Another week, another great win for our Nittany Lions. The universe is balanced and happy. Right?
Just like James Franklin, Film Room reads everything. And Film Room noticed many had questions and opinions about PSU's running game: hooray wildcat, boo wildcat, hooray running back A, boo running back B. So this week we're taking a look at the run plays. Maybe we'll learn something together. (No, probably not. But what better do you have to do while you're at work reading this?)
Kill The Lights
Penn State managed 106 yards on 34 attempts Saturday. That's double the output of week one's tilt with UCF. Progress is a good thing.
This is an unbalanced line left, power run, with RG Brian Gaia pulling and leading between Andrew Nelson and Donovan Smith. Nelson and Mahon down block, turning the Zips' nose tackle into a small lump in the Beaver Stadium turf. Gaia pulls around the corner of Nelson and locks up the middle linebacker. Geno Lewis screens off the weakside linebacker, and actually drives him back several yards. Everything is looking good - almost. Donovan Smith misjudges the DE and whiffs. And that starts the chain reaction: Belton has to jump cut the DE, which gives the unblocked Akron safety time to move forward, which forces Belton to bounce the run wider, where the play's not designed to go. Despite all of that, the run was blocked well enough to net 5 yards. Great blocks by Nelson, Mahon, Gaia, and Geno Lewis.
This is a regular JoePa man blocking run (minus the fullback), designed to go between RG Gaia and RT Nelson. It's blocked pretty well to the playside. Gaia helps Mangiro scoop the NT before moving on to lock up the MLB - two great blocks. Nelson shoves the DE to help James before reversing course to lock up the SAM. As you can tell from the top of the shot below, there appear to be wide open, green pastures for Belton outside. But Bill gets spooked by the backside Akron DT who got a bit of penetration against Mahon and Smith. Belton reverses course and comes away with six yards.
Run number three is unbalanced line right, with RG Gaia pulling and leading around the Zips' left end. Kyle Carter is the fullback, and Zach Zwinak is the tailback. The 640 lbs of Nelson and Donovan Smith bury the Zips' defensive end. But Mangiro isn't able to cut off the Zips' DT - and that's a tall task for Mangiro, by the way, who has to first snap the ball with his right hand before trying to cut off a fat dude who is already to his right; and whom just had the guard in front of him pull, leaving an open space. Anyhow, that DT beats Mangiro playside and penetrates. Kyle Carter, who is expecting to lead around the edge behind Gaia instead has to ram into the 300lb DT, to little effect. Zwinak nets just a single yard.
This is a draw, with Belton following a pulling Brian Gaia. This one appeared doomed from the start. None of the Akron linebackers reacted much at all to Hack's play fake. Mangiro and Nelson handle Zippy's DT and DE away from the action. Mahon, with an assist from Smith, buries the playside DT. Smith then locks up the WLB away from the action. Gaia leads into the hole and the MLB "ole"s him successfully, which forces Belton to jump cut outside, into the DE who, although initially blocked by Wilkerson and Carter, has started to slip free. The SAM jumps inside of Carter after Carter comes off the DE, and cleans up the action. Zero yards.
Here's another draw. The DT and DE over Mahon and Smith run a E-T stunt, which is pretty much the dream scenario for this play. But our pair don't handle it perfectly, and the DT gets penetration with the DE behind him. That pushes Zwinak to his right, outside of Gaia, which is the opposite of what Gaia was expecting to happen. Mangiro had a great cut block on the MLB though. Gain of just two yards. If Mahon and Smith get just a touch better blocks, this goes for 7+.
Unbalanced right again, with Donovan Smith on the end of the line to the bottom of the gif below. Brendan Mahon is pulling from the backside and going to lead Zwinak between Gaia and Nelson. Gaia and Mangiro bury the NT, but Nelson completely whiffs on the playside DT. The DT runs into a surprised Mahon, which throws off the timing of the run, which ends in a tackle for loss. But, if you want to have a good time, watch what Donovan Smith does to the DE at the bottom of the shot - Smith drives him 5 yards wide and (though the gif cuts off) 10 yards deep.
This run is probably the closest thing our O-line has to what they ran last year. No pulling, no unbalanced line, pretty much an inside zone run. Everyone steps left on the snap of the ball, except for Donovan Smith, who steps right. That leaves the Akron DE unblocked. Akeel Lynch gets the handoff and immediately spins out of the tackle, and then he's off. Mahon, Mangiro, Gaia, Nelson, and James all get outstanding push (the new line of scrimmage is 4 yards downfield). Smith makes up for his mis-step by tattooing the MLB, which gets Lynch another 5 yards for a total of 10.
Not a Run 1
This isn't a run. In fact, it's just an incompletion to Jesse James. But check out the pass pro from our two running backs, Akeel Lynch and Derek Dowrey. Imagine being a linebacker coming on a blitz, and the "back" you have to beat is Dowrey. There have to be easier ways to pay for school.
Donovan Smith misses the DE, which blows up the play. Belton loses one.
No pulling, no unbalanced line, but we get a boatload of beef on the left side. The play is blocked well, but the Akron strong safety makes a nice open field tackle on Belton.
John Donovan's simplifying things up front. Here's another straight-forward run, without the unbalanced line or pulling guards and tackles. This one goes behind Gaia and Nelson. Gaia kicks the snot out of the Akron DT one on one, while Nelson reaches the linebacker on the second level. Put another 5 yards in the ledger.
This is the same as Run 1, except that it is blocked really well, including by Mangiro who was falsely flagged for holding. Nelson and Mahon collapse the Akron line to the right. Donovan Smith throws the playside DE wide. Gaia pulls, leading left, and tattoos the MLB. Perfect all around, except that Belton cuts right. I'm betting he'd like to have this one back, because the left side opened up nicely.
Mahon pulls and leads Zwinak around the right edge, but Zach doesn't like the looks of things as Jesse James loses control of the DE. Zach cuts back, and gets tackled from behind.
This is the same play as run 6 - unbalanced right with Mahon pulling. Nelson gets his man this time, pancaking him, but Kyle Carter's attempted cut on his man doesn't work out. Zach doesn't like what he sees inside, and bounces it outside. Loss of 2 yards.
Runs 14 and 15
It's our first WildCanuck. Akeel Lynch takes the direct snap and runs left. The O-line downblocks, with Donovan Smith resembling a road grader as he tosses the playside DT and buries the MLB. Backside guard Brian Gaia pulls and smashes into the playside DE who, fortunately for us, slanted inside. Gaia and Jesse James pin the DE, Kyle Carter ties up the SLB, and Lynch hits the edge traveling 20 MPH. 220lb X 20MPH = Hurting DB.
Run 14 went for 8 yards. The same play immediately after got another 6.
No gif for this one because it runs too long. Hack tosses to Belton who tosses to DaeSean Hamilton, who weaves through 5 defenders over 10 yards to reach the line of scrimmage. Best 0 yard run you'll find anywhere.
Runs 17 and 18 and 19
Akron's caught in an Under front, and they pay for it. Nelson and Gaia bury the NT. Nelson continues on and kills the MLB. Carter follows through the gaping hole and locks up the SAM. Mahon pulls and leads, cleaning up the SAM from Carter. Lynch blows through with speed and nets 13 yards.
(18): Penn State goes hurry up. Akron struggles to get lined up by the time Lynch takes the snap. Same play, 6 more yards.
(19): Zwinak takes over, but it's the same play to the opposite side. Akron's still in the Under shift. Zwinak runs for 11 yards, and then stays upright in the pile as Gaia pushes it forward for 7 more.
The fun's over. Akron called timeout after Zwinak's last run and came back out in an Over front with an 8th man in the box. PSU runs the same play that Zwinak ran in #19. But the extra man is unblocked, and this time Lynch nets 0.
All Offensive Snaps
All Defensive Snaps
Hit The Lights
Any idea how many times our hogs pulled in the last two years? Just about zero, as far as run plays went at least. BOB ran only a very little bit of man blocking in 2012, and practically none in 2013, when he went almost exclusively to inside and outside zone. He ran, more or less, three run plays last year: inside zone, outside zone, and on occassion, a draw.
John Donovan's scheme is about as different as a scheme could possibly be. Donovan's scheme is power - the opposite of zone - and it's extremely diverse, which is the opposite of three. In other words, there's a big adjustment for our hogs up front.
Film Room's advice? Patience. When the boys get the scheme and each other worked out, you're going to be extremely happy, because these Lions will be able to run on anybody, whenever they please. And if the defense sells out to stop the power scheme, like Akron did in the fourth quarter? We have this dude Hackenberg run play action, and hit Jesse James down the left sideline for a 44-yard, game sealing score. It'll be fun. You'll like it.