I want to go back to something Seth Emerson posted a couple of days ago.
Remember last season when it was said in some quarters — like here — that Georgia should use the shotgun and spread more, because its quarterback is more comfortable in that setup? Well, Georgia became just that in this game … even though the quarterback was different.
Here was my best attempt at charting each Georgia formation, and the result of each play. (Note: Yardage gains may be approximate, as may be some descriptions of play formations. I’m trying to get this posted before my power goes out):
- Shotgun, four-wide, one tailback: 10-yard completion, rush for no gain, incomplete (penalty, PI), 2-yard gain, incomplete, Chubb 10-yard run, Godwin TD catch, Ridley 5-yard catch, Chubb loss of 1 yard, interception, incomplete, Fromm scramble and loss of 2 yards, incomplete, Michel 4-yard run, Michel 1-yard catch, Nauta 8-yard catch, incomplete.
- Shotgun, three-wide, one TE, one tailback: Chubb 30-yard run, 31-yard completion to Godwin, incomplete, Swift completion loss of 4 yards, Michel gain of 13, Michel gain of 4 yards, Michel 1-yard gain, 2-yard completion, Michel 1-yard run, Fromm 5-yard scramble, Michel 1-yard run, 9-yard completion to Ridley, incomplete, Chubb 1-yard run, Chubb 12-yard run, Chubb screen for 12 yards, Michel 3-yard run, incomplete, Herrien 2-yard gain, incomplete, Michel 6-yard TD run, Chubb 1 run, Hardman 5-yard screen catch, Michel no gain.
- Shotgun, three-wide, two tailbacks: Michel gain of 10.
- Shotgun, bunched, two TE, two WR, one back: Hardman forward lateral catch for 8 yards, Hardman forward lateral catch for 4 yards.
- Shotgun, two-wide, two TE, two WR, one back: Fromm muffed handoff/fumble. Chubb 3-yard run.
- Shotgun, three wide, two offset in backfield: Woerner 3 yard catch, Wims 30-yard catch.
- Pistol, two-wide, one TE, two-back: 4-yard completion.
- Pistol, two-wide, one TE, two backs: Incomplete.
- Pistol, three-wide, one TE, one back: Chubb loss of 2, Chubb 5-yard run.
- Pistol, two backs, three wide: Michel17-yard run.
- Bunched two TE, one back, one WR outside, Swift offset: 15-yard gain (holding penalty, Blazevich hold), Swift 37-yard run, Hardman 7-yard run, Chubb 1-yard run.
- Bunched two-TE, two back, one WR: Chubb 1-yard run.
- Wild Dawg (no other back, three wide, one TE): Michel 2-yard gain.
- Wild Dawg (two-wide, one TE, Hardman with two other backs): Hardman lost 2 yards.
- Wild Dawg (two other backs, three wide): Herrien lost 1 yard.
- I-formation, bunched: Incomplete, Michel 6-yards on pitch-out.
- I-formation, two WR right: Chubb 1-yard run, Payne 4 yard run, Payne 7 yard run, Pass and sack, Payne no gain.
- Victory formation: Kneel, kneel, kneel.
Note: On a lot of those shotgun sets the tailback was off-set a couple yards from the QB, so it was quasi-pistol.
By my count, that’s seventeen different formations before Fromm took a knee to close the game out. Further, as Seth pointed out, there were variations within the formations as to player placement.
That’s a lot of formations, especially when you consider that Georgia ran less than seventy plays against Notre Dame. Now it’s true that the end results were nothing to write home about (other than Georgia scoring more than the Irish did, that is), but I wonder if there was another method to Jim Chaney’s madness. Maybe this is what you do when you’re still trying to figure out what will work best with an offense that’s just beginning to fit all the parts together.
In other words, try as many things as you can, see what works best and do away with the rest. Or, if you prefer a cruder metaphor, throw a bunch of shit up against the wall and see what sticks.
One thing that apparently will stick is the ongoing abandonment of the I-formation, something I noted after the Appalachian State game. That’s not necessarily about committing to the passing game, either, although I still question letting Fromm throw the ball as much as he did Saturday night.
Georgia called most of its running plays out of the shotgun against Notre Dame. Judging by what a couple of key offensive contributors had to say Tuesday, expect more of this in the near future.
When it came to the run game, Georgia was primarily a shotgun-oriented team against the Fighting Irish. Excluding the three kneel-downs at the end of the game, the Bulldogs went with 29 run plays out of the shotgun compared to 11 from under center. And three of those under-center runs came when Georgia tried to run out the clock in the fourth quarter, prior to punting the ball to Notre Dame for its final offensive possession…
Chubb said the shotgun runs help because most of them are run-pass options, giving the quarterback the ability to pull the ball from the runner and attempt a throw if he sees something open up downfield.
“It helps because Jake has options to not give whoever the ball and pass the ball somewhere else,” Chubb said. “They have to be on their heels. They can’t worry too much about the run because it will hurt them with the pass.”
Smart hit on what remains the biggest problem on offense as a reason for Georgia’s increasing reliance on the shotgun formation.
Head coach Kirby Smart said that Georgia has worked diligently on softening the opposition’s box defenders. While this doesn’t directly correlate to the shotgun, that’s the best method to execute run-pass option plays. That, in essence, is why Georgia was so shotgun-heavy with its run game against the Irish.
Improving the run game has been a focal point since the 2016 season ended.
“It’s been a conscious effort to loosen up the box,” Smart said. “It doesn’t have to be the gun. I think most of the time when you open formations up, the gun helps you. Any time you throw RPOs, it helps to be from the gun because it’s hard to do that under center. So the conscious effort has been to loosen it up but not necessarily with the shotgun. But I think the two go hand in hand.”
Check out the big brain on Mr. Impose Your Will. Seriously, it’s changes like this in Smart’s thinking that make me want to believe he really has learned from his first-year mistakes. It’s great to have a coaching philosophy, but the best philosophy in the world can’t overcome personnel mismatches.
The best thing about this is that they were able to survive Notre Dame because the defense is far enough along that they could afford the luxury of tinkering with the offense. I’d expect more of the same this week against Samford, because… well, cupcake. The thing to watch is where the fine tuning takes them as, hopefully, they manage to develop some traction on the offensive line.