the right tackle (#77) to block both Brown and DeJazz Woods.

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Which means Hackenberg is already in trouble because the right tackle takes Woods leaving Jonathan Brown with a clear shot at the QB, but Eric Finney has made a great play as well, getting inside the block of the tailback.

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Which means Finney and Brown meet at the quarterback.

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A sack!  On a blitz!  They do happen!  And hopefully they’ll happen more in the next few weeks.

Mind The Gap

Vic Koenning’s defense was all about spacing.  He somewhat didn’t care if a player made a tackle.  I even saw him get mad at players for making a tackle for loss if it meant they left their spot to do it.  His defense, in a way, was kickoff coverage.  Stay in your lane and your teammates will make the play.  I loved it.

This defense, as you know, springs leaks.  Here’s an example of that. And I should say that I always hesitate on plays like this because a certain defense might have been called and here I am pointing to a player out of position when he might be in position. So you kind of never know on these things.  But here goes.

Penn State pinned deep at our seven:

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Bill Belton takes the handoff, and watch DeJazz Woods.  He’s thinking the run will go around the left tackle, so he’s headed behind the linebackers to make the play downfield.

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But that leaves one giant gap where Woods would normally be.

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And Belton say “don’t mind if I do” as he cuts it back around Woods.

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Still hasn’t been touched:

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And he’s finally tackled at the 19 – first down Penn State.

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Let’s look at nearly the same play later in that drive.  This time, we’re in that 4-1-6 defense I described above (defensive line of Bates, Kynard, Nelson, and JB).  Belton takes the handoff…

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…and players identify this and don’t get too far upfield.  This leaves Mason Monheim free to get a good look at Belton.

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Belton goes for the same spot as above, but this time Monheim has him mostly cut off.  Notice Jonathan Brown here.  He’s identified the run and is shedding his block to crash down.

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So as Monheim grabs a leg, Brown is there to take him down.

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Third and three failed, Penn State has to punt.  More, please.

Mr. Butterworth

I know that punters are trained to do it.  And I know I’ve cheered when our punter wins an Academy Award for flopping.  But this Alex Butterworth guy… this guy…

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Leg is out.

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Leg is still out, hopping forward, hoping to make contact with Justin Hardee.

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Leg is still out.

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REF MY LEG IS DEAD I CAN’T BEND MY KNEE DID YOU CATCH THAT.

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This one is my favorite.  Down on the ground and his leg is STILL extended.  (You can stop now, Mr. Butterworth – you tricked the ref already.)

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Strangest thing.  Penn State has to punt later in that drive.  And this time, right after kicking the ball, he brings his right leg back down.  Soooo weird.

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I get it.  Contact is a penalty.  But I hate flopping. I hate it when Manu Ginobli does it, and I hate it when Gareth Bale does it, and I really hate it when Mr. Butterworth does it.

Pocket Presence

I want to point it out every week.  Nathan Scheelhaase, in a situation where he’d tuck and run any of the last three years, staying in the pocket, stepping up, and delivering a first down pass.

Had we won, this would have been the biggest play of the game.  Third and 10 at the Penn State 22, trailing by 4, six minutes remaining.

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And here comes the rush from the outside.

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At any point in his first 40 games, Nathan Scheelhaase tucks at this moment and chooses one of these two lanes to try to pick up the first down himself (he wouldn’t have – not that deep in Penn State territory).

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But this time he stays in the pocket, steps forward, and delivers the ball…

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… on target to Jon Davis just past the sticks with two defenders on him.

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Did he get the first down, Martize Barr?

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Yes he did.  And then we scored.  (And then we lost.)

So Close

All we can talk about is the losing streak.  It’s all the announcers will be talking about Saturday at Indiana.  And watching this game again, I just couldn’t get over how close we were to breaking it.

Just think if we had completed this pass to Evan Wilson to get a first down and get us out of the shadow of our endzone…

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Or if this Penn State field goal was seven feet to the right.  Seven feet to the right and we can take a knee and the game is over and the streak is over and we’re legitimately talking about finding two wins.

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Or if Darius Mosely can grab this interception.  If that doesn’t slip through his fingers right there, we win.

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I’m not blaming Mosely. He made a great diving play to break up a game winning touchdown. His job is break-up first, INT second, and he did that.

But we were so close….

Check The Tape – Wisconsin

Gross. Gross gross gross. If the theme of this week is “Wisconsin has the program we want”, the theme for this post is “Wisconsin has the tape I want to review”. They’re so.. good at football and stuff. It was hard to watch.

So about halfway through rewatching the game, I stopped paying attention to how good they were and started watching the officials spotting the ball. Anything to take my mind off the reality of it all.

Ok, let’s go. First, I Spy an IlliniBoard “Those Were The Days” author.

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The look of concern. The general disdain for all things Badgers. It’s like he’s composing the 2016 “Those Were (Not) The Days – Wisconsin” post as he watches.  And the game hasn’t even started yet.

Sneaky Hobbitses

I’m sure you noticed this, but on the first play of the game, we tried to sneak Nate on the near side of the field.  The team had huddled on the number 20 (all players have to come onto the field as far as the numbers to be legal), and then Nate headed back to the sideline, stopping rather nonchalantly as to look like a casual observer of the play.

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But Wisconsin’s Darius Hillary is onto us.

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This is still helpful for the play, as it takes one corner to the short side of the field when we’re going to run the other way…

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…but if Hillary hadn’t seen Nathan, Bailey takes the snap and hits him for a free touchdown.

But Cubit wasn’t done.  It’s 21-0 and we try the same thing.  This time it came very close to working.  Nathan is hanging out right at the sideline, and Wisconsin’s only freshman starter (Sojourn Shelton) doesn’t see him.

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Shelton lines up over Ryan Lankford in the slot and I’m in the press box murmuring “snap the ball snap the ball snap the ball”.

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But Aaron Bailey (at QB) sees something he doesn’t like, so he walks to the line and barks out a signal.

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And as he backs up to the shotgun spot again, Shelton notices Scheelhaase and yells to his safety.

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So by the time Bailey is back in the shotgun and ready to snap the ball, Wisconsin has both receivers covered.

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Tis a shame.  I would have loved to see a free touchdown.

Bentley Injury

If you haven’t noticed, after last year’s injury disaster, this season has been mostly injury free.  We lost several backup defensive tackles at the same time, like Teko Powell and Robbie Bain, which caused us to get creative with offensive linemen playing defensive tackle in practice, but beyond that, we haven’t really had to deal with too many injuries.

Until now.  V’Angelo Bentley’s ankle injury here is a huge blow.  Both to our defense and to our special teams.  I was hoping it was just something minor (someone rolled up on it a bit and the ankle is tight for a few days), but this tape says differently.

As Bentley cut back to tackle Jared Abbrederis, his toe got stuck in the turf and he rolled over on his own ankle.  Here’s a screenshot of his knee pointing one way and his ankle another way.

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That hurts (in more ways than one).  Oh, and let’s play “can you find what’s wrong with this picture?”

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Fly Sweep

Remember the play that Billy Gonzales and Chris Beatty loved?  The play that was going to revolutionize our offense?  Yes, the Fly Sweep.

Over there on the Wisconsin sideline, Chris Beatty must have been in awe to see a Fly Sweep performed so perfectly on the Memorial Stadium turf.  Here’s Melvin Gordon lined up as a wide receiver.  Note Mike Svetina, who will play a role in this play.

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Before the snap, Gordon goes in motion.

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Stave takes the snaps and immediately hands the ball to Gordon who is already at full speed.  Note Svetina.  He should be able to meet him on the edge, right?

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Like, when Gordon gets around the corner, Svetina should be able to stop him from getting to the sideline, right?

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Speed is speed is speed is speed.

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Gordon gets around Svetina, but Zane Petty is getting blocked to the outside, so he should be able to get to Gordon, right?

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Speed is speed is speed is speed.

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Is speed.

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Hope you enjoyed that one, Mr. Beatty.

Psych

When I talked to STEVEHULL after the game, I asked him about the long pass completion.  He said it was the same option play that we had run earlier in the game and that he had blocked the safety on that play.  So on this one, he wanted to sell the block and then go.

Here’s Hull coming off the line and looking past the corner to the safety.

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Running straight at him (safety not pictured yet), shoulders squared, ready to deliver the block.

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Psych.

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Do we need to talk more about Hull’s speed?  He pulled away from a pretty fast cornerback here.

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Love that play.  Show them one thing, show it again, psych.

Ballspotting

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing of what I’m about to show affected the game.  Wisconsin blew us out.  They almost scored 60.  I’m simply bored with the game tape at this point and wanting to hate the officials.

It has always bugged me when officials default to a hash mark when spotting the ball.  And it bugs me even more when they just default to the nearest yard line so that the next set of downs has a clear first down mark.

In the first half, Nathan goes out of bounds just across the 35 yard line.  I drew a line where I thought he went out.

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And the official agreed, putting his foot right at that spot.

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But where did they mark the ball?  Right on the 35 yard line, of course.  Because it’s easier that way.

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And it’s not that it hurts us all the time.  Here’s a play where it helped us.  STEVEHULL steps out of bounds right at the Wisconsin 36:

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So of course they spot the ball directly on the Wisconsin 35.  Because that way they won’t have to measure if we get close to the 25.

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Where it really matters, of course, is at the goal line.  This play drove me nuts. (Again, it didn’t matter – we scored on the next play – but it still drives me nuts.

Donovonn Young takes the handoff and eyes the endzone.

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We get a pretty decent surge and Young hits a hole.

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I’m pointing to Young’s derriere here as his knee first hits.  A few of our players signaled touchdown.  And if you look at it, given the position of his butt, he’s within inches of getting the ball across the goal line.

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Wisconsin linebacker Marcus Trotter decides to get a little crafty.  So he grabs Young’s feet…

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…AND LITERALLY PULLS HIM BACK ONE FULL YARD BY HIS FEET.

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Depositing his feet at the two (and the ball at the one):

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So when the officials climb into the pile, guess where they spot the ball?

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Yep.  Go back up and look at the screencap when his knee hit.  This spot is at least two feet off.  Again, didn’t matter, we scored on the next play, but still, lazy officials make me HULKSMASH-y.

Actually, here’s one that did matter (on the drive, not the game).  It’s hard to see in this pic, but the yellow arrow is pointing to the ball at about the 1 foot line.  This is the official’s view, and hes able to see between Martize Barr and the Wisconsin cornerback there, so this spot should be somewhere between the 1 and the goal line.  I’d say a little closer to the goal line than the one.

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Where is it spotted?  Right on the one, of course.

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How short was Aaron Bailey on the next play?  About a foot.  You catch my drift.

Again, I’m a detail guy – when I say there’s a 37% chance of something happening, I’ve evaluated everything and fully believe that 38% is too high and 36% is too low.  So when officials just place the ball at the nearest yard line because it’s close enough, I feel a strong desire to point it out.

And to prove my point, I did a test.  I picked a random spot in the tape to see where the ball was placed.  This is the play I landed on.  Long pass to Abbrederis, and he’s tackled just outside the 10.  This is where his knee hit – the ball is probably 6″ from the ten yard line.

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Where was it spotted?  On the 11, of course.

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I get that on a play like this, there isn’t a side judge standing there. So when that guy gets to the spot, the best he can do is approximate how far the ball was advanced before the knee went down. You’re never going to get every spot right.

But when every single play is spotted on a hash mark – including plays inside the one yard line – well, to me, that’s lazy officials. And that needs to be called out. And I think that’s what I just did.

Check The Tape – Nebraska

Yeah, this one was ugly. Mental mistakes, getting out-efforted, picking the wrong lane, missing the one guy we had to block – this game tape is a mess. I agree with Fred Wakefield’s comments – this was a “burn the game film” kind of game. We’ll need twice the effort and half the mistakes if we want to hang anywhere close to Wisconsin.

Even ESPNU gave a bad performance. Nothing against Austin Teitsma or Eaton Spence, but… maybe our impact player on defense might be the guy who is fifth in the nation in tackles?

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Just sayin’, ESPN. JB might have had a tiny little impact on this game.

OK, to the tape.

My Bad

Did anyone else catch this? I missed it while watching the game live. After his first long run, Ameer Abdullah was fired up. Did the whole “yeah… let’s go… let’s do this” skip back to the huddle. And as he was skipping, he encountered a ref…

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But you can’t stop a man when he’s skipping.

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So I think the thing to do then is to take your right arm and shove the ref to the ground.

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OOPS MY BAD DUDE

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There’s fired up after a first down run… and then there’s send a ref flying heels over head because you’re so fired up.

There’s A Hold On Every Play

You’ve heard that before, right? That the refs could call holding on someone nearly every play? It’s mostly true. Which means it’s the offensive lineman’s job to get right up to the holding line without crossing it. And Nebraska’s players are fantastic at it.

Here’s Abdullah’s long run on the first drive where he almost scored.

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On the snap, it sets up well for Nebraska. They have a blocker prepared for all three of our linebackers.

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JB could normally shoot that gap and maybe even get a tackle for loss. But the pulling guard is in great position here.

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Remember the whole “hold on every play” thing?  Nebraska gets away with a tiny hold here, as the Cornhusker wide receiver is latched on to Mike Svetina’s arm, pulling him away and allowing Abdullah to hit the gap between Svetina and Earnest Thomas.

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Remember how Bishop Sankey showed that great vision in the Washington game?  Abdullah does the same here.  Gap is in front of you, but always flip to the oustide if you have a blocker.

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Which means Taylor Barton can only get an ankle.

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Which means Abdullah nearly scores.  If I’m a Nebraska fan, I love this shot.  Abdullah is still getting blocking 25 yards downfield.

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Again, I’m not blaming the hold.  There’s a hold on every play.  And this was a subtle one.  Wish we’d do that more.

Do That More

Speaking of, watch Mason Monheim.

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Keep watching Monheim as the Nebraska guard pulls.

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Houston Bates took the QB (his job on this play), so Armstrong flips it to Abdullah.  And the pulling guard puts a fantastic block on Monheim.

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Still blocking him.  Look at how much space is created.

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We needed a third down stop here.  He’s at the first down marker, untouched, still trying to decide which blockers he wants to follow.

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And Monheim is still being blocked.  Monheim is usually pretty good at shedding blocks – how could he not get away this time?  Oh.

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There’s a hold on every play.  On this play, a pulling guard latches on to Monheim’s jersey (pretty much legal if he’s inside the shoulder pads) and doesn’t let go until they’re 15 yards down the field.  Wish we’d do that more.

Great Catch Bro – Wait, I Should Tackle Him

Kenny Bell made a fantastic catch.  A SportsCenter Top Ten catch.  And our safeties sure enjoyed watching it.

(NOTE: I hate this part of CTT.  I hate just picking on two players and calling them out.  This tape was so ugly I could have done this for every single starter. But this play was…)

Zane Petty at the top of the screen, Earnest Thomas at the bottom.  And Kenny Bell already looking like an acrobat.

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I’m not sure where Thomas was headed here.  To the spot where Bell caught it?  And Petty (#21) is actually turning up the field. What?

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Here, both Petty and Thomas are in this “wait, he caught that, we should tackle him” phase.

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But it’s too late.

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See ya.

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That was the hardest play to watch.  All you have to do is get in front of him.  And both our safeties ran up the field to the spot where he caught the ball. What?

Tim Clary Beastmode

OK, let’s get to something good.  Donovonn Young’s touchdown.  Also known as Tim Clary Doing His Jay Prosch Impression.

Pointing to Clary here.  He lined up at fullback and was the lead blocker for Young.

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The tiny little arrow is pointing to Clary’s helmet as he blocks two Nebraska defenders at the same time.

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And he’s still driving them backwards.

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Now he’s pretty much blocking three guys as a fourth, #18, tries to push the pile the other way.  Too late – DY is in the endzone.

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Great block, walkon.  Smile for the camera.

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Oh.

Not This Time

Remember this formation?  We used it last week against Miami.  Nine linemen, a quarterback, and a tailback.

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I seriously want to call this play The Hot Mess.

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Except it doesn’t go very well this time.  Vincent Valentine (from Illinois, should be playing for Illinois) and Avery Moss (bottom of screen) have already beaten this play by splitting blocks.

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Valentine and Moss.

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Valentine and Moss.

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Valentine and Moss.  Two yard loss.

What The Cubit

I think this will be a regular Check The Tape feature.  Each week we’ll do a What The Cubit.

Check out this formation.  Left tackle Simon Cvijanovic split out wide left.  Right tackle Corey Lewis split out wide right.  And a bunch of Nebraska players pointing like “um, am I supposed to cover him?”

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On the snap, we fake the handoff to Josh Ferguson and toss it to Martize Barr.

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As the ball goes to Barr, we have two good blocks set up for Simon Cvijanovic and Ryan Lankford, and the Nebraska linebacker (blue arrow) is frozen, trying to figure out what’s going on.

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Cvijanovic gets one last block on the Nebraska player’s shoulder, opening up enough room for Barr.

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The linebacker finally recovers, but he tackles him 12 yards down the field.

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Next play, same formation.

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Check out the Nebraska linebacker.  Full out sprint to the spot where Barr caught the last pass.  He’s identified the formation and he’s gonna be ready to blow it up.

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OOPS.  We handed it to Ferguson this time.

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And with one less defender in the middle of the field, he gets nine yards.

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Next play, same formation again.

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And a frozen linebacker again.  In fact, all of the Nebraska defenders are frozen, given that we just ran from this formation and threw from this formation.

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So by the time they move forward to make a play, Ferguson has the first down.

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I like playing What The Cubit.  I would like playing What The Cubit even more if we won.

OK, one last photo.  Football is a game of inches, right?  Yep.

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Wouldn’t have changed anything in the game.  But man, all of that field and two inches from a touchdown.

Oh well.  Wouldn’t have mattered.  This one was ugly.  Now burn the tape.

Check The Tape – Washington

Dial-up warning!

I’m stealing a phrase from Illiniboard lore there. See, kids, there used to be this thing called “dial-up” internet, where you’d actually dial in with your phone line. And it was slow. So if there was a post on the IB with pictures attached – lots of pictures attached – etiquette said to add a dial-up warning. Click here, and it might take 11 minutes to load.

Well, because there won’t be any Tape to Check next week, I went a little overboard this week. One only gets so many chances to check tape in one’s lifetime. Here’s what I saw.

First, I thought this was kind of funny/rude. We enter the field first, and our band is still set up in our endzone when Washington comes out of their tunnel. Notice #21 here, Marcus Peters.

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You know how you always ask your football players to see the lane? He sees the lane…

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…and finishes his run right down the band aisle.

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If you’re a trombone player here, you have to “accidentally” let the slide out, right? Actually, that’s a horrible idea. Band, forget I ever said that.

STEVEHU… oh.

Just how did STEVEHULL get so open on the touchdown pass that he dropped. The key is in the play before.

Hull and Martize Barr and lined up on the near side (this is the play before the Hull pass).

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Hull breaks the route inside and Ryan Lankford is dragging across underneath.

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Scheelhaase hits Lankford underneath for a minimal gain.

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OK, next play. Same alignment with Hull and Barr near side.

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This time Barr cuts out into the flat while Hull turns it upfield.

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Nathan pump-fakes to Barr, which catches the attention of the corner and the safety on that side. And why wouldn’t it? We had just completed a pass to the same spot.

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Which leaves Hull WIDE open.

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And that ends our discussion of that play. Nothing else of any significance happened on that play. Certainly nothing that would change the course of the game.

One more thing to note. That defensive back, breathing a sigh of relief that the pass was dropped, immediately spins and starts playing the blame game. Sorry, pal, you were (nearly) HULL’d.

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Dunlap Dunlap Dunlap

Remember the series at the end of the first half where Washington had first and goal but we forced a field goal? There was a common theme to all three downs before they had to kick it.

First down, the ball is thrown low and behind the receiver because the corner was in good position. That corner? Jaylen Dunlap.

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Second down, Price connects with a receiver at the five, but as he spins back to try to get free, he’s pounced on by one Jaylen Dunlap.

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Third down, the person making a read and calling out something to the safety? Jaylen Dunlap.

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Oh, and the person breaking up the pass in the endzone forcing the field goal? Jaylen Dunlap.

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This is a kid who turned 18 twenty days ago. And now he’s more our less our third corner and almost a default starter. Big things are expected from this kid. Really big things.

Sankey Sankey Sankey

Raise your hand if you were really impressed with Washington’s tailback. This was probably his most impressive run. From the sideline view, this play is setting up pretty well as Sankey bounces it outside.

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This shows the hole that Sankey saw between two of his blockers. A hole that would get him 25 more yards.

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Let’s go to the endzone view to get a better look. The arrow shows where 95% of all tailbacks in America take this ball. Sure, the safety is there to make the tackle, but that’s still a solid 9-10 yard gain.

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And here’s where Sankey took this play. He bounced through his two blockers and pushed it outside, knowing that the safety would get screened by the second block as well.

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So once he jumped through that hole…

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…he got 25 more yards down the sideline.

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If you wonder how some tailbacks get 181 yards instead of 103, it’s vision like that. They just have a feel for blockers and can turn 9 yards into 29 yards. I call it Mikel Leshouring the opposition.

One Tackle

I don’t like to do this very much in Check The Tape posts. I kind of hate to single out one guy. If I watched the tape closely enough, I could find a mistake by every single player.

But this one was a big mistake, so let’s look at it. First off, the receiver in motion drags V’Angelo Bentley to the other side of the field.

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And then Washington runs Jesse Callier to that same side of the field. But that’s OK, because DeJazz Woods has contain.

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Here, Woods has him dead to rights. Gonna be a tackle for loss, methinks.

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Or maybe not. Arms don’t tackle people, people tackle people.

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Now the play sets up perfectly for Washington. Their All American tight end gets a fantastic block on Mason Monheim, and with Bentley dragged to the other side of the field following the receiver in motion, it’s now a one-on-one moment for Callier and Taylor Barton.

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One that Callier wins.

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Yes, in a one-on-one situation like that, it’s the safeties job to force the play back inside where his teammates can assist in the tackle. But with the rest of the play blocked so well, it’s a touchdown. A TFL turned into a TD.

Spunk

Just two shots here, but this was probably my favorite thing on this film. We’re down 31-10. The game is over, right? Not quite. Nathan hits Ryan Lankford for a long touchdown and it’s 31-17. And I noticed that Nathan was pointing at the sideline as he came off the field. Who was he pointing to?

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Looks like it was Bad News Brown. I imagine this conversation was something like “get us the ball back and we’ll do it again”.

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They did. And then we had to punt, and the defense got the ball back again, and then we scored to make it 31-24. Spunk. Gumption. Resiliency. Love it.

Improved OL

I think we were all pretty concerned about the offensive line after the SIU game. If we can run the ball against an FCS team, what are we going to do against a BCS opponent?

Cincinnati was encouraging, and plays like this one were even more encouraging. Here, our line flat wins every battle. Especially the left side. Here’s Matt LaCosse (TE) Simon Cvijanovic (LT) and Michael Heitz (LG) coming off the ball with some drive. And note Teddy Karras pulling and Jon Davis looking for a block, too.

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I pointed to LaCosse maintaining his block here, but look at Cvijanovic driving #71 back and back and back. Just dominated him on this play.

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So by the time Donovonn Young first makes contact with anyone, it’s two yards past the line of scrimmage.

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Which means he ends up with a solid six yard gain.

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Violent, aggressive run blocking. More of that, please.

Aaron Bailey went to war! He got the Congressional Medal of Honor!

Two plays later, some more fantastic blocking on Bailey’s touchdown. I’m highlighting two players here. Matt LaCosse (orange arrow) and Jon Davis (blue arrow). LaCosse picks out a linebacker to block. And not just any linebacker. Freshman All-American last year, top-recruit-in-Washington-history Shaq Thompson.

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LaCosse holds his block well, and Davis heads into the hole before Bailey.

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Check out LaCosse here, still holding that edge.

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And Davis gives Bailey everything he needs by picking up the safety coming across. Touchdown.

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One last thing. I figured out why Aaron Bailey has been so magical this season (seven touches, four first downs and two touchdowns).

He’s been touched by the Hand of Manberg:

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#Manberg

Check The Tape – Cincinnati

I’m all about the reader suggestions. The reader suggestion I’m implementing this week: add some arrows to the photos so the reader knows which specific player is being referenced. Done and done. The suggestion from last week that I might try to add next week: add some GIF’s.

To the Cincy tape. This was a fun game to review. Not only did we win, but we out-played and out-schemed Cincinnati. And it wasn’t just Bill Cubit who out-schemed his opponent. Nathan Scheelhaase and special teams coach Tim Salem got in on the act.

First, well, it was hard not to notice this. After three penalties for sideline interference in the last two games going into this week, apparently Tim Beckman implemented some new sideline rules. Namely, nobody in the white, coaches in front of the line in the orange, players behind the line in the orange.

Here’s Tim Beckman telling all of his players to move back:

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No, seriously guys – everyone behind the white line.

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Look at the two sidelines here. Cincinnati players are pretty much standing right at the sideline – right at the edge of the white. Illinois players are all neatly stationed behind the white line in the middle of the orange box:

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And they stayed that way most of the game. Refs get the sideline, coaches get in front of the line, everyone else behind. Bravo. Please don’t ever let it happen again.

Offensive Coordinator Nathan Scheelhaase

During our TV segment with Matt Wettersten on Sunday, Jeremy Werner mentioned that Nathan had called an audible on the first touchdown. So I was excited to see what happened on that play.

At the start, it’s just a five-wide formation. Notice the safety on the short side of the field:

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Nathan is watching as the safety creeps forward.

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So he walks to the line and changes the play call.

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This change means Jon Davis will have to shift into the backfield to help with pass protection.

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Leaving two receivers and two defensive backs on the short side.

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Yeah, Josh Ferguson is gonna win that footrace.

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Yuup.

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Raise your hand if you want to see our quarterback do more of this.

Very Special Teams

I tweeted about this on Saturday, but special teams coach Tim Salem completely out-witted his Cincinnati counterpart. In the first quarter, Salem’s two-returner punt team had a great return. Here, Miles Osei, who didn’t get the ball on his side of the field, makes a great block.

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Which sends V’Angelo Bentley into the clear.

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Which results in a 26 yard punt return (which kind of happens to be one more yard than all of our punt returns last year combined).

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So in the third quarter, Cincinnati had switched to the rugby punt. Kick it away from our guys, let it roll, maybe you don’t get the net you would get from a conventional punt, but at least you prevent the long return.

On this punt, the punter is lined up on the left hash.

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Because of that, Salem lines up Bentley at the normal 40 yard distance on that same hash, but he moves Miles Osei up to around 25 yards from the line of scrimmage on the right hash.

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Sure, it’s a zero return, but fielding a rugby punt on the fly to prevent a long roll from the ball? Absolutely brilliant. Love it love it love it.

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That drive would have probably started at the 10 or so. It started at the 26 simply because Tim Salem had his second return man play short centerfield.

The New Nate

During our 18 game slide from “hey, we’re pretty good” to “hey, we’ve lost 14 straight conference games”, one of the more difficult things to watch was Nathan Scheelhaase’s waning confidence. I can’t exactly blame him, though. When you get hit that many times, it’s hard not to tuck and run at the first sign of trouble.

So this play had me overjoyed on Saturday. Shotgun formation for the snap:

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And then pressure is applied from the left side, so Nate has to step forward.

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At this point, in every single game last year (and even the year before), Nate tucks and runs. A guarantee. The pocket is collapsing, try to get away and avoid the sack.

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But this time Nate pauses. And it’s a good thing, too, because if he would have run, a linebacker was spying him and would have brought him down for a loss.

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Nate gives it one more look and sees an open Miles Osei, so he releases a jump pass.

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Which is complete for a 14 yard gain.

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Lose a few yards by trying to scramble, or, stay patient, trust the routes, and deliver a strike for a 14 yard gain and a first down. More, please.

Frozen Caveman Safety

I hate it when our safeties are frozen. But I love it when we freeze a safety.

You know what I’m talking about. The Evan Wilson touchdown. Third and short, so we bunch everyone up and Cincy basically puts 11 guys in the box.

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At this point it’s already a touchdown.

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But let’s keep studying the play. Cincinnati’s defense still thinks it a run.

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Finally, the defenders realize it’s a pass. But no less than three of them now think the pass is going to Jon Davis in the flat.

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Which means Wilson is even more wide open.

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Dear Washington: do stuff like that on Saturday, please.