07 November 2006


This week Uttles drops some science on us with his in-depth Maryland postgame summary.

If this week was Clemson's chance to start a Rocky-esque comeback and go for a shot at an ACC title, this is what actually happened:

Clemson 12, Maryland 13

That's right, the University of Maryland, the same team that allowed Florida International to score 10 points held the almighty Rob Spence rushing attack to just 12. We did muster up 400 yards of offense but we couldn't turn that into touchdowns as the Maryland defense seemed to have an answer for everything the tigers could throw at them.

Many attribute the loss to the relatively small crowd, saying we were too flat for the game. Others say the players just weren't able to execute, mainly throwing Will Proctor under the bus. Some say we just don't have the facilities yet, and apparently Maryland didn't care about our new West Endzone which had helped us stomp the Jackets only a couple of weeks beforehand. I, Tom Utley, contend however that we were simply outcoached in all aspects of the game. I also contend that this is a recurring theme under Tommy Bowden, but I will focus only on this game for now.

What did Bud Foster show us up there in Blacksburg on a Thursday night? Well, it was pretty simple, if you take away the running game and the short passes, you kill Clemson's offense. He walked his safeties up, played his cornerbacks tight, and said "Rob Spence, you go right ahead and throw the ball vertically, we're only worried about the runs, swings, and screens." So what did Rob Spence do? Well, he ran the runs, swings, and screens, and got shutdown. Predictably, the Fridge (UMD's head coach) watched that tape and thought to himself: "That's a pretty good plan, and Spence sure is hardheaded. I think we'll do the same thing, now somebody go get me some bear claws."

Saturday came along, and this is the defense we saw Maryland line up in:

Notice how close everyone is to the LOS. This means that they can react extremely quickly to any lateral passes, screens or runs. They will have more tacklers at the point of attack than we have blockers, simply by alignment. Most people with any common sense whatsoever would say two things about this: 1) it's expected after VT was so successful and 2) We should attack the weaknesses of this alignment rather than just do the same thing we did against VT.

However, this is what Rob Spence, in all his holiness decided to do:

Now, I must have skipped the part in Paul's letter to the Corinthians where it says that you can only throw two passes over 5 yards in a single football game or you'll be cast into the eternal fires of hell, but who knows, it could be in there. In all seriousness though, this is the arrogance we see from Tommy Bowden each year and with each new set of coordinators. Every time we get a new offense we get a new gimmick, and initially it works well because nobody has ever seen an offense run like that before. Then one of the smarter coaches in the league figures out how to stop it, and from that point on everyone else just copies their plan. Rather than adjust to this and change our gameplan up so that they can't just stop us cold, Tommy and staff simply stick to their guns and try the same old thing no matter how badly it fails.

Now some may ask: "So they are playing tight to the line, so what?" OK, let's look at this illustration. Here is a screen pass against a common defense, cover 2:

See how the blocking WR has time to actually get to the CB, and the WR who catches the ball has time to start running and gets about 5 yards down field before he has to worry about evading tacklers? This is simply because of alignment. Now let's look at the same play against
Maryland's anti-Spence scheme:

Doesn't look too good does it? The blocking WR has little to no time to actually get to the CB, who has a very easy shot at breaking up the play or tackling the receiver for no gain (or a loss.) Assuming the receiver does catch the ball, he's immediately met by the safety who will either force him to run flatter to the line or just tackle him. If the WR does manage to shake he cornerback and the safety he has taken a lot of time to do so and therefore the rest of the defenders have a good shot at chasing him down before he can even make 2 or 3 yards. It really is just a completely boneheaded play to run against that defensive alignment.

So what should we have done? Well, as you can see from the first illustration, we threw the ball vertically two times in the course of the game, and the result was 131 yards. If we had done that a little bit more and a little bit earlier in the game we would have forced Maryland to change their defensive alignment, which would open up the running game and even the lateral passing game to some extent. We refused to make such adjustments though, and we payed the price for it, scoring only 12 points against the 11th best defense in the ACC.

Next up: Chuck the Chest

No, not this guy:

It's this one:

NC State has losses to such powerhouses as Akron this year, but Chuck Amato is a good defensive coach. I wonder if he'll use the same strategy as VPI and UMD? Do you think? Maybe? Let's hope God speaks to Rob Spence about the blessed vertical passing game between now and gametime for the sake of all that is Orange.