New Grantland blog: Darren McFadden’s touchdown

It’s up over at the Grantland Triangle:

The key play for McFadden and the Raiders was his 70-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, which came on the Raiders’ base run play: the inside zone. The theory behind “zone running” is that, given all the multitude of shifts and maneuvers a defense can present — and the many formations offenses use nowadays — you need clear rules to run the ball effectively. The zone allows the offensive line to work together, double-teaming the defensive linemen before sliding off to block the linebackers (the “second level defenders”), while the running back has freedom to find the open crease. Against the Jets on this play, McFadden attacked the interior of New York’s defense before bouncing it around end for the big gainer.

Read the whole thing.

College football premature post-game impressions – 9/25/2011

LSU 47, WVU 21. The ultimate conclusion for this game was that, to paraphrase Dennis Green, both teams were who I thought thought they were: LSU is one of the best, toughest, most physical teams in the country, and my undisputed #1; and WVU is intriguing but extremely young on both offense and defense, a team that I have high expectations for but one that needs to grow up to have true success. I did think how they got there was extremely interesting, however. West Virginia outgained LSU by close to 200 yards, and, purely from a production standpoint, the vaunted LSU defense has to be extremely disappointed in itself and West Virginia has to know there’s not a team in the country they can’t light up. The biggest bright spot for WVU — and biggest surprise — was the fantastic pass protection Geno Smith received throughout the evening.

I'll take that ball please

But in a strange way if I was an LSU fan I’d be encouraged: Here was a game where my defense, the strength of my team, got eaten up for a gajillion yards, but I still won for three reasons: (1) LSU’s defense still grabbed four crucial turnovers; (2) LSU’s special teams dominated, particularly in the field position battle (the punter was amazing) and the timely kickoff return by Mo Claiborne; and (3) the offense made very few mistakes and was extremely efficient, hitting some big passes in the first half and grinding out the run game in the second. That’s the mark of a great team like LSU: they took an opponent’s best shot and were able to control and win a game with the other phases of their team. LSU will win a lot of games if they can keep up things like this:

Sometimes, it’s less obvious — such as, for example, the fact that LSU’s average starting field position tonight was its own 43-yard line, while West Virginia didn’t start a single possession past its own 29, and only then following the opening kickoff of the game. (For the night, WVU started eleven possessions inside its own 20-yard line; LSU started zero possessions inside its 20.)

For WVU it’s a little more disappointing because there were opportunities, especially considering that they pulled it to 27-21 despite having dug themselves an enormous first half-hole. But the good news for the Mouintaineers is that what did them in last night — against what is in my view the best team in the country — were all fixable mistakes. Indeed, both of Geno Smith’s interceptions were not of the “bad read” variety, with the first being a ricochet off of a dropped pass and the second a bad decision to throw a quick lateral screen despite the presence of Tyrann Mathieu (after the game Holgorsen said Smith had the option to hand the ball off if he didn’t like the look of the screen). And while West Virginia’s special teams must improve, one reason that very talented teams have great special teams is because their rosters are deep. There isn’t anyone in the Big East that will present those kinds of challenges.

Ultimately, both teams have a lot of upside: For WVU, it’s to potentially run the table in the Big East and make a BCS game, while for LSU, it’s to solidify its spot as the best team in the country and to win Miles’s second National Championship. LSU has a big game coming up with Florida, but I can’t help look forward to November 5th, when the Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama. That game might have more BCS title implications than any other this season, including the bowl games.

- Alabama 38, Arkansas 14. I love Bobby Petrino’s offense, and it’s typically one of the best, most well orchestrated attacks in the country, but Nick Saban always seems to shut it down. Alabama had an insurmountable 31-7 lead in the 3rd quarter, and whatever else Arkansas tried to do was too little, too late. Indeed, it’s fascinating to contrast Alabama with LSU: ‘Bama may actually have the better defense, though it’s close, but I actually like LSU’s offense a lot better. But LSU doesn’t have Trent Richardson, who kind mask a lot of weaknesses at quarterback, and Saban football teams continue to make a living capitalizing on your mistakes and not making any of their own. As I said above, I know there are other teams in the way, but I can’t wait for LSU/Alabama. As we used to say back home, son you better tie your shoelaces tight and buckle your chinstraps because there’s gonna be some hitting in that one.

- Oklahoma State 30, Texas A&M 29.
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Smart Links – 9/23/2011

And the Valley Shook has a Q&A with me about WVU/LSU, along with its own preview. It’s of course similar in spirit to what I wrote for Grantland.

- Catch-Man technique.

- This is great.

- Realignment insanity.

- The 46 nickel and nickel tracer.

- Tijuana sports hall of fame.

- Nick Saban, decoded:

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New Grantland: Breaking down Holgorsen’s West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Les Miles’s LSU Tigers

My LSU/West Virginia preview is up over at Grantland:

The intrigue surrounding Les Miles, Louisiana State’s coach, and Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia’s first-year head coach, has little to do with what their teams have done on the field. When they play each other Saturday in Morgantown the public will know them as football coaches, but also as something closer to memes. There is Miles, The Mad Hatter, with a 10-gallon ball cap on his head and blades of stadium grass dangling from his lips, mismanaging a timeout to call a miraculous fake field goal that wins an SEC road game; and there is Holgorsen, Holgo the Barbarian, stray wisps of quasi mullet fluttering in the wind as he chugs a Red Bull on the sideline, calling a play-action bomb to one of three or four receivers. . . .


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Training Camp With the Portsmouth Destroyers

Think Hard Knocks of the United Kingdom:

Shot over 3 days in October 2010, this documentary gives an exclusive inside look at the University of Portsmouth Destroyers American Football Team. This insight into their pre-season camp aims to tell the story of what motivates a Championship caliber team and attempts to promote the game of American Football in the UK.

The film documents the physical toll demanded of American Football players and charts the highs and lows of being a student athlete.

For more information on University American football please visit buafl.net.

(Hat tip.)

Highlights from the championship game after the jump.

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Have any high profile quarterbacks significantly and noticeably improved their arm strength?

I listened to the Solid Verbal podcast this morning, and Ty and Dan discussed the plethora of “popgun armed quarterbacks” currently plaguing college football. Relatedly, a reader asked about why quarterbacks can’t seem to improve their arm strength once they reach a certain age. I can think of really only one example of a guy whose arm now seems significantly stronger than it did earlier in his career as a college player and rookie, and that’s Tom Brady. And, well, Tom Brady is Tom Brady. But it does seem like this is generally true, at least at the higher levels once a quarterback is physically mature: There are almost no examples of guys whose arms went from “popgun” to bazooka through discipline and training, not matter how tall they are or how many weights they lift.

This is not entirely surprising, given the unique nature of a throwing motion, but even golfers manage to add some power to their drives. (Maybe someone with more of a baseball background can tell me if any pitchers have added MPH to their fastballs after hitting college or the majors. Quarterbacks are not pitchers but there are similarities.) But I really can’t think of quarterbacks who have really improved the amount of power behind their throws. Of course, Dub Maddox and Darin Slack might have a thing to say about this, but I’m curious what the general reader thinks. Feel free to chime in.

Breaking down the Buffalo Bills’ game winner

It’s up over at the Grantland blog:

The route concept the Bills used on the play is an old West Coast offense staple: the “drive” concept. On the play, the outside receiver, usually in a short motion (just as Nelson was) comes in motion toward the line of scrimmage and runs a crossing route. An inside receiver will push straight upfield to 10 to 12 yards and break across (on this play, the Bills used a man-to-man technique where the receiver turned outside but pivoted back inside), while a third receiver, in this case the running back, ran to the flat.

Read the whole thing. I should have a longer feature up over there later this week.

Things that are uninteresting and interesting about conference realignment

With the news that Pittsburgh and Syracuse have applied to join the ACC, the conference realignment discussions have taken on a whole new character, namely, the potential destruction of the Big East. I personally don’t enjoy talking about conference realignment, and I think most players and coaches don’t care — just tell them who they’re playing.

But there are some elements more interesting than others, and there is significance for many when it comes to how their team will fare as the old order is unsettled or simply what rivalries will be retained or destroyed. Here’s a non-scientific list of things I do not find interesting in these discussions and things that are interesting.

Not interesting:

  •  The daily grind of the news cycle. One team applies, another team threatens to leave a conference, another threatens to leave and then says they don’t want to leave, and so on. Given the tectonic shifts in the distribution and amount of football revenues with TV contracts and their attendant revenues, exclusive TV networks (like the Big 10 Network and the Longhorn Network), conferences with equal revenue sharing or proportional revenue models, conference championship games and so on, all this is going to take years to sort out. I think it’s safe to say that in two years, we’re still going to be talking about realignment. We may even be seriously discussing it in five years. This is a very significant time, but the interesting parts won’t be apparent As The World Turns on a daily basis.
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Breaking down Bill Walsh’s “drive” concept with Miami OC Jedd Fisch

Hat tip:

If you want more detail into Walsh’s “drive” concept, read more about it here. (Also see here for more detail on the “smash” concept Fisch shows on the backside.) Lastly, Fisch has already shown that a lot of his passing game is built on putting different concepts or “beaters” to each side; for more on that idea, see here and here.

Smart Links – 9/16/2011

Alligator Army on Tennessee’s passing game. I hope to break down UT’s offense at some point, but OC Jim Chaney has done a nice job evolving his old Purdue offense and combining it with NFL concepts and sets from his time in that league. Bray threw touchdown passes on the 3-step fade/out combo, double post, smash with a divide post route backside, and then just a busted coverage pass.

- The 4-3 “Lightning” Cover Zero.

- Runningback Balance Touch Drill.

- Klosterman on small-school offensive wrinkles. I enjoyed this, but I have a hard time forgiving him for the use of Gregg Easterbrook’s inapt “Blur Offense” moniker for Oregon.

- Why Noel Mazzone?

- When will Ray Lewis slow down? Uh, maybe never, it seems like. I’m beginning to think he’s a Highlander.

- Chase Stuart likes the Bills (to an extent) but isn’t so keen on the Chiefs. I tend to agree.

- World’s worst analogies.