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Wisconsin football: How Run game breakdowns cost Badgers vs. BYU

Alright, so last weekend sucked.

Glad we got that out of the way! While I’m definitely not here to pile on, I just wanted to take a look at a couple of the plays that really took the wind out of the sails of the Badgers’ weekend and see what went wrong.

The first play (video here) we’re gonna look at was the second play of BYU’s second drive. After Wisconsin just scored on a Taiwan Deal touchdown run to go up 7–0, BYU took over looking to compound some of the success it found using the jet sweep and reverse jet motion on the first drive.


Here Wisconsin is in its nickel personnel with only two defensive tackles and Zack Baun and Noah Burks playing outside linebackers. T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly are in the box at the two linebacker positions and redshirt freshman Scott Nelson rolled down into the box as the third linebacker.

The Badgers show Cover 1 Man with D’Cota Dixon nearly out of the screen as the deep safety and sophomore Madison Cone covering the slot receiver to the left. As the slot receiver goes in motion, Dixon rotates down from his single high safety spot and Cone rotates back up to the spot, essentially switching places.

The Badgers have seven guys in the box, and with BYU in 11 personnel, Wisconsin theoretically has a guy for every gap created by the Cougars.

Narrator: It didn’t end up that way.


This is about a second into the play. The right tackle runs Baun out of the paint by simulating jet sweep. BYU 61 (LG) and 66 (C) pull because of down blocks by the left tackle and the center. Connelly plays his gap, but unfortunately he gets cut off by the wall of humanity. Olive Sagapolu and Kayden Lyles get pinned backside by the down blocks, and 61 takes on Nelson with 66 wrapping around for Edwards.

But what happened to Burks, you ask? Well … he’s no longer occupying the play-side C gap. Rather, he’s in the lap of Sagapolu in the play-side A gap. There’s the massive hole Squally Canada got to run through, untouched, until Cone missed a tackle attempt over 10 yards downfield.

Not great!

BYU used jet sweep effectively enough throughout the game that Edwards and Connelly were never comfortable, something you rarely see.

An example of that is here, following the second Deal touchdown rush of the game. The first offensive play of the drive, BYU comes out in a tight bunch formation to the left and fakes the jet sweep to the right.


Here you’ve got Wisconsin in the same nickel personnel on defense, with BYU in 11 personnel, just in a different formation than the first play.

Now, here’s a perfect example of the bind that this play can put a defense in, if the jet sweep is executed correctly.


As you can see, BYU has about everything covered up. 61 and 66 are double-teaming up to Nelson, and 69 and 71 are double teaming up to Edwards. This is where the bells and whistles of BYU’s run game come in.

Baun is unblocked on the edge, but the BYU blocker somewhat hidden behind QB Tanner Mangum is headed to kick him out. So it’s a basic split zone concept with the jet sweep added to confuse the defense. Here’s the problem; Connelly is in position here to tackle Canada on the inside zone. He’s the guy one-on-one in the box to account for the running back. Instead, he gets pulled in by the jet sweep. Look where he ends up:


By the time Connelly realizes he made a mistake (he’s behind Baun getting kicked out here), a huge hole has been created by the BYU offensive line, and Canada is off to the races.

The bottom line is BYU out-Wisconsin’ed the Badgers last Saturday. It wasn’t Paul Chryst’s fault, it wasn’t Alex Hornibrook’s fault, it wasn’t the defense’s fault. The Badgers simply weren’t the better team last weekend. Contrary to popular belief, the other team is on scholarship, too.

If Wisconsin wants to rebound, as it’ll need to, in Iowa City and somehow survive a night game in Kinnick, the Badgers will need improved eye discipline from their inside linebackers and improved play along the defensive line.

One thing I’d count on from a Chryst team: it won’t make the same mistake twice. Chryst is typically incredibly effective at maintaining his players’ focus on each and every opponent throughout the season. Was last week an example of Wisconsin looking past BYU? Or was it a simple matter of 18-to-22-year-olds not always being consistent (I’m glad I was never 18–22)?

Either way, Wisconsin will be ready to play on Saturday night. It’ll be a physical, violent game. Just how the Badgers like it.

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