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KU loses numbers game during Collin Klein's (untouched) 28-yard TD run
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
Kansas coach Charlie Weis said his biggest disappointment during last week's 56-16 loss to Kansas State was the plays when a Wildcat scored without getting touched.
I wanted to take a look at one of those plays this week: KSU quarterback Collin Klein's 28-yard touchdown run off the option in the third quarter.
If we look at this play pre-snap, KU is bringing a safety blitz, with safety Bradley McDougald coming in off the edge. "Coach" says oftentimes, a team will roll down its safety to the line of scrimmage to help when it's had difficulties stopping a team's running game.
There's one main problem with this for KU, though. Right before the play begins, KSU tight end Travis Tannahill goes in motion, which switches the strength of the formation.
Now, KSU has more players on the opposite side of the field, and that gives KSU a numbers advantage toward the wide side.
"I say that, and there's three defenders up here in a triangle: the defensive backs and the outside linebacker. You might say, 'Well, they don't really have them outnumbered, because they've got three on two down here,'" Coach says. "But when you think about an option play, you always have to account for the quarterback as well. So they've got two guys out here to block two. They pitch off the third man. And KU, technically, is outnumbered here."
Coach says KU has options when Tannahill goes in motion. The Jayhawks could check out of the blitz and play their base defense. Some teams also will move their previous safety back and "spin down" their other safety to put their blitz toward the strength of the formation.
KU does neither here, though, as McDougald continues his blitz from the weakside.
We can see that this doesn't turn out well for KU a few seconds in.
Coach says KU defensive end Jordan Tavai (No. 9) gets "reach" blocked, meaning the offensive lineman to the side of him is able to move quickly enough to get both hands on him.
That means KU has three defenders attacking the same gap: the one around the left tackle's outside shoulder.
"That is not very good," Coach says. "Even two guys in one gap is really not going to be very beneficial for a defense."
Coach does single out one defender who does a nice job: KU defensive end Josh Williams.
With the option coming to his side, he does not allow the lineman in front of him to "reach" him, instead keeping an outside arm free. That way, if there was a pitch, he would have had a chance to break free, run and make a tackle.
Williams also stays wide enough to force Klein back to the inside where other defenders should be.
"(The outside) is where Klein is actually trying to get to and attack (Williams) right there and make him make a decision: Take Klein or take the running back," Coach says. "The ball didn't get all the way outside because of 95.
" ... What needs to happen is the linebackers and the defensive line inside of him, those guys need to not get reached and continue to run with the play as well and fill their gaps."
No KU player, though, is able to beat his block, as KSU's offensive line does a great job of run blocking.
KU defensive lineman Kevin Young is sealed off by the right tackle Cornelius Lucas, which allows Klein to get to the outside.
"(Young) gets reached right there," Coach says. "He might have gotten held a little bit right there, but he needs to do a little bit better job of fitting into his gap. "
KU freshman linebacker Schyler Miles (No. 32) is knocked to the ground by KSU right guard Boston Stieverson (No. 77), which takes him out of the play.
"32 needs to play off the cut and stay on his feet right there," Coach says. "Therefore, he'd be in his gap right there, and Klein wouldn't have such a big running lane."
KU linebacker Huldon Tharp also takes himself out of the play when he decides to put two hands on KSU offensive lineman Keenan Taylor, who was chasing him from the weak side.
"He should really just take his right hand and put it right directly into the sternum of that left guard right there, and therefore, that keeps his left arm free to help him continue to get to his gap and run with this play," Coach says. "Therefore, he might be in this alley right here to make a tackle as well. He puts both of his hands on that guard. It gets him out of position. It slows both of his feet down. Therefore, it doesn't allow him to make the play.
Even with KU's players not able to beat their blockers, Coach says KU's biggest issue is with positioning following Tannahill's motion.
"(Fans) might think motion is just to put a guy on a different side or something like that," Coach says. "But really, if K-State had this play, looked at it on film and saw that KU didn't adjust very well to motion, it's a great call, because they've got them outmanned to the wide side of the field.
" ... Alignment and maybe checking out of a blitz could have helped (KU) quite a bit out on this play."