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Duck Tape: Film Analysis of Montana

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A preview of Oregon’s week 3 opponent in Autzen

Jonathan Stewart returns a Montana kickoff for a touchdown, Sept. 10, 2005
@OregonFootball

I reviewed Montana’s 31-17 win over a pretty good South Dakota in the opener, but I wasn’t able to acquire film of their second game, a 61-17 rout of North Alabama. Reviewing the box score and play by play of their week 2 performance told me a few interesting things about pieces they may still be moving around, but outside of two long TD passes that the Griz defense gave up, it appears to be a wire-to-wire domination and I don’t think I’m missing much useful film.

Montana has been a pretty solid team under Coach Hauck, who was 80-17 there in his first stint from 2003-09, and looks like a well organized team with great fundamentals during the first two games of his return.


Montana v Idaho Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Offense

In the opener, Montana was a 3:1 pass-to-run offense, including 2:1 on 1st downs. But it’s not an air raid team, instead it looks like they want to be a balanced spread-option offense (relatively familiar to Pac-12 fans)… however, they just couldn’t run the ball against South Dakota. They wisely abandoned the run halfway through their fourth drive on the way to their first TD, instead relying on the strong arm of second-year starter #11 QB Sneed and a trio of quality receivers for the rest of the game.

I only counted seven deep shots taken over their 53 passes (almost all long-developing post routes when the pocket held up); instead mostly it was an efficiency passing game focused on short completions to the outside and relying on three excellent receivers to make plays after the catch:

  1. :00 - Play action pulls in the overhang backer and leaves this wheel by #16 WR Louie-McGee wide open.
  2. :17 - #8 WR Toure is his own blocker on this quick screen, with a humiliating juke of the DB.
  3. :32 - Here’s one of their half-dozen empty sets, in which #18 WR Akem gets the CB’s hips turned the wrong way before he cuts back and burns him.

In week 1, Montana had only six successful rushing plays, and their 10 failures quickly convinced them to stop running the ball. But in week 2 they restarted the rushing game from the get-go, and wound up running slightly more than passing. Also curious, after splitting time equally between #25 RB Eastwood and #21 RB Knight in the opener, against UNA five different backs got touches while the game was still competitive, and Eastwood didn’t get any carries until the final drive.

It’s hard for me to predict how their rushing game will be called tomorrow; it seems like there’s still some experimenting going on. Here’s a representative sample of what I did see:

  1. :00 - The DL closes down the inside run lane pretty effectively, so Knight bounces outside nicely … and check out Sneed corralling the high snap and then throwing the key block.
  2. :11 - They motion from the pistol to the offset just before the snap, something they did a lot. Sneed’s running the option here in a two-TE set, but his line gets pretty well abused and he probably should have pitched it, although possibly the timing is off because of a weird snap.
  3. :21 - More pre-snap motion and an even heavier three-TE set, but the left tackle gets walloped and the extra blockers don’t matter.


Montana v Idaho Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Defense

Oregon will face a 33 stack defense for the second straight week. I expect the principles to be mostly the same - disguising where the backers will be coming from with their alignment, and walking one up to form an even front in run and blitz situations.

In terms of per-play effectiveness, they were about 50/50 against both the run and the pass in week 1, and I think those numbers accurately reflect what I was seeing on film: a well coached team that carries out its assignments with discipline, but with some physical limitations on how fast and hard they can hit.

Unfortunately, there have been two injuries to key players that I’m uncertain the status of, #96 DE Rice and #7 CB Nash, and it’s hard to predict the impact those losses might have. Also complicating matters is that USD was shooting itself in the foot a whole lot (more than a quarter of successful defensive outcomes for Montana I thought were primarily attributable to USD errors), and the sloppy broadcast production just plain failed to show 13.5% of USD’s snaps in whole or in part.

What I can say with certainty is that they’ve got a tremendous linebacker, #33 LB Olson, who led all of Division-I last year with 151 tackles and was the only FCS player named to this year’s Butkus watch list. Some examples of his play:

  1. :00 - Great hit on this QB draw, accelerating to wrap up before the TE can come around to block.
  2. :08 - Olson flows through the hole smoothly and doesn’t let the RB spin out of the tackle.
  3. :22 - Look at that burst, then clean wrap up of the back’s legs to bring him down.