Welcome back to the Film Room. After a tough road win over a plucky Mountaineer squad that featured the debut of Breece Hall, all eyes were focused squarely on the true freshman running back to see what he would put together for an encore. Coming into this game, the Red Raider defense was ranked dead last in the conference in big plays allowed on defense, so the opportunities for Hall to show off some more of his game were likely to be there.
We’re at a point in the season where we’re still going to see growth on a week-to-week basis, but the team’s identity is fairly well-established, and can now be built upon and utilized to strike the opponent’s pressure points. We’re largely out of the early-season “experimentation” phase where coaches are testing different schemes and personnel, which means we should expect to see more precise and consistent execution on both sides of the ball. Put simply, Iowa State is starting to flex its muscles.
We saw this transition manifest itself against Texas Tech in the form of an offense looked confident in their scheme, and played like a unit looking to force their will on the opposition rather than simply taking what the defense gives them. There’s something to be said for the latter, as it typically reduces potential risk for turnovers, but great offenses force the defense to adjust and play catch up in a chess match where they’re always a move behind.
The important thing to remember about the Film Room is that this isn’t an analysis of the game as a whole, but an introspective into a few individual plays that could be indicative of larger trends in the overall scheme. This means that I will rarely dig into penalties, fumbles, and the like. Stuff like that obviously can have a huge affect on the outcome, but they’re generally fairly black and white, and vary pretty wildly from game to game, so they don’t amount to much of anything interesting to talk about in this context.
The tight ends are a problem.
The renaissance of the tight end position at Iowa State has been well-documented, so we won’t delve into all of those specific details, but that transformation has culminated in Iowa State having three talented tight ends, each with clearly defined, but flexible roles that make them extremely difficult to account for.
Dylan Soehner, the largest of Tom’s Tight End Trio, has typically been used at the F position up to this point, primarily as a run blocker, while occasionally slipping out for a pass route. His use as a lead blocker in the running game as been so heavy that he’s become a key for the defense in identifying a run play.
Here we see a two tight end set with Chase Allen and Soehner lined up on the left side, with Sean Seaw and Darren Wilson lined up on the same side to create an overloaded look that Iowa State typically likes to run out of. At the snap, the tight ends and the offensive line begin crashing right, a common blocking scheme for counter runs the opposite direction. Breece Hall comes forward on the play action, playing directly into the defense’s read of either an off-tackle or counter run and causing all three linebackers and the blitzing nickel on the left to bite on the run.
Instead of following through on the block, Soehner slips upfield and Brock Purdy hits him for the easy completion. Soehner’s monstrous physique allows him to absorb an initial hit from the safety and gain another six yards while dragging the poor guy along like a puppy biting a pant leg. At the end of the play, the defender can be seen immediately regretting his decision to get involved at all.
This beautiful play design is the definition of a tendency breaker that will most certainly end up in game tape for the rest of the season, which helps potentially free up some extra space in the running game. If not, I’m sure Tom Manning and Brock Purdy would be more than happy to find that route open again later in the season.
This play isn’t particularly complicated, but Texas Tech decides to bring the house on the blitz, something they went to often in the game when their base set started bending too much. First, we see Breece Hall deliver another one of those “just good enough” blocks we talked about last week, which gives Brock the throwing lane he needs to get the ball off quickly.
Purdy has already identified the lack of coverage over top, so the success of this play falls directly on the shoulders of Charlie Kolar. Fortunately, Kolar is proving to be one of the best tight ends in college football, and absolutely toasts the defensive back with an outstanding plant foot and head fake that forces the defender to bite on some sort of crossing route without disrupting his forward momentum. Purdy delivers a beautiful ball off his back foot, which Kolar catches over the shoulder for a big gain that eventually led to a touchdown.
We’re back to a two tight end set here with Allen and Kolar on the short side of the field with Deshaunte Jones set out wide, and Sean Shaw set out on the wide side. He doesn’t end up affecting this play, but Shaw goes out for the fade here. His 6’7” frame is a huge matchup advantage in single coverage, so it wouldn’t shock me to see them throw the fade at some point, though the staff would likely rather find something better.
Texas Tech rushes five here, which means they’re likely playing man coverage with a single high safety. Pettway runs a quick out route, while Chase Allen eventually comes on a drag route after getting jammed at the line. The single high safety drifts to the middle of the field, leaving Charlie Kolar in single coverage. As we saw on the previous play and earlier in the game on Kolar’s first touchdown catch, single coverage on him is a matchup advantage. Kolar’s angled post route creates an easy target for Purdy in the back of the endzone.
Routes like this helped Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez make a lot of money throughout their careers, so it’s not surprising that Tom Manning is drawing these concepts up for Kolar, whose route-running ability and athleticism provide virtually unlimited freedom in how you get him the ball.
Iowa State hasn’t run this route pattern very often this season, but given the personnel and the success on this play, we could potentially see this more as the season goes as a way to take advantage of over-aggressive defenses.
Now, if I’m being completely honest, I’m not 100% sure what Tech’s plan was here. They brought four immediate blitzers, and the remaining two linebackers appear to be sitting in a spy/delayed blitz, but their movements are imprecise and indecisive. This leaves the rest of the defense in man coverage, which Iowa State loves to play against. Tech has been trying to adopt ISU’s defensive scheme this season, but it has obviously not gone well for them.
La’Michael Pettway comes on the drag route from the right side as a safety valve for Purdy and to potentially occupy the attention of any linebackers that stayed in coverage, and ends up wide open. Charlie Kolar balances Pettway’s route with a deeper in route, during which he fights his way to getting open enough to at least be an option.
However, the magic is happening downfield on the wide side with Sean Shaw and Deshaunte Jones. Jones breaks on a seam route specifically designed to clear out the high safety (which doesn’t exist on this play) and create room for Shaw, who breaks on a deep in route.
The dagger concept is versatile, and has the capability to beat both Cover 2 (two high safeties) or Cover 1/Cover 3 (one safety in the middle of the field with either man or zone by the cornerbacks, respectively). In Cover 2, Shaw’s route would clear out the middle linebacker, opening the field up for either of the crossing routes (Pettway or Kolar in this case). In Cover 1/Cover 3, the single high safety will help on the seam route, leaving the deep in route open, as it was here.
Tech’s single safety ended up on the short side of the field, so Shaw and Jones were essentially playing in a Cover 0, meaning that the defensive backs didn’t have any help over top. Had Shaw broken that first tackle, there’s a decent shot he scores on that play.
Breece Hall’s Encore
I wasn’t sure exactly which section to put this play, but I knew I wanted to include it. This is an aggressive play call that basically asks Tarique Milton to beat his man on a post route and make something happen. Milton does exactly that, and Purdy hits him with a strike that turns into a big play.
However, I think the notable part of this play is Breece Hall, who throws a really nice cut block that keeps Purdy’s pocket clean. Obviously Hall’s running ability is extremely impressive, but we can’t overlook how polished his pass blocking is this early in his career.
Tech’s linebackers actually do a solid job of fitting the run here and shooting the A gap, which creates some early pressure in the backfield. However, Breece makes a really nice move to avoid the first contact and uses his speed to get to the edge. It doesn’t end up in a big gain, but this run could have easily been a loss of a couple, and Hall’s elusiveness and vision allowed him to turn it into a four yard gain.
Finally, we get to see Breece Hall’s pass-catching chops. Purdy’s pass is a little high, but Hall makes a really nice snag and immediately turns it upfield. This is where we see him really showcase his speed. 14 has no shot, and a quick cut inside dispatches the corner and safety before he turns on the jets. We can’t see what Darren Wilson’s block looks like in front of him, so Hall in theory could have continued mostly straight upfield instead of veering to the right and allowing the defender to catch up, but it’s an extremely impressive catch and run overall.
If you somehow weren’t already on the Breece Hall train by this point, this run punched your ticket. The clip didn’t catch the very beginning of the play, but we can see at the very beginning that as Hall catches the pitch there are four linemen already in the second level of the defense. Breece stiff arms the last defender and turns on the afterburners on the way to the endzone with two defenders giving up about 20 yards from the endzone. Hall only had to beat one man here, but notable thing here is that this isn’t a run that David Montgomery ever made.
No, really. Montgomery’s longest run of the 2018 season was 39 yards. David is obviously a special talent, but his long speed probably wouldn’t have allowed him to beat those last two defenders. Breece has that breakaway speed, and can be the homerun threat at the running back spot that Iowa State hasn’t had since...Alexander Robinson? Darren Davis?
First of all, let’s admire the running lane the offensive line creates here. Stop the video at 4 seconds, and you can see Josh Knipfel probably calling the defensive end a punk-ass bitch, while Breece Hall is running through a lane that even Mark Mangino could fit through with a little Crisco and a can-do attitude.
The only player stopping Hall from busting this run loose for 20+ is the chasing linebacker. However, at this point in the game, the Cyclones are looking to start eating clock and protecting the football, so there’s no need to add any risk to the play after he’s already picked up the first down. That’s solid, mature running from Breece.
Live Stream & Bonus Defensive Clips
Wide Right Film Room - Texas Tech
We're live on the Film Room stream talking about all of the clips. We also have a bunch of BONUS clips for the defense that didn't make article, so you'll wanna check those out. As always, let us know in the comments if you have any other questions, or want us to elaborate on something further!Posted by Wide Right & Natty Lite on Wednesday, October 23, 2019