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BSD Film Room: Minnesota Run Game

BSD Film Room takes a look at Minnesota ahead of Saturday's contest in the land of 10,000 lakes.

We only have 4 games left this season. The season goes by too fast. This week, instead of looking back at Illinois and Tim Beckman's hilarious time management, we're looking ahead towards Saturday's showdown with the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the land of 10,000 lakes.

The Goofers are a fun team to watch. They use tight ends, fullbacks, motion, and they run the ball. A lot. No, really - they run the ball a lot.

Down-Distance-Call vs. Nebraska

Down ToGo Run Yds Avg Pass Yds Avg
1st 10 23 160 7.0 7 83 11.9
1st Goal 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0
2nd 0 - 3 4 29 7.3 0 0 0.0
2nd 3 - 5 5 23 4.6 0 0 0.0
2nd 6 - 8 6 25 4.2 1 -1 -1.0
2nd 9+ 1 7 7.0 3 20 6.7
2nd Goal 3 2 0.7 0 0 0.0
3rd 0 - 3 2 2 1.0 1 16 16.0
3rd 3 - 5 2 18 9.0 2 0 0.0
3rd 6 - 8 1 2 2.0 0 0 0.0
3rd 9+ 0 0 0.0 3 0 0.0
3rd Goal 0 0 0 0 0 0.0
TOTALS 47 268 5.7 17 118 6.9

Situational Foosball - vs. Nebraska

Situation RushAtt RushYds PassAtt PassYds
Goalline 9 9 0 0
RedArea 6 37 0 0
BackedUp 0 0 0 0

Minnesota called a conservative game on offense against the Huskers. They ran the ball on 1st down 76% of the time, and 73% overall. In special situations - goalline, red zone, and backed up - it was all run, all the time. Of course, against Nebraska, the Goofers fell down 10 points in the first quarter, but took the lead early in the 2nd quarter, and never surrendered it. And the way Nebraska was playing offense, Tracy Claeys probably didn't think he'd be in a shootout, either.

That conservative plan changed dramatically last week against Indiana. Minnesota received the opening kickoff, and called a flea-flicker on the first snap from scrimmage. It went for 40 yards.

Down-Distance-Call at Indiana

Down ToGo Run Yds Avg Pass Yds Avg
1st 10 27 112 4.1 5 106 21.2
1st Goal 1 -3 -3.0 0 0 0.0
2nd 0 - 3 1 1 1.0 0 0 0.0
2nd 3 - 5 4 14 3.5 1 0 0.0
2nd 6 - 8 3 62 20.7 4 39 9.8
2nd 9+ 5 42 8.4 5 94 18.8
2nd Goal 1 5 5.0 0 0 0.0
3rd 0 - 3 1 2 2.0 0 0 0.0
3rd 3 - 5 2 2 1.0 3 19 6.3
3rd 6 - 8 0 0 0.0 3 31 10.3
3rd 9+ 0 0 0.0 3 13 4.3
3rd Goal 1 0 0.0 1 10 10.0
TOTALS 46 237 5.2 25 312 12.5

Situational Foosball - at Indiana

Situation RushAtt RushYds PassAtt PassYds
Goalline 3 2 2 20
RedArea 3 4 1 6
BackedUp 4 15 2 0

Against the Hoosiers, Minnesota ran the ball on 1st down 84% of the time (wow). But despite that, their overall run percentage was just 65% - down 8 points from the previous week, vs. Nebraska. Indiana sold out, more or less, to stop the run, particularly on 1st down. And that part of their game plan worked - the Hoosiers shaved almost 3 full yards off of the Goofers' 1st down rush average from the previous week (7.0 vs Nebraska, 4.1 at Indiana). Unfortunately for Kevin Wilson, his defense's hyper-attentiveness to the run left them susceptible to the pass. And Minnesota killed the Hoosiers for it, throwing for 239 yards on just 15 1st and 2nd down attempts - nearly 16 yards per attempt. Not per completion, per attempt.

A balanced offense is a deadly offense. Luckily, the Goofers aren't exactly balanced. As of last Saturday, though, they were certainly efficient at the pass. Irrespective of that, if Penn State does not stop Minnesota's rushing attack, then it matters not whether QB Phillip Nelson has another efficient day or not. So let's take a look at what the Goofers do on the ground.

Kill The Lights

As we mentioned at the top, get ready for tight ends, fullbacks, and pre-snap motion. Lovely. The Gophers have an awesome offensive scheme. They're principally a power rush team - same as their hated rivals, the Wisconsin Badgers. But Jerry Kill's gang does a whole lot more than that. They run inside zone. They run outside zone. They run read-option. They run jet sweep. They have counters to all of that from the same formations. And, as previously mentioned, they shift a lot pre-snap to get a read on your defense, and make you foul up your run gap fits. I like it, a lot.

In the shot below, you get one of Minnesota's staples - power. Here, they pull the backside guard and have him lead through the designed hole to pick off the playside backer. The center and playside guard down block, while the playside tight end seals the outside and the fullback blasts through and hits the first red jersey he sees.


Here comes the same play again. This play below, like the one above, gives you - the wanna-be linebacker reader - a "tell". Both of Minnesota's guards pull a lot. And both of them like to cheat on their alignment pre-snap. In the shot below, the ball has not yet been snapped, but the backside guard's helmet is on-line with the center's prodigious behind. Those extra six to eight inches are a slow footed guard's head start. Hopefully, our Nittany Lion defensive tackles notice the same thing.


In the shot below, we have another "power" play. This one is a counter, with the H-back (offline TE) running counter to the offense's strength, and leading the tailback thru the "C" gap. You can tell which direction this play is headed, of course, by looking at the alignment of the two guards. Guess which one is pulling? Well - I mean, if the yellow lines weren't already drawn on the shot.


Another of Minnesota's favorite run plays is the jet sweep, or quick sweep, or one of 10 other names I've heard for it. Below, the slot receiver will come in motion. The QB and Center will time the snap to have a mesh point as the receiver passes in front of the QB. The white speed receiver has a running start towards the edge of the formation. And this being Minnesota, the backside guard is pulling to bring some beef to the outside. Yes, this nice sideline view also shows the pulling guard lined up 6 - 8 inches deeper, helmet on the center's hip.


Minnesota doesn't pull a guard on every snap, though. They also run zone blocking schemes, both inside and outside. In the shot below, we get another jet sweep, this time run using outside zone.


As mentioned, Minnesota has a counter / gotcha off of their principle runs. In the shot below, what looks like another jet sweep is actually a power run. The QB fakes the sweep at the mesh point, and instead tucks the ball into his RB's belly, lined up in the pistol. The fullback seals the playside DE will the playside T, G, and C all downblock to their inside. The backside guard pulls and leads through the "B" gap. If the DE and LB over-pursue to the outside, to stop the sweep, they lose gap integrity back inside, which is exactly where the ball is headed.


But when is just one counter enough? Here is another jet sweep motion. This is a pseudo read-option play. The QB meshes with the slot receiver on the initial fake. Then the QB "reads" the defensive end at the top of the screen, and gives the ball to the RB (in the pistol), who runs counter to the action. "Reads" is - well, I don't really see the point of the "read". You're already running the slot receiver over there, and the DE or OLB is going to stay wide, particularly after you've run the sweep 100 times. So the chance that the QB ever sees the DE crashing down inside in spite of the slot receiver bolting to his outside on a fake run...probably not that high. But all of that action works wonders on most of the rest of the defense.


I don't recall a single pass from Minnesota in the red area or goal line against Nebraska. So of course, Jerry Kill's gang being a good bunch of coaches, they pull out a classic against the Hoosiers and their man defense. They run trips left, with superstar WR Engel in the near slot. The two outside receivers run "slants" - that is, they fully intend to smash into the Hoosier DBs - while Engel rubs his defender off in traffic, and heads to the post. This play was good for six points, just like it was against us when UCF ran it in week 3.


Hit The Lights

Jerry Kill didn't win I-AA coach of the year twice by accident. He's pretty good. Minnesota have a diverse rush offense, are now mixing in the pass to great effect, and they're very disciplined. Despite all of the pre-snap motion, they had zero pre-snap penalties (false starts, illegal formations, etc.) versus Nebraska and Indiana. Yes - they took 2 delays of game penalties. But both of those were on purpose, to give their punter 5 extra yards in order to prevent a touchback.

Having written that, though, Film Room thinks the maligned Butler defense can come up big this week. Ron Vanderlinden is one of the best LB coaches in the nation, and he surely has been pounding eye-discipline and reading keys into his linebackers since they stepped on campus. And this week, reading guards finally pays off. Assuming our LB's read their keys, trust them, and hit the holes violently, they can have big games this week. Glenn Carson and Nyeem Wartman - you might smile when thinking of this game for the next 30 years.

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