Simplification and Repetition Stupefy West Virginia's Defense

Film review of how the Hokies' offense out-schemed the Mountaineer's defense.

[Mark Umansky]

Anxiety peaked moments before kickoff of the latest Hokies-Mountaineers battle for the Black Diamond Trophy. With Virginia Tech's loss of generational receivers and a record setting quarterback, even the most ardent Justin Fuente supporters and believers had to have plenty of reservations prior to the game. West Virginia's unfamiliar 3-3-5 defensive scheme was an additional challenge for first-time starting quarterback Josh Jackson and Tech's young skill position players to overcome.

The Hokies' offense got off to a clunky start, and I thought that was a result of offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen tasking Jackson to do a bit too much in the passing game. For example, the RPO on second-and-goal of the opening scoring drive did produce an open receiver in Cam Phillips. However, the mechanics — running right to sell the quarterback run and throwing back across his body to the inside — caused Jackson not set his feet. As result, he couldn't hit a wide open Phillips on the delayed slant.

Earlier on the same drive, Jackson was forced to run after his first read, Cam Phillips, was double teamed, and he was pressured as Kyle Chung was pressed backwards into the throwing lane. The easier read and matchup was seemingly C.J. Carroll on a stick route in the left flat, and he was wide open at the first down marker.

Cornelsen and Jackson found a rhythm as the game progressed, as throws off successful run action presented wide open targets and easy completions. As Jackson began to execute smoother, Cornelsen played a masterful chess game with WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. Time after time, Cornelsen had the patience to run plays that weren't designed for huge success in order to set up opportunities for big chunk yardage

Setting Up West Virginia's Defense for the Dagger

During the course of the game, the inverted veer-jet sweep series appeared to be the most reliable set of plays for the Hokies. Jackson looked his most explosive on two quarterback keepers where a huge hole opened up in the middle, and the jet sweep was a reliable yardage gainer.

When I went back and watched the video, I realized that on normal down and distances, West Virginia focused on defending the sweep, regardless of any nuanced blocking changes. Cornelsen used the jet sweep and some wrinkles in the blocking scheme to set up big running lanes for his quarterback.

On a typical Tech inverted veer last season, the H-Back veer released outside of the play-side defensive end. The quarterback usually optioned said defensive end (or an inside linebacker as an adjustment). Most of the time the quarterback reads the edge player aligned on the H-Back or tight end. If the edge defender crashes inside, the quarterback gives the ball to the jet sweep or running back. If the edge defender stays wide to defend the sweep, the quarterback keeps the ball. Most often, the back-side guard pulls around the center and leads up on the linebacker to add an extra lead blocker for the quarterback. As you can see on this touchdown versus Clemson, Sam Rogers releases outside of the Clemson defensive end. The end is unblocked and widens out on the sweep. Jerod Evans turns up inside.

On most of the jet sweep/inverted veer runs against the Mountaineers, Dalton Keene, Chris Cunningham, or a tailback were actively blocking the WVU edge defenders instead of leaving them unblocked for Jackson to option. When Jackson gave the ball to the jet back, the Hokies didn't pull the back-side guard. When Jackson kept the football, the back-side guard pulled around the center and turned up on the linebacker. These subtle differences suggest Tech ran predetermined jet sweeps and quarterback powers — along with actual inverted veer and its read — in a possible effort to ease Jackson's decision making. Of course, all the run action is very similar and without sitting in on Tech's Monday morning film room, it is impossible to know which are which.

Check out this jet sweep and note Teller does not pull as he would normally do on inverted veer.

On the play-side, West Virginia bandit safety Toyous Avery (No. 16) widens out to force the sweep inside. Rather than letting Avery go unblocked to be optioned, Dalton Keene widens out and drives him to the sideline. Will linebacker Dylan Tonkery (No. 10) fights across Chris Cunningham's attempt to seal him inside. Cunningham does just enough to keep Tonkery from filling the running lane. Mike linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton (No. 3) fits into the gap between Tonkery and Avery; Steven Peoples lays a strong isolation block on him. Note this block. As the season progresses, the tailback as a blocker, and how that impacts the tailback rotation, will be a repeated discussion. Sam linebacker Xavier Preston (No. 5) scrapes across, but can't keep up with Sean Savoy on the sweep.

Savoy ends up with a solid 5-yard gain to keep Virginia Tech "on schedule". Although, what matters more is how the play impacts blocking matchups. Note that all three linebackers are running to the top of the screen completely fixated on the jet sweep. The boundary corner and the deep safety both run to the jet sweep. That leaves three down linemen and spur safety Kyzir White (No. 8 on the back-side here) to account for Josh Jackson and five blockers.

Last season, if that kind of hole and opportunity inside presented itself, Cornelsen would have leveraged Jerod Evans numerous times on inverted veer or quarterback power carries. On Sunday, Cornelsen judiciously took advantage of West Virginia's weakness in covering the quarterback when the Hokies needed a big play. For most of the game, Jackson only kept the ball in short yardage situations, including his touchdown run and this fourth-and-one QB power. In short yardage, Gibson knew that Cornelsen loves to run the quarterback keeper off of the jet sweep motion. As a result, West Virginia defenders were much more aggressive defending the quarterback in those situations.

However, if West Virginia saw an inverted veer/jet sweep look on a normal down and distance, they continued to over-pursue on the jet sweep. Early in the fourth quarter, Cornelsen sensed an opportunity for a big play, but he tested the waters to see if the Mountaineers would still overreact to the sweep on a normal down and distance. He ran a jet sweep to the boundary with little chance of success.

As before, the second-level West Virginia defenders all over-pursue. Had he kept the ball, a huge hole awaited Jackson, with Wyatt Teller in perfect position to run Preston out of the center of the field. With Cornelsen now convinced that the keeper would pop, he finally sprung the trap as the Hokies desperately needed a score to break the tie.

To the defense this is an inverted veer, but I believe it's predetermined Jackson is keeping the ball before it is even snapped. He half-heartedly forms a mesh point, and Savoy doesn't run like he might get the ball. I really think the only reason Jackson's head is even slightly turned is, not to read the linebacker, rather to make sure he pulls the ball without fumbling. Although, backup mike LB Brendan Ferns (No. 7) is left unblocked to attack the sweep. He'd be the option man against this even front, and it's possible Jackson is doing just that. Again, it's impossible to know for sure.

McMillian and Keene both block the edge defenders, and Teller pulls. Gallo and Pfaff pin the interior line to the inside. Avery attacks the sweep and is abandons the quarterback running lane. Jackson pulls the ball out of Savoy's stomach and has nothing but green pasture in front of him.

The familiar inverted veer backfield action reinforced by previous jet sweep runs put WVU out of position and broke the 'Eees here. Perhaps the most satisfying part of the play is to watch the West Virginia free safety, Dravon Askew-Henry (No. 6). Askew-Henry chases Savoy all the way across the field. He is in perfect position to intercept Jackson after a modest gain. Yet, despite a weak fake by Jackson and a change in the blocking by the Virginia Tech o-line, Askew-Henry goes running right past the hole and removes himself from the play.

Cornelsen also used the jet sweep motion to open up the passing game. As I noted in my preview, the West Virginia high safeties reacted to run action and that Oklahoma used motion to take the safety out of position to pop some screens. Cornelsen designed a play-action pass to take advantage of the safeties aggressiveness.

From the same formation, Jackson fakes the jet sweep and steps backwards. Avery bites hard on the jet sweep, leaving corner Hakeem Bailey (No. 24) one-on-one with Cam Phillips and no safety help.

As I documented last season, Fuente and Cornelsen's play design isn't necessarily revolutionary. However, Cornelsen excels by establishing a specific threat via repetition, making the defense conscious to defend it, and then capitalizing by showing the same action, but with the ball actually going somewhere else for a big play. One play series, from one formation, repeatedly hurt the Mountaineers because Cornelsen knew how to set up the defense. The victory at FedExField was a master class in understanding the defense and how to manipulate it with this series approach.

Other series of plays also had an impact. Jackson's two completions on sprint out passes, the toss play, and the speed option set up the Deshawn McClease counter run for a touchdown. And, while I saw significantly fewer wide receiver screens than I expected, the tunnel screen series also set up a touchdown.

This variation of the tunnel screen involves the outside receiver cutting back to the inside behind the line of scrimmage towards the quarterback. The slot receiver runs outside and tries to pick off the outside corner. The offensive line releases their blocks and runs outside to pick off the secondary. The receiver then runs through the "tunnel" between the offensive line and the pass rushing defenders who are chasing the quarterback.

With a major third-and-nine pending, and only one (very ugly) wide receiver screen attempt by Tech thus far in the game, Cornelsen turned to Cam Phillips and the tunnel screen. Jackson motions McClease out of the backfield over to the boundary slot. At the snap, McClease runs out to the boundary flat and Phillips bends behind him back towards Jackson.

McClease shields corner Hakeem Bailey (No. 24) to the outside. Phillips slips to the inside to make the catch, and then slides behind Eric Gallo and Wyatt Teller. Teller and Gallo combine to pancake Tonkery. Kyle Chung can't get out to cut off Benton from his mike LB alignment. However, Phillips is able to slip through and make Benton miss to finish off an improbable conversion.

Bailey was slow to react and beat the block of McClease. Cornelsen anticipated that the corner would be more aggressive that cross block if he saw it again. Sure enough, the next time the Hokies showed a tunnel screen look on the outside, both defensive backs aggressively attacked. With excellent field position following James Clark's long kickoff return punctuated by a personal foul on a late hit, Cornelsen decided it was time to roll the dice. From the familiar two-back set that produced all those big plays from the jet sweep series, Jackson showed a tunnel screen to the twins side. Sean Savoy broke inside, with Phillips going out to "block" on the outside corner.

Phillips "misses his block" and slips behind CB Elijah Battle (No. 19). Free safety Dravon Askew-Henry (No. 6, aligned on Phillips in the slot) also jumps forward. Phillips is wide open for an easy catch and then outclassed the remaining Mountaineers for a huge momentum turning touchdown.

Two Tight End Sets and the Impact of Dalton Keene

Last season, the Hokies seemed to align the H-Back more on the wing. Against the Mountaineers, Dalton Keene was often aligned as a traditional fullback, more than what we saw from Sam Rogers last season. Keene was often on the field with Chris Cunningham in 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends, and two receivers).

Keene had some freshman moments, most notably when he whiffed on Kyzir White blitzing of the edge on an important third down conversion. He played tentatively and that isn't shocking for a freshman playing his first game against West Virginia's weird defense in that crazy environment.

Keene also showed why he is so valuable. As a lead blocker, Keene going half speed completely stopped the feet of many a West Virginia blitzing linebacker. With his ability to stop defenders, it allowed Cornelsen to run significantly more base running plays. Few quarterback options meant less burden on Josh Jackson.

Keene's presence was felt right away. On this play, the Hokies run an inside zone. The Mountaineers best defender, spur Kyzir White (No. 8), blitzes off the edge.

Keene has to cut White off. Keene's form isn't great. His feet stop and plant when he delivers his block, which for those of you have read my work for a long time understand that planting your feet is the kiss of death for maintaining a block. However, when Keene makes contact with White, White's feet stop dead and you can see his legs buckle. The right side of the offensive line gets a good push as they effectively lock up with the Mountaineers second level defenders. This allows Steven Peoples to get downhill and plug forward for a first down.

Effective H-Back play requires both thump and smarts. In order for the split zone read to be effective, Keene has to be physical enough that edge players will crash harder to keep from being blown up. As the Hokies attempted to run out the clock, Cornelsen called on the split zone read. Defensive end Reese Donahue (No. 46) crashed hard to the inside.

Keene sells the block on Donahue. Then, he shows the quick feet to bend outside of Donahue and turn outside and seal bandit Toyous Avery (No. 16) to the inside. Jackson pulls the ball out of McMillian's stomach and finds all kinds of room on the boundary. Keene needs experience. However, his physicality and athleticism is a game-changer for this offense. I think his ability to impact the game with his receiving skills will take some time to come around. His run and pass blocking is already paying dividends.

Virginia Tech's Potential Tripping Points on Offense

This is a young offense, and I dare say that after a roller coaster first half, the offense played better than most expected. That doesn't mean there are not challenges. These are a couple tripping points the Hokies need to improve on before ACC play starts.

The offensive line played well. However, while West Virginia's scheme and second-level athletes create problems, I believe the Hokies won't play many defensive lines worse than the Mountaineers' d-line in conference play. The Hokies were able to single block the three down linemen most of the game. The next three weeks will give Virginia Tech's offensive line group an opportunity to showcase their cohesion against a more traditional even front against Old Dominion and Delaware, along with a wonky odd front from Tech's old friends down in Greeneville.

If there was a glaring weakness once Jackson found his footing, it was the lack of a receiver to take the top off the defense. Cam Phillips played one hell of a game. However, the Hokies offense got bailed out by the Mountaineers' defensive backs taking interference penalties. Phillips only pulled in one deep ball and didn't get behind the defense in regular pass pro situations after his first deep ball catch. Phillips is probably better suited to work short and intermediate routes. Savoy made several solid plays. Eric Kumah had a couple of targets and couldn't separate. Chris Cunningham made a big play off play-action. C.J. Carroll had one first down catch. He was otherwise. This offense desperately has to establish a deep threat and more depth at the receiver position.

Delaware comes into Blacksburg as a significant underdog. The Blue Hens went 4-7 in the FBS Colonial Athletic Conference and defeated in state MEAC rival Delaware State 22-3 in week one. Liberty and James Madison both showed how dangerous it is to underestimate any opponent. However, on a short week, I expect that the Hokies will simplify their scheme. The coaching staff will look to get some confidence in the playmaking ability of their young skill players. As the offense works to identify those options outside, the veteran offensive line will be called upon to dominate the Blue Hens and create breathing room early.


This is sexy as fuck. God I love having an offense that makes sense.

Thanks French! Awesome stuff!

Doing the Lord's work! You made this morning PT way more exciting!

Great review as always. Thanks for your insight.

Seeing Askew-Henry and Avery run themselves out of position over and over is just a thing of beauty! Thanks for the great reviews, French!

If you watch the video on youtube, here is another example. All those speed options and rollouts actually set up the counter that McClease scored on. They don't have many "buckets" of plays, but conceptually, each one makes two to three other plays work, and then they can make subtle little changes (unbalanced, changing a blocking angle or a pass route) to adjust to a specific defensive scheme.

We are a far cry from the Stinespring days where they would line up in an I with twins left and 99% of the time it was a quick WR screen. No iso. No counter. No speed option. Just that quick screen. Two TE , motion across both to have an H and a Y on the same side- it was either the outside zone or the crack back sweep. Every time. In this offense, as soon as the defense thinks they know what is coming, they are screwed.

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That is as concise and complete criticism of stinespring as I have seen. God it is great that we are where we are now.

They don't have many "buckets" of plays, but conceptually, each one makes two to three other plays work, and then they can make subtle little changes (unbalanced, changing a blocking angle or a pass route) to adjust to a specific defensive scheme.

This is the similarity between Fuente/Cornelsen and Paul Johnson's system.

Yep. The "psychcological conditioning" part about GT is the key to their success. That's why they can beat you throwing <5 passes. Sometimes 1.

The new offense is the reverse of the Lefty era where we had 12 formations with 1-2 plays from each formation. Now we have 1-2 formations with 12 plays from each formation.

That was actually way more a hallmark of the Stinespring era. Lefty didn't really use an overabundance of formations, his passing tree and reads we're just so complex a college QB couldn't be efficient in it.

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

Eh, Lefty had a ton of formations with various personnel that had to shuffle in and out. I think you might be mis-remembering (or blocked out) Lefty.

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Personnel grouping, yes (lest we forget Juggs' investigative journalism on the running back rotation) but it seemed we were in pistol or shotgun 90% of the time, and the only real change what H back and receiver alignment. I know those are technically different alignments, but not like the shotgun-I form-jumbo-pistol extravaganza that Stiney ran.

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

They ran some of the two back last year where the H aligned like a fullback. But we saw more of it on Sunday than I can recall in any game last year. I just hope Keene learns how to run through blocks instead of to blocks. When he does, he will be absolutely miserable to play against.

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I thought we were doing that to put Keene closer to the LOS and his block, he doesn't have the experience of Sam afterall.

“I remember Lee Corso's car didn't get out of the parking lot.” -cFB
TKPC #666 that was long wait...

Thank you French!
I loved how you showed the set-up plays rather than just the big gainer. That's the only way for us laymen to see how similar they are, and how it sets up the defense.

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Whenever I read French's articles, I always get sad when I'm done. I just want them to keep going. Guess I'll just have to read it 10 more times.

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Glory is Forever, Let's Go Hokies!!

Great writeup.

Patience. I love the discipline of Corn/Fuente. It's clear they have a strategy for every game. Quarter 1 and part of quarter 2 is a base package of plays that they'll use to setup the defense. The next package of plays are all based on reaction to the first package and preying on pattern recognition tendencies of the defense. "We did this exact play last time and we're doing it agai....nah just kidding" Cam standing wide open.

What's even more beautiful is they have patience game to game. I think they map out when they plan to insert new wrinkles similar to Chris Cunningham magically appearing last year on the goaline RPO or Sam rogers throwing passes. It's all part of the plan.

Keene was a difference maker for our run game with his blocking. Mclease looked fantastic as well.

I bet we see Keene appear for Clemson with some wide open catches. Not looking ahead...1-0.


I don't know if he is doing this exactly, but it almost looks like Savoy knew we had a TD when he saw #6 aggressively bite on the tunnel screen. Great play calling from the offense and it seemed like they have a good grasp on what is supposed to be happening.

I'm wondering if these predetermined jet sweep/invert veer plays will ever become more Jackson determine as they allow him to make more decided.

I'd like to see them mix and match. Imagine being a DE. They run IVR 3-4 times. Each time, the HBack veer releases and you are untouched.

Then, they call the true sweep. EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME and you come prancing up field to attack the mesh point, and BOOM the HBack cracks you. The next time, you are going to be tip toeing up the field waiting for that crack. The H can then veer release wide and the jet sweep goes around the edge without having to block that DE. It all flows together with synergy. We have seen the end kicked out. We have seen the end blocked down. We have seen the end get a free release and get optioned. We have seen the end get free released but the sweep beats him outside without a read. I saw the H and TB cross block it (H drives the guy wide and the TB cuts inside his block to hit the safety.) We have seen them show IVR and RPO off of it so the end has his hands down and tackles a runner, leaving the QB a clear throwing lane. By the time the game is over, they don't know what is coming at them. It all looks the same.

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As I was watching the game, I was looking forward to this column specifically to learn more about which runs were options and which were predetermined. I had the feeling many of the option-looking plays were actually called in advance. (If I try to rewind too many times during the actual game, my wife takes the remote.) I guess I'm learning something from reading TKP.

"Our job as coaches is to influence young people's lives for the better in terms of fundamental skills, work ethic, and doing the right thing. Every now and again, a player actually has that effect on the coaching staff." Justin Fuente on Sam Rogers

I heard that Fuente said those Jackson runs were "all reads." Remember, the talk out of camp was also that "Jackson wasn't as good a runner" as Evans. It looked like West Virginia listened a bit too well. Hahahaha.

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Here's what Fuente said on the ACC Coaches' call today:

Q. In an ideal world, would you like to see Josh run a little less than that? I know people kind of seem to be surprised at how much he ran. Is that an effective part of his game or is that probably a little bit of an outlier in terms of what you'd like to see from him week to week?

JUSTIN FUENTE: I don't know. It seems to be a hot topic. I've been asked this question it seems like every week since I've been here about who is running the ball and all that sort of stuff. The we called three designed quarterback runs for Josh. Everything else was a read or an option and had a run or a pass off of it. So the defense actually dictated who carried the ball on those plays. I was pleased with how efficiently he ran the ball and took care of it. You know, we'll continue to share the carries and find ways to be efficient so we can run the football and ultimately make plays in the passing game.

Three were designed runs — such as the QB Power on 4th down you analyzed — others were either an RPO or read option. Jives well with the analysis.

Excellent as always. Lord help defenses when Keane, Kumah and Savoy get some experience.

May God have mercy on those defenses because we won't

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Thanks, French!

In regards to taking the top off the defense - did Henri Murphy ever see the field or even dress? Maybe he could be that option?

Curious about this too. Him or that lightening bolt from OSU.

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Henry dressed. Saw him in the post game picture. I didn't see him on the field though.

Side note, on the KO returns it looked like it was Clark and Holston back there but someone may need to confirm that.

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Henri returned a punt or KO.

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More to being a deep threat than running fast.

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I didn't see him. Seemed like WR was two or three of the four between Phillips, Savoy, Carroll, and Kumah until Clark played in 4th quarter. I never saw any of the other guys, but they could have slipped one in.

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French, you keep mentioning a receiver needed to stretch the D. Why can't Clark do that? He's got some experience and obviously plenty of wheels.

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His decision was made after a phone call with longtime Virginia Tech assistant coach Bud Foster. All Foster told him was, "We win. They don't."

I'm not French, but: he needs to be fast, run good routes, and catch the ball when it gets there (the Knowles problem). Otherwise defenses won't respect him and he'll only draw the single defender who would be on him anyway.

But to even get that far, he needs to block well enough for get on the field for Fuente and Cornelson, and I'm not sure that's happening yet. Not saying it won't, and I certainly hope it does!

Agree completely on the need to develop a deep threat, but am hopeful that Cornelsen has a plan for that too, and maybe that is being "set up" i.e. he will wait to unveil those plays at the right time. As for personnel, unless he has stone hands you've got to think James Clark will be given every opportunity to be the guy. After that I don't even know who we might turn to. I wonder if Savoy could at least be decent on deep balls--he seems to have a little Eddie Royal wiggle-and-burst to him that could get behind defenses

Great Write up French....for establishing the Deep threat, are we talking merely Speed? If so is there potential for Guys like Henry and Clark to get on the field? What about Patterson.

I have a feeling Cornelson will at least test out some plays against Delaware.

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With Jackson's arm, I think speed is less important than just having a guy who can go up and win a ball in tight coverage. Having both is even better.

Clark wasn't targeted. Kumah was targeted twice and both times was blanketed. Right now, we don't know who that guy will be. It was supposed to be Phil Patterson, and I am not sure why he hasn't broken out.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Fuente has shown that no matter what position you play in this offense you must first be able to block. I think this is shown by how little McMillan has seen the field since the coaching change. Also I would think you would have to show an ability to win jump balls. Most/not all deep balls are caught with a defender on the receivers hip. We need someone with the ability to high point the football through contact from handsy defenders, especially since we are not Alabama and won't get all the 50/50 calls. I. Ford was great at this. Hopefully we can find another soon. Good thing is we have a couple of weeks against lesser opponents to give some guys a chance to prove themselves. Go Hokies!

French, I love how our offense uses repetition and running multiple plays out of the same look to set up other plays later, but I have to question that particular jet sweep play you showed early in the 4th quarter where Corn was "testing" the defense to see if they would over commit to the jet sweep action. In hindsight, you can say it was smart because it let him know for sure he could pop the inverted veer for that huge game changing play from Jackson about 7 game minutes later. However, in immediate function, it was a sweep to the short side of the field where we lost 2-3 yards, got way off schedule and I'm pretty sure that was a three and out when the defense needed a breather. It was a risky way to test West Virginia's defense, though this time it ultimately paid off.

General unrelated note for everyone, the little things man, rewatch that clip of Jackson's big run and you'll see Nijman come off his block and stop Kyzir White from ruining that play in the backfield just in the nick of time, if you didn't already notice it yourself. That play could have easily been a loss.

Re: Nijman -- you are SO RIGHT! Talk about situational awareness. He helped Teller with a quick double-team than immediately did a 180 and knocked White off of Jackson. That'll get you paid, man.

On Jackson's first TD run, Nijman drove a DL seven yards and buried him in the end zone. It was a mauling.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

The Nijman block jumped out to me as well. Huge play, and game, saving block there.


Go Hokies

Go Falcons

RE the sweep for a loss, IMO it wasn't really a test, just a play CornFu have circled as a 5-yard gain. Seeing it get eaten up has to be a big orange and maroon flag waving in their faces about the counter-play off of that defensive choice, and they were ready to take that chunk at the next opportunity.

“I remember Lee Corso's car didn't get out of the parking lot.” -cFB
TKPC #666 that was long wait...

Agreed, but test play or not it looked like (I'm not French so I'm only guessing) Savoy could have turned that up-field and taken Bailey one-on-one for a modest gain as opposed to running out of bounds around the outside block.

We did lose 2-3 yards but I don't think that was the goal of the play. The play was designed to get yardage and at the same time look to the defense's over pursuit of it.

Sometimes the defense wins the battles and in that situation we got one of the two goals out of it. Plus it was on 1st and 10 so there were two other plays to produce yardage to get the first, which I guess didn't happen if we went three and out on it.

But the principle still applies. You work your system and test things you see for confirmation. Sometimes we lose yards on plays but they aren't designed to lose yards.

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Going with what others have said, the play wasn't solely meant as a test. It looks to me as though Cunningham is supposed to help Nijman on the linebacker and then move to the seal off the safety, leaving a different player unblocked than in the previous example, but both linebackers #3 and #5 (who is Teller's to block) widen out too far and disrupt the blocking. Throw in the poor block from McMillian and you have a loss. But you also have clear evidence of the linebackers and safeties taking false steps to cover the jet sweep.

I don't think they lose any play specifically to lose yardage. Well blocked, it would gain some yards. However, if the idea was to confirm that WVU was going to overkey on the jet sweep, which they did earlier in the game, and they were thinking about a quarterback run as a counter, running a well-executed sweep is a safe play that also confirms the over-play.

None of us are in the film room. I have always maintained that these reviews are me seeing the game through my lense of history and experience. I welcome the discussion- that is the whole point of the community. What is the biggest takeaway is, by god, it worked!

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

One of the things I appreciate most about your writing is that you make it clear when you're extrapolating.

"Our job as coaches is to influence young people's lives for the better in terms of fundamental skills, work ethic, and doing the right thing. Every now and again, a player actually has that effect on the coaching staff." Justin Fuente on Sam Rogers

Indeed. the wingspan came in handy. Gave him the shove ---> and saved the play.

"I play real sports, not trying to be the best at exercising..." - KP

As Jackson began to execute smoother, Cornelsen played a masterful chess game with WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. Time after time, Cornelsen had the patience to run plays that weren't designed for huge success in order to set up opportunities for big chunk yardage

Damn right!!! We are blessed to finally have a competent and potent offense and offensive identity!!! It's amazing when you watch it live and know it's going this way and then have French breakdown the nuances post-game.

Love, love, love it!

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French, I'm curious - would you say the offensive is ahead, behind, or on par with where it was in week 1 last year?

Hokie fan | W&M grad

In terms of execution, they are more efficient. I still want to see more YAC and garbage yards. I said all last year, Evans was a great runner. Ford, Hodges, and Phillips was a generational trio that bailed him out a ton, and when they couldn't he really struggled in the passing game.

I feel bad for Jackson. People were ready to bury him early in the game based on twitter. Now he is the second coming. The reality is, he is a good young player. For all his good qualities, he isn't the kind of athlete that can bail the offense out of a bad play. Evans could pull the ball down after one read on a 3rd and 11 and get a first down. Ford and Hodges could go win a 50/50 fade on a 3rd and 8. This group doesn't have that mistake eraser like last year's team did. They have to be much better at execution and more efficient. The 3rd down efficiency numbers were not a good harbinger. That has to get better, especially when things were there and they couldn't execute.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I feel bad for Jackson. People were ready to bury him early in the game based on twitter. Now he is the second coming. The reality is, he is a good young player.

I guess that's where coaching, and being a coach's kid, will help him. The lessons he's heard all his life about hard work and focus are really going to pay off this year.

"Our job as coaches is to influence young people's lives for the better in terms of fundamental skills, work ethic, and doing the right thing. Every now and again, a player actually has that effect on the coaching staff." Justin Fuente on Sam Rogers

I am still adjusting to the new reality of a film breakdown of Virginia Tech that highlights multiple positives regarding our offensive scheme and play calling.

What a time to be alive.

Great read, as always! Watching the (5th) clip in the 4th quarter where "He ran a jet sweep to the boundary with little chance of success", I noticed that Travon McMillian was in and had a poor block on the CB coming up and really ruined Savoy's chances of gaining any yardage. That has to hurt his chances at getting more time in at RB, since this is one of our bread and butter plays now. Am i reading this right?

You saw me mention this in my random thoughts post. If you wondered why Peoples was starting, I think that you saw the reason. McMillian was tepid blocking, and there was one run where he meekly stepped out of bounds at the first down marker and then the Hokies got stopped on the 3rd and one. They need McMillian to run and block with the reckless abandon we saw on that last TD run.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Side note on Peoples. He showed a huge amount of lateral agility from last year.

On that series. I was yelling at TMac for not putting his head down and ensuring we got the 1st but that brings up a question I'd like to hear your thoughts on:

Does Corny need to sometimes forget about the setup and just get yardage? I understand on the next play Keene was wide open on a great play call. That said it was 3rd and half a yard. The defense was gassed. It was an easy to convert down. The momentum seemed to be swinging the way of WVU.

I understand that had JJ been able to hit Keene it would have been a big play. That said both are freshmen and we really only needed a first down. I was frustrated we missed a wide open Keene but I was more ticked we didn't line up, bash the 3 man front, get the first, rest the defense another 4 plays min, and then move on. I trust the CornFufense more than I have any other at VT but in that moment especially the D needed a break. That play call would have been great on a 5 or 6 play drive but not as play 3 right after the defense just got off the field.

I am mixed. I played in two very different offenses; a wing-t where plays supplemented each other and balance and deception created big plays, and a pro-I where there was a ton of variation in blocking schemes but the premise was "my athlete is better than your athlete." I had more success in the second system, so I am perfectly ok with running a counter trey 20 times if the defense can't stop it.

In the flow of the game, I HATED the waggle call. The defense had been on the field a long time (that was the drive after the Hill 4th down INT) and the tailback base runs were working well. Jackson had been stopped on an IVR (WVU blitzed into it) near the goal line so I was openly looking for the split read so the QB threat could perhaps keep a WVU defender out of the box. I thought the waggle was "too cute."

BUT, Keene was wide open and WVU got lucky with the blitz. It also exposed WVU's defense. As the game progressed, similar variations of the waggle were wide open (Cunningham and Savoy catches plus Phillips was wide open and Jackson threw behind him.) The difference is on all three, the second receiver was playside and not coming from the backside like Keene was. That means the second deep read was in Jackson's line of vision much quicker so, if pressured, Jackson would have a split second extra to get the throw off.

Just like all things, if it worked, it was a great play call. If it doesn't, the coaches are idiots. :)

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I know to some they're "idiots..." I wouldn't go THAT far. Ha. That said I know Bud and Wiles have to be at least internally frustrated in that situation. Sometimes a breather for the other side of the ball is a win. I know we fans have been screaming for an offense that can score in any situation and have longed for big plays ex machina but in moments like that putting the D back on the field quickly can cost you the game. Overall it worked out and when you sit back and re-watch the game as a whole with good analysis it makes a lot more sense. That said, just get the dang TD and the first down every now and again... ha.

That was more a shot at the "fans" that love second guessing everything the coaches do. Kind of like that slapdick moron at the bar a few years back who was screaming about how running the ball was stupid, then Sam Rogers gets a 10 yard run and he screams "great play call! That's what I am talking about!"

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I think that loss was more a result of poor running by Savoy, although McMillians block was pretty weak.

McMillians block wasn't great, it was more of a 'stand in the way' than a 'block' but he occupied the defender #16 and gave Savoy a good chance to get past him to at least back to the LOS - if Savoy had run to the inside of McMillians block behind Cunningham. However it seemed like the play was designed for Savoy to go behind/outside McMillian or Savoy saw the safety (actually WVU's CB #24) coming over and tried to bounce it outside instead of taking it up field for a short gain. McMillians meh block meant Savoy had to back-track and #24 easily adjusted course and tracked him down behind the LOS.

Savoy should have cut it upfield between McMillian and Keene, then cut to the inside/right of Cunningham and Nijman's 2nd-level blocking if he was able to shake #24 near the LOS.

Awesome stuff, French, thanks so much for putting this together and explaining it to us laymen.

Hokie in West Africa...sadly, I can't jump up and down hard enough for it to be felt in Lane

Awesome write-up as always and I learned my new fact for the day, Delaware is big enough for 2 colleges who knew?!

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy"

2 FCS programs that combined to go 4-18 last year, but it's a start I guess.

Thanks French, great review as always.

I said it previously, but I'll say it again, the hit on Jackson on the long run was very dirty. The defender had a clean shot to hit him anywhere, but decided to dive at the side of his knee in a clear attempt to injure him. I would hope that Wyatt Teller would deliver some street justice to that guy if it wasn't at a critical time of the game.

Awesome as always. Were the WVU DBs abnormally confident in everything they did or can we count on most DBs being baited into the kind of traps that Cornelson set. That Cam Phillips touchdown showed two DBs that seemed to think the offense completely blew the play by missing not one but two blocks when in fact the DBs got completely fooled into dropping coverage.

Chris Brown shared with me on Twitter that single high safeties often have challenges against teams that run similar offenses to the Hokies.

Brown's work is the best in the business. His twitter and books are must reads.

I think there were a couple of factors here. First, this is what WVU does defensively. Most teams struggle with their numbers in the box and can't execute at a high enough efficiency to sustain drives. But, Oklahoma showed that you could really take that high safety out of the equation with the right motion and design, as I noted in my preview. I was going to add to the preview and show how doing an RPO off a jet sweep would open up the quick slant, but it was getting too long. Sure enough, the Hokies used that concept on the underthrow in the end zone to Phillips on the first scoring drive. Phillips was open, but Jackson didn't get the ball.

The other piece, and I kind of hate it because I want to see public scrimmages, is that all the messaging coming out about how "Jackson wasn't a good runner" and "wouldn't get as many carries as Evans did." WVU clearly didn't want to get beat by the jet sweeps and Jackson was good enough to exploit the space he was given. And it helped that Pfaff, Chung, Gallo, Teller, and Nijman did a terrific job making sure that an accounted for defender was driven out of the running lane.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

With respect to your last paragraph it looks like (even though it's early) this set of offensive lineman are starting to get a bit of a push. I didn't really watch to closely to see how many of them were getting a push one on one vs how many times they double teamed a defender but I was happy to see a decent number of run plays not get stuffed behind the line of scrimmage.

Chris Brown's twitter is super insightful. And he gave you a nice little shoutout with this preview

Man on that tunnel screen, after Chung wasn't able to get a block on the LB, Cam absolutely broke that guy's ankles to get the first down. Cam can make some of the most subtle looking moves and make defenders look absolutely silly.

Using /s is for cowards.

Even on his touchdown, he did the same. His hesitation move is incredible at freezing defenders. Although I think on cam's TD he shouldn't have needed it if it was a slightly better thrown ball - more in stride. Also think he scores on the throw to the 2 if it's a bit lower. Not saying they were bad throws but Jackson could have placed them a little better. A great game but by no means perfect which makes me even more excited for the future.

Here lies It's a Stroman Jersey I Swear, surpassed in life by no one because he intercepted it.

Me when Stiney or Lefty used to run jet sweep to the boundary side: "Dang, do we really have to do that every other play!?"

Me when Cornelsen runs jet sweep to the boundary side: "Oh dang, he's setting the D up for something!"

Is coronavirus over yet?

So refreshing to have some offensive mind blown!

Who thinks JJ is a true passer. Nice improvement.

Even when you get skunked; fishing never lets you down. 🎣

So can Fu and Corn not do this anymore because French pointed it out?

You put those words together, those are my favorite words, Popeyes and bahama
- Mike Burnup

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

"I want to punch people from UVA right in the neck." - Colin Cowherd

Let's use the Jet Sweep as an example. Even with WVU's linebackers over pursuing the sweep, we were generally gaining 3-6 yards each time we ran it. If they stop over pursuing and stay at home watching for Jackson or a play-fake then that sweep starts picking up 5-10-15 yards a pop.

There was a bowl game a few years ago where WVU ran WR jet sweeps all night their opponent refused to devote more defenders to stopping it. WVU won that game 70-33 against the 2011 Clemson defense that stoned us twice.

Coach Fu's best play to date occurred in the wee hours of Tuesday November 24, 2015... when he and Bud had their clandestine meeting in Memphis. You can't play chess on offense if the scoreboard is forcing you to play checkers.

"...sticks and stones may break my bones but I'm gonna kick you repeatedly in the balls Gardoki!"

Great write-up. Thanks.

I was at the game and, at first, was "WTF, that play had zero chance of success" on that 1st & 10 short-side sweep with McMillan (of all people) leading for Savoy. Why would Cornelian call that play when one of his primary play-calling goals seems to be to put VT in 2nd & 6 or less??

Then a little light bulb went off in my pea-brain and I told the person beside me that the play had to be a set-up for something else. Frankly, I'm surprised WVU didn't pick up on it.

If Savoy had cut up field instead of trying to go around Mcmillan he would have gained at least 3 -4 yards instead of losing 2.

Yep freshman mistake. Still McMillian needs to run through him

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I think Clip 22 and Clip 25 shows why Peoples is getting the start. In clip 22, Peoples knocks their 238lb linebacker (#3) a yard back at impact and continues chasing him down the field. In clip 25, McMillian gets in the way of their 204lb safety (#16), but it is the safety pushing McMillian back a yard and not the other way around. Like others have stated above, blocking is what is going to get you on the field.

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Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN


"...sticks and stones may break my bones but I'm gonna kick you repeatedly in the balls Gardoki!"

Great article, French, your insight is eye-opening. I love the brilliance of Fuente-Cornelson's offense, and how well they an game plan. My only question with this offense is what adjustments they would make for games like Syracuse or GT especially when we get down early and may not have as much time to set up future plays. Do they have some sets or plays that are designed to work independently of other plays/series that they can dial up when we need to score?

Again, I appreciate the game plan as a whole, but in games where we are playing from behind (Syracuse, Clemson) or may not get as many series and each one has to count (GT) I wonder if this offensive scheme puts us at any sort of disadvantage?

Flow of the game changes things. I don't think this team has the horses (at least not now) to have big comebacks like the team last year. The big downer from Sunday was the 3rd down efficiency. That has to get better. If it does, you get stuff in front of the D and have more options to counter them.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Haha on clip 24 after hes done with the fake Savoy points at the endzone to be sure all the WVU defenders turn around in time to catch cam smoking them

Finally a TKP member. So Pumped to be able to support you Guys Finally!

LETS GO!!!!!

Thank you!

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

EDIT: So much for reading all the comments. Currently drinking.

Just saw a different angle of the Phillips first quarter catch. Keene and McMillian just about got Jackson killed. Both were there and the WVU LB split between them (although it looked like Keene should have squared up better on him. McMillian was outside and came back in to try and help.)

Again, Keene was up and down. With him being a true freshman, and playing what Cornelsen called one of the most challenging positions in the offense, you expect a learning curve. I expect him to make a big leap by the end of the season.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

On Jackson's first TD run, not only did Nijman get a pancake. Gallo and Chung both had good scoop blocks to seal off the backside. Gallo also got a ton of movement.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

French, I would really like to get into film reviews but don't know how to start or what I'm doing or even if I know what I'm looking at. I know you are really busy but could you throw a play at me to analyze and then critique my work?

This is a great write up. Really breaks down the nuances to the offense. Well done.

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Can't believe this hasn't been posted:


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