What Went Wrong? Colorado 2001

I have two games that I know for sure I was going to go over in this series, and what better one than the game that haunts any Husker fan old enough to have seen it. Nebraska was 11-0 and working on heading to the BCS championship game. But in the blink of an eye, Colorado was up 28-3 in the first quarter and ran for over 200 yards in the first half against the Blackshirts.

Sorry for that memory, it’s one we all try to forget for various reasons. But when Shawn Watson was hired to Nebraska, naturally myself and others wanted to relive the pain and asked him “what the fuck happened?”

It was a pretty short answer, but he said “we figured out real early that when we motioned, Nebraska left an entire gap unaccounted for in some capacity.” I was pretty stunned, because for as successful as our defense was back then, surely some other team could have caught on to it by then? After all, Nebraska played Bob Stoops and Oklahoma, they played Notre Dame.

Quite frankly I didn’t believe it was that easy. I didn’t believe that’s what it was. So I had to go back and watch it. Here we are with the first play for Colorado… Nebraska stuffs the thing:

We looked pretty good there in my opinion. But of course… there was no motion. No way, I still don’t believe it. So I move forward in the game and they complete a pass or two, I think they even used motion once to not much success. Then this play happens:

It’s tough to see as we didn’t have the camera angles that we do now, but the motion across and behind the LOS brings the top safety flying down to take care of him. What you can’t see is the back half of the defense on the bottom that is rotating back and up. This creates a hole big enough to drive a semi through. And #3 (Keyuo Craver) is the only even close to in that gap. The run ends up through the A gap (between the center and guard), so if our corner is responsible for that, we are in trouble. If someone screwed up with the motion, it happened all day.

But that just had to be a bad play and somewhat of a fluke, right? So here’s another motion play early in the game. This gives a better showing of what happens on the back end, as you can see the safety flying up to take care of the motion that doesn’t come all the way across his way. He’s dead in the water sprinting up to take care of something that doesn’t show:

So now i’m really intrigued, because that’s twice with motion they destroyed us. I decide to go forward to how they score on us next, and sure as the day is long, some motion to get us moving everywhere and a giant hole for the RB to run through. On this one, you watch one of our guys move all the way from the top of the screen to the bottom, where he gets sealed off and apparently our safety that’s all the way up on the top hash marks is responsible for a gap all the way to the bottom of the field and offensive line.

Pretty unbelievable. I was so dumbfounded I was looking for Dr Kavorkian’s number, and I realized all I had to do was find one to show just how in trouble we were. This one shows a great shot from directly behind the line. You see a fullback/TE motion in from the WR position up top, and the hole opens, but we do have a linebacker there. Gap accounted for. However, with the motion and additional blocker (fullback referenced) it creates two gaps in the hole because Purify can choose which way to cut off of the ISO block.

Now, there’s a DL stunt there, and we get blown off the ball a bit, but I mean that’s all sorts of bad. I’ll just give one more for good measure, but basically the exact same thing. Motion a guy in, bring another gap into play, and we are all types of screwed:

So there you have it. While Colorado was able to get some passing touchdowns on us as well, the use of motion enabled the Buffaloes to score the most points on our defense in the history of our program.

With that said, I think he was giving himself a little too much credit as there were some other things at play looking at the point of attack. But when I went back and re-watched the game, it was tough to call him full of it based on what I saw. Miami didn’t need that kind of help to pick us apart.

But you see why teams like Wisconsin always do the TE trade thing, or quick motions, if you change the amount of gaps on either side of the center, a defense has to think on the fly. That can create massive issues like what we saw in Boulder.

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9 thoughts on “What Went Wrong? Colorado 2001

  1. Wow, that’s interesting. So that’s the start of our inability to make adjustments in games for the last 20 years. Just kidding – sort of 🙂

    What shouldve been the quicker counter there, playing more zone based assignments maybe?

    1. I really think Watson gave himself too much credit because we were losing at the point of attack a bit. Many times with motions you check cover 3 instantly so that you’re not having to chase guys. But some of those holes make me think we had 3 gaps not accounted for instead of just 1. But literally anything else should have happened lol

  2. I remember that game like it was yesterday. Holes so big, I could of run for a buck fifty against the Blackshirts that day. Hard to believe they couldnt make adjustments to it at the time, but it was like they were in a state of shock when it was happening. It didnt help we then played what is arguably the most talented college team of all time in the ‘Canes the game after that….I feel those two games were the beginning of the end for the Huskers as we knew it.

  3. To be as sound as the Blackshirts were back in the day, the staff must have been decent at adjustments. They just never figured it out during the 01 game? Or was it snowball effect and momentum?

    1. This was Craig Bohl’s second year, so maybe not as good at adjustments as McBride. But to your point and maybe something I didn’t illustrate enough, those holes seemed much bigger than a gap not being accounted for. Meaning, I think our guys were getting knocked back a bit AND we had some misalignments after motion. It’s really tough to fix that stuff on the fly.

      Reminds me a bit of the Wisky CCG where our safety was responsible for setting the edge on their fly sweeps from 10 yards deep. It literally couldn’t be done, but to change our entire scheme mid-game was almost impossible.

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