Welcome back, friends. Hope you enjoyed your holiday.
Penn State will tangle with Memphis’ high powered offense on Saturday at Noon. They’ll present a formidable challenge. Let’s take a quick look at what makes them go.
Kill The Lights
Memphis may use a ton of spread ‘em out formations. And Memphis’ (now ex-) head coach may be a former wide receiver. But they’re still southerners. Which means, Memphis prefers to run the dang ball. Their best passes get set up by their run threat.
The gif below is nothing too fancy - it’s a standard issue outside zone run. You’ll note that their outside zone rush gets blow’d up by Temple’s DL in under 2 seconds. That’s the good news for us. The bad news is that redshirt freshman tailback Kenneth Gainwell sees the overpursuit, cuts backside, and breaks a few tackles for a large gain.
Here’s another rush attempt, and another attempt at turning the corner of the defense. Memphis runs (a spread version of) the ol’ Green Bay Packer sweep. Gainwell shows incredible patience, waiting for his linemen to provide a crease. Then he explodes through the hole, breaks a few tackles, and nets another large gain.
But Memphis isn’t so staid that they’ll only run the ball conventionally. They’re also pragmatists. Below, Memphis catches Temple in a basic zone coverage, and without the OLB splitting the distance between the OT and inside receiver. The Tigers read 3-on-2, and toss a quick bubble screen to their awesome slot receiver - //checks notes // - who happens to be #19 Gainwell. And Gainwell.......................wait for it.................breaks a few tackles, and nets another awesome gain on first down.
This kid’s feet never stop churning. Ever. His legs may be stolen from a Cyberdyne Systems Terminator.
On this 2nd and 11 snap below, Memphis empties the backfield, going 3x2. This play design is pretty nifty, because the bottom half (2 receiver side) runs a high-low combo route - designed to beat zone coverage. The top half (3 receiver side) runs man beater routes. Thus, the QB simply diagnoses zone or man coverage, and picks the appropriate side of the field. Hooray, ease-of-use + flexibility-of-design.
Temple runs a man coverage scheme on this snap, so Memphis QB Brady White wisely dumps it underneath to his slot receiver - #19 Gainwell - who is running a shallow drag.
Want to guess what Gainwell does? Award yourselves BSD$10 if you said, “breaks a few tackles”, or “makes something out of nothing”, or “turns a 1-yard play into a 12-yard gain”.
Just going out on a limb here - it certainly seems like tackling #19 Gainwell would be a really good idea on Saturday. Whatever we need to do to make his feet stop moving, let’s do that. On the other hand, you’d think other teams would have thought of this idea, too. Yet, nearly 2000 yards (combined) later, none accomplished it. [This is noteworthy.]
When 19-Gainwell does not get the football, then chances are good that WR #10, Damonte Coxie, gets it. To wit - the omnipresent Run-Pass-Option.
Coxie is from Reserve, LA, and was originally an LSU commit. He tore his meniscus running track as a high school senior, and lost all of his big skool offers (which also included Alabama). Memphis offered him a spot, redshirted him as a frosh while he recovered, and now, as a 4th-year junior - presumably, about to go pro after netting 68 for 1144 and 9 scores - he’s shining.
Memphis’ staff will work diligently to get Coxie matchups they like. In this extended gif below, on a 2nd and 1 play, the staff decides to take a deep shot. Coxie jogs out to his typical X receiver spot, checks the sideline, and then swaps inside - against a safety - to run a deep route. Mayhem ensues on this snap as QB White gets stripped. But - beware the athletic 6’3” leaper with long speed and great hands.
Hit The Lights
Gainwell and Coxie represent roughly 50% of Memphis’ offense. Here at Film Room, our brilliant strategy is to make someone other than Gainwell and Coxie beat us. And if we can pick only one to stop, then let that one be Gainwell. As noted previously, tackling will be both difficult, and paramount.
Tackle well, and he’ll gain poorly. Tackle poorly, he’ll Gainwell.