CFB Drive: Stanford Getting Home in Three Plays

Big gains can come on any play, but the measure of efficient offense is stringing together modest gains on a scoring drive. Mark Schofield looks at the Stanford Cardinal getting home in three plays.

Stanford earned their second Pac-12 victory on Friday night, knocking off Oregon State in Corvallis. After the Beavers scored on a short touchdown run to tie the score at seven late in the first quarter, the Cardinal quickly struck back, demonstrating that the old adage of running to set up the pass can pay dividends.

Play One

Following the kickoff return, the offense sets up on their 28-yard line with their Wildcat package on the field. Running back Christian McCaffrey (#5) -€’ the son of former Denver wide receiver Ed McCaffrey -€’ sets up to take the snap while running back Bryce Love (#20) splits out wide to the right. Oregon State has their base 4-3 defense on the field and show Cover 2 in the secondary:CFBReview4StanfordPlay1Still1

Love comes in jet motion pre-snap, and McCaffrey flips the football into the running back’s belly. Love has a two-man convoy in front of him:€’ fullback Daniel Marx (#35) and center Graham Shuler (#52) pull out in front of the ball-carrier:CFBReview4StanfordPlay1Still2

Honorable mention on this play goes to tight end Austin Hooper (#18) for his effort on this run. At the snap the TE executes a cut block on the playside outside linebacker, giving the offense the edge and allowing the two pulling blockers -€’ Marx and Shuler -€’ to work to the next level. But Hooper is not done. He works into the secondary and delivers his second block of the play, occupying the downfield safety:

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The design and blocking add up to a quick eight-yard gain on first down, setting the Cardinal up for a 2nd and 2.

Play Two

On the next play, quarterback Kevin Hogan (#8) returns to the field and the Cardinal lineup with 22 offensive personnel in the game, using David Bright (#64) -€’ normally a guard -€’ as a tight end. The offense has slot formation on the left with Bright in a wing alignment, and i-formation in the backfield with McCaffrey the deep back. The Beavers have their base 4-3 on the field, and walk both OLBs up to the line of scrimmage, giving the defense six defenders on the LOS:CFBReview4StanfordPlay2Still1

The Beavers defense is anticipating the run. The Cardinal run a straight power lead to the left and it is the blocking of that makes the difference: Bright handles the defensive end, while left tackle Kyle Murphy (#78) and Marx handle linebacker Kyle Haley (#5) in the B Gap. These blocks give the RB a crease to exploit:

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McCaffrey breaks into the secondary, avoids the tackle attempt by the safety -€’ who slips -€’ and races into Beavers€™ territory.

Play Three

Two runs, two solid gains. So, the Cardinal again send out their 23 package€’, three tight ends and two running backs, with Hogan under center:CFBReview4StanfordPlay3Still1

Oregon State has their 4-3 defense in the game, with one outside linebacker on the line of scrimmage at the snap. The Beavers also blitz the weakside cornerback on this play, while showing Cover 3 in the secondary:CFBReview4StanfordPlay3Still2

Hogan fakes the lead run to the right, and sends the three tight ends out on passing routes:CFBReview4StanfordPlay3Still3

The two TEs on the right side of the formation run crossing routes, with the inside tight end running a corner, while Hooper, the outside TE, runs a post route. Hooper gets a step on the coverage and Hogan delivers a perfect throw:

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With the success of the first two plays on the ground, as well as the formation and personnel on the the field, the Beavers were forced to bring additional defenders down into the box, expecting the run. This makes the play-action fake much more effective, and gives Hogan a chance to make a big play down the field to Hooper. This drive used a number of different looks to put pressure on the defense, and resulted in a quick, efficient drive for a touchdown.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.

All video and images courtesy FOX Sports.

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