2015 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF 2 LIVE COMMENTARY – Ohio State vs Alabama

Posted: January 2, 2015 in All Things Power Spread

1ST QUARTER

Alabama came out in Power Spread, but nice aggression by the OSU front seven, then great coverage by Doran Grant on 3rd down. Then it was the Buckeyes’ turn. PS Originator Urban Meyer with new guru Tom Herman showed Alabama how it’s done. QB Jones a big 3rd down run for a first, then OSU pounding the flanks with Read Options to Elliot. He breaks a big one to the goaline, but unfortunately a little too much energy and a Buckeye timeout slows the drive giving Bama a chance to regroup. 3-0. The Buckeyes just need to settle down a bit. Definitely the experience on Bama’s side.

Alabama goes to a PRO offense and good schemes by our DC Fickell, mixing up the blitz on 3rd down causing Sims to throw the ball away. Again Elliot pounds the outside flanks – Alabama’s weakness – but this time fumbles. These are the mistakes I said OSU could not afford against this team. Still, we need to stay aggressive.

Alabama back in a PS set and a nice run for Sims on the RO. Then the Multiple PRO Oneback off Left Tackle – basically out slugging us – for a monster TD run by monster player – Derrick Henry. Nice pre-motion to the right by star WR Amari Cooper to create good power match-ups on the left. This is PRO style zone run and requires top talent, execution and scheming. Bama got it on that play. 7-3.

More Elliot pounding the perimeter followed by another Jones 3rd down scramble right up the seam for a first down. And then, wham! 40 yard bomb down the right sideline for Devin Smith, the wr who killed Wisconsin deep in the Big 10 Ch game. Pure Power Spread variety and exposing the Bama Defensive weakness. But again the drive stalls right at the goaline as this time Bama wisely calls a Timeout to slow the momentum and Jones fumbles the snap on the first play. Still too wound up! inexperience. 2 Goalines, 2 FGs. This is what happened to Auburn in the Iron Ball. Not good for OSU. 7-6.

One of the best called drives I’ve seen all year by Bama. Lane Kiffen expertly mixed his Multiple scheme with a fake dive quick pitch left to Henry, quick snap Iso to Yeldon on 3rd+2 and finally a fake pitch left bootleg right 15 yd out pass to Cooper for the Touchdown. Again, talent, execution and expert scheming by Kiffen. Kiffen’s buddy Sarkisian used to do this at USC as did Lane, but again – the room for error in PRO Multiple Offenses is very small. If Alabama continues to play perfect then you tip your hat. But there’s easier ways to get it done (see Oregon).14-6.

Now Bama upping the Aggression on D. Tight man coverage and huge pass rushes by superior talent. Best talent in College Football this millennium. Thank god Cardale Jones is a big kid and talent in his own right to avoid what could have been a devastating Safety at this juncture in the game. Another nice run by Elliot and huge Punt by the great Cam Johnston get the Bucks out of serious trouble.


2ND QUARTER

Alabama predictably gets conservative after a 7 yard completion to Cooper. 3rd and 3 Power Iso to Yeldon nets 1 yd. OSU knew exactly what was coming. From there OSU puts together a short drive before a tricky coverage scheme by Bama (Saban speciality) that results in the inexperienced Jones throwing a bad interception. From there Bama gets conservative again, but gets lucky on 4th+1. Again, massive talent sees them through when Saban’s Old School mentality almost backfires. 21-6, but thanks to Saban’s lack of understanding of the PS ideal, this game is far from over. Power Spread ALWAYS starts with aggression. No place for wasted convention.

Sure enough Alabama gets conservative twice on 3rd+Long with their outdated 4-3 Nickel D. Both completions were 26 yds to Marshall on crossing patterns. Beautiful use of space by Herman (learned from the best in Texas -see Briles) and great job of Cardale sitting patient in the pocket. But too conservative by Bama. Then the LB gets stuck respecting a scrambling Cardale, leaving Elliot wide open on the sideline for a flair. Again, too passive by Bama. Finally Elliot powers up the gut on a Read Option. Classic Power from the Power Spread with the opposition too passive and on their heels. 21-13

Bama continues to stay conservative on Offense with 3m left. The momentum for OSU is picking up and the Defense slams the door again on a 3rd+2 with Blitz aggression on a predictable pass scheme. From there Cardale leads them down the field quickly, spreading the ball to 2 wrs and a backup TE! Then another big scramble for 27 yds up the middle (POWERspread) followed by a reverse pass by WR Evan Spencer to Michael Thomas, who keeps one foot in bounds on a great catch for the TD!! 21-20!! TOLD YOU IT WASN’T OVER.


HALFTIME

It’s simple – NICK SABAN DOESN’T GET IT! He’s a brilliant coach and innovator, but the old thinking doesn’t suffice anymore. What’s his excuse – same as always – lack of execution by his players. Same thing he always says. Never anything about his lousy coaching! To be up 21-6 you have to LAY DOWN THE HAMMER! Like Oregon. But that’s not the Alabama way. Saban is all about Control and he Controlled his way right out of a big Halftime lead.

Herman is brilliant and called a great half. Meyer stuck with what he knows. Great coaching on OSU’s end. Inexperienced, anxious and a bit too fired up on the Buckeyes side, but they settled down and executed much better late in the half.

Alabama is way too talented and well coached in technique to go away, but as the clock winds down and the game tightens I do expect Saban to blow a gasket on the sideline. His tight grip will get tighter and finally will break his team as he cries BAD EXECUTION!  OSU will continue full out aggression and see if they can take this game with Aggressive Flexible Variety. POWER SPREAD. Alabama 21-20


3RD QUARTER

GREAT DRIVE TO START. Short passes and a run on the edge! Bring them up then hit deep – Devin Smith 47 yds and a TD!! Aggressive Variety Power Spread! Beautiful rhythm now by Herman. Alabama got conservative at the end of the half and is now in trouble! OSU 27-21!

Great schemes by Fickell and Ash. 3-3-5 zone blitz mixed coverage. After a big run by Sims (probably because Kiffen told him to take off and run when he has a chance), 2 sacks to end the drive by LB Lee and DT Bennent!! Power Spread!!

More power runs on the edge by Elliot. Cardale almost throws a huge pick on a WR Screen. Bama D finally playing aggressive again! Where was this when they were up 21-6. After the near pick, Jones gets 12 up the gut on the Inverse Read Option for a 1st down. Power!!  On 3rd+short a WR sweep gets nailed for a loss by a much more aggressive Alabama D. Instead of complaining about execution, Saban should be thanking this talented team for keeping them in the game.

After another huge punt by the great Cam Johnston, monster Henry runs fro 21 yds. But again, too predictable on O and on 3rd+7 OSU brings the 3-3-5 Zone Blitz again and DE Steve Miller Intercepts a fooled Blake Sims and returns it 41 yds for TD!!! OSU LUKE FICKELL!! I always said he was a good DC, while most of Buckeye land said he should be fired and is no longer our DC. Great schemes helping our Defense! 34-21!!

NOW Bama gets aggressive on O. Wow. Talent Supreme. 15 yds to massive WR Cooper. 52 yd screen pass to monster Henry. Yeldon for 7 + 5. Then off a PS Read Option, top QB Recruit Sims 5 yds for TD and just like that Bama is back in it. 34-28. Guess they executed that drive, Nick.


4TH QUARTER

On 3rd+Short Bama stuffs Cardale on a QB Draw. The D much more aggressive now, enabling their superior talent to shine. DE Jonathan Allen blasted right thru our DLine. He’s a backup and the 9th best DE in the country coming out of HS according to Phil Steele. This is the type of talent Ohio State’s dealing with.

Some more great defensive schemes by Fickell and Ash with a mix of pressures and coverages. This time OSU was watching for the Henry middle screen. The first time Kiffen set up a nice outlet where if the screen is covered Sims can hit Cooper on the sideline, which he did for 11 yds and a 1st down. But after a nice zone blitz where Sims was chased out of the pocket and sacked by top freshman LB Darron Lee, Henry was nailed on the middle screen by “spy” Senior LB Cie Grant far short of a 1st dn! Great stuff!  Nice punt by JK Scott to pin OSU at their 9. Scott was the #4 Punter in the country out of HS. Whew. The talent on Bama is everywhere.

Bama D coming hard now. Another Sack. This time by Pettway- #14JC recruit. That’s #14 out of ALL JC players in the country from last year!  We don’t have that kind of talent on our Oline, but we have the best Oline coach in the world in Ed Warinner. Bama’s massive front 7 is starting to take over. Bama’s D Scheme is too passive on 3rd+Long and overloaded the zone coverage in the middle in response to the big passes earlier to Marshall. The result? One on One coverage deep down the left sideline, but a great play by another massive recruit and top CB in the Country, Cyrus Jones. Bama’s in this game BECAUSE of thier great players and IN SPITE of their great, but stubborn Head Coach. The great Cam Johnston punts it high but the ball takes a horrible bounce and nets only 21 yds!! Bama at OSU 23!

On 1st dn from the Buckeyes 23, Sims executes a tricky play action roll out right with another monster recruit, PS#1 TE OJ Howard, sprinting for the corner of the end zone. Nice scheme and call by Kiffen, but another deceptive pressure/coverage scheme by OSU’s Fickell and S Von Bell was on it for a HUGE interception. Fickell/Ash make the right call again! Buckeyes start from their own 8.

AND NOW Bama applies a mix of Blitz pressure. With their talent it’s almost impossible for the Buckeyes. Cardale barely escapes a Safety again and two short passes have the great Cam Johnston punting from deep in his end zone once again. This time he gets off a GREAT PUNT netting 51 yds and almost gets the “roughing the kicker” call. The refs waive it off and Urban is furious! Close call, hard to tell. The bigger question is “Why wasn’t Bama playing aggressive D schemes like this all game?? With their talent? Baffling.”

Bama now starts at their own 45 this time- not as good as the Bucks 23, but still good field position once again, down only 6! Kiffen is really mixing it well now. Another play-action roll right where Sims takes off for a nice gain. Then 2 read option runs by Henry net 9. Another scramble by Sims, but this time a tricky zone blitz has it covered. 3rd+6 and Fickell has them in that awesome 3-3-5 zone blitz scheme again. Kiffen goes to another QB run – middle Draw – but the 3-3 zone blitz scheme is perfect for this – STUFFED!!

Again, this is the problem with MULTIPLE PRO stuff – it’s FRACTURED, not meshed like PS. Before there weren’t enough Screens, then too much. Before not enough QB runs, now too much. It’s just harder to get a rhythm. Even from a top offensive mind like Kiffen.

GREAT SCOTT ANOTHER FANTASTIC PUNT to the Buckeye 5 this time!! Buckeyes keeping it on the ground this time – Bama staying aggressive with Run Blitzes. Big Cardale muscles for 5 and then 1 for the 1st on 3rd+1. Cardale got popped on both runs, but at 250 he is injuring the Bama players – not the other way around. Landon Collins needs to take a breather after his hit on Cardale on the 3rd+1.

PLAY OF THE GAME – The Buckeyes have a 1st+10 at their own 15 and after 3 straight runs there is 3:30 left on the clock. Bama has finally started playing aggressive D Schemes, but on this play they back off into their standard 4-3 set. The Bucks are in their standard Shotgun/3WR set. A simple Power Read Option off Left Tackle that they have been doing all game. Bama is slow to react, a great down block on the LB by WR Spencer, and Elliot is off to the races! 85 YD TOUCHDOWN RUN ELLIOT!! On the replay, Bama’s D simply looked tired for the first time all game. The no huddle Power Cardale and Elliot in the PowerSpread has taken it’s toll. The entire back 7 were slow to react. Note to all the Defensive Coaches out there – use more SUBS! TEAM. Great 2 pt completion to Thomas on a quick out!) OSU 42-28.

Game over, right? Not so fast. A great double move off a fake post, deep pattern, by DeAndrew White (yes, another big recruit) goes for 51 yds after Buckeye Safety Powell was overaggressive in jumping the fake post route! Bad play – yes – but Aggression is an attitude. Over-aggression is not good, but sometimes it’s hard to balance. Usually at end of games, Defenses have been known to be too passive. The most famous screw up of a pass prevent D was the Cincinnati Bengals and their passive prevent letting Montana and the 49ers driving for the winning TD in the Super Bowl. So yell at Powell if you want, but it’s easy for us over here on the sidelines.

Sims hits Cooper on a simple quick-in for an 6 yd TD as Fickell was trying to call a timeout to gather his confused D. See what happens when there’s aggressive tempo and rhythm on Offense. If Bama played aggressive all game, on O and D, this game wouldn’t have been close. 42-35.

OSU BARELY gets the onside kick. Another great recruit – PS#4 K Adam Griffith – made a perfect high bouncing onside kick.  Great concentration and grab by Evan Spencer. Former Special Teams Coach Urban Meyer will love this on the film!

They go deep down sideline off play action but great coverage again by those talented Bama CBs. Many will question that call, but again AGGRESSION IS AN ATTITUDE AND THE REASON THE BUCKEYES ARE IN THIS GAME! If that pass was completed everyone would be saying “WHAT A GREAT CALL!”. The 2 calls after were more baffling. Especially the 3rd down power sweep by Cardale. It was easy to see coming and Bama was aggressive and shut it down. And now with time left on the clock Meyer will be question big time by the fans and media.

Another nice punt from Johnston has Bama starting from their own 18. To my amazement the Buckeyes are not playing Prevent! THANK GOD! On the 2nd play our aggressive DBs almost create a fumble to end the game. On 3rd dn a great run again by Sims. Kiffen has definitely given him the green light in the 2nd Half (I doubt it was Saban). A second completion to TE Howard on this drive, but now only 15s left! The Bucks with a ZONE BLITZ with 12s left!!! Love it! Incompletion near goaline. One more deep pass. ZONE BLITZ AGAIN! WHOOO!! Will this screw us…??? NOOOO!!! INTERCEPTION BY POWELL WHO REDEEMS HIMSELF OF HIS EARLIER OVER-AGGRESSION!! HAHAHA!! NO PREVENT FROM FICKELL!! BRILLIANT COACHING!! 

THIS GAME BY THE BUCKS WAS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF POWER SPREAD IN ALL PHASES OF THE GAME – STARTING #1 WITH AGGRESSION.


OSU 42  ALABAMA 35

In the end, Energy is what it’s all about. Did you see the incredible wave of momentum and energy from both Oregon and OSU tonight?  It came from TEAM not star and the coaches are the ones who set the environment for the Team to flourish. Just as Einstein showed that a little bit of mass can go a long way, a little use of space+time can do the same.

I want to give a shout out to Coach Nick Saban. Most of my commentary has done nothing but rip his thinking, but he will go down as one of the great coaches in the game and an innovator on the Defensive side of the ball. I do feel his coaching today was actually better than it was in the Iron Bowl. At least he left Kiffen alone to run the offense and overall Alabama’s schemes and play calling were very good most of the time.

But therein lies the problem. Alabama’s schemes were good MOST of the time, but their deviation from aggression at the end of the 1st Half and throughout parts of the 2nd Half on Defense cost them the game. Bama pulled an “NFL” move and played “Not to Lose” instead of playing to win. Go back and see what I wrote in the 2nd Quarter. I knew OSU would have a chance even with Bama’s scary talent and big lead. Soft Zone Defense and Vanilla Pro Offense gave OSU the chance to settle down and find their rhythm. This is not a Talent problem nor is it a Technique issue. It’s a schematic and more importantly, conceptual issue. Both Alabama and FSU run some PS concepts, but not enough.

And so PS History Rolls On… and in a big way. Urban Meyer is one of the 3 PS Originators, while Chip Kelly at Oregon spread it to the West Coast. Helfrich and Scott Frost continue Kelly’s ways with some new improvements in both Power and Spread. Though FSU and Alabama run some PS schemes, most fans see them as PRO Style teams. Thus the OSU and Oregon wins in the first ever National College Semifinals in History made far more powerful statements on the direction this game is headed. Power Spread is here to stay and it’s only going to grow stronger.

~PS

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