Believe it or not, the regular season is already 25% completed. Texas A&M defeated Nevada 44-27 at Kyle Field Saturday, and once again the offense had a fairly productive day but still had some lulls and mistakes.
Overall, the Aggies were successful on 40/76 plays (53%). 35 of the 76 plays were designed runs, and the Aggies were successful a whopping 69% of the time on those (24/35). 39 of the 76 plays were either passes, QB scrambles, or QB sacks, and on those plays, A&M was successful just 41% of the time (16/39). Two other plays (a busted play and a failed trick play) were unsuccessful.
The Aggies used eight different base formations against Nevada, which is more than normal. It is clear that A&M has chosen to diversify this year in regards to their formations and personnel groups. The new wrinkle that A&M did this week was subtle but important. Last week, A&M introduced what I called "shut trips" and "shut sloth," in which they used an attached tight end on the line of scrimmage instead of a split end.
This week, A&M at times moved the tight end to the other side of the formation, which makes the tight end now ineligible to catch a pass while making the offensive tackle now eligible. (For those that don't know, only the two outermost players, one on each side, that are on the line of scrimmage are eligible to catch a pass. Any other receiver who runs out must be lined up off of the line of scrimmage.)
A move like this is designed to keep the defense on their toes and hopefully take advantage of their mental mistake. A defender normally won't worry about an offensive tackle running out for a pass, and that is what A&M attempted to exploit by making the tackle eligible and then even throwing a pass to him.
Alas, it didn't work, but much like the throwback pass to Kyle Allen last week, it gives future defenses one more thing to work on and think about in practice.
The Aggies ran 41 plays out of 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end), and 29 out of 10 personnel (four wide receivers). Major shift this year versus prior years for A&M. This week also saw our first true five wide sets of the year (although technically A&M used five WR's one time against Ball State only to have the play wiped out by penalty).
Overall, the two most common formations for A&M were sloth (18 plays) and trips (17 plays), but these formation totals below are a massive departure from what A&M has done the last three years and against Arizona State.
Essentially, A&M has moved from being a primarily four wide receiver team that runs either spread or trips formations almost all of the time to a single back, single tight end team that still likes to go four wide a lot. For the season, A&M is running just over half their plays with 10 personnel, and about 43% with 11.
Kyle Allen played well against Nevada, accounting for five touchdowns and not only throwing the ball well, but looking increasingly comfortable running the read option. His decision making was very sharp and the Aggies ran various zone read plays numerous times. By my count, A&M ran zone read 16 times and was successful 13 times (81%). When Allen kept the ball, he was successful every single time (five attempts).
When passing, A&M continues to throw left more than right. Against Nevada, it was 23 passes to the left versus just 10 to the right (and two to the middle). 13 times, A&M targeted the X, with another eight passes going to the Y. It's still early, but I personally get the feeling Kyle Allen just feels more comfortable throwing to his left (the X position is on the left, and most of the Y targets come on the left). The numbers certainly bear that out so far.
Nevada rarely blitzed. Interestingly enough, only twice all game did they even bring six rushers, and both of those were when Kyler Murray was in.
Overall, the Aggies were incredibly successful (17/22, 77%) out of their various "shut" formations, the formations with a tight end on the line of scrimmage with no other receiver to that side. Conversely, A&M was incredibly unsuccessful from their basic spread formation, managing just one successful play on 12 attempts (8%). I'm not sure what to make of that, but I find it very interesting.
One thing you'll notice if you watch the Aggies is that they will run series of plays out of one formation, with subtle changes on each play. These are no doubt scripted ahead of time, and build on each other. Here's an example of that. On the fourth drive of the game, A&M runs three straight plays from their shut trips formation. The only thing that varies is the running back alignment.
That last one, the pass to Christian Kirk, is a good play to break down. A&M runs what is generally called a flood play. The idea is to flood one side of the field with a short, a medium, and a long route. As you can see below, Nevada's defensive alignment puts the underneath defender in a bind.
He chooses to take away the short route, and that leaves the medium route wide open.
Here's another subtle but effective wrinkle. On the 10 yard touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds in the 3rd quarter, A&M had trips into the boundary. But while A&M usually lines the outside receiver up on the line of scrimmage, this time, he is set back off the line of scrimmage. This will help with the blocking scheme.
The next subtle thing the Aggies do is found in the way they block. Instead of just blocking straight ahead, Christian Kirk loops around, underneath Ricky Seals-Jones, and goes to block Reynolds' man. And when he does that, his defender runs away from the play.
Now, you have Seals-Jones blocking his own man, and Kirk blocking the defender assigned to Reynolds. The only defender remaining is Kirk's unblocked defender, but he now is forced to aggressively attack to make an open field tackle. Keep in mind this is 3rd down, so an aggressive play could potentially hold A&M to a field goal.
Unfortunately for Nevada, aggressive movement forward leaves you vulnerable to misdirection. Reynolds easily fakes the defender and scores.