I’m not a big believer in half time adjustments. With all the technology coaches have at their disposal, adjustments tend to happen on a drive to drive basis. If you’re waiting until halftime to make sweepings adjustments, you are probably going to be late.
Whether it was coincidental or not, the LSU offense did make a lasting halftime adjustment that might have saved the season last Saturday against Auburn. LSU came into the game looking to spread Auburn out and was greeted by Auburn’s unusual 3-1-7 defensive package.
Auburn hadn’t shown this on film and it put LSU into an early tailspin. By putting a bunch of speed on the field and playing from depth, it was tough for Joe Burrow to find the holes he needed to in the zone defense of the opponent. When a low defender drops into zone from a regular depth they must turn their heads to find receivers running through their zone. From this angle, they’re losing sight of where the quarterback is looking and don’t know when the ball is being released. From depth, they can track the receivers with one eye and vision the quarterback with the other.
Besides a very nice 89-yard touchdown drive where LSU had a second down on their own two-yard line, the plan worked. Auburn was able to match LSU’s finesse with some finesse of their own. LSU’s spread sets (two by two, trips, empty) that the coaching staff thought were good ideas against what Auburn had shown on film so far this season were not getting it done against seven defensive backs on the field.
LSU went into halftime having only scored 10 points and decided that if Auburn was going to try to finesse them, LSU would tighten up and punch ‘em in the damn mouth.
I charted zero times that LSU went into their tight bunch formation in the first half and then 15 times in the second. Auburn showed all their cards in the first half and while it was a hell of a plan to try squeeze the life out of LSU’s dominant aerial attack, they were caught by LSU’s counter punch.
What the bunch sets were able to do for LSU’s offense was create extra run gaps outside of the normal structure of the offensive line. Using their “Duo” running play, LSU was able to pin the Auburn defense in the box and then let Clyde Edwards-Helaire scoot around to the outside.
You can see how much space there is with the defensive backs playing off and the 2 linebackers in a sort of defensive I-formation. The extra gaps that the receivers have created are not accounted for:
This first-and-10 run in the third quarter with LSU down three, shows another Duo play working to perfection, although the play wasn’t run against Auburn’s light package:
With Duo, the goal of the offensive line is to create as many double teams as possible and get a vertical push. The running back’s read is the linebacker that I’ve circle. If he stays inside to fill his gap, the running back works outside and vice versa.
Before Clyde and Joe have even meshed over the ball, the read linebacker and the down safety have both attacked the line of scrimmage. This tells Clyde that he is to bounce the ball outside.
One of the key blocks that allows the run to get outside is by the tight end and we can see Thad Moss battling with Big Kat Bryant and creating at least a stalemate.
When the runner makes his move to the outside, with one (very good) block by Terrace Marshall, LSU has pinned three loose Auburn defenders inside.
This leaves the only unblocked Auburn defender as the cornerback. It’s planned this way. LSU is banking on their running back beating a cornerback one on one. Clyde handles that problem.
When you watch the poetry in motion, check the hard nose block by Justin Jefferson as well:
For a second big game in a row, LSU’s nasty passing game set up some opportunities in the run game. With a big offensive line and the best kept secret in college football (Clyde), LSU has been able to rip off some big gainers to keep teams honest. The halftime adjustment worked to perfection and LSU was able to stay unscathed in the race for the SEC title.