Ole Miss defeated Alabama 23-14 last Saturday in a big upset. Let’s take a look at how the Rebels attacked the talented Crimson Tide defense.
The Crimson Tide basically just played 2 deep coverage and dared Ole Miss to run the ball. They played relatively safe defense and avoided giving up too many big plays. Even though the Rebels did not have a big game on the ground statistically, they did a good job of taking what the defense gave them.
The Rebels called mostly packaged run/pass plays. While they only averaged 2.3 yards per rush, Ole Miss never abandoned their plan. They were patient, took the small gains, and avoided the big mistake. Then, when Alabama was lulled to sleep, they went over the top and hit on two really big pass plays that went for touchdowns and won the game. (You can read about these here)
Ole Miss used these option plays and mixed in some misdirection to beat the Alabama defense. They also did a very good job of creating favorable one on one matchups on the perimeter.
One of the plays Ole Miss used multiple times was a quarterback counter with a bubble screen option. Right before the snap, the running back would go in motion to the field. Quarterback Bo Wallace would read the middle linebacker to determine if he should throw the bubble screen or keep the ball himself.
The split end also ran a fade/hitch option route and Wallace could throw to him if the defense rotated a safety down and left the split end one on one with the corner.
In this example, Alabama was having trouble communicating. They had 11 players on the field, but their right defensive end (yellow box) thought he was the 12th man on the field and was running to the sideline when the ball was snapped. This left the Crimson Tide with only 10 defenders.
The middle linebacker flew outside to stop the screen, so Wallace kept the ball himself. With only four defenders left in the box, Wallace had a lot of room to run, and he gained 15 yards on the play.Ole Miss also ran a similar play multiple times. This play again has a bubble screen on the backside and a fade/hitch option route on the playside, but instead of a quarterback counter, Ole Miss ran a running back power. Wallace’s two reads here are the strongside linebacker and the free safety. If the linebacker came inside to stop the run, Wallace could throw the bubble screen. Since Alabama played mostly man coverage in this game, the bubble screen was not open often.
The second read is the strong safety. If he stays deep to defend the pass, then Wallace should hand the ball off. But if he comes down to tackle the runner, then Wallace can throw it to his split end because, with the safety in the box, the cornerback is now stuck on an island, one on one.Here, the safety crashed down to stop the running back. We can see that if he stayed deep, the running lane would’ve been open. But with him in the box, Wallace made the correct decision to throw the ball.
The corner was in press coverage, so split end Laquon Treadwell ran a fade route. Wallace threw a back shoulder pass and Treadwell made a great play to catch the ball. Ole Miss scored one of their three touchdowns on this concept, and you can read about it here.
The Rebels also attacked Alabama with a stick-draw packaged play. Tight end Evan Engram ran a stick route and the line blocked for a running back draw. Wallace’s job was to read the middle linebacker and decide if he should hand off to the back or throw the quick stick route.Here, the linebacker ran outside to cover the stick so Wallace handed the ball to running back Jaylen Walton.With the linebacker covering the stick, the middle was wide open and Walton gained 5 yards.While the packaged plays were effective, Ole Miss also had quite a bit of success isolating a receiver and hitting him on a quick pass. Alabama used mostly man coverage and was willing to let Ole Miss throw at their corners. The Rebels noticed this and used formation alignment to get the matchup they wanted.
Here, Ole Miss puts three receivers to the boundary and one to the field. Alabama shifted their linebackers to the boundary and left their corner on an island to the field. Receiver Vince Sanders just ran a quick slant route and Wallace hit him for a nice 7 yard gain.The Rebels also went the slant route on the backside of a running back swing screen. In the first half, the Rebels had some success throwing the swing screen. Here in the second half, they went back to the same play but attacked Alabama’s defense by throwing the slant.
The defenders all rotated to cover the swing. Treadwell won his one on one matchup and was able to get open on the slant for a 9 yard gain.Ole Miss not only isolated the split end, but also called some plays to get the tight end favorable matchups. Here, they ran a play that got tight end Evan Engram open on a corner route after using motion to distract the defense.
One of the plays Ole Miss ran multiple times was an inside zone read with a receiver coming in jet motion. Late in the game, Ole Miss lined up in the formation they had already ran this play from and brought the receiver in motion. The motion and misdirection was designed to freeze the linebackers so the tight end would be open on a corner route. Ole Miss was expecting man coverage, so if the linebacker responsible for Engram would hesitate for just one second, Engram would be open.
The Rebels got the result they wanted. The strong side linebacker took one step towards the run, and that cost him position to defend the pass.Engram broke out on his corner route and Wallace completed the pass to him for a nice 16 yard gain.
An interesting note is that Wallace missed his slot receiver wide open deep. The Crimson Tide safety bit hard on the jet motion and let the receiver get behind him. So while Wallace made a nice play to hit Engram, this could’ve gone for a lot more.On their final drive of the game, Ole Miss again used a fake jet sweep to get the ball on the edge. Here, the Rebels brought their flanker in motion and ran a buck sweep to Walton opposite the motion.The H-Back and tight end both completed their crack blocks and the two guards were able to pull around to the linebackers. Walton made a few defenders miss and picked up 9 yards on the play.Overall, Hugh Freeze and the Rebels coaching staff did a good job of creating a gameplan to beat Alabama. While the offense often only gained a handful of yards at a time, they kept Alabama off guard all game and took advantage of the weaknesses of the defense. These packaged plays help set up the big plays and touchdowns because Alabama was not ready for the deep pass over the top. While none of these plays I broke down here were huge gains, they illustrate the gameplan of Ole Miss and how they used quick hitting plays to attack Alabama.