KU loses numbers game during Collin Klein's (untouched) 28-yard TD run


For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."

Kansas coach Charlie Weis said his biggest disappointment during last week's 56-16 loss to Kansas State was the plays when a Wildcat scored without getting touched.

I wanted to take a look at one of those plays this week: KSU quarterback Collin Klein's 28-yard touchdown run off the option in the third quarter.

If we look at this play pre-snap, KU is bringing a safety blitz, with safety Bradley McDougald coming in off the edge. "Coach" says oftentimes, a team will roll down its safety to the line of scrimmage to help when it's had difficulties stopping a team's running game.

There's one main problem with this for KU, though. Right before the play begins, KSU tight end Travis Tannahill goes in motion, which switches the strength of the formation.

KU blitz/KSU motion

KU blitz/KSU motion by Jesse Newell

Now, KSU has more players on the opposite side of the field, and that gives KSU a numbers advantage toward the wide side.


Numbers by Jesse Newell

"I say that, and there's three defenders up here in a triangle: the defensive backs and the outside linebacker. You might say, 'Well, they don't really have them outnumbered, because they've got three on two down here,'" Coach says. "But when you think about an option play, you always have to account for the quarterback as well. So they've got two guys out here to block two. They pitch off the third man. And KU, technically, is outnumbered here."

Coach says KU has options when Tannahill goes in motion. The Jayhawks could check out of the blitz and play their base defense. Some teams also will move their previous safety back and "spin down" their other safety to put their blitz toward the strength of the formation.

KU does neither here, though, as McDougald continues his blitz from the weakside.

We can see that this doesn't turn out well for KU a few seconds in.

Coach says KU defensive end Jordan Tavai (No. 9) gets "reach" blocked, meaning the offensive lineman to the side of him is able to move quickly enough to get both hands on him.

That means KU has three defenders attacking the same gap: the one around the left tackle's outside shoulder.

Three defenders in one gap.

Three defenders in one gap. by Jesse Newell

"That is not very good," Coach says. "Even two guys in one gap is really not going to be very beneficial for a defense."

Coach does single out one defender who does a nice job: KU defensive end Josh Williams.

With the option coming to his side, he does not allow the lineman in front of him to "reach" him, instead keeping an outside arm free. That way, if there was a pitch, he would have had a chance to break free, run and make a tackle.


Williams by Jesse Newell

Williams also stays wide enough to force Klein back to the inside where other defenders should be.

"(The outside) is where Klein is actually trying to get to and attack (Williams) right there and make him make a decision: Take Klein or take the running back," Coach says. "The ball didn't get all the way outside because of 95.

" ... What needs to happen is the linebackers and the defensive line inside of him, those guys need to not get reached and continue to run with the play as well and fill their gaps."

No KU player, though, is able to beat his block, as KSU's offensive line does a great job of run blocking.

KU defensive lineman Kevin Young is sealed off by the right tackle Cornelius Lucas, which allows Klein to get to the outside.


Young by Jesse Newell

"(Young) gets reached right there," Coach says. "He might have gotten held a little bit right there, but he needs to do a little bit better job of fitting into his gap. "

KU freshman linebacker Schyler Miles (No. 32) is knocked to the ground by KSU right guard Boston Stieverson (No. 77), which takes him out of the play.


Miles by Jesse Newell

"32 needs to play off the cut and stay on his feet right there," Coach says. "Therefore, he'd be in his gap right there, and Klein wouldn't have such a big running lane."

KU linebacker Huldon Tharp also takes himself out of the play when he decides to put two hands on KSU offensive lineman Keenan Taylor, who was chasing him from the weak side.

Tharp chase.

Tharp chase. by Jesse Newell

Tharp hit.

Tharp hit. by Jesse Newell

"He should really just take his right hand and put it right directly into the sternum of that left guard right there, and therefore, that keeps his left arm free to help him continue to get to his gap and run with this play," Coach says. "Therefore, he might be in this alley right here to make a tackle as well. He puts both of his hands on that guard. It gets him out of position. It slows both of his feet down. Therefore, it doesn't allow him to make the play.

Klein lane.

Klein lane. by Jesse Newell

Even with KU's players not able to beat their blockers, Coach says KU's biggest issue is with positioning following Tannahill's motion.

"(Fans) might think motion is just to put a guy on a different side or something like that," Coach says. "But really, if K-State had this play, looked at it on film and saw that KU didn't adjust very well to motion, it's a great call, because they've got them outmanned to the wide side of the field.

" ... Alignment and maybe checking out of a blitz could have helped (KU) quite a bit out on this play."


Bee Bee 10 years, 1 month ago

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Bob Strawn 10 years, 1 month ago

pretty obvious all day that ku was out of position. campo'd or emaw'd, not sure which. stiverson block (77) was the key.

KGphoto 10 years, 1 month ago

For the life in me, I can't figure out why Tharp stops and hits their left guard guy squarely in the chest. He was way out in front of him. All he had to do was keep mirroring Klein and he would've been in perfect position.

Not reacting to the shift makes sense and could've helped, but it seems like it would have had to be a pretty intuitive switch between two guys half a field apart. Miles staying on his feet would've been key, but in his defense it was a pretty good block. Tharp stopping in his tracks to hit the guard, when he had a perfect line on the QB just seems crazy. What was he thinking?

The only thing I can imagine is that he felt he might over-pursue the play. Then again, Klein was still in front of him so I don't know.

Any way you slice it, it's ugly.

KGphoto 10 years, 1 month ago

Jesse, did he elaborate on how the switch would've played out correctly? It appears that if McDougald backs off and Smith comes up, the Hawks are left with Jake Love in coverage and the RB probably gets the pitch and has a lot of room to run.

Would Love just let the other receiver go and hold the edge? I mean there was no guarantee it was going to be a run. I realize you give something up in order to get a numbers advantage by blitzing, but that other receiver would've been either completely wide open, or covered by Jake Love with nobody containing. At best it seems that McDougald might have been in position if he backs up, but only to save the TD, it still would've been a big play.

Klein is so good at running this offense, it seems like you just need to pick your poison and try to execute.

texashawk10 10 years, 1 month ago

I'll start with stuff in your first post. Reacting to the motion is something that should be automatic when it happens, but it's also something the players have to be taught how to do for it to become automatic and I don't know if Campo has gotten that far with installing his defense. I know initial thoughts maybe why hasn't Campo installed that yet and the answer to that is when you're learning a new defense, you don't throw everything at the defense immediately because of the likelyhood of overwhelming the defense and that is a not good thing either. It also very well could just be a case that McDougald should've back out and didn't because I have to believe that when KSU motions away from a blitz, that's gotta be a sign that they're running an option to the other side of the field.

As for what the play ideally would've looked like for KU had McDougald backed out and Smith come up and blitzed. Ideally, Williams still stretches the play out wide while Smith either hits Klein before he can pitch it (not very likely), or he forces the pitch to Hubert (much more likely) and Hubert is either forced out of bounds for a short gain or tackled for a short gain in the gap that Klein went through. Given how the defense had been playing Saturday, I think the most likely outcome had McDougald backed out and Smith blitzed is a Hubert touchdown or big gain because KSU had 7 on 6 advantage and someone (most likely McDougald) would be chasing Hubert from behind.

KGphoto 10 years, 1 month ago

It's funny though, because the outcome a Smith blitz, we agree, is probably still a big gainer, and possibly a TD for Hubert. So it seems maybe they just needed to go back to base defense and execute better at the LB position. In all honesty I don't see the problem with the McDougald blitz because even if he's back on that play, he's the final line of defense and probably only saves the TD if he gets there. To me it's all about Miles and Tharp.

texashawk10 10 years, 1 month ago

Something I'm now noticing on this replay, had KU forced the pitch, Jake Love was unblocked for some reason and could've had Hubert dead to rights had Tharp not brain farted. If Tharp does his job properly, he probably fills that hole before Klein gets there and likely forces Klein to pitch to Hubert and Love likely tackles Hubert for a decent loss or forces Hubert to the sidelines for at best a short gain. The more I watch that replay, the worse Miles and Tharp look. Miles is understandable because he's a true freshman, frustrating but understandable. Huldon Tharp on the other hand is a junior and just completely brain farted that play into a touchdown for KSU when it should've been at worst for KU a 6-7 yard gain.

KGphoto 10 years, 1 month ago

Jake Love was unblocked because they had 3 on 2. I think his job was to cover a screen pass or contain Hubert. I wonder what he would've done if Smith came up and blitzed. Does he drop into coverage leaving Hubert with the corner, or does he leave an open receiver and contain the edge?

Mike Plank 10 years, 1 month ago

There were a lot of defensive miscues in the game, obviously... I think the biggest one on this play is Tharp (34) engaging the offensive lineman the way he did. So I'm with you, KG. I don't get it either... he was tracking Klein. If he continues, I think he makes that tackle - or gets blocked in the back.

By this point the game was out of reach anyway.

Kevin Crook 10 years, 1 month ago

Not sure who the defensive captain is, but the Mike or somebody needs to be reading these motions and making calls. Some of this has to be tied to the fact that we have freshman out there and also "athletes" who have switched from the other side of the ball to fill a need. These switches made us more athletic, but we have to be one of the least savvy teams in D1. There's a big difference between a senior body and a freshman body, and there's also a big difference in experience. We have a few kids who have played for three coaches do we not? Coaching changes, system changes, are a death sentence to football programs unless some pretty special kids can come in as juco transfers and fill some roles right away effectively. It's going to be a while before we have a group of kids that can play together on defense and feel safe that they all know what the others are thinking when the offense shifts or goes in motion.

KGphoto 10 years, 1 month ago

I'm hoping next year either Miles or Heeney become the captain who knows the defense and calls the plays. I think the captain needs to be the MLB.

By the way, if Heeney had been in the game instead of Miles, we might have been talking about one of the other 15 disastrous 3rd quarter miscues.

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