In this new feature, EerSports takes a second look at the game film to see what we missed and discuss strategy from the previous game. Today, Marshall.
DeForest kept the gameplan simple on Saturday.
If you listen closely to the very first offensive play..... you can hear someone screaming out the play that's coming before the snap. "SWEEP! SWEEP! SWEEP!" can be heard as Geno Smith lined up to receive the ball. That was a correct call, as Tavon Austin took the ball on an end around, known in football jargon as a "jet sweep." The defense was well-positioned, getting a hand on Austin in the backfield, although the slippery receiver wiggled his way to a six yard gain. Maybe Doc Holliday and Company really did know the play calls?
When Dana Holgorsen said he was excited about K.J. Dillon's hit.... he really meant it, and he wasn't alone. As soon as Dillon laid the wood on the "poor guy" (to borrow from Holgorsen's press conference), Erik Slaughter jumped up and sprinted down the sideline; Robert Gillespie walked up to him, screamed and slapped him on the helmet and, finally, Holgorsen could hardly contain himself, screaming and smiling as he smacked Dillon on the head.
A couple other miscellaneous thoughts before we get into the X's and O's.... That missed extra point was all on Tyler Bitancurt. Perfect snap, perfect hold. Bitancurt just shanked it to the right...... On Tavon Austin's early fumble, the Marshall player actually landed on the ball first, but Ryan Clarke muscled it away for him before the referees got in there.... It was painful to re-watch Brodrick Jenkins back there again. No "soft zone" excuse. He bit on ball fakes from the quarterback, got caught ducking in on play action and even fell for double moves from the receiver.
First, a disclaimer....... From here through the end of the article, the numbers are from the start of the game through the Doug Rigg interception. After that, there was no longer a moderate integration of backups with starters, but full on garbage time.
Three and four receiver sets were the name of the game..... It should come as no surprise that the standard pre-snap formation included three and four wide receiver sets. Thirty times, the offense lined up with three wide receivers and another 29 times with four wideouts. Despite that, the Mountaineers only lined up "trips" (three receivers on one side) a handful of times. It was typically a 2-1 or 2-2 split.
The offense lined up with two receivers split out only seven times and never less than that. Of those seven, five of those occurred inside the 10-yard line, while a sixth happened on third and short near midfield.
Only twice was there a "traditional" tight end, both times when there were only two receivers and both were plays inside the five yard line. The pair of plays (both runs) went for a grand total of negative one yards.
There were no true five receiver, empty backfield sets on Saturday. Only three times was there a four-receiver lineup and the running back motioned out wide. No reason to show those plays, obviously.
To motion or not to motion, that is the question..... Pre-snap motion is typically used to find out what type of defense an opponent is running - the defender will follow a receiver across a formation if man, pass him off to another defender if zone - and to get the defense out of position. Again, the staff chose to keep it simple. Of the 66 plays I charted, 42 of them involved no motion before the snap. Those plays resulted in 430 yards of offense, for an average of 10.24 yards per play.
The defense went from "Pro" to "Rookie" as the game went on..... Early in the game, the defense may not have been blitzing, but they were at least switching up the looks they were giving Marshall. Through the first 25 defensive plays, the defensive front (which I've defined as players on the line and within a half step of the outside lineman) was fairly evenly split: 11 times with a five-man front and 11 times with a four-man look. The other three were three-man.
After that, things took a decidedly more basic look. From this point (right around when Marshall scored their first touchdown) through the Doug Rigg interception, the Mountaineer defense lined up in a four-man front 39 times and a five-man front only seven times. They never again gave a three-man look.
It gets even more vanilla than that..... Up until Rigg's big return, Marshall faced ten separate 3rd and 4th down plays of longer than five yards. They passed each of those ten times. West Virginia rushed three eight times, four guys twice and did not blitz a single time.
In fact, I only counted three "true" blitzes through the first three quarters, one of them resulting in the Terence Garvin sack/forced fumble and Isaiah Bruce fumble recovery/touchdown return.
It's a mantra that coaches have been preaching for decades when playing inferior opponents: "Keep It Simple, Stupid."
West Virginia executed that elementary game plan into a blowout victory.