I wanted to show y’all what I expect out of Nebraska on defense tomorrow. Football is a copy cat game. When a defense stops you once, the next team is going to try and stop you the same way. Every team has tried a variation of this defense against Purdue, and the Boilermakers don’t have an answer, because they don’t have the run game to unlock it. The Huskers will undoubtedly try this, and unless the run game is vastly improved from last week (and most previous weeks), you’re going to see the same offensive attack you saw against Wisconsin. Brohm is trying the only solution to this defense available, but it puts the ball in danger on almost every throw.
They’re showing 5 crowding the line. They did this a good bit, and occasionally they sent all 5. More often than not, either 1 or 2 of the linebackers bail at the snap and sink into a zone.
1st and 10, just outside the red zone, and Purdue has no intention of running the ball. Jackson Anthrop playing tailback is a pretty solid give away on Brohm’s intentions.
2 linebackers bail immediately at the snap. The Badgers are rushing the passer with 3 and dropping 8 defenders into coverage. This is the defense Purdue can’t solve because they lack the requisite run game to solve it.
Anthrop is wide open by design. They want Purdue to throw the ball to Anthrop.
No Mans Land
They are begging Purdue to throw the ball either behind, or 1 or 2 yards in front of the line of scrimmage (red line, please forgive my shaky mouse work). The safeties are out of the picture but I can assure you, they’re deep and to the outside, putting a lid on the deep pass. Any throw to the outside, beyond 15 yards is going to be doubled.
O’Connell is playing because of this defense. The Badgers are baiting him into the wide open short throw. Plummer isn’t playing because he was completing 70%+ of these throws, but they weren’t moving the ball down the field. The Wisconsin linebackers are in zone coverage with their eyes on the quarterback, waiting to break hard on anything in front of them.
Take the Bait
The defense is designed to give Purdue this throw. They want AOC to swing the ball out to Anthrop. They have faith that 2 of their defenders will be able to stop him from turning the swing pass into a gain.
This is the throw some people want AOC to take. It’s wide open. The chance of this getting picked is 0%. The problem is, the chance of this moving the ball forward (the object of the game) is about 5% and it requires Anthrop to turn into Barry Sanders.
It turns out that Jackson is not Barry Sanders. They baited Purdue into throwing away first down.
This throw looks great on the ol’ completion percentage stat sheet. If we kept score based on the number of passes completed, this would be a winning strategy. Since this not the object of the game on this celestial plane, they gave Wisconsin exactly what they wanted.
What This Means For Purdue vs Nebraska
I guarantee you’re going to see Nebraska beg Purdue to beat them throwing passes behind, or just in front of, the line of scrimmage. Every team Purdue played in the early season begged them to beat them in this manner, and Purdue tried, and failed, in this endeavor with Jack Plummer as quarterback. AOC is playing, because he’s both more willing and more capable of holding onto the ball, and trying to fit it into the tight windows.
Remember when Purdue fielded a basketball team with no shooters, and everyone played zone and begged Purdue to shoot the ball. This is the same concept. In this case, Purdue has fielded a team without a running game, and have no solution to the rush 3, drop 8 defense because running the ball is how you force teams out of this defense. If they rush 3 and drop 8, your tailback should be hitting the 2nd level with a full head of steam. Offensive linemen should be climbing to the 2nd level and hunting down the linebackers. Purdue couldn’t do that against a 3 man rush last Saturday, and haven’t shown the ability to consistently pull it off on any Saturday.
This is one of the reasons you shouldn’t buy into the “AOC throws interceptions and Plummer doesn’t” argument. On paper it’s true, but there is a good reason behind most AOC picks (first pick vs Wisconsin as the exception, that was a bad throw). The vast majority of the picks AOC throws is a product of Purdue’s non-existent running game. If you wonder why it looks like he’s throwing into double and triple coverage, it’s because he’s usually throwing into double and triple coverage. That’s the only way Purdue can move the ball down the field when the other team is dropping 8 because they have no respect for the run game.
I don’t have time to break down these plays individually, but check it out.
This is AOC’s second pick.
Purdue has 3 receivers capable of picking up the 1st down. Wisconsin has 8 defenders covering them.
You may want him to throw to 89 at the bottom of the screen, but that’s also what Wisconsin wants him to do.
You may want him to throw the ball to Bell at the bottom right, but this shot is a little deceptive. The linebacker I’ve marked with the blue triangle was at the spot I’ve marked with an empty blue triangle when the ball was thrown. He is playing zone with is eyes on the QB. As soon as AOC let it go, he broke on the ball.
This isn’t a good read by AOC, but that’s sort of the point, there are no good reads available. Every receiver capable of picking up the first down is double, or in Bell’s case, triple covered.
Earlier in the year, Plummer throws the ball to 89, he gets tackled 5 yards short of the first down, and Purdue punts. If Brohm wanted that, Plummer would still be quarterback. AOC is in the game to try and fit the ball into tight windows.
Tight Window Success
These are the throws AOC has to make. If you want to know why he didn’t throw the ball to Bell much last Saturday, it’s because this is the coverage Bell was facing all game. This ball has to split two linebackers, and get to Bell before both safeties kill him. This is an incredibly difficult throw, and one that could easily be picked if AOC’s throw isn’t perfect.
Take What The Defense Gives You...Or How I My Wide Receiver Got Mashed
If you want AOC to be more conservative with the ball. This is what you get. Milton Wright hooking up in the middle, and getting blasted by a closing linebacker in zone (note, Wright did a good job on this play of turning enough to get tackled for a 2 yard gain instead of getting cut in half).
INT 3 ... Take What The Defense Give You And Still Get Picked
This is a great throw into a tight window to Durham, but much like the Wright catch, Durham is in front of the linebackers playing zone, and they’re watching the QB and breaking hard on anything in front of them. The ball gets ripped by the closing linebacker and everyone bemoans yet another AOC interception. GET THAT BUM OUT OF THE GAME!
I could go on forever, but this is getting redundant. Nebraska is going to do this to Purdue . Brohm has 2 options. He can slam his head against the wall, trying to establish a run game (maybe the best option?) or he can stick with AOC and hope against hope that he is pinpoint accurate on these intermediate throws. It’s a tough way to play football, and it sucks for AOC because he’s being asked to throw the ball into the teeth of the defense, and then take the blame when he gets bit.
Hopefully it works out enough tomorrow for a Purdue victory.