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Anyone Want Some Vanilla?

Proof that we can win while wearing orange pants. I know, I'm as surprised as you are.
Proof that we can win while wearing orange pants. I know, I'm as surprised as you are.

So: we won. Let's get that out of the way now. In the end, it was a relatively comfortable win, even by the standards of really comfortable wins. Are there areas that need to be worked on? Of course there are, not the least of which is the offensive line. I'm not so sure this game was entirely the O-line's fault, though.

We were absurdly vanilla, even for vanilla. It's not so much the individual plays called as much as it was formation variance, and what we were doing with those formations. I decided to broadly break down our run-pass balance by formation for the first part of the game (once we were up 28-0, the game was effectively decided, so I wasn't as concerned about that), and the results are below:

Formation Type # Plays Run Plays Passes
I, 2 WR 14 13 1
Shotgun, 2x2 5 0 5
Shotgun, 2x1 w/TE 5 1 4
I, 2 TE 4 4 0
Shotgun, 3x1 WR 3 0 3
Ace. 2TE 2 1 1
Ace, 3WR 2 2 0
Shotgun, 3WR, 2RB 1 0 1
Shotgun, Empty (5WR) 1 0 1
Jumbo 1 1 0
Totals 38 22 16


What does that mean? It means that, broadly speaking, we weren't doing much to use formations to confuse the defense. That's painting with broad strokes, sure, but if I was on Montana's defense, it'd be relatively easy to identify what we were doing based on two things:

- Is Channing Fugate in the game?

- Is Tyler Bray in shotgun?

Those two questions basically defined what we did against Montana. I don't expect that to continue.

That kind of run/pass balance based on formations makes it incredibly easy for the defense to match personnel and match playcalls. That's due in no small part to Montana being, well, Montana. I'd be surprised if we made it that obvious the rest of the season. Does this mean I expect a bunch of running plays out of shotgun? Hardly; we're not a shotgun running team. But I would expect more in the way of screens (I don't recall seeing one, although admittedly I was blowing through the game on second viewing and I haven't had enough coffee yet) from under center.

Similarly, this makes it difficult for the offensive line, who - if the defense knew what we were doing based on the two questions above - was forced to play on the back foot. Of course Montana was able to get penetration; it was easy to know what we were doing. This makes running the ball exceptionally difficult, so to some extent I'll absolve the offensive line, Tauren Poole, and Marlin Lane of some of the struggles. (However, I won't absolve Poole of the fumbles, which need to be fixed, and they needed to be fixed yesterday. Lane gets a pass. Why? Because he caught a punt(!)(!!!!!).)

Do I expect that to happen against Cincinnati, or Florida, or LSU, or Alabama? I don't. I didn't count the number of plays run, but I wouldn't expect that we actually ran more than 12-15 plays over the course of the game. I'd expect that we add a few more plays to the gameday repertoire next week, and a few more after that, and then 1-2 more here and there throughout the rest of the season. That should help to alleviate some of the issues we saw yesterday, but, some designed passes from under center wouldn't hurt, you know?