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Purdue Football: Nevada’s Power Run game

Purdue must contain the inside zone read against Nevada

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Purdue at Indiana Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The minutes are dragging on as it gets closer to game time, so I thought I would give you something to look at to pass the time.

I expect Nevada to attack the interior of Purdue’s line early and often tonight. Purdue is starting a freshman nose guard and the defensive line gets extremely undersized once you get into the depth. Nevada will make Purdue prove that it can stop interior run, and if it can’t, it’s going to be a long night for the Boilermakers.

Nevada will spend a good bit of the night in a spread formation, and you’ll see Purdue mostly in nickel, with 4 on the defensive line and 2 linebackers.

This clip from the Nevada vs Vanderbilt game last year should be similar to what you’ll see tonight.

Power Running Out of the Spread

Nevada running power out of the spread

From a Nevada perspective, they are looking to even up the numbers inside “the box” while remaining in a 4 wide spread formation. Essentially they want 5 offensive linemen on 5 defenders.

Against most nickel defenses, things will start off will start off with 6 defenders in the box lined up against 5 offensive linemen. You can see this from the pre-snap look from the Vandy defense.

In this look, Vandy has 6 defenders in the box (2 down linemen, 2 stand up ends, and 2 linebackers). This will be similar to how Purdue lines up against this formation (although Purdue may start with Karlaftis down in a stance instead of standing up).

Nevada likes to spread teams out. In this clip they go 4 wide. That only leaves 5 blockers for the Wolfpack, because they don’t have a tight end in the game. Nevada wants to block this 5 on 5.

In order to achieve the numbers they want inside, they use a zone read scheme. Vandy has 6 in the box, but Nevada is only going to block 5 of them, and let the quarterback read the end.

Read Option Football

Everything that’s going on outside of the box is just for show. The quarterback is looking at the unblocked end (red triangle). He is looking to see if the unblocked player stays home, with his chest facing the endzone, or if the end crashes down the line with his chest facing the sideline.

If the end stays at home, the quarterback gives the ball to the running back. If the end crashes, the quarterback pulls the ball and runs off his left tackle (or possibly pitches the ball to the motion receiver).

On this play, the Vandy defender stays home. Subsequently, the Nevada quarterback gives the ball to the running back, effectively taking the field side (wide side) defensive end out of the play without touching him.

They are now blocking 5 defenders with 5 offensive linemen.

You can see the blocking scheme well on this shot.

Initially, they double team both defensive tackles, block the boundary end one-on-one, and read the field side end. This is exactly what Nevada was looking for on this play.

The Nevada offensive line moves the Vandy defensive line off the line of scrimmage with their double teams. The right guard does a nice job coming off his initial double team and climbing to the second level to find the play side linebacker.

Now it’s up to the running back to hit the hole hard and pick up the first down.

The Nevada running is two yards beyond the line of scrimmage before Vandy makes first contact. This is what Purdue has to avoid (or at least avoid more times than not) if they want to slow down Nevada. Winning, or at least stalemating, the line of scrimmage will be crucial for Purdue tonight.

The Nevada line was able to push back the Vandy defensive line, subsequently, the running back hits the hole with full forward momentum. Even though the hole closes up, he’s able to finish strong and pick up 5 yards. If Nevada can regularly gash the interior of Purdue’s line for 5 yards, the Boilermakers are going to be in trouble.

What to Look For Tonight

Purdue is starting 2 freshmen on the defensive line. Look for Nevada to read true freshman George Karlaftis and run directly at redshirt freshman Lawrence Johnson. They both need to consistently hold up against this play or they will see it all night long.

Johnson has to take on the double team and hold his ground. If Johnson is routinely moving backwards, it’s a bad sign for the Purdue defense, because he’s pretty much the only nose tackle on the roster capable of dealing with double teams with Neal on the shelf. If things get bad, Purdue will move Watts to nose and bring in a smaller player like Jeff Marks to try and split the strong side double team. That’s always a gamble, because if the double team gets to Marks, he’s going to get moved off the line. Lawrence Johnson, strangely enough, may be the key to the Purdue defense until Neal returns.

What do you do with an aggressive, physically dominant end like Karlaftis? Make him think instead of letting him tee off on your linemen.

I expect Nevada to try and neutralize the biggest threat on Purdue’s line by not blocking him a good bit of the time. He must stay disciplined. If he starts to get bored, or if the defensive tackles start to get pushed around, and he starts crashing, Nevada will pull the ball and get the edge.

While Karlaftis needs to stay at home, expect him to occasionally try and blow up the mesh point between the quarterback and the running back. Nevada is starting a new quarterback, and that exchange gets difficult in real team with a beast like George baring down on you. I see a potential for Purdue to force a turnover if they can time it up right.

I expect the Purdue defense to be fed a steady diet of inside runs in this game, and every game until Lorenzo Neal is both back on the field and playing at 100%. Until then, this play (and different variations of this play) will determine Purdue’s fate on defense.