Thursday, July 19, 2007

DXP: Taking Issue with Mandel & Me

DoubleExtraPoint blogger Jeffie Husker takes issue with Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel's assertion that Bill Callahan goes "run-the-ball-three-times-and-play-defense" at times with his playcalling. And really, it depends on how you look at things. DXP broke down the second half of the Cotton Bowl by downs and it showed balance. But that's not exactly how I saw things. Instead, I looked at it by drives, especially in the 4th quarter. The first drive of the quarter was the most balanced, but it stalled after Nebraska got called for holding. The next drive was pass-pass-pass-punt. The next drive was rush-rush-rush-rush-rush-pass (3rd & long)-pass (4th & long). The final drive doesn't really count; 2 passes with seconds left in the game.

Look at it for the quarter, and you'll see 7 rushes and 8 passes before desperation set in. Looks balanced, yes? But the second and third drives were anything but balanced; they were polar opposites. Kind of like taking a cold day in January and a hot day in July, averaging them together, and say, wow, those two days averaged out to be rather pleasant.

I use another example of imbalance. Look at our first down play calls against USC:
  • Marlon Lucky rush for 1 yd
  • Kenny Wilson rush for 2 yds
  • Marlon Lucky rush for 1 yd
  • Kenny Wilson rush for 2 yds
  • Marlon Lucky rush for 0
  • Kenny Wilson rush for 0
  • Marlon Lucky rush for 0
  • Marlon Lucky rush for 0
  • Marlon Lucky rush for 3 yds, fumbled
  • Kenny Wilson rush for 6 yds
  • Brandon Jackson rush for 4 yds
  • Kenny Wilson rush for 3 yds
  • Kenny Wilson rush for 3 yds
  • Zac Taylor rush for 4 yds
  • Zac Taylor pass to Nunn for 21 yds.
It took nearly 40 minutes (and 16 1st-and-tens) before he threw the ball on first down, and it's not a coincidence that Nebraska scored it's only touchdown on that drive.

Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp may have summed it up when he said that "West Coast Guys are programmed." Watching Husker football in person, you can identify a lot of playcalls based on (a) what they've been running the last few plays and (b) personnel in the game. Three tight-end sets mean rushing, 4 wide receiver sets mean deeper passing. Early last season, Brandon Jackson in the game usually meant passing until BJax took over as starting I-back. Don't think defensive coordinators recognize these tendencies as well.


Jeffie Husker said...

The biggest issue for me is focusing far too much on playcalling. As I've pointed out, the USC and Auburn games were two of our least efficient offensive performances of 2006. If you want to blame that solely on Callahan's playcalling, then you have to also give his playcalling the credit for our most efficient offensive performances (which includes a damn fine game against Missouri).

I prefer a big picture approach that avoids scrutinizing each and every 3 and out while failing to applaud each and every sustained drive or explosive play.

Neither one of us is happy with 9-5, but our general approach obviously differs. I'm a keg half-full kind of guy, but it makes for an interesting discourse nonetheless.

Is it September yet?

Husker Mike said...

I did give Callahan credit for Missouri gameplan. I also give him props against Texas, except for the 3rd down call that resulted in the Nunn fumble.

But I think we never gave ourselves a shot against USC, and messed up several opportunities against Auburn.

I suppose my approach is "keg half-empty"...but on the other hand, my focus is on the empty parts to see if we can fill 'er up.

jason said...

It has been fun watching this discussion from the sidelines.

Sort of reminds me of the debates we had during the Osborne era.

"Come on Tom! Quit running the weak side option on 1st & 10 and the fullback dive on 3rd & 6! Geez. Why don't you just go to Colorado!" :)

I guess what we really miss is the potent offense we had in the late 90's. Everyone knew what was coming but just couldn't stop it.

Husker Mike said...

Just curious, Jason, did you ever read some of Greg Mays' stuff? (Not sure it's still on the internet.) Except for that 94 Kansas State game, when we started the Turmanator at QB, I've learned that while you might say you knew what was coming, you never knew where it was going to come from.

Jeffie's point is that efficiency is the biggest factor, and there is something to that. But I think playcalling has a direct influence on efficiency. You can choose your playcalls to exploit the opponent, and likewise, if the opponent can get a jump on your playcall, they can in turn adapt to your playcall.

AJ said...


Was the Missouri gameplan to make Chase Daniel neverous for the first 25 minutes of the game? That could be it, because by the time they were down, he threw for 220+ yards in the second half. Granted I know they still lost. But Jackson, Daniel missing open receivers and Missouri turnovers are what did Missouri in.

It wasn't Cosgrove.

Husker Mike said...

I give Cozbohl credit for playing a freshman safety at linebacker. Now, whether that confused Daniel or not is up for debate. But it was the most innovative thing Cozbohl has shown in 3 years in Lincoln, so I have to give him a little credit.

I also have to give Callahan credit for using his best weapon: Brandon Jackson.