UTSA won the biggest game in school history, well the second biggest if you count the first game back in 2011, but a top two win nonetheless over CUSA Western division favorite Southern Miss. Explosive plays early in the game defined UTSA's win. Before Southern Miss could blink the Roadrunners were up 21-0 en route to a 55-32 win. Let's take a look at those explosive plays and how crafty play calling and little old fashioned cheatin' helped UTSA to its first CUSA win of 2016.
The Rub Route
Let's start here, opening series, third down and six from the UTSA 29 yard line. The Roadrunners ran on first and second down.
On third down the Roadrunners come out in twins to the field side, the inside player goes out, the outside player comes in, like a bubble screen look, then he breaks down field on a go. Before we get there it's important to note that the middle of the field is open, i.e. there are two safeties. Whether the middle of field is "open" or "closed" is the first read a quarterback makes in most instances. The position of the safeties serves to indicate the coverage options. Here, a middle of the field open look indicates either Cover 2 Man, Cover 2 (zone), or Cover 4 (zone). The coverage isn't important other than the play of the field safety. We'll get to him in a minute.
This play, at least as run by the slot is illegal. More specifically, a crossing receiver cannot impede the process of a defender, and receivers cannot block more than a yard downfield before a pass is thrown. It's a pick or a rub and good on UTSA because nobody ever calls it. This play would be more accurately called a slot receiver lead, because he tries to take the corner's head off.
Back to the safety, and this was an issue with USM's safeties all day, they got caught with their eyes in the a lot. Here the safety probably has halves responsibility based on what the boundary safety is doing. Regardless, the field safety runs right past UTSA's streaking receiver to attack an underneath route. He vacates and it looks like Kerry Thomas is first out to practice.
On UTSA's next possession, again, the middle of the field is open, it's first and ten and UTSA runs a beautiful play action post route.
Again, watch USM's safeties, at the fake there are nine Golden Eagles within 8 yards of the football. The fake sucks the safeties out of a help position, the corner is on an island. The pass protection here is great and worth highlighting. Jarveon Williams does a great job chipping the end and the rest of the line is stonewalling USM's rush. It's a clean pocket. Dalton Sturm has to turn his back to the play on the fake, most quarterbacks don't like this action, but Sturm holds his fake and goes right over the top.
Now the throw...isn't great. That's probably a pick as often as it is a catch, but hey, it's a 77 yard completion in the box score.
The Bunch Set
One of the reasons we loved Frank Scelfo's hire as offensive coordinator is his experience at both the college and professional levels. He brought that experience to bear on Saturday. Here is a simple formation concept - the bunch set. Not just any bunch set, personnel matters in this scheme. Scelfo deploys that rarest of unicorns - a fullback in his bunch. That's a swiss army knife of goodness. He can run, block efficiently, and be a target in the pass game to some degree. Whether Scelfo saw the tendency on film or just saw the adjustment from the sideline, USM's treatment of the fullback in the bunch was key. Scelfo saw that USM was going to use an inside backer to deal with the fullback. UTSA would then use that matchup to shape two substantial running plays.
Here we are again, first quarter, UTSA up 14-0, in positive territory. Bunch to the field side. Focus on two things here, first the inside backers read at the snap, essentially blocking himself and second, what we call guard porn as the right guard pulls out looking for the first off-colored jersey and finds - via alignment and sound blocking - no one. The dancing bear is off to the races in a hole you could literally drive a truck through. Let's take a look.
Later in the second quarter, as USM starts making a run, the Roadrunners go back to the tight end, receiver, fullback bunch. This time Scelfo brings the fullback in motion across the formation and the linebacker widens, as he's supposed to do in his man responsibilities, with him. However, that subtle motion does a number of things: it creates a numeric advantage at the point of attack; the inside backer has now "blocked" himself; it leaves Jalen Rhodes in a one on one setting with a safety.
Herm Edwards says that at some point, the game comes down to one man on one man and who can win that battle. Here Rhodes is put in a position to win that matchup with the safety and he does. This is a classic one cut run. Rhodes sets up his guard by drawing the other inside linebacker just outside enough to create an angle for his left guard Kyle McKinney, then plants that left foot and he's gone.
Watch the right side of the UTSA line crash down with a man advantage and create another crater for the Roadrunner running back to run through. It's beautiful.
A few more things regarding UTSA's win...
- The Roadrunners shuffled their offensive line, moving Austin Pratt from left guard into center, promoting Junior Kyle McKinney to left guard. This led to a more physical interior in my opinion.
- At right guard Stefan Beard out of Navarro JC is a player. Nasty, physical and as we saw above as he pulled, he's a plus athlete. You can tell that Scelfo and Wilson feel comfortable with him because they keyed him up throughout the game.
- UTSA's rushing success was primarily between the tackles, well actually almost exclusively. That's smart scheming. Southern Miss is one of the better defenses in the league and the Eagles possessed an athletic advantage. The answer is to run at speed, not away from it. Force the speed to play in close quarters, in areas that benefit your offensive line and backs.
UTSA travels to Rice on Saturday as they edge closer to an identity. Based on Saturday, we like where they're going.