Rice football finished out the season on a three-game winning streak, making for an exciting finale in our 2019 film room series.
Hey y’all! Welcome back to the final Rice Football Film Room of the 2019 season. We’ll highlight one play to Austin Trammell that I just enjoyed, and two plays by redshirt freshmen that show how bright the future is for the Rice offense.
About midway through the third quarter, Rice is down 16–14. The Owls have the ball 1st & 10 at the UTEP 34. They’re in 12 personnel from the shotgun: Aston Walter is the back, Jaeger Bull is the inline TE to the left, Jordan Myers is at H-back to the right, and Trammell and Bradley Rozner are wide to the right with Trammell in the slot. UTEP’s in a 3-3-5 look with one deep safety on defense.
Rice goes max protect, keeping 7 guys (the OL, Walter, and Bull) in to protect. That’s more than enough, because UTEP drops all the linebackers and DBs, leaving only the three DL to rush. Eight in coverage vs three guys running routes should make things easy on UTEP in coverage here.
Rice is running a route combination commonly referred to as a Flood concept, which involves running three routes of different depths all to the same side of the field. The idea is to stretch the defense vertically, and it’s particularly effective against a zone coverage like this one (which appears to be a variation on Cover 3). For the QB, the reads go high to low: first the go route from the outside receiver; next the out route from the slot; and finally the flat route from (in this case) the H-back.
Here, the outside corner sinks into his deep zone and stays over the top of Rozner, taking that read away. So Stewart’s next read is Trammell, who runs a double move, faking a post route before breaking back into a deep out. Both inside DBs to that side are preoccupied watching Myers in the flat (the apex guy falls over, but Trammell is long past him by the time that happens), and the deep safety is in no position to get over in time to defend an out route. So Austin finds a nice open spot in the zone, and the ball should go to him
Stewart does a great job of reading this play. He’s got the ball out right as Trammell is breaking back toward the sideline. His ball placement isn’t perfect; ideally you’d lead Trammell to the sideline with this throw. But Trammell shows fantastic body control, smoothly turning back to the ball and then continuing the spin to carry himself upfield without ever really breaking stride. Nothing special about this play. Just a well-run concept, a good read by Stewart, and a great play by Trammell.
The Need for Speed
Having kicked a field goal on the prior possession, Rice has the lead 17-16 and has the ball 1st & 10 at its own 48. The Owls are in 11 personnel, with Walter next to Stewart in the shotgun. Rozner is the X receiver to the boundary, and Trammell, Myers, and true freshman speedster Zane Knipe are in a bunch trips set, tight to the formation. UTEP is again in a 3-3-5 type look with a single deep safety.
Rice shows play action. Stewart fakes a handoff and Myers comes across the formation to sell split zone action. But ultimately we again end up with three rushers against seven blockers, though this time, with Myers charged with coming all the way across to block the edge rusher, the rush nearly gets home anyway. Walter helps out, though, and the two of them divert the rusher upfield in time for Stewart to step up and make the throw.
I can’t get a full picture of this concept since the camera doesn’t go wide enough, but it looks like Stewart’s first read may have been Trammell, because he looks that way for a while before coming back to Knipe. Here, since Rozner was the only receiver to the boundary, his go route completely clears out his side of the field.
With Knipe darting across the field on a dig route, he ends up wide open, with nobody even in his ZIP code by the time the ball arrives. The throw’s a bit late, but we can forgive Tom for that, because it’s not easy to get the ball out in time for a guy with Knipe’s raw speed. In any case, the placement’s a little better, and Zane turns it smoothly upfield for a big gain. The gif cuts off there (sorry, it was long already), but Knipe nearly manages to stiff arm the safety and get to the end zone. An offseason in the weight room might just fix that!
JoVoni on the Rise
Just one play later, Rice has it 2nd & Goal at the 8. The Owls are in a shotgun 12 personnel look, with Rozner and Trammell wide, Myers and Bull both inline to the left, and JoVoni Johnson and Walter in the backfield. UTEP responds with what’s basically a nine-man box and man coverage on the two receivers.
I picked this one because it’s the first of Johnson’s two TD runs and they were both the same play: QB power. This is exactly the same blocking scheme as the numerous big plays we’ve seen Rice get from that 22 personnel power toss play, but by having the QB carry the ball, the RB act as lead blocker, and subbing in another receiver, we now have one less guy in the box for the same number of blockers.
And y’all this one is blocked perfectly. From Myers inward, the TEs and OL completely wall off the defense inside, and there are basically two guys who can make the play. One gets erased by Shea Baker, the pulling guard. The other is expertly cut blocked by Walter. Johnson waltzes into the end zone.
Two plays by two freshmen who, eligibility-wise, will still be freshmen next year. Big things are coming for this Rice offense.
And finally, I just wanted to thank y’all for sticking with me and this column for the year. It’s been a blast doing it, and the work I’ve put in has made me a smarter football fan. I hope y’all have enjoyed it as well.