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NEVER STOP SCORING: THE COASTAL CAROLINA OFFENSE, EXPLAINED
Why have the Chanticleers lost just one game since 2019? Lots of offense. Also, a quick look at Thursday night MACtion.
Image from goccusports.com
Nothing’s worse on a football field than confusion. Blow an assignment, miss a gap, and you—yes, you, personally—are in big trouble.
Coastal Carolina, the 16th-ranked team in America, thrives on big trouble.
Big trouble is what our Buffalo Bulls want to avoid this weekend, as Rachel Lenzi points out in The Buffalo News:
On defense, players admitted Monday that communication (in Saturday’s 28-3 loss to Nebraska) was an issue, and an area that needed quick improvement as the Bulls prepare to face Coastal Carolina, a team that wields a productive, spread-option offense that confounds opponents, some whose coaching staffs spend months preparing to defend it.
“It’s communicating, and making sure we put an emphasis on that, because it really hurt us last Saturday,” UB defensive tackle George Wolo said.
Coastal Carolina is fourth in the nation in scoring (50.5 points per game) and averages 535 yards per game; the Chanticleers are tied with Maryland for 13th in the nation in total offense.
“Practices are a lot more physical this week because the run reps go up a lot more,” Wolo said. “It’s focusing on an assignment base because when you’ve got an offense that does a lot of movement, you’ve got to focus more on your gap and what you’re doing, on top of everything else, because that’s when guys get confused.”
So what is it that Head Coach Jamey Chadwell and Coastal Carolina do to create such chaos?
Turning the Speed Option Up To 11
“The offense, for all intents and purposes, is a triple-option unit,” PFF.com’s Seth Galina explained last December. “It may look a little different than Army, Navy or Air Force, but Coastal is trying to gain the same advantages against defenses that those three schools are already getting…
“Instead of being under center and playing with a fullback and two running backs, the Chanticleers are a pistol team with usually one more receiver on the field rather than a true fullback.
“Speed option, trap, triple option and whatever other favorite concept you like from those service academy schools exist in this Coastal offense.”
OK, cool, we’ve seen Army and Navy run the ball a million different ways. Let’s break down what we just read.
THE PISTOL: Madden players probably recognize the pistol formation as a scenario in which the QB is not quite in shotgun formation, but certainly not under center, as FootballAdvantage.com explains.
The Pistol formation is an offense that marries two other types of offenses together to make a new hybrid type of offense. The Pistol is a combination between the traditional Spread Offense run out of the shotgun formation and the Pro Style offense, which has two running backs lined up in various positions in the backfield. The Pistol formation has the look of a run-heavy offense, but it can also utilize some of the principles of the certain Spread Offenses to be more ‘pass happy.’
“A PISTOL TEAM WITH A RECEIVER:“ Here’s how it creates an advantage, according to Patrick Mayhorn of The Outside Zone.
Coastal Carolina frequently deploys unique two-back, split backfield looks, with those two halfbacks lining up all over in the backfield along with quarterback Grayson McCall. Without a ton of talent at receiver (editor’s note - the notable exception being WR Javon Heiligh, a 2020 All 1st-Team Sun Belt selection), Coastal Carolina does runs a ton of 21 personnel (editor’s note - 21 personnel means two RBs and 1 TE), because it means getting two very good halfbacks in (Reese White) and Shermari Jones along with a good tight end in Isaiah Likely all onto the field at the same time. This is mostly a running team on top of that, so the extra blocking on the field goes a long way for creating space for the ball carrier.
So let’s review:
Coastal’s offense generally consists of a QB (McCall) playing out of the pistol formation flanked by two RBs (White and Jones), along with the heavy use of a TE (Likely) and a pair of WRs (Heiligh and Kameron Brown, albeit rarely utilized as a pass-catcher).
Still on the same page? Great.
Image from goccusports.com
Here’s where things get trickier.
McCall is a very smart QB, and a very good runner (he rushed for nearly 600 yards in 2020). This makes his use of the run-pass option (RPO) we’ve heard so much about over the past few years—a designed running play in which the QB can decide to hand off, pass, or run the ball himself, based on his read of the defensive ends and linebackers—particularly dangerous.
And because the team is loaded with weapons—
McCall has thrown for 32 TDs and rushed for 705 yards in his last 13 games;
RBs White, Jones, and Braydon Bennett have combined for 390 rushing yards and eight TDs this season;
Likely is a 6’4, 240 beast who averages 10.4 yards per catch;
Heiligh has 255 yards and two TDs in his last two games, averaging over 21 yards per reception;
—every formation the team shows presents immediate problems for the defense.
Against shotgun teams, defenses will sometimes set their defense according to where the running back is aligned because it’s usually a major tell. If a back is offset to the right, the ball usually goes to the left because he has to run across the quarterback to get the ball. However, with some unique formations and footwork, the two-back Chanticleers offense has the ability to hand the ball off to either back to either side.
Or they might just throw it.
Image from goccusports.com
(His) throwing mechanics are clean, has a high release and the ball comes out with a tight spiral. Ball has a bit of jump out of the hand, good zip overall...arm talent is above average and would play in the NFL. He’s able to throw outside the numbers with velocity and get the ball to the target on time. Was asked to command the short-intermediate parts of the field and had good ball placement. He has the ability to win within the pocket, feels pressure and steps up to deliver throws. Does a good job slipping out of sacks.
And he’s throwing to Heiligh, a three-star recruit from Venice, Florida, that Buffalo wanted (he was offered a scholarship in May 2016), who pulled in 998 yards and 10 TDs in 2020.
Oh, and by the way, in 2020, Football Outsiders rated the Chanticleers’ offensive line eighth nationally for rushing yards on passing downs (which makes sense), and in the top 30 in advanced stats for yards per carry.
The group also ranked among the top 50 in advanced pass blocking statistics, no mean feat considering these linemen don’t even know if they’re pass blocking until, you know, they’re pass blocking.
It’s also interesting to note that the entire 2020 group is back this season, including three grad students, a senior, and a sophomore (LG Willie Lampkin) considered one of the top prospects in the Sun Belt.
How do you stop the unstoppable offense?
By and large, you don’t. Their only loss since 2019 was to Liberty in the 2020 Cure Bowl, a game in which the Flames jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead and then held on for dear life, blocking a 42-yard OT FG attempt to preserve a pulse-pounding 37-34 win over the #14 Chanticleers.
The key takeaway? Luck, really. The Flames benefited from:
A rare McCall INT Liberty was able to turn into a TD;
Overcoming a last-minute fumble when the Flames were on the verge of putting the game away in regulation;
The blocked kick, of course;
A huge effort from Liberty QB Malik Willis, a legit NFL prospect who posted 357 yards of offense and four rushing TDs.
Basically, you either need to go toe-to-toe with one of the most prolific offenses in football, or figure out a way to keep the ball away from them.
With Kevin Marks, Jr., Ron Cook, Jr., and Dylan McDuffie leading UB’s run game, maybe that’s the solution.
Thursday Night MACtion: Ohio at Louisiana
Image from ragincajuns.com
Ohio has been one of the biggest disappointments of the early MAC season. The Bobcats were whipped by Syracuse, 29-9, in their season opener in Athens, and promptly rebounded with another home loss to FCS Duquesne. Yikes.
“It was not the outcome we wanted,” Ohio coach Tim Albin said in a massive understatement. “You have got to give credit to (Dukes) coach (Jerry) Schmidtt, who did a great job out-executing us. …He did a nice job calling the game for them and played to his strengths, and we could not get enough stops defensively against them.
”So, moving forward, we're going to have 12 hours, we're going to have to make the corrections and rely on the elders of the civil team and coaching staff to get these things addressed to get ready to play a really good football team, Louisiana Lafayette.”
Inspiring (and kind of confusing?) stuff, especially since Louisiana dropped the “Lafayette” from its name in 2017.
Duquesne, an FCS team and a 28.5-point underdog, outgained the Bobcats 362-307 and held onto the ball for over 41 minutes. Yes, that’s right.
Darius Perrantes passed for one touchdown and ran for another, the Duquesne defense stopped a two-point conversion attempt with less than 10 seconds remaining and the FCS Dukes defeated Ohio 28-26 on Saturday.
It was Duquesne's first victory over an FBS opponent in program history.
After Duquesne (1-1) built a 28-20 lead on Brian Bruzdewicz's 27-yard field goal with two minutes, 46 seconds remaining, Ohio (0-2) drove 67 yards, capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Kurtis Rourke to Ty Walton with nine seconds remaining. Rourke's two-point pass was broken up by Tim Lowery.
Bruzdewicz kicked four field goals and the Dukes also scored on a safety. Perrantes completed 23 of 34 passes for 194 yards. His passing touchdown was a 3-yard hookup with Joey Isabella, giving the Dukes a 25-13 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Ohio responded with a 10-play, 71-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by Rourke. He also completed 14 of 22 passes for 168 yards. The Dukes took 7:59 off the clock with a drive that ended with Bruzdewicz's fourth field goal (in four tries) and their eight-point lead.
Ohio's De'Montre Tuggle returned the opening kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown and his 15-yard touchdown run finished off Ohio's first offensive possession for a 13-3 lead early in the first quarter.
Louisiana (1-1), on the other hand, is a competent football team. Well, sort of. The Ragin’ Cajuns started the season ranked, lost to Texas, 38-16, in a game that turned out to be much less interesting than initially expected, and then held on to beat FCS Nicholls, 27-24, last weekend.
Cajuns QB Levi Lewis is on the cusp of glory, needing eight passing TDs to set the program record (the current mark of 64 is held by Ragin' Cajun and Carolina Panthers legend Jake Delhomme).
Louisiana has a top-20 passing offense (293 yards per game) and enters the game a 20-point favorite. I’d bet the house on the Cajuns, considering Ohio’s lackluster performance to date, but what do I know—I bet on Akron last week.
Enjoy the game!