The much anticipated match-up of Cal and Ohio State ended as many expected it would. The fledgling Cal Bears in the first season of Sonny Dykes just didn't have the horses to run with a top 5 BCS program, particularly on defense. When freshman quarterback, Jared Goff, was able to get on the field, he was able to display some of the handiwork of the Tony Franklin repertoire from the past 10 years.
One concept in particular, the solid screen, illustrated how tying several concepts together to provide a simple constraint on defenses. The key/flash screens used early in the game coupled with inside zone runs supplied the necessary horizontal stretch to minimize risk and keep the tempo high (even OSU utilized this). Franklin and company have used solid screens for years, which combine both of these concepts into one play to counter pursuit against zone runs.
Lasso 41 Solid
The offensive line aggressively tracks zone for 3 steps to elicit this defensive response, then looks to set up a screen alley by running flat down the line of scrimmage. Closing out the 1st quarter on 3rd and 7, the Buckeyes show soft cover 2 with 6 in the box, but later roll to cover 3 to the field. Franklin used solid to counter his bread-and-butter play from Louisiana Tech, which would have been a rollout to the field, running a high-low with the twin receivers (Lasso 98 Out / 91 Smash). This actually worked well for Cal because the 2 playside linebackers opened to the boundary, allowing the PST and PSG to widen them away from the screen alley. The BSG and BST will release flat and pick up the first trash they see. On this play, the BST becomes what is known as the "rat killer", wiping out any defensive lineman with thoughts of pursuing the play (usually a cut block).
The first half of offense was interesting from Cal, particularly with the repeated use of 68 stick early in the 1st quarter. Up to this game, Cal had been a vertically focused team and not reliant on perimeter plays as much as Louisiana Tech was. The use of 98 Out, 68 Stick, 41/51 flash screens and zone early in the game looked to stretch OSU horizontally with the intention of going back to a downfield homerun throw later. This was attempted a few times, but Cal missed several of these opportunities. The 2nd half presented fewer opportunities for the Cal offense to get started again. Franklin used Zack to counter the first half's zone runs, then standard 2-back counter in the 4th. After a full season in this offense, Cal should be primed to fully grasp the speed and expectations Franklin and company have in mind.
Although pulling for the upset, I was happy to see Tom Herman and Urban Meyer not relent in the 3rd quarter, using their own brand of uptempo to break the Cal defense on several drives.