Tuesday Tape Room is Pac-12 Networks football analyst (and former USC assistant coach) Yogi Roth’s chance to break down tape in search of details worth focusing on — similar to what’s happening in team meetings throughout the conference today.
The Stanford Cardinal and coach David Shaw are on the top of the college football world this week after they beat the USC Trojans 21-14 Saturday night on The Farm.
Many pundits will talk about Stanford’s pass rush; they sacked Trojans signal caller Matt Barkley four times and dominated the line of scrimmage most of the evening, holding USC to 26 total rushing yards. Others will praise Stepfan Taylor and how he pounded his way to 156 rushing yards in the best game of his impressive career in Palo Alto. Ultimately, Stanford is creating an identity after Andrew Luck that is still based on power football.
But while Shaw and the Cardinal love to run downhill, they have wrinkles that can catch teams off-guard. The play of the game for me was in the fourth quarter with about 6 minutes left and shows how Stanford is able to expand its attack when need be.
Stanford was facing a key 3rd and 1 with the lead, 21-14. They lined up in a formation we’ll call ‘I-Right Tite.’ In this scenario almost everyone in the stadium thought they were running a version of Power, which Stanford has done in most short-yardage situations over the last few seasons. They block down with the front-side of their offensive line, pull the backside guard and the tailback follows his bruising fullback to daylight. In most coaching circles this is coined ‘God’s Play’ as it is said to be the most old-school running play in the game’s rich history. Here’s an example from earlier in the fourth quarter:
But on 3rd and 1, Shaw, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren and running backs coach Mike Sanford had other ideas. They ran what many call ‘F-12 Flip’:
In a short-yardage situation they used USC’s team speed and anticipation against them. The defense stepped left following the Stanford offensive line and running back’s initial path, but Kelsey Young gave a violent jab step right and then burst left. Josh Nunes gave a great fake before his pitch; Young found daylight and moved the chains:
This was an impressive play call by Shaw. We won’t hear a lot about it this week following a game full of great plays on both sides of the ball, but it stood out to me on tape.
While Stanford loves to run downhill, “F-12 Flip” showed they can catch teams off-guard. If USC’s defense had not flowed toward the initial fake then they could have been beaten on the initial dive play. But opponents must commit to stopping the Cardinal’s power attack AND maintain a presence on the edge. It’s hard to do both when Stanford is having so much success between the tackles.