If there’s one thing synonymous with the Wisconsin Badgers’ football program, it’s running the ball. However, in 2015 and at the start of the 2016 season, the offensive identity of the Badgers appeared in flux.
Against LSU, Michigan State and Michigan—all quality opponents and defenses (Michigan State lessening my case for this seemingly by the week—the Badgers’ offense was less than explosive. While the Badgers weren’t completely inept in their rushing attack, it seemed they were running the ball because they were supposed to. They had less-than-experienced quarterbacks and a talented runner—why not run the ball? Yet, the electric running attack the Badgers have become known for was stagnant. Corey Clement looked like he was pressing and a young offensive line that was expected to be improved felt behind schedule.
Then, the Badgers got a week off. After rushing for 71 yards on 28 carries (2.54 yards per) in the Big House, head coach Paul Chryst went to work. After some self-scouting and correction, Wisconsin used the bye week to improve, get healthy and prepare extra for its steepest challenge yet. Ohio State is filled with four and five-star recruits, and as Chryst always likes to mention in press conferences, “Good players and a good, sound scheme.” To supplement what the coaching staff hoped what would be an improved and more potent rushing attack, Chryst looked to implement an old trick that hadn’t been used much this season: the jet sweep.
Used sparingly throughout the first five games of the season, the jet sweep is one of the few horizontal rushing threats that Wisconsin presents to the defense. Since 2010, players such as David Gilreath, Jared Abbrederis, Melvin Gordon and Alex Erickson have been used to run the jet sweep, which requires a bit of speed to execute effectively.
Actually, my first ever article for Bucky’s 5th Quarter a year ago was about how Wisconsin used the jet sweep against Illinois, but that piece was more about how the sweep is executed. While I’ll go over it again here, this piece will be more about how the Badgers decided to use it to keep Ohio State off balance and what it opened up in the offense.
Here, the Badgers are in 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends). Chryst utilizes pre-snap movement and motions as well as anyone in the country, so the Ohio State defense isn’t really phased by a player going in motion, and the Buckeyes certainly don’t expect the jet sweepm as it hasn’t been an emphasis in Wisconsin’s offense. It’s also rare for a team to run the jet sweep into the boundary, the short side of the field. The “Twins Left” look is a pretty common formation from the Badgers, but the two tight ends on the right side are the keys here.
There’s a lot going on here, so bear with me. I have Marshon Lattimore circled because it helps the offense if the defense is in man coverage, because he has to sort through all of the traffic to get to Peavy. The key here is leaving the 3-technique defensive tackle (star) unblocked. He’s far enough on the interior that by the time he recognizes what’s going on, he’s already behind the play, but at the same time he’s far enough outside so that the Badgers can use the blocker to cut off a linebacker after veering inside. The tight ends are both perimeter blockers, and they are bigger athletes blocking an outside linebacker and safety, favorable matchups for Wisconsin.
This is ideal, as Peavy is running in space with Jerome Baker and Damon Webb being blocked, Lattimore again has to sort through the crowd to get to Peavy. Jazz gets 12 yards on the opening drive for the Badgers, and it leads to a field goal.
Now we’re in the second quarter, and the Badgers have a 1st-and-10 from their own 21-yard line. They trot out 21 personnel, putting the strength into the boundary, manipulating the Ohio State alignment just how they want to. Having the strength into the boundary, the Buckeyes are forced to leave a 1-technique nose tackle to the wide side of the field. That leaves one defender to get around to get the edge, and it works perfectly.
A second into the play, Ohio State is already in trouble. The defensive end to the weak side (arrow) is fooled by the jet sweep, and is well out of the play. Ohio State’s best linebacker, Raekwon McMillan (No. 5) gets sucked in by the inside-zone fake. Austin Ramesh leads out of the backfield to block Chris Worley (No. 35), and Robert Wheelright is locked up with his corner. This leaves Denzel Ward (No. 12), who is in man, to sort through the trash to get to Peavy. He can’t, and Peavy runs for 28 yards.
In the first half, Peavy carried the ball five times for 67 yards in the first half. All five carries went for first downs. After having more carries in the first half than he had in the first five games combined, Peavy was certainly a priority for the Buckeyes to stop.
Ohio State is going to key on Peavy, so to stay a step ahead of the defensive adjustments, Chryst decides to use the Buckeyes’ defensive aggressiveness against them.
The last time Wisconsin lined up in this formation with the strength call to the boundary and Peavy went in motion, the Badgers got 28 yards. So what do they do this time? Use Peavy as a decoy for Clement.
This is the first play of the second half, and the effects of Peavy in the first half are immediately evident. Peavy carries Malik Hooker (No. 24) and the attention of Worley (No. 35) with his jet motion. This spreads the defense horizontally for an inside-zone play to Clement.
Here, everyone is accounted for. Benzschawel has cut off the back-side pursuit from Dre’Mont Jones (No. 86). Ramczyk has kicked out Sam Hubbard (No. 6). Deiter is climbing up to McMillan, and Connors has sealed off the nose tackle. This is a pretty nice running lane for Clement.
Now this play went for a gain of five yards, but if Clement cuts back on the arrow rather than through Alec Ingold and Deiter, he’s off to the races. He has everything blocked up. As you can see from my sloppily-drawn line, he has a nice pocket of space here. Wheelright is locked up on the outside. Benzschawel is pushing Baker past. Deiter has McMillan engaged. Maxwell cut off Jones. While it’s easy to see the cutback lane from above, the offensive line has everything blocked up, and the line has Chryst’s play calling to thank for that.
I fully expect the jet sweep to continue to be a wrinkle in the Badgers’ offense, whether ran by Peavy or freshman A.J. Taylor. This should also help open things up for Clement, Dare Ogunbowale, Taiwan Deal and Bradrick Shaw. The Badgers face another stout defensive front this weekend, and the jet sweep can help loosen the box up.
All screenshots above were taken from this video: