Talk about going out with a bang, Aaron Jones did just that before a sparsely filled Sun Bowl on Saturday. Here's the sad thing Miner Fans, someday Aaron Jones will be gone, probably plying his craft in the NFL and you'll have missed chances to see the best back in school history. One of the best to play in the State.
Jones ran around, over and thru North Texas in a 52-24 win. On the day he rushed 24 times for 301 yards and four touchdowns. How'd he do it? We took a look to find out. Here's Jones' rushing chart:
Notice a couple things, first, Jones made hay on the left side of his offensive line. That's where Will Hernandez and Jerome Daniels play at guard and tackle respectively. Jones was equally effective both between the tackles and outside, carrying 10 times for 171 yards outside the tackles and 14 times for 130 between the tackles. However he rushed for the majority of his 301 yards on the left side.
Hernandez is quickly catching the eyes of pro scouts with his old school physical guard play. Pro Football Focus named Hernandez, just a junior, a riser for the 2017 NFL draft. He may be the best guard is college football. He's joined by Daniels another mauler who's come into his own playing alongside Hernandez this season. They along with tight ends Hayden Plinke and Sterling Napier and a beautiful unicorn of a fullback Darren Laufasa cleared 241 yards along that left side. Here's a great example from Jones' 83 yard first quarter touchdown scamper.
The Miners line up in a bunch formation with a tight end, wide receiver Cole Freytag and fullback Laufasa. They're bunched to the field side and Jones is in a single back behind quarterback Ryan Metz.
UNT is in a 3-4 with all 11 players within 8-10 yards of the ball. This play is predicated on the offensive line turning the defenders and sealing to create a seam for Jones. As a defensive lineman you're first concern is not getting "hooked" or giving away your playside shoulder. As a defensive end, your responsible for setting an edge, or staying parallel to the line of scrimmage and keeping the integrity of the line of scrimmage.
Here the first thing you'll notice is that Hernandez uses the defensive tackle's upfield penetration against him, essentially letting the defender block himself. Daniels and the tightened all lock up and, here's the key, turn they're defenders, Laufasa leads and helps see the defensive end with Daniels. From the camera angle above, you're going to see the backs of jerseys, that's a great sign if you're a Miner fan, they've sealed their assignments. Freytag gets a great downfield stalk block and in the words of Vince Lombardi "We get a seal here and a seal here and run it in the alley."
North Texas' playside linebacker has a chance to fill, but he fits inside, and doesn't make the play in the hole. Their safeties don't squeeze the chute fast enough and Jones splits 'em and he's gone.
UTEP did a good job of moving Jones around via formation and giving different looks. Saturday they lined Jones up in the aforementioned single back, offset I, traditional I, shotgun, wildcat and even the straight T. They loved the single back with Laufasa acting as a wingback essentially, lining up just off the tackle. Here's the thing with fullbacks, and no one uses them anymore and that's a damn shame, if you follow them, they take you to the ball, as was the case Saturday. Here's another Jones touchdown run from Saturday, it'll be the last we show you, but just know there were two more...
UTEP runs two tights and puts Laufasa off the field side tackle, at the snap he essentially pulls across the formation to lead for Jones.
Again, North Texas is up with 11 men within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage again. The Miners run left and notice Daniels at left tackle use the defensive end's inside release against him. Jones executes a counter step and that causes the linebackers and safeties to bite ever so slightly to the field side. Napier is showing his number outside so he's got the outside sealed and Laufasa is going to kick out the corner.
Here's the difference between a 48 yard touchdown and a four yard gain. North Texas' safety is in great position to make a play, he's sitting right in the alley. He's Jones' man to beat, but he drops his head to make the play and Jones loses him with a great move and he's off. But again, great individual and collective execution put Jones in a situation where, one on one, he has a chance to show why he's different and special. Jones does that here and he did it a lot on Saturday.