Anatomy of a Beatdown: The key concepts Dana Holgorsen’s West Virginia Mountaineers used to crush Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl

I put together a short video showing and describing some of the key plays West Virginia used to crush Clemson. Of course, as big as these plays were, the turnovers and high tempo were probably just as important to WVU’s victory. But I still found these plays quite interesting and worth exploring, particularly how they fit together, as each base play had a counter (and sometimes a counter to the counter) mixed in the gameplan somewhere. As I always say, it’s not about how many plays you have, but how they fit together.

The last thing to note is I didn’t see a single concept that I hadn’t seen West Virginia run at some other point this season. It wasn’t an all-new gameplan; they just executed much better. If you want to learn more about Dana Holgorsen’s brand of the Airraid, you can read more here.

  • http://twitter.com/evegoe Eric Vegoe

    One thing about the jet sweep is that some receivers have a hard time taking a hand-off on the jet motion. It can be extremely frustrating as a coach as you think it should be safer, but they’re not running backs and aren’t usually accustomed to taking a hand-off from the QB. And with the increased speed and angle it can be tricky for the QB, especially if they get a bad snap.

  • Meagher

    Really enjoyed this video — something different, nice! Well put together too.

  • Skifly

    Great breakdown, but I disagree with the pitch not being ‘safer’ than the hand-off: since it’s a fwd pass it’d be an incompletion if there is a drop and not a fumble. It’s a lot less riskier.

  • Jon Ramsey

    Fantastic… loved the music in the background as well

  • Anonymous

    I mention that at the end, telling Holgorsen’s old story from when he was at Houston. Just my opinion — can’t really argue with the results.

  • Huffnc

    It’s hard to argue with the results. I suspect yo will see forms of the WVU Offense showing  up at other colleges and at the High Scool level.

  • Waywarchild

    Aphex Twin – April 14th :)

    Great video!

  • Robert Goodman

    The forward pass is safer and requires less practice time than a high speed handoff, so would be useful to an offense with limited practice time and a receiver they want to get up to full speed coming across.  That might be the case as an added “orphan” (rather than series) play for a team already using that formation.

    However, I wouldn’t recommend it for a team that wants to make the fly/jet/speed run a major part of its offense, because it’s the least deceptive way I can imagine to get the ball to the motion back.  Once the ball leaves the passer’s hands, everyone can see it’s not going anywhere else, unless you work it in a series with backs crossing paths (of whom only 1 can be in pre-snap motion unless you’re playing Canadian rules).  So you give up a lot of the ways you can hide the ball and work the fly handoff in with complementary plays, and the defense gets an earlier look at where the play is going, whether the ball is passed or pumped and pulled back.  You also give up the possibility of the fly/jet runner throwing a forward pass; even in Fed rules these days you get only 1 per down.

    The forward handoff is already a less deceptive way of running fly/jet series than other ways, but this way is more obvious than that.  The most deceptive ways are those that minimize the time between the snap and the handoff or fake, and that put more bodies between the defense and the ball at the time it’s handed off.  I have a preferred way of doing it with children that has its limitations but is a good compromise for those conditions, and that is as I understand Jaworski did it as QB at Youngstown State, which is to have hands under center and already be facing the sideline the motion back is coming from before the snap.  So far there’s one team in Texas doing it.

    For more experienced players, having the QB face forward under center and pivot around to mesh puts more meat between the handoff and the defense, and can be run in either direction, but requires more practice to get the precise timing needed for the high speed motion and ball exchange, and still takes more time between the snap and the exchange or fake.

  • K.

    The Video Walkthrough makes your good work even better.

  • Peter Bodensteiner

    is it just me, or could they run a speed option with the QB and backfield-aligned RB to the opposite direction of the sweep as a counter to the sweep? That would be an additional counter to the draw they sometimes run. I know they don’t run Smith much, but he happens to be pretty effective when they do, and given that there’s only one LB or DE left on the backside after the sweep, an option could work well .

  • Peter Bodensteiner

    is it just me, or could they run a speed option with the QB and backfield-aligned RB to the opposite direction of the sweep as a counter to the sweep? That would be an additional counter to the draw they sometimes run. I know they don’t run Smith much, but he happens to be pretty effective when they do, and given that there’s only one LB or DE left on the backside after the sweep, an option could work well .

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/MrMurder-Murphy/802155723 Mr.Murder Murphy

    He went from reach blocking to down blocking on the same backfield action to start each half. Messed up the LB keys and left nobody on the handoff in the second half. Then he reached on the same action a few plays later. Looks like he has automatic calls from the series for the particular sets he will face. Challenge each grouping with different key features for technique. Inside zone when they put more pass defenders out, outside if the front has numbers you would consider safe for keying run action. Mix screens with each, usually the nickle defender is a decent player for run fits, the dime guys don’t get as many reps, and certain coverage sets  have trouble matching screens the way fronts must match run fits(key the near safety to trips he tells you if it is man under or zone). Motion receivers in for running to further conflict those assignments.

    The screen mantches what I wanted to talk about on his other thread. The BYU passing game used slow screens to counter full coverage sets. They took what was there when throwing,  but usually lacked dominant wideouts so when the cover sets went maximum you screened under the Will LB who took deep drops to squeeze their crossing throw lanes. Dana does it here and it looks similar, like a progression read vs. true max cover. Think it would usually compliment their protection calls as well, often mirroring the slide side for back screens. Clearly it killed a Bowl team with the additional prep time to work WVU up against base looks for each grouping.

    He mentioned the Tulsa game. That reconnects the Malzahn thread you had where he video links using Izzy to run inside on no huddle because the run fits for the defensive line will not get time to anchor. Dana clearly learned and adopted similar style when it worked for his own good system. Teams try to get upfield on him so much he countered it two ways. A lot of his pulling actions occur behind the defensive line instead of behind the offensive line. When he needs similar ways to reach the first force man with a lead blocker, it is outside zone, to limit penetration.

    Their rules for zone probably emphasize staying on linemen for fewer front seven sets to work them. Thus more outside zone. Four linemen almost every set, sometimes only one or two ‘backers. Since Dana started throwing down the field on cross routes teams are holding their safeties back, less need to leave on help rules. Squeeze the line like a sponge, wring their pass rush juice out on every run play.

  • Pingback: The College Football Bowlgame Breakdown for 2014-2015 | intellectualgridiron()