After Week 11 wrapped up, I’m not so sure if any of the ‘Canes fanbase that was crying for Butch Davis as the head coach still wanted him. In the Shula Bowl, Florida Atlantic pounded Davis’ FIU squad 37-7 and left the Panthers ranked 100th per the SP+. FIU’s offense is 102nd, the defense 78th and the kicking game is 86th per Bill Connelly’s metric.
Miami, on the other hand, was ranked 27th with the 61st rated offense, 16th ranked defense, and an improving kicking game that’s crawled up to 79th per the SP+. Miami is currently 6-4 as both teams are coming off of a bye week.
Florida International quarterback James Morgan has been efficient averaging only 7.3 yards per pass attempt but he’s thrown 10 touchdowns with only two interceptions. His favorite targets aren’t exactly game breaking deep threats. Hurricane legacy Tony Gaiter IV averages only 12.3 yards per catch but wide receiver Shemar Thornton has four touchdowns through the air. On the ground Anthony Jones and Napoleon Maxwell share duty in the backfield. They’ve combined for over 1,100 yards and have averaged 4.8 and 5.4 yards per carry with 14 touchdowns.
On defense, the entire Panthers squad has as many sacks as Miami defensive end Greg Rousseau (12). Linebacker Jamal Gates leads FIU with 66 tackles, and defensive lineman Teair Tart leads the Panthers with 8.5 tackles for loss.
Miami has a few players I expect to have big games against a weaker FIU team. Greg Rousseau, Jonathan Garvin, Al Blades Jr, Shaq Quarterman, Deejay Dallas, Dee Wiggins, and Cam’Ron Harris are just a few that should make huge plays against a less athletic Panthers squad.
Inside Base Zone
When Larry Coker became the offensive coordinator at Miami, we saw a ton of faked end arounds off a z-motion, where the quarterback handed the ball to the tailback before the fake. At FIU the offense hasn’t changed a ton, except it’s in the shotgun.
An Inside base zone play seems to be the Panthers staple run and it’s mine too. I love base zone because it allows the QB to post-snap RPO without having to pull the ball (yes, an offense can tag RPO’s without the QB having to run- wow!).
Our RB’s first read is to hit the play side A-gap. Our center should help to the 2nd level linebacker, while our h-back steps flat down the line before turning up into the hole and blocking the inside linebacker to his side. Once through the line of scrimmage, the back cuts off of his 2nd level blocks.
The running back’s rules on inside zone are to 1- run slow to the hole, and fast through the hole or “slow to, fast through.” The 2nd rule is “bang, bend, bounce.” We tell our running back to treat each hole like it has a dot on the ground. If the dot in the play side A-gap is uncovered by a defensive lineman, we hit that hole or “bang.” If the dot in the A-gap is covered, we look to the play side B-gap or “bounce.” If the two play side gaps are covered we cut back or “bend.”
As you can see in the GIF from FIU against FAU, the back’s dots for the play side are occupied by aggressive FAU defensive linemen and the back “bends” back, cuts off the block and hits a nice back side hole.
Attacking the FIU defense
FAU chooses to run into a 7-man box and really the running back does miraculous work as this play is shut down immediately. On 1st and 10 I would prefer to have my twins receivers into the field, and h-back into the boundary but you don’t have to. The way to run an RPO tag in the boundary is to call a “now” screen. The slot receiver (inside) will block out on the most dangerous man (MDM) and the outside receiver will come back a couple of quick steps to the QB. This makes the QB’s throw easier, the ball arrive quicker, and it’s less obvious of who is getting the ball and where he’s headed with it.
Typically the post-snap read would be overhang linebacker, but with him being out to the field over the h-back this is a time to read the CB and just about auto throw it. Even if you’re getting a cover 2 cornerback who is playing the flat hard, the block coming inside-out from the slot receiver makes it an easier block than a typical stalk-bubble RPO.
In the GIF below, even with the CB off and the flat defender pressed, it makes this an easy 5-6 yard gain on the “now” RPO. If the receiver works outside harder and faster, this could break for a touchdown.
One of the hardest parts of being an offensive coordinator is recognizing What is Open? (read the book here) in real-time. As an O.C. in the modern era you have to attack space.
One space that could be open, and in a huge way, is the space behind the flat defender to the bottom of the screenshot. If he chases the bubble, like I would expect, the “sit down” would be there. That sit down I like to call a “Stop” concept. It’s easy word association for the players that the outside receiver stops and sets up where the flat defender vacated.
On the top of the screen a nice smash concept could come open. I would prefer a whip route outside rather than a traditional hitch with my inside receiver running a corner route. It was a deadly weapon for me this year as my slot ran up almost 1,500 receiving yards on bubbles, corners and sails. The whip makes the cornerback commit much harder than a simple hitch where he can bail and run directly forward to rally to the ball. Now he’s got to open his hips and declare much earlier.
Miami should curb stomp Butch Davis and FIU all the way back to Riccardo Silva Stadium. Jarren Williams should be able to have plenty of time against a weak pass rush, Deejay Dallas should be able to run wild as the Panthers struggle to tackle at all let alone in space, and an FIU defensive back sticking with Dee Wiggins or Mike Harley seems impossible at this point.
The Panthers are a bad team in a bad conference and shouldn’t stand a chance.
Prediction: Miami by 20