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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Gary Nova, Rutgers' offense show most wrinkles to date leading up to Louisville

Gary Nova threw for 283 yards, four touchdowns and one interception Saturday at SMU. His performance has given coordinator Ron Prince flexibility. (AP file photo)

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

Can you imagine Rutgers' old regime running only four plays out of a base I-formation? That's what the Scarlet Knights did Saturday at SMU, and it'll likely continue Thursday at Louisville, which is 18th in total offense nationally.

That first number is a bit of a misnomer. Rutgers ran nearly 20 plays with two tight ends and a fullback on the field against SMU. But with leading rusher Paul James out at least through this week, the Knights' diversity of formations — they lined up in at least 16 different packages Saturday — should remain.

Here's an unofficial breakdown of 83 of Rutgers' 85 plays, a season high, against SMU*:

  • off-I formation: 16 plays (nine runs, seven passes)
  • shotgun empty: 12 plays (one run, 11 passes)
  • shotgun: 11 plays (one run, 10 passes)
  • I-formation heavy (two tight ends): 10 plays (nine runs, one pass)
  • off-I heavy: nine plays (nine runs)
  • shotgun with base personnel (two backs, one tight end): seven plays (six runs, one pass)
  • I-formation: four plays (three runs, one pass)
  • singleback with "12" personnel (two tight ends): three plays (three runs)
  • shotgun with full house backfield: two plays (one run, one pass)
  • singleback with "13" personnel (three tight ends): two plays (one run, one pass)
  • shotgun trips: two plays (one run, one pass)
  • pistol with "11" personnel (one back, one tight end): one play (one pass)
  • shotgun with "20" personnel (two backs): one play (one pass)
  • singleback: one play (one pass)
  • split backfield with three wideouts: one play (one pass)
  • singleback with "10" personnel (four wideouts): one play (one pass)
Hard to wrap your head around? Three overtimes will do that to an offensive coordinator. But there's little doubt play caller Ron Prince wanted to give Louisville, No. 8 in the AP poll, something else to gameplan for.

Prince has shown a comfort in sticking with what works. Against SMU, that meant spreading out a smaller defense. 

It also lent itself to hard running, which true freshman Justin Goodwin showed a knack for. One third-quarter touchdown drive featured seven straight plays with two tight ends and a fullback on the field. Six were runs, capped by a 10-yard touchdown catch by tight end Tyler Kroft.

IN PRINT: Jamal Merrell gets timely return for Louisville

Goodwin is listed as a co-starter with Savon Huggins this week.

Still, the biggest reason for Prince's flexibility is Gary Nova. The junior quarterback has played arguably his best four-game stretch (he missed most of Rutgers' Sept. 14 win against Eastern Michigan with a concussion) of his career.

He has 13 touchdowns to four interceptions. He is on pace to throw for 3,381 yards (removing his 44 yards passing against Eastern Michigan), by far a career high. More contributions from Rutgers' run game will help, but Nova's performance at Louisville matters most.

He will likely be featured in as many personnel packages and formations as Rutgers showcased against SMU.

*Two of Rutgers' offensive plays are unaccounted for.

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Blogger Moraller said...

Thanks for this, it's really interesting stuff that you can't get anywhere else. It may be asking a lot, but would it be possible to give an idea of how successful we were out of each formation?

October 8, 2013 at 9:14 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoy the X's & O's of football. I was wondering if you could put together maybe a series on Rutgers' favorite passing & running concepts. Also, maybe a breakdown of their base defensive playcall and a true definition of the "R" position within the scheme. Not asking for a complete breakdown -- just favorite concepts in general.

October 8, 2013 at 10:37 AM 
Blogger Tyler Barto said...

I'll keep both suggestions in mind. Thanks for the feedback.

October 8, 2013 at 4:44 PM 

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