After watching way more West Virginia football than I’m comfortable with, I have 1 tip for the K-State run game. You’ve got to run at West Virginia instead of letting West Virginia run at you.
The Mountaineers play an aggressive 3-3-5 stack defense. They use 3 defensive linemen, 3 linebackers, 2 boundary corners, 2 hybrid safeties, and a free safety.
If not, here’s a picture.
Red = Defensive linemen
Green = Linbacker
Blue = Corner
Purple = Hybrid Safety
Yellow (off screen) = Free Safety
The crux of this odd formation is to create chaos. The offense rarely knows who is in coverage and who is blitzing. Unlike in a more traditional 3-4 that you see in the NFL, the defensive linemen in the 3-3-5 are aggressive and attack up the field instead of taking up offensive linemen and letting the linebackers do the attacking like you see in the 3-4.
In my opinion, there is a right way and a wrong way to attack this front.
Right Way: Run at the front. The 3-3-5 leaves them short in the box. If you can get downhill quickly, you can get your offensive line on their secondary and linebackers and blow giant holes in the defense. You can attack the 3-3-5 in the middle or on the edge, but you need to do it quickly. West Virginia wants to attack. You want to prevent that by attacking first.
Wrong Way: Run away from the front. The Mountaineers have athletes all over the field, and they are at their best when they can run in space and attack you behind the line of scrimmage. I hate slow developing run plays and outside runs against the 3-3-5. Your advantage as an offense is inside the tackle box. Their advantage as a defense is on the perimeter. If you run outside or you run a slow developing play that allows the defense time to get up field, you’re playing into their hand.
Here are a few examples
This is one of the few run plays that I liked from Tennessee. They dominate the 3 man defensive line, washing the strong side defensive end totally out of the play, kick out the linebacker with the tight end, and get into the heart of the defense quickly. It doesn’t matter how fast you are if you’re laying on the ground.
This was one of K-State’s bigger runs. The running back cuts hard right at the edge and gets downhill quickly, and suddenly you’ve got tight ends and linemen blocking safeties and linebackers. Again, the back cuts it up quickly and gets downhill. That’s how you attack West Virginia and that’s why the Wildcats have a shot to win this game.
West Virginia wants you to run horizontally instead of vertically. They are built for speed and flow to the ball. On this play, the hybrid safety blows the play up and the defensive end and linebacker chase it down from the back side. I have no idea why anyone thought this was a good play call against this particular defense. You want your linemen on their safety, you don’t want their safety 1 on 1 with your running back in the backfield.
This is what I don’t want to see on Saturday out of the K-State run game. This play takes forever long to develop and invites the attacking Mountaineer defense to make a tackle for loss. This isn’t a defense where you can wait, wait, wait, and then make a cut because you’re going to have 2 or 3 linebackers or safeties on top of you before you get the opportunity to get going. You have running backs moving horizontally attempting to block linebackers attacking vertically, and that’s never going to end well.
You can run on West Virginia. In fact, I encourage K-State to run on West Virginia on Saturday, because Will Grier can’t beat you sitting on the bench. You do, however, have to run the right way against West Virginia. You need to be the aggressor and get their smaller, quicker players moving backwards instead of letting them fly up the field and create havoc in the backfield.
If the ball crosses the line of scrimmage quickly, it’s to your advantage. The ball stays in the backfield, the Mountaineers are going to swarm you under.
I hope to see a few West Virginia safety being scraped off the field on Saturday.