Rice Football is on a winning streak and the offense is starting to click. Take a look at some of the highlights in this week’s edition of the Film Room.
Hey y’all, welcome back to the Rice Football Film Room. Great to be celebrating another win, ain’t it? Rice’s defense put on a master class in this one, holding Mason Fine and the North Texas Mean Green offense to under 250 total yards and a mere 14 points. In celebration of that effort, we’ll highlight the early pick from Rice’s starting Swiss Army Knife . . . er, Viper Treshawn Chamberlain
You Had Me At A Glance
It’s UNT’s second offensive drive following a punt and a Rice field goal. So it’s 3-0 Owls, and Fine & Co. have the ball 1st and 10 at their own 25, less than five minutes into the game. They’re in a pretty standard 11 personnel shotgun look, with the TE lined up off the line and outside the LT at H-back.
Rice responds with a 3-3-5 look, with 3 linemen, Antonio Montero and Blaze Alldredge in the box, and Kenneth Orji playing the edge at off-ball strongside linebacker. Rice has two safeties: Chamberlain is lined up in the middle of the field about seven yards off the ball, and the other (I can’t see the number but I’m pretty sure it’s George Nyakwol) is deeper and just inside the numbers to the boundary.
Hey, we know this one, don’t we? It’s the Glance RPO, a play Rice has run to much success this season, usually to Brad Rozner. The single receiver runs a skinny post (or “glance”) route, and if the safety to that side stays deep (either to bracket him or bail into a deep zone), the quarterback throws. If he comes downhill to play the run, the quarterback hands it off. Nyakwol flows to the line at the run action, so Fine thinks he has an easy read, pulls the ball, and throws the glance.
The key here is some trickery by Rice DC Brian Smith and Chamberlain. Presnap, Fine and the UNT offense don’t see Chamberlain as likely to impact this play. He’s lined up to the strong side and fairly shallow, so they may expect him to move into the box to give Rice numbers against the run. He could also be bailing into a deep zone: perhaps to the middle of the field if Rice is in Cover 3, or maybe even all the way to a deep quarter in the wide side, if Rice is playing Cover 6 (Cover 2 to the short side and quarters/Cover 4 to the wide side).
But Chamberlain does neither of those things. Instead it looks like he’s playing a sort of Robber coverage, meaning that he sticks in the shallow middle of the field, reading the QB’s eyes and “robbing” any shorter crossing routes. This, I assume, was a look by Smith intended specifically to counter RPOs, which are often run out of these 11 personnel spread looks. Nyakwol moves to the box to play the run option, and Chamberlain is in place to cover the shallow crossing routes these plays involve (often slants), while also being able to fill late against a run to his side.
Fine actually does a really good job selling the run action, and you can see Chamberlain briefly biting on it before realizing that the QB still has the ball. But at that point, he knows exactly where the ball is going and makes a brilliant break on the ball to grab the pick.
I’ve mentioned on The Roost Podcast before how difficult it is for QBs to process in real time when a defense changes its look post-snap, particularly on quick-read plays like these. This time, it’s Rice that uses that to its advantage. The ensuing interception sets up a crucial early touchdown for the Owls.
Plenty of big plays
Here’s where I note that I wanted this to be an all-Chamberlain column and break down his game-sealing pass breakup, but I couldn’t find video of it anywhere. Disappointing!
I’d give you the big Rozner catch on Rice’s final drive, but it was more of the same of what we’ve seen lately: Stewart put a catchable ball in the area of a single-covered Rozner, who boxed out like a power forward and came down with the ball. Great play but nothing I haven’t shown you before, and the camera is zoomed so tight at the beginning you can’t even see the formation.
So! We’ll give Rice’s other Harvard grad transfer his props. Here’s Charlie Booker’s first Rice touchdown.
Let’s Hit the Book . . . er
It’s the very first play of the second quarter. Rice has the ball 1st and goal from the 8, up 10-0. They’re under center in 22 personnel, with Booker at RB, Brendan Suckley at FB, Jaeger Bull at inline TE to the right, Jordan Myers being the other TE to the left (I’d say at H-back but he’s so far outside the tackle he’s really more of a slotback), and Rozner as the lone receiver. UNT responds with a five-man front and a whopping ten total players in or very close to the box.
This is an ISO run, which I believe I’ve mentioned briefly before. The difference between ISO and most plays using a blocking back (“lead” plays) is that lead plays are designed for the blocker to hit the hole and block whomever he sees first (most of these are gap runs, like power or counter), whereas in ISO the blocker has a specific player he’s aiming to block right from the beginning (usually, and in this case, the middle linebacker). ISO is designed to go up the middle, through an A-gap (to either side of the center, i.e.).
This is excellently blocked to the playside, with true freshman walk-on center Isaac Klarkowski and RG Brian Chaffin double-teaming the nose while LG Nick Leverett does a brilliant job getting inside of his man and sealing him off to open the gap.
Suckley blasts the MIKE back four yards and to the opposite side of the field. The weakside ‘backer for UNT has actually done a nice job sifting through the wash and is in position to make the play, though; it kinda looks like Chaffin was going to come off the double on him, but he diagnoses the play too quickly for that to happen. But Booker does a nifty jump cut and slaps him aside as he bursts through the hole. From there it’s all green grass.
Boy it sure was nice to break down plays from two successive wins. Here’s hoping Rice Football can close the season with a third in El Paso this weekend.