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Friday, October 11, 2013

Breaking down of Rutgers' offensive scheme in full against Louisville

Rutgers' offense featured repetitive formations and personnel groupings Thursday at Louisville, which held Rutgers to 58 plays outside of its final drive. (AP photo)

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

In terms of yardage, point production and pass protection — heck, using any metric — Rutgers' 24-10 loss Thursday night to No. 8 Louisville was its worst offensive outing of the season.

Without leading rusher Paul James for the second consecutive game (and likely with the productive emergence of junior quarterback Gary Nova), offensive coordinator Ron Prince turned to heavy pass tendencies against the nation's fourth-ranked run defense.

The result: a season-high eight sacks allowed, four interceptions and one offensive touchdown in 11 series. 

Below is an unofficial tally of Rutgers' formations, personnel groupings and yardage totals. NOTE: I excluded Rutgers' final drive — all passes out of shotgun trips — because of the context of the game.
  • off-I formation: 12 plays
    • six runs for 37 yards (long of 16 yards)
    • six passes — 1-for-3 for 24 yards; two sacks, one fumbled snap
  • shotgun empty backfield: eight plays
    • eight passes — 5-for-7 for 15 yards; one sack
  • shotgun '20' personnel (two backs, no tight end): seven plays
    • one run for 3 yards
    • six passes — 3-for-6 for 26 yards
  • shotgun '11' (one back, one tight end): five plays
    • five passes — 2-for-4 for 30 yards; one INT, one sack
  • shotgun trips: four plays
    • four passes — 2-for-3 for 38 yards; one INT, one sack
  • off-I heavy (two tight ends): three plays
    • three runs for -1 yards (long of 2 yards)
  • I-formation heavy: two plays
    • one run for -2 yards
    • one pass — 1-for-1 for 14 yards
  • singleback '12' (one back, two tight ends): two plays
    • two runs for 7 yards (long of 4 yards)
  • singleback '11': two plays
    • one run for 5 yards
    • one pass — 0-for-1, INT
  • shotgun with full house backfield: one play
    • one run for 6 yards
  • shotgun with base personnel (two backs, one tight end): one play
    • one pass — 0-for-1, INT
  • trips with base personnel: one play
    • one run for 2 yards
  • goal line personnel (two backs, three tight ends): one play
    • one pass — 1-for-1 for 1 yard, TD
  • off-I '20' (three wideouts): one play
    • one run for 1 yards
  • shotgun empty backfield with JT Tartacoff at quarterback: one play
    • one pass — 1-for-1 for 26 yards
If you're keeping count, that's more than half of Rutgers' plays with pass-friendly personnel on the field. That number grows exponentially when you factor in the Scarlet Knights' final drive, which I withheld based on the obvious passing situation.

Prince has shown repetitive formation tendencies before, but never as often as Thursday. Take a look at two drives against Louisville:

shotgun empty (pass, no gain), shotgun empty (pass, 6 yards), shotgun empty (pass, 4 yards), shotgun empty (pass, 3 yards), shotgun empty (pass, sack), shotgun (pass, sack)

off-I (run, 2 yards), off-I (pass, 24 yards), off-I (pass, incomplete), off-I (run, 16 yards), off-I (run, 8 yards), off-I (run, 3 yards), off-I (pass, sack), shotgun empty (pass, 2 yards), shotgun empty (pass, incomplete)

A non-existent run game crippled Rutgers'
offensive rhythm at Louisville. (AP photo)
That's two whole drives — more examples exist — of limited substitution and fewer different looks. It allows Rutgers to move more quickly in theory, but its offense bogged down against the Cardinals, reducing the effectiveness.

When reviewing Rutgers' eight sacks, fault is a mixed bag. Some came as a result of poor interior protection. Others occurred on edge rushes matched against a tight end or pinched protection.

On back-to-back drives, Louisville recorded sacks on play-action passes out of the off-I formation immediately following runs from the same look.

It all adds up to Rutgers' most sacks allowed in one game in at least the last three years. Reviewing the Knights' game-by-game stats from 2010, when they allowed 61 sacks, results in a server error on Rutgers' athletics website. 

Not even Rutgers wants to post that.

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