September 26, 2008
In case you were rapt with Auburn and LSU's epic slugfest, here is Knowshon Moreno against Arizona State:
Clearly, Knowshon is spectacular, which of course you you already knew, and of which Alabama of course is well aware going into Saturday's showdown. But taken as a whole, Georgia's not exactly tricky in the running game -- Moreno's 23 carries against ASU came on essentially the same four plays, repeated about five times apiece:
• A sweep out of the shotgun, where he crosses the center led by a pair of pulling lineman (see the original Knowshon Leap against Central Michigan),
• A pitch into the strength a tight, big trips formation (see The Knowshon Leap, Version 2.0, against ASU),
• A standard, man-on-man, fullback-led iso, and
• A weakside counter led by the pulling strongside tackle.
The most consistent success against the Devils probably came on the counter, which produced a couple first down carries and was really only stopped once, late in the game. For a look at what it's supposed to look like, we'll start with Knowhson's second-longest carry of the game, for 27 yards in the third quarter (see 1:10 on the video above, or about 2:40 on this more complete but non-embeddable compilation):
Georgia's in an old-fashioned I, no motion, against a standard 4-3 from ASU, with FS safety Troy Nolan walked up into the box. The Devils are definitely expecting run, but the MLB and SLB, along with Nolan, are stacked over the strong side of the formation. This is either excellent scouting by Georgia or a great example of throwing "rock" against "scissors," because the Dawgs bring it back the other way:
Georgia pulls LT Vince Vance as Arizona State's line stunts to the strongside, creating easy-as-pie cave blocks for RT Justin Anderson and RG Clint Boling. With Nolan and the strongside linebacker held in place by Matt Stafford's initial action to hand off to the strong side, the weak side is clear for Vance and FB Shaun Chapas to take on ASU's right end and middle linebacker one-on-one at the point of attack. Both Vance and Chapas win those battles easily, and Boling scrapes off onto the strongside backer, creating a wide open lane into the secondary for Moreno. This is a fairly long-developing play, but the only player who lost his block at this point is the RT Anderson, who had already caved the Devils' LE so far inside that he had no hope of recovering in time:
Etc. for the next 27 yards, until Moreno's hauled down on the sideline. This is essentially perfectly executed by the entire offense, save maybe a receiver who could have sprung Moreno to the end zone with better downfield blocking. That's not really in the picture.
From Alabama's perspective, it's probably more interesting to look at the few times UGA wasn't so lucky, as when it came back to the same play in the fourth quarter. The formation is flipped, with the strong side to the right, but otherwise this is nearly an identical look as the first play, with one key adjustment by ASU: instead of walking up the free safety, Nolan, to the strong side of the formation, the eighth man in the box is the strong safety to the weak side.
This happens to be where the play is going, with the RT Anderson leading the way and the FB Chapas meeting the weakside backer at the point of attack:
There are three big differences between this play and the earlier big gain. The first is the presence of the strong safety in the hole, but more importantly the Devils' interior line has fought off the double team and kept Georgia's line occupied, freeing up both the MLB and SLB to flow to Moreno's running lanes. This is also a much better job fighting off one-on-one blocks by the LE and especially the WLB, who hammers Chapas, cutting off the crease Moreno wants to hit.
There's no penetration here, but by holding its ground and creating a complete mess, the Devil line forced Moreno to cut against the grain, where Nolan closes quickly from free safety to make the play short of the first down.
This is where Alabama might have an edge in its front seven, especially in man-mountain Terrance Cody's ability to tie up double teams in the middle, keep UGA lineman off the second level and let the vastly improved Tide linebackers flow to the ball; Bama's other ends, Lorenzo Washington, Brandon Deaderick, Bobby Greenwood and Luther Davis, are effectively defensive tackles (all weight over 275) and should offer much more resistance to being pushed around than Arizona State. Georgia's running game might depend on how many battles Chapas can win against Rolando McClain and/or Donta Hightower, and I don't know that the odds are on the Bulldogs' side in either case.
To keep Moreno in the game, Stafford is going to have to keep safeties Reshad Jackson and Justin Woodall interested in receivers A.J. Green and Mohammad Massaquoi on the outside -- if Bama's defense is focused on Moreno, it's probably man enough to stop him, so Georgia has an interest in opening things up downfield pretty quickly.