For the Iowa game, we identified a few key trends within the game, as well as some that could show up in future games. Most notable was the marked improvement by the offensive line in virtually every facet of the game. Their play opened up a ton of holes in the running game, and looked to finally have the footing it needed to push its way up the ladder to being an above-average unit.
However, it obviously wasn’t all sunshine and daisies, as the defense made some critical errors on 3rd down that extended drives and allowed Iowa to put extra points on the board, even if they were just field goals, and the return units made a few critical errors that resulted in short fields for Iowa.
All in all, the Iowa game showed us a lot of promise, but self-inflicted wounds doomed the Cyclones. However, the UL-Monroe game would provide Iowa State an opportunity to correct those critical errors and put away a team that is capable of running the football effectively, but struggled on defense and occasionally in the passing game.
As the saying goes, losses are never bad, and blowout wins are never as good as they seem. The Iowa game delivered a lot of positives, despite the critical mistakes which eventually led to the loss. Conversely, the UL-M game, for all the wonderful things that happened, was certainly imperfect, and still gave us lessons to learn.
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.
With all that said, let’s get into it.
Note: This week, I used video clips instead of GIFs to allow you to pause the play at different points to see how everything develops. It’s not quite as convenient for those reading on a mobile device, so I apologize for that, but I think this will allow you to more effectively review each play without having to rewatch it over and over and hope we see what we’re looking for.
What Happened on the Interception
As I teased before, this game was far from perfect. Here we see one of those imperfections rear its ugly head on the first offensive play of the game for Iowa State. This play starts as an RPO, with Chase Allen pulling across the line in case of a hand off.
If you look right at :06 when Brock is in the middle of the read, you can see his eyes pointed directly at the edge linebacker, as well as Tarique Milton. Brock sees that the linebacker is playing contain on the run game, and that the cornerback is backpedaling ahead of Tarique Milton.
From what I can tell, Brock Purdy believed this to be a curl or hitch route, but Tarique attempted to float behind the corner for what it seems like he believes to be a corner staying in the flats as part of a shallow Cover 2. A quick check of the pre-snap alignment tells us that it’s certainly possible that’s what he read here.
It’s impossible for us to know what should have happened here without knowing the play call, but assuming Purdy ran the play correctly as called, if Milton runs the correct route here, then its a fairly easy 6ish yard gain.
Using Opposition’s Aggression to Your Advantage
I love love love love this route design. We’re still early in the game, but up to the point, Iowa State has been having some success in the flats, and had been doing so the previous two games, so UL-Monroe sniffed out a bubble screen from the beginning as Deshaunte Jones turned toward the quarterback and Milton moved over as if to block for him.
Instead, Milton quickly floats between the two defenders and escapes upfield completely uncovered. All that’s left to do is make one guy miss, which Milton does with ease on the way to a long touchdown.
The Cyclones ran a very similar play to this later in the game, which resulted in another long completion for Milton along the sideline. UL-M’s defensive production revolves almost entirely around forcing turnovers, but in both scenarios Iowa State used a simple decoy route underneath to distract two corners for an easy completion.
The great news is that now the bubble screen and the leak route to Milton are both on film. Baylor plays essentially a copycat defense of Iowa State’s, which means the bubble screen will likely be open more frequently than Milton’s leak route. If Iowa State connects on enough passes in the flats, the defense will have to either dedicate one defensive back each to the bubble and the leak route, leaving the seam open in the slot on the same side, or play up on the bubble screen, which leaves the leaking receiver open.
The “Flood” Concept
Last week, I pointed out a reception by Deshaunte Jones on a crossing route where Brock Purdy delivered a beautiful pass in between a couple defenders for a nice gain. That route was a part of a concept called “flood.” I noticed it a couple times against Iowa, but wanted to see how much we saw it against UL-M before getting further into it. Iowa State used the flood concept to great effect last weekend, and should be a common pattern going forward.
What exactly is the flood concept? Essentially, its a route pattern designed to overload one side of the field. Typically, it involves a combination a route to the flats, a medium out route (usually 10-15 yards), and a fly route on the same side of the field, with at least one back-side post or crossing route. In this play, we have Kene Nwangwu in the flat, Charlie Kolar on the out route, Tarique Milton on the fly route, Deshaunte Jones on the crossing route, and La’Michael Pettway on what appears to be either a fly, curl, or out route (can’t tell with the camera angle) on the back side.
First, the safety presses up towards the line of scrimmage, which means it’s his job to cover underneath routes towards the sidelines while the corner backpedals and plays one on one coverage on the fly route. However, Kolar’s out route forces the safety to make a decision.
Pause the video at :06, and you’ll see Brock Purdy waiting to see what the safety decides to do, before the defender makes a critical step towards the underneath route, putting him out of position to cover Kolar’s out route. For Purdy, this then becomes a matter of simply getting the pass over the defender, which is really easy when your target is 6’6”.
This is where we can see Tom Manning really flexing his muscles. Our pre-snap alignment is trips (three receivers) right with a weak side tight end in Dylan Soehner, and Kene Nwangwu in the backfield. The defense drops the strong side safety to cover the extra receiver, which means UL-M will be forced to play with just a single safety over the top.
Our two outside receivers on the strong side run in routes and varying depths, and the slot receivers runs a corner route above the in routes to essentially remove the second safety from the play, or potentially provide a downfield one on one matchup as a final read for the QB.
However, on the weak side we have Kene running to the flats, with Soehner running the out route. This play doesn’t have a fly route to pair with the flat and in routes, but that’s okay, because we removed the extra defensive back by putting trips on the other side of the field. After the cornerback (#21) is forced to bail on Soehner to cover Nwangwu in the flats, all Soehner has to do is box out the remaining safety, and you have another nice completion. When you’re an absolute mountain of a human being like Soehner, that’s a matchup Iowa State will take every time.
The Jekyll and Hyde Running Game, Despite Solid O-Line
One of the things we saw against Iowa was the offensive line actually creating quite a bit of running room, leading to an efficient Cyclone running game. Here, we see some trademark pre-snap motion to pull away the back side edge linebacker before Dylan Soehner eats up the defensive end and Julian Good-Jones is free to advance to the second level and take a linebacker out of the play. Trevor Downing also does a really nice job here, chipping the nose tackle to create just a little more running room before heading to the second level to take out another linebacker.
Given how compact this formation is, the yardage potential is somewhat limited, as Johnnie Lang will be required to make a safety miss to have a shot at a big gain, but it can be reasonably said that he maximized the blocked yardage on this play.
However, as we saw against UNI, the Iowa State running backs are still developing their vision, and sometimes leave a lot of yardage on the field. Once again, we have some pre-snap motion to remove the back side edge linebacker, then Chase Allen begins paving the way on the outside. The offensive line doesn’t necessarily get to any second level blocking, but they do well in walling off the interior defenders, which is all they really needed to do here.
Bryce Meeker does a great job forcing his assignment to the inside, and Chase Allen just completely erases his defender, which creates a ton of running room to the outside, where he has Tarique Milton to block the final safety (which is still 15 yards downfield). However, for whatever reason, Kene instead cuts back to the inside and is stopped for basically no gain.
Bouncing runs like these outside should be a key part of Kene’s running game given his speed, but he still has growing to do in this area. Maybe we were just spoiled with David Montgomery’s other-worldly vision.
Once again, we start off with some pre-snap motion, but this time the edge linebacker doesn’t bite. No matter. Just watch as the offensive line opens up an enormous running lane. Specifically, watch Trevor Downing take the defensive tackle from the left side of the formation and put him in Bryce Meeker’s left pocket. That’s really impressive stuff from a redshirt freshman making just his second career start, and bodes extremely well for the inside running game going forward.
Once again, I think if Kene had cut outside to avoid the cornerback and used his outside receiver as a lead blocker he may have been able to add another 5-10+ yards on to this carry, but that’s just nitpicking an otherwise extremely successful play.
Getting Off the Field on Third Down
Iowa State’s struggles at getting off the field on third down, especially at the hands of running quarterbacks, have been well-documented, and rest assured that they will be addressed sooner than later by Jon Heacock. However I saw two different solutions on defense that Iowa State used to get off the field on third downs against UL-M, and we could see them both quite often against Baylor.
The first is a fairly elementary concept. It’s simply to bring extra pressure to force quick throw on 3rd and long throws. If you can prevent the quarterback from having enough time in the pocket to let his receivers get far enough downfield to pick up the first down, the defense’s job gets significantly easier. Here, the Cyclones bring four down lineman plus a delayed blitzer up the middle after showing an edge rusher in the pre-snap alignment.
The pre-snap alignment creates some urgency on its own, and by dropping an edge linebacker in coverage, the defense was able to create a sense of urgency without tipping off the location of the blitzers. The defense does have some flexibility here, as they could simply turn the delayed blitzer into a spy. You wouldn’t be hurting your chances at an immediate sack, and if the defensive line can create pressure with four, then you have a built-in backup plan in case the quarterback takes off.
This is probably going to be Iowa State’s most versatile method of keeping QB contain on third down while still being able to drop seven into coverage. Here, Iowa State starts in a three-down set with two linebackers. One linebacker drops into coverage while the other acts as spy for a few seconds before coming on a delayed blitz.
This play works best when the defensive line can create pressure from the outside in on their own like they did here, which forces the QB to make a faster decision. However, the linebacker he initially saw in coverage has now blitzed into his only running lane, so he’s toast. I love this scheme, as it should be effective against both dual-threat and traditional pocket passer quarterbacks.
The offense picks up on the delayed blitz and keeps a tight end or running back back to block? Just leave the linebacker as a spy, and you have an extra defender for underneath routes.
Jirehl Brock Can Be Special
I debated on whether it would be more worthwhile to showcase Jirehl Brock or Re-al Mitchell here, and decided Brock would be more useful since he could legitimately be fighting for a starting spot, whereas Re-al Mitchell is pretty much stuck as a backup (barring injury), and will probably see fairly limited time on the field.
Before we get into Jirehl’s two particularly impressive runs, I wanted to point out the #BlockByBrock on this play (shoutout to Sage Rosenfels for finding this play). Absolute bone-cruncher. This not a block we see from freshman very often, and is a great display of how physical he plays.
This run by Jierhl displays some impressive vision and patience. There wasn’t a ton of room when he took the handoff, but he used the old phrase “slow to, fast through” to his advantage. As soon as his running lane opened up, he planted his foot and used some nice burst to pick up a solid gain.
This where I really started to fall in love with Jirehl Brock’s potential. I don’t know about you, but the first time I saw this play, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t watching David Montgomery. The balance, vision, and toughness he shows here is really impressive, and illustrates why he was such a highly-coveted prospect coming out of Quincy, IL. Jirehl likely earned himself some carries with his performance last Saturday, so it’ll probably be worth keeping an eye on his workload going forward.
Just like last week, we’ll be doing a live stream on Mixer tonight at 8 PM where we’ll be going over each clip with a little more detail, and you’ll be able to ask questions as we go if you have any, whether they be about a specific clip, terminology, our prospectus, etc. I will also post the video of the stream here the morning after.