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Wake Forest vs. Army: Offensive Play Calling

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I broke down Wake Forest’s offensive game plan against Army.

Army v Wake Forest Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

I typically like to watch a horror film on Halloween, but instead of watching Friday the 13th I decided to rewatch Wake Forest’s offensive plays against Army. I wanted to discover whether Wake’s anemic offensive performance against Army was mostly due to play calling or execution. If you’re so inclined to go on the journey with me, let’s dive right in.

1st Quarter

Down Distance Yardline Outcome Notes
1 10 WF 16 9 yard pass to Carney Swing pass to Carney
2 1 WF 25 6 yard Wolford run Went with tempo, QB run for Wolford
1 10 WF 31 6 yard pass to Hines Tempo, PA swing pass to Hines
2 4 WF 37 8 yard run by Carney Off tackle, nice blocking
1 10 WF45 Incomplete to Bachman Bad decision to go deep to Bachman. Had an underneath option to the right.
2 10 WF 45 Interception intended for Serigne PA, good protection, Wolford threw it high on a 20 yard pass to Serigne. Wide Open. Probably should have been caught, but bad pass.
1 10 WF 20 3 yard Colburn run
2 7 WF 23 1 yard Colburn run
3 6 WF 24 Deep shot to Bachman incomplete Late throw, Bachman caught it but was out of bounds
4 6 WF 24 Delay of Game Unacceptable
4 11 WF 19 Punt Low snap
1 10 WF 10 48 yard pass to Hines PA, Tabari was open. 3 vertical routes. Carney went out late. High risk play.
1 10 Army 42 Interception Throw was well behind Tabari. Serigne open underneath
1 10 WF 23 9 yard run Wolford Fake screen and then draw
2 1 WF 32 1 yard run Wolford Quick run to get 1st
1 10 WF 33 2 yard Colburn run
2 8 WF 35 7 yard completion to Bachman
3 1 WF 42 0 yard Carney run Argenzio missed blitz of a linebacker
4 1 WF 42 Punt I would have gone for it.

Wake Forest showed balance in the 1st quarter, as the Deacs ran and threw 8 times each. For the most part I thought that the play calling was very good in this quarter. Wake utilized more tempo than usual on the opening drive, and was moving the ball well, but ended the drive on a bad interception by Wolford. The ball hit Serigne in the hands, but it was pretty high, and he was wide open. That pass absolutely should have been made.

The second drive was more conventional for Wake, as the first two plays of the drive we runs. Third down was questionable, as it was a deep shot to Bachman, but the camera angle made it difficult to see what other options (if any) were available. Having the delay on 4th down was unacceptable, and I’m guessing it was a product of having a relatively new long snapper.

Wake Forest began its third drive by converting on a deep vertical pass to Tabari Hines after a play-action. 3 receivers went vertical, and it’s unclear to tell if Carney was supposed to go on a delay route. This play obviously worked extremely well, as Wake gained 48 yards, but this was an all-or-nothing play design. Unfortunately Wolford threw well behind Tabari Hines on the next play and Army got another interception. Hines was open, and it appeared that Serigne was open on an underneath route. Hard to blame the play call on this one.

The 4th drive was a more conventional Wake offensive scheme, as we saw a draw by Wolford, another run by Colburn, and a short pass to Bachman. Wake failed to convert on a 3rd down rushing attempt because Charles Argenzio could not pick up a blitzing linebacker. Wake did not go for it on 4th-and-1 from its own 42, and I am very much against that decision.

2nd Quarter

Down Distance Yardline Outcome Notes
1 10 WF 40 Incomplete pass Wolford VERY fortunate. Should have taken sack. Carney missed block.
2 10 WF 40 Chuck Wade 4 yard rush Unique variation on triple option.
3 6 WF 44 5 yard reception by Wade Quick blitz. No real complaints
4 1 WF 49 Punt Again, I would have gone for it. Awful decision.
1 10 WF 31 7 yard reception by Serigne Wolford evaded pressure and hit Serigne
2 3 WF 38 15 yard run by Colburn on draw Only 6 in the box
1 10 Army 47 8 yard pass to Hines Quick swing pass to Hines who made defenders miss
2 2 Army 39 6 yard Wolford run Wolford draw
1 10 Army 33 Incomplete attempt for Bachman Wolford threw out of back of end zone. Incidental contact
2 10 Army 33 4 yard run for Colburn Run up gut
3 6 Army 29 13 yard run by Colburn Draw against blitz
1 10 Army 16 13 yard run by Wolford Design draw
1 G Army 3 3 yard TD pass to Hines Nice swing pass and nice blocking by Lewis
1 10 WF 41 5 yard pass to Bachman Comeback route. Defense played off
2 5 WF 46 6 yard pass to Colburn Swing pass and decent blocking outside
1 10 Army 48 False start on Phil Haynes
1 15 WF 47 5 yard Colburn run Up gut
2 10 Army 48 5 yard pass to Washington Sideline pass
3 5 Army 43 Wolford 1 yard run Rolled out left, and he didn't see anything open.
4 4 Army 42 False start on Ty Hayworth Wanted to go for it and agree with decision
4 9 Army 47 Agree with decision to punt once it became 4th and 9

I didn’t have any major complaints with the play-calling on the opening drive of the second half, but will say that Wolford was extremely fortunate not to turn it over when he attempted to throw it out of a sack. Carney needed to do a better job of blitz pick up, and that was unfortunately a theme throughout the game, but Wolford just needed to take the sack. I also liked the quasi triple option on second down, but I absolutely hated Wake’s decision to punt on 4th-and-1 from the Wake 49.

The second drive of the quarter was an excellent mix of runs and short passing attempts, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it resulted in Wake’s only touchdown of the game. Wake had a lot of timely draws, as well as some swing passes that got Tabari Hines the ball in space. If Wake ran this type of mix on every drive, I believe it would be a lot more efficient.

The key problems on the final drive of the quarter were the two false start penalties. Wake doesn’t have a good enough offense to overcome procedural penalties. Wake finished the quarter with 8 rushes and 9 passing attempts.

3rd Quarter

Down Distance Yardline Outcome Notes
1 10 Army 35 2 yard run by Carney Zone read, with potential option to pitch to Hines.
2 8 Army 33 2 yard pass to Hines Swing pass to Tabari, but only 1 additional blocker, so not much chance for success
3 6 Army 31 14 yard pass to Hines All receivers except for Carney were routes past the 1st down marker.
1 10 Army 17 -2 yard pass to Hines Ball thrown behind, but was also quickly anticipated by Army corner
2 12 Army 19 Incomplete to Cortez Essentially thrown away. Spikes said a route was run to end zone.
3 12 Army 19 Incomplete attempt to Hines Carney did a poor job of blitz pick up. Wolford hit on pass.
4 12 Army 19 Field Goal Good decision to kick
1 10 WF 20 Holding on Colburn Wolford connected with Bachman on comeback route, but Colburn held after getting beat.
1 20 WF 10 27 yard pass to Serigne PA wheel route
1 10 WF 37 7 yard pass to Bachman Out route to Bachman
2 3 WF 44 7 yard run by Wolford Draw by Wolford who followed Colburn
1 10 Army 49 Incomplete to Bachman Deep shot to Bachman. Got tripped up, but should have caught it. Nice throw.
2 10 Army 49 14 yard reception by Colburn God blocks by Serigne and Lewis. Good broken tackle by Colburn.
1 10 Army 35 Incomplete pass to Washington Colburn picked up blitz well. Play originally ruled a touchdown. Washington did a nice job of going to get it, but then took his right hand off of the ball for zero good reason when rolling over.
2 10 Army 35 8 yard pass to Wade Good blitz pick up and screen pass to Wade.
3 2 Army 27 - 1 yard draw by Wolford Play broke down immediately after the blitz and Wolford got stuffed.
4 3 Army 28 Missed FG Don't hate the decision to kick it. Pushed it badly to the right.
1 10 WF 25 4 yard run by Wolford Fake swing pass and a draw
2 6 WF 29 - 3 yard run by Colburn Play blown up off right guard and right tackle
3 9 WF 26 Incomplete pass to Bachman Can't tell what was on the left side of the field, but Wolford looked at Bachman the entire way.
4 9 WF 26 Punt Outstanding punt

In the second half I thought that Wake went away from its offensive identity. The Deacs finished the quarter with 13 passing attempts, to just 5 rushes, which is not a recipe for success.

Wake’s first drive began in Army territory after Duke Ejiofor recovered a fumble forced by Thomas Brown. I liked the first several plays of the drive, but once Wake got inside the red zone I thought there were too many throws just to the end zone, instead of any underneath or short routes. It’s certainly harder to call plays in the red zone, but Wake has to be able to take advantage of the red zone opportunities that they do get.

This next drive was incredibly frustrating, and had it gone differently I think Wake Forest wins this game. I’ll skip right to the originally ruled touchdown pass to Scotty Washington. Wolford threw a nice ball where Washington could go up and get it. At 6’5”, he’s meant for those kinds of plays. He caught it, and even came down with it, but then made the mental mistake of not finishing the play and taking his right hand off the ball as he was rolling over, which caused him to lose control and not maintain possession long enough. It’s easy for me to sit here with my laptop and criticize, but that was a mental mistake. He did the extremely difficult part, but just needed to focus for another half second. If he holds on, then Wake goes up 10 and I don’t think they look back. This mistake was made worse after Mike Weaver pretty badly pushed a 45-yard attempt.

Army’s defense played pretty well on Wake’s final drive of the quarter and blew up a few of Wake’s attempts.

4th Quarter

Down Distance Yardline Outcome Notes
1 10 WF 20 Incomplete pass to Bachman Took a deep shot and threw into double coverage. Underthrown. Not many intermediate routes.
2 10 WF 20 Incomplete pass to Hines Rolled out and didn't have much of an angle. Had Serigne underneath, but he has primarily a blocker.
3 10 WF 20 9 yard pass to Bachman Comeback route. Bachman probably should have been given a 1st due to forward progress.
4 1 WF 29 3 yard run by Carney Not sure why we went for this, but didn't go for it on other 4th and short situations from midfield.
1 10 WF 32 -2 yard pass to Carney Swing pass that had no chance. Army had defensive numbers. Predictable.
2 12 WF 30 Incomplete to Bachman Incomplete to Bachman. Mostly well defended.
3 12 WF 30 Interception Miscommunication. Wolford thought Bachman should have run deeper.
1 10 WF 35 10 yard pass to Bachman Comeback route. Underthrown, but good effort from Bachman
1 10 WF 45 False Start by Anderson
1 15 WF 40 13 yard pass to Bachman Sideline pass.
2 2 Army 47 11 yard pass to Lewis He's finally targeted. Good diving catch.
1 10 Army 36 Incomplete pass intended for Lewis Bad timing of the throw
2 10 Army 36 Deep shot to Lewis Thrown to double coverage and under thrown.
3 10 Army 36 20 yard run by Wolford Scramble on a broken play and Tyler Bell blocked well down field.
1 10 Army 16 Incomplete pass to Bachman Well thrown ball to the back corner of the end zone. Army got away with interference.
2 10 Army 16 Incomplete to Bachman Don't agree with sending all receivers to the end zone.
3 10 Army 16 Incomplete pass to Bachman Ball thrown late and out of bounds
4 10 Army 16 Field Goal Smart decision to kick the field goal and cut it to 1 possession.

I was incredibly disappointed in and confused by Wake’s opening drive of the 4th quarter. Wake got the ball on its own 20 with nearly 12 minutes left and down only 4, yet acted like it was the final minute of the game. They immediately took a deep shot to Bachman who was in double coverage. If Wake is going to throw all of these deep balls, which they shouldn’t do, then they should be thrown to Cortez, Washington, or Tabari. They need to be thrown to someone with size or leaping ability. Wake went for it on 4th and 1 from their own 29. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the decision, but it’s puzzling why Wake went for this one, yet punted on 4th and 1 from the 49 yard line. The conversion was for naught, however, as Wolford thew an interception several passes later. In Wolford’s defense, it appeared that Bachman ran an incorrect route.

It’s difficult to complain too much about the final drive because Wake’s hand was forced. Wake was down 11 points with just under 3 minutes to go. They were essentially forced to throw on every play. My only complaints were that once again when Wake got into the red zone they did nothing but throw passes to the end zone. I realize that time is part of that, but it really crowds the field.

Overall

I thought that Wake tried to do too much against Army. Had Wake Forest stuck with balance, then I think the offense would have been a lot more successful. Wake had success rates (staying on schedule) above 50% in each of the first two quarters, but were below 35% during the second half. The national average for isoPPP (a measurement of passing explosiveness) is 1.48, and Wake’s was just 1.07 on Saturday despite the number of deep shots taken. That’s a sign that Wake isn’t meant to play that way with this personnel. Alex Bachman was targeted 16 times, yet hauled in just 6 receptions. I’m not necessarily blaming Bachman for that, but there needs to be far more balance in targets. That will come from different play design, but that will also come from Wolford not locking onto one receiver, as he has a tendency to do. Wake has to get back to balance, even being run heavy, if the offense is going to be successful in the final month of the regular season.

I’ve given my take on Saturday’s plan and performance. What did you all think?