Finally, something fun to write about offensively! I mean, Wisconsin's formations have been far from creative since the time my brain first formally served me a concrete memory. Badgers offensive coordinator Matt Canada calls this the "barge" formation. Why barge, you ask? Well, UW uses nine-down men on the line of scrimmage. That's seven offensive linemen and two tight ends, folks. And yes, that's James White at quarterback and yes, that is indeed Montee Ball split out left as a wide receiver.
This is why you put in all of that extra meat on the line. Like, my dear god, that's the cleanest release to the second level by an offensive line I've ever seen. It's picture perfect. What do you think is going through the Gophers linebackers' minds? A wall of red coming to dish out pain, as White quickly tucks the ball away and follows a developing hole on the right side.
The wall, it moves! A great seal block on the bottom of your screen by freshman tackle Tyler Marz really gives White his sweet time to let the crease develop. And now, the Wisconsin line is reaching the second level and engaging with the 'backers.
And here's where the final pieces are laid into place. Tight end Jacob Pedersen and guard Zac Matthias, used here as an extra lineman, both maintain their blocks, further extending the play. With White cutting to the outside right, it's tough to ask both Pedersen and Matthias to get their butts around to seal the outside, so White will most likely have to break a tackle if he wants to get to the endzone. Regardless, Pedersen and Matthias both do a terrific job getting to the second level and getting contact. Because as my offensive line coach in high school used to say, "simply slowing a defender down from making the tackle is a win for you."
Since Pedersen has his back to White, he doesn't realize his running back is cutting outside, as the man he blocks escapes for an opportunity at a tackle. But it doesn't matter since White has two speeds: fast and faster. No chance.
And the use of the "barge" formation yields a touchdown for the Badgers. I mean, c'mon, when your line has the size and strength of most of the top units in the NFL, why not try a "Wildcat" formation? Players and fans love it, and opposing coaches like Minnesota's Jerry Kill hate it, especially when the maiden voyage of the package was used against his Gophers.
"When you haven't seen it on film or anything like that and they out five guys on one side and three on the other, that's a good move on their part," Kill said."We've done that in the past. What it does is you get into that real fast and then you have to get moved over and you're unbalanced and then they've got a man on you and then they crease you. That's good coaching on their part and I credit them. That's part of a week-to-week thing, and I'm sure next week they'll have another little wrinkle to see. You get all of those big guys on one side and you get shifted over there and take care of that side, then they come back on the other side."
This is pretty simple. Strong left here for the Badgers, with Brian Wozniack (No. 85) on the line and Pedersen (No. 48) off, while Melvin Gordon (No. 25) serves as flanker with Jared Abbrederis (No. 4) split out to the right. Minnesota counters with a 4-4 and a safety sneaking up in the box, giving the Gophers nine men in the box against the Badgers' seven.
Using Gordon in motion as per usual with the speedster in the game, Minnesota is forced to respect the possibility of the redshirt freshman getting the handoff on a sweep, drawing in the Gophers' left outside linebacker and bringing Minnesota cornerback Troy Stoudermire (No. 2), who was originally keying in on Gordon from the right, to the left side and out of White's way. Pedersen also does his steps to make the play appear it's to Gordon. But, the trained eye also recognizes that here (and this is a lucky photo capture) that White is doing a misdirection step, sometimes referred to as a "false step," to sell to the safety and linebackers keyed on him to bite by taking an initial step toward the side he is faking to. We now recognize the possibility that Pedersen pulling to the left could be a trap-block on a counter play.
WIth the fake to Gordon drawing a Minnesota player in deep to the backfield, it's Pedersen's responsibility to clean up the defender to allow White and the play to further develop. Also notice the crease that has already begun to form, as well as a blurry Ryan Groy, the Badgers' left tackle, moving to spring a block at the second level.
Groy not only gets to his man, but definitively seals him with his back to the crease. The play doesn't start without blocks being held at the line of scrimmage, but the difference between five-yard gains and long touchdowns are blocks like Groy's and Kyle Costigan's (No. 54), who has also pushed his Gopher defender into something of a position that looks like a bouncer throwing a rowdy patron out of Whiskey Jack's on State Street.
Just one guy to beat for James White...
How many times have we seen a shifty move from White in these past two games? The emergence of White is almost reminiscent of Ball versus Iowa, a la 2010.
Wisconsin's three-headed monster is back, folks. And with this offensive line progressing from week to week the way they have under interim coach Bart Miller, there's no telling what possibilities remain to be achieved for this Wisconsin ground game.
Also, as a huge fan of the movie "Caddyshack," I need to conclude my Axe weekend with a clip from the movie. Probably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, performance in Bill Murray's career.