When I wrote up my impressions of the Temple game, I focused primarily on the defense. With the offense being kept out of the end zone for most of the day, that probably seemed odd. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the offense. To really understand what was happening on that side of the ball, I felt like we had to get into the weeds a little bit. Here’s every drive in regulation from last week.
- Unbalanced line. Triple option, give to Kettani, gain of 8.
- Designed handoff to Kettani, fumble. Timeout.
- Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 29. 1st down.
- Triple option, Kaipo keeps, gain of 9.
- Designed handoff to Kevin Campbell, gain of 5. 1st down.
- Triple option, give to Kettani, gain of 4.
- Toss sweep to Shun White, no gain.
- Trips formation. Pass to Finnerty, gain of 5.
- Unbalanced line. Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 7, 1st down.
- Triple option, pitch to Shun White, gain of 9.
- QB keeper, gain of 1, TD.
The game started out well enough. That’s your typical Navy drive right there; 11 plays, 79 yards. But notice that almost the entire drive, and every triple option play, was run out of the “heavy” formation. We’ve seen a lot of this formation all year. Another formation we’ve seen a lot of is the “tight” formation, where the wide receivers are lined up closer to the tackles. Both of those formations are designed to help block the middle linebacker. In the tight formation, it’s the wide receiver who blocks him. In the unbalanced “heavy” formation we saw here, it’s the extra tackle. So what does that tell us?
It tells us that as critical as Kaipo’s injury has been, losing Andrew McGinn for the season has had almost as much of an impact. In the base spread formation it’s usually the playside tackle’s responsibility to keep the middle linebacker occupied. But the tackle position has been a revolving door for the Mids this season, and getting to that MLB has been a problem. It affects Coach Jasper’s play calling; he felt he had to help the tackles out right from the beginning of this game. Every triple option play was run to the heavy side of the formation. The only plays run to the weak side of the formation were designed handoffs/keepers.
The line problems are also having an effect on some of Niumat’s decision-making, as we’ll see later on.
- Unbalanced line. Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 1.
- Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 5.
- Designed handoff to Campbell, gain of 4. 1st down. Timeout.
- Triple option, pitch to Finnerty. Gain of 13, 1st down.
- Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 7.
- Midline option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 5, 1st down. End of quarter.
- Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 2.
- Triple option, give to Kettani. Loss of 1. Clipping penalty, 15 yards. 2nd & 23.
- Trips formation. Midline option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 6.
- Base spread formation. Swing pass to Kettani, loss of 7. 4th down.
This was another typical grind-it-out Navy drive that was motoring along just fine until the 15-yard penalty.
- Unbalanced line. Midline option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 1.
- Triple option, pitch to Shun, loss fo 3. The DE Kaipo was reading didn’t take the fullback; he squatted. Kaipo kept the ball. Both the DE and the LB that was Kaipo’s pitch key went after the quarterback. Kaipo pitched to Shun. Shun had a full head of steam and probably could have outran the inside-out pursuit to the corner, but the WR and slotback mixed up their blocking assignments. Both players went after the run support safety, leaving the cornerback unblocked with a clean shot at Shun. Cory Finnerty saw him coming, but it was too late.
- Trips formation. Triple option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 1. This was a missed read by Kaipo. The same DE he read on the last play squatted again, and was waiting for the QB to come outside. It forced Kaipo back in, where he had nowhere to run.
- Unbalanced line once again. Midline option, give to Kettani. Gain of 8.
- Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 3. 1st down.
- Midline option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 6.
- Triple option, give to Kettani. Gain of 6, 1st down.
- Trips formation. Pass to Greg Shinego, gain of 21. 1st down.
- Kaipo spikes the ball to stop the clock.
- Base spread formation. Triple option, pitch to Doyle. Gain of 24, 1st down.
- Kaipo spikes the ball to stop the clock.
- Trips formation. Midline option, Kaipo keeps. The DT that took the fullback was able to bounce back out and keep Kaipo from running up the middle. Timeout.
- Blocked field goal.
This was a pretty good drive that just ran out of time, and should have ended in points anyway.
- Base spread formation. Counter option, gain of 13. 1st down. There’s no way that Kaipo was at any better than 60-70% for this game, and this play shows us why. The counter was wide open here. A healthy Kaipo would have kicked in those long strides of his–he had plenty of room–and been gone. He just didn’t have the legs to do so in this game.
- Play-action pass to Tyree Barnes, incomplete.
- Triple option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 5. You’ll note that the playside tackle went outside of the give key instead of inside like he’s usually supposed to. That’s another blocking adjustment to help the tackle get to the MLB.
- Trips formation. Designed give to Kettani, gain of 4.
Having crossed the Navy 40, I was surprised that Niumat didn’t choose to go for it here. After Temple scored a way-too-easy touchdown to open the half, I thought that Niumat wanted to answer immediately. Instead, he opted for the punt. A lot of you have commented about Ivin and Niumat being conservative this year, in part because they haven’t gone for it on 4th down as often. Some, including Niumat himself once or twice, have said that it’s because the defense is improved. They are a little better, but I don’t think that’s the reason. I think Niumat’s a little less trigger-happy on 4th down because he isn’t as confident in the offensive line. We see how Coach Jasper is having to compensate for the loss of McGinn, and we know the offense has been stuffed in short-yardage situations earlier this year (esp. against Ball State and Duke). While I don’t think we should use the 2007 season as our baseline for how often we should go for it on 4th down (those were some pretty unusual circumstances), I do think that this was one situation we would’ve gone for it any other year, too.
The line’s struggles, and the coaches’ subsequent reluctance to go for it on 4th down, might be affecting other elements of the game plan, too. The offense moved the ball on this drive, with 3 rushes for 22 yards. But the incomplete pass meant that averaging 4.5 yards on the next two carries wasn’t enough. Perhaps the reluctance to go for it on 4th & short has also led to a reluctance to throw the ball.
- Base spread formation. Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 2.
- Counter option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 12, 1st down. Like the last counter option play, a healthy Kaipo would go the distance here. You can really see him try to kick it in gear on this run, but he just can’t do it and comes out of the game.
- Dobbs in. Unbalanced line. Midline option, Ricky keeps. No gain. This was a missed read by Ricky.
- Midline option, give to Kettani. Gain of 2. Another missed read. The quarterback keeps on the midline most of the time, which is probably why Ricky kept the ball on the first play. He probably assumed that the DT would play him again on the second play. He didn’t.
- “Tackle” screen to Tyree Barnes. Gain of 7. Was Tyree even an eligible receiver on that play? I need to get check my rule book.
Another 4th & 1, but I doubt too many of you wanted to go for it here.
- Base spread formation. Triple option, give to Kettani. Gain of 7. Ricky makes the right read here.
- Triple option, Dobbs keeps. Gain of 4, 1st down. This was a missed read, but it’s a read that Kaipo was having trouble with too. The DE turned his shoulders like he was taking the fullback, but instead stepped into the QB’s path. Hard running by Ricky gets the 1st down.
- Play-action pass, intercepted. Overthrown ball to a well-covered Shun White. Play was kind of doomed from the beginning.
- Base spread formation. Triple option, give to Kettani. Gain of 8. Ricky makes the right read. He was helped a little by the tackle, who chipped the DE and knocked him away from the fullback.
- Triple option, pitch to Shun White. Gain of 9, 1st down.
- Unbalanced line. Play-action, Dobbs scrambles, fumbles out of bounds. Gain of 7.
- Base spread formation. Counter option, pitch to Shinego, no gain. Right read by Ricky. Blocking was a little rough (A-back & playside tackle both missed blocks).
- Trips formation. QB draw, gain of 7. 1st down.
- Unbalanced line. Triple option, give to Kettani. Gain of 6.
- Midline option, give to Kettani. Gain of 3. Missed read by Ricky, although it worked out with the blitzing linebacker.
- Midline option, give to Campbell. Gain of 1and a 1st down by the grace of God. Missed read by Ricky.
- Tight formation. Play-action off the toss sweep. Pass to Kettani in the flat, gain of 15. 1st down. Pretty impressive play by Ricky, throwing off of his back foot with a defender in his face.
- Drop-back pass, Dobbs to Thiel, touchdown. Nice wheel-post combination routes on the left side.
A good drive under Ricky, although he really seems to struggle with the midline option.
- Tight formation. Play-action off the toss sweep, pass complete to Tyree Barnes. Gain of 27, 1st down. If that play looks familiar, it’s the exact same play PJ called at the beginning of the Pitt game last year (that I pointed out in the Pitt preview).
- Trips formation. Midline option, Ricky keeps, no gain. Another missed read on the midline.
- Base spread formation. Drop-back pass, complete to Bobby Doyle. Gain of 16, 1st down.
- Trips formation. Triple option, Dobbs keeps. Gain of 8. Good read by Ricky. A more experienced QB would have faked a pitch there, but that will come with time.
- QB draw, gain of 5, 1st down.
- Tight formation. Toss sweep to Shun White, gain of 2.
- Unbalanced line. Midline option, Dobbs keeps. Gain of 2. This was sort of a midline, I should say. It was a midline designed for Ricky to keep; Kettani would cut the DT if he played the quarterback. The playside tackle couldn’t sustain his block, and it forced Ricky to go in the other direction.
- Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 3. Timeout.
- Trips formation. Fullback option, pitch to Kettani, touchdown. Some have described Ricky’s effort on this play as herculean. I think comparisons to Atlas are more appropriate, considering the size of the DT he was carrying. This was a rare missed block by Anthony Gaskins, who whiffed on the guy that ended up on Ricky’s back. The backside guard pulled to block the DE, while the playside tackle went for the middle linebacker. Fortunately, the linebacker that was supposed to be Ricky’s pitch key got caught up in the mayhem around the quarterback, and Kettani had a path to the end zone. Great play by Ricky to get the pitch off after showing some impressive strength in not going down.
When I first watched the game I kept trying to figure out what Temple was doing to slow the Mids down. But they didn’t really do anything. They had one defensive end that did a pretty good job mixing up what reads he was giving to the quarterback. Other than that, it was a series of Navy mistakes that slowed them down. A penalty here, a missed block there, a missed field goal, incomplete pass, hamstring that just wasn’t ready to go… Nothing groundbreaking, but when strung together they ground the offense to a halt. As we’ve seen many times before, it wasn’t as bad as it looked. But as we see here, it doesn’t have to be to make it a long day.