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Breaking Down Dino Babers/Bowling Green Offensive Play-Calling vs. Northern Illinois

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I WANT THIS FOREVER. PLEEEEEASE.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, you know these. Or at least you thought you did. And I thought I did too.

Then... one re-watch of a Dino Babers-coached Bowling Green team and I'm hooked. Chances are you will be too. Because while the below is far from perfect, it offers an image of what could potentially be for the Syracuse Orange. I'll take that promise for now, and am pretty excited about what it represents. SU football, largely without an offense for the last 10 years (save 2012, a year we should be increasingly thankful for with each passing season), will VERY MUCH HAVE AN OFFENSE. And win or lose, they'll be entertaining running it.

A primer for you, just for comparison's sake, so we can project things onto Syracuse's personnel:

Matt Johnson = Eric Dungey

Fred Coppet = Jordan Fredericks

Travis Greene = Ervin Philips

Roger Lewis = Steve Ishmael

Gehrig Dieter = Ben Lewis

Ronnie Moore = Brisly Estime

Ryan Burbrink = Dontae Strickland

Derek Lee = Jamal Custis

Cool? Cool. Let's dive in...

First Quarter

DRIVE 1




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:50 1st and 10 BGSU 29 Play Action; Pass Johnson Screen L Incomplete (Burbrink)
14:34 2nd and 10 BGSU 29 Play Action; Pass; Sack Johnson N/A 9 Yard Loss
14:10 3rd and 19 BGSU 20 Play Action; Pass Dieter Mid Range L 10 Yard Gain
DRIVE 2




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
11:48 1st and 10 BGSU 17 Pass Johnson Short L Incomplete (Moore)
11:40 2nd and 10 BGSU 17 Pocket Breakdown; Run Johnson
12 Yard Gain
11:15 1st and 10 BGSU 29 Play Action; Pass Dieter Short L 15 Yard Gain
10:49 1st and 10 BGSU 44 Play Action; Pass Lewis Screen R 2 Yard Loss
10:33 2nd and 12 BGSU 42 Pass Johnson Short R Incomplete (Lewis)
10:22 3rd and 12 BGSU 42 Pass Greene Short M 2 Yard Loss
DRIVE 3




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
6:44 1st and 10 BGSU 30 Run Coppet Dive L 6 Yard Gain
6:13 2nd and 4 BGSU 36 Run Coppet Dive L 1 Yard Gain
5:58 3rd and 3 BGSU 37 Run Coppet Dive R 13 Yard Gain
5:42 1st and 10 NIU 50 Pass Lewis Screen R 4 Yard Gain
5:36 2nd and 6 NIU 46 Play Action; Pass Lewis Screen R 6 Yard Gain
5:17 1st and 10 NIU 40 Play Action; Pass Burbrink Screen R 7 Yard Gain
5:00 2nd and 3 NIU 33 Run Coppet Dive L 15 Yard Gain
4:44 1st and 10 NIU 18 Pass Dieter Screen L 11 Yard Gain
4:26 1st and Goal NIU 7 Run Coppet Dive R 3 Yard Gain
4:15 2nd and Goal NIU 4 Run Coppet Dive R 4 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 4




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:10 1st and 10 BGSU 22 Play Action; Pass Dieter Mid Range M 19 Yard Gain
0:03 1st and 10 BGSU 41 Run Greene Off Tackle R 5 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 14 passes, 7 runs

Even when they're not really getting the ball into the end zone )as we saw early here), Babers's attack is a manic, pressing one to watch. Bowling Green's in control, but always teetering on the brink -- which is what makes it fun and effective. You can see the method in the system. It's simply based on "gain yards" and "wear out the defense." Both worked pretty well in the early going, and they really didn't try anything too tough. Just screens to keep the D honest. Then quick inside runs to shred the line. Rinse, repeat.

Second Quarter

15:00 2nd and 5 BGSU 46 Run Greene Dive L 11 Yard Gain
14:35 1st and 10 NIU 43 Run Greene Off Tackle L 2 Yard Gain
13:55 2nd and 8 NIU 41 Run Greene Dive L 4 Yard Gain
13:17 3rd and 4 NIU 37 Option; Pass Moore Screen R 3 Yard Gain
12:56 4th and 1 NIU 34 Run Greene Dive R 2 Yard Gain
12:38 1st and 10 NIU 32 Pass Johnson Deep M Incomplete (Greene)
12:28 2nd and 10 NIU 32 Run Greene Off Tackle R 20 Yard Gain
12:15 1st and 10 NIU 12 PENALTY (False Start) McAuliffe N/A 5 Yard Loss
12:01 1st and 15 NIU 17 Pass Johnson Short M Incomplete (Burbrink)
11:49 2nd and 15 NIU 17 Run Coppet Dive L 7 Yard Gain
11:30 3rd and 8 NIU 10 Run Coppet Dive L 6 Yard Gain
11:03 4th and 2 NIU 4 Run Coppet Dive R 0 Yard Gain
DRIVE 5




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:13 1st and 10 NIU 47 Pass Burbrink Short M 8 Yard Gain
8:55 2nd and 2 NIU 39 Option; Pass Moore Screen R 6 Yard Gain
8:38 1st and 10 NIU 33 Play Action; Pass Johnson Short R Incomplete (Burbrink)
8:23 2nd and 10 NIU 33 Pass Greene Screen R 9 Yard Gain
8:10 3rd and 1 NIU 24 Run Johnson Dive L 4 Yard Gain
7:48 1st and 10 NIU 20 Run Greene Dive R 7 Yard Gain
7:34 2nd and 3 NIU 13 PENALTY (Holding) Huettel N/A 9 Yard Loss
7:09 2nd and 12 NIU 22 Pass Johnson Deep M Interception
DRIVE 6




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
6:19 1st and 10 NIU 17 PENALTY (Offsides) Ford N/A 5 Yard Gain
6:14 1st and 5 NIU 12 Run Johnson Dive R 6 Yard Gain
5:46 1st and Goal NIU 6 Run Coppet Dive L 4 Yard Gain
5:28 2nd and Goal NIU 2 Play Action; Pass Lee Short R 2 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 7




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
3:24 1st and 10 BGSU 16 Play Action; Pass Moore Short M 14 Yard Gain
3:12 1st and 10 BGSU 30 Pass Moore Screen R 9 Yard Gain
2:45 2nd and 1 BGSU 39 Run Greene Dive R 4 Yard Gain
2:18 1st and 10 BGSU 43 Pass Burbrink Short L 4 Yard Gain
1:46 2nd and 6 BGSU 47 Pass Dieter Short L 4 Yard Gain
1:32 3rd and 2 NIU 49 Run Greene Dive L 5 Yard Gain
1:10 1st and 10 NIU 44 Pass Greene Screen R 4 Yard Gain
1:10 2nd and 6 NIU 40 PENALTY (Unsportsmanlike) Ford N/A 15 Yard Gain
1:01 1st and 10 NIU 25 Run Greene Dive L 25 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 8




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:08 1st and 10 BGSU 31 PENALTY (Holding) Bennett N/A 10 Yard Loss

Play-Call Breakdown: 15 runs, 14 passes

Bowling Green commits some penalties, yes. Plus they leave a bunch of points on the board -- two things we've all assailed Scott Shafer teams for doing. BUT, this team just never appeared out of it, even when faced with long-yardage situations. Again, the scheme's not overly complex and never seems to try too hard. Run inside effectively. Pass outside effectively. Keep the defense off-balance with speed. Northern Illinois -- which did play tough defense in this one -- spends the first part of the second quarter looking around and struggling to get set. Even without points, that means the Falcons offense works (the big difference with this offense and the McDonald/Lester attacks).

Third Quarter

DRIVE 9




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:03 1st and 10 BGSU 27 PENALTY (False Start) McAuliffe N/A 5 Yard Loss
13:45 1st and 15 BGSU 22 Run Coppet Dive L 13 Yard Gain
13:22 2nd and 2 BGSU 35 Play Action; Pass Lewis Mid Range R 13 Yard Gain
13:16 1st and 10 BGSU 48 Run Coppet Dive R 3 Yard Gain
12:55 2nd and 7 NIU 49 Run Coppet Dive L 4 Yard Gain
12:26 3rd and 3 NIU 45 Play Action; Pass Lewis Mid Range R 45 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 10




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
8:58 1st and 10 BGSU 4 Run Greene Dive R 2 Yard Gain
8:23 2nd and 8 BGSU 6 Option; Pitch Greene End R 3 Yard Loss
7:47 3rd and 11 BGSU 3 Play Action; Pass Lewis Mid Range M 9 Yard Gain
DRIVE 11




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:43 1st and 10 NIU 46 Run Greene Off Tackle L 0 Yard Gain
5:00 2nd and 10 NIU 46 Run Greene Dive L 8 Yard Gain
4:45 3rd and 2 NIU 38 Play Action; Pass Johnson Mid Range M Incomplete
4:37 4th and 2 NIU 38 Play Action; Pass Johnson Deep L Incomplete
DRIVE 12




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:54 1st and 10 NIU 47 Pass Dieter Short L 7 Yard Gain
2:24 2nd and 3 NIU 40 Play Action; Pass Johnson Screen L Interception
DRIVE 13




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:15 1st and 10 BGSU 17 Run Greene Dive R 3 Yard Gain
1:47 2nd and 7 BGSU 20 Run Greene Dive L 15 Yard Gain
1:11 1st and 10 BGSU 35 Run Greene Dive R 4 Yard Gain
1:00 2nd and 6 BGSU 39 Play Action; Pass Dieter Mid Range M 9 Yard Gain
0:00 1st and 10 BGSU 48 Run Greene Dive L 7 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 11 runs, 8 passes

This one looked over early in the third quarter, when fresh off a break at halftime, NIU's defensive backs appeared to be hyperventilating on the field, completely out of breath while trying to keep pace with the Bowling Green offense. This quarter was pass-happy, however, and the team suffered for it with a pick-six and a largely ineffective few drives made QB Matt Johnson look awful shaky. Still, the return to the run paid big dividends at the start of drive 13, as you see above. Travis Greene had himself a day at running back, which you probably knew already.

Fourth Quarter

15:00 2nd and 3 NIU 45 Play Action; Pass Johnson Deep R Incomplete (Lewis)
14:47 3rd and 3 NIU 45 Play Action; Pass Moore Screen R 21 Yard Gain
14:13 1st and 10 NIU 24 Run Greene Off Tackle R 3 Yard Gain
13:33 2nd and 7 NIU 21 Run Greene Dive L 4 Yard Gain
13:17 3rd and 3 NIU 17 PENALTY (Pass Interference) Smalls N/A 15 Yard Gain
13:11 1st and Goal NIU 2 Play Action; Pass Johnson Short R Incomplete
13:11 2nd and Goal NIU 2 Run Greene Dive R 1 Yard Gain
12:32 3rd and Goal NIU 1 Run Greene Dive R 1 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 14




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
8:48 1st and 10 BGSU 12 Run Coppet Dive R 5 Yard Gain
8:05 2nd and 5 BGSU 17 Run Coppet Dive R 0 Yard Gain
7:15 3rd and 5 BGSU 17 Pass; Sack Johnson N/A 6 Yard Loss
DRIVE 15




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:34 1st and 10 BGSU 8 Run Greene Dive L 7 Yard Gain
5:00 2nd and 3 BGSU 15 Run Greene Dive R 30 Yard Gain
4:11 1st and 10 BGSU 45 Run Greene Dive R 1 Yard Gain
4:00 2nd and 9 BGSU 46 Run Greene Dive L 0 Yard Gain
3:48 3rd and 9 BGSU 46 Run Greene Dive L 1 Yard Gain
3:10 4th and 8 BGSU 47 PENALTY (Delay of Game) Johnson N/A 5 Yard Loss
DRIVE 16




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:20 1st and 10 NIU 44 PENALTY (Holding) Lewis N/A 9 Yard Loss
1:45 1st and 7 BGSU 47 Option; Run Johnson Off Tackle R 1 Yard Gain
1:00 2nd and 6 BGSU 48 Run Coppet Dive R 2 Yard Gain
0:30 3rd and 4 NIU 50 Run Moore End L 4 Yard Loss

Play-Call Breakdown: 14 runs, 4 passes

With Greene running the way he was, and Johnson finding his rhythm again, you could probably gloss over whatever happened in the fourth quarter as non-essential notes. However, with the team clearly in close-out mode, NIU did sell out against the run and did make stops throughout the fourth quarter. And without a ton of passing or tempo, Babers's offense looked rather awkward/pedestrian. That's to be expected of a speed-based scheme. But be on the lookout for how a Babers-led Syracuse is able to close (or not close) teams out.

***

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 47 called runs vs. 40 called passes. Syracuse's best figure was 76 in 2015, and that required overtime. This was 87 AND the team was trying to kill clock for a full quarter. One quarter of Babers-ball outpaces a full half of the offense Lester was running. More plays mean more chances to score, FYI.
  • First half play-calling: 28 passes vs. 22 runs (12:25 in second half, which is expected)
  • First downs: 25 total (14 rushing, 9 passing, 2 penalty)
  • First down play selection: 20 called runs, 18 called passes
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 13 called runs, 12 called passes
  • First down plays for five or more yards: 18. They beat Syracuse's 2015 season average of 11 such plays in the first half alone.
  • Second down play selection: 18 called runs, 13 called passes
  • Third down play selection: 8 called passes; 7 called runs
  • Third down conversion: 6-for-15 (4 runs, 2 passes) -- this was actually a poor game in that department for the Falcons. They're the best team in the country converting on third down (COMPLETE 180, SYRACUSE!)
  • 46 of Bowling Green's 87 play calls (53 percent) took place in Northern Illinois territory. That would rank middle of the road for Syracuse this year, to be honest. The Orange did pretty well in that category, from a percentage standpoint.
  • Play action, which was utilized a whole lot, was 12-for-21, for 172 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Early use of it helped keep the Huskies' defense guessing, and kept them from stacking the outside against BGSU's numerous playmakers at receiver.
  • "Four playmakers" usage rate: If we sub in Syracuse "four playmakers" for their comparable Bowling Green players (Coppett, Greene, Lewis and Moore, respectively), we get a usage rate of 70 percent, or 61-of-87. If you're looking for analogies, Coach Babers, I have them right here for you.
  • Bowling Green had 10 plays of 15 yards or more -- a slight jump from Syracuse's typical mark of around seven. They also had another seven plays gain between 10 and 14 yards (also similar to SU's numbers there). But with 501 yards of total offense, those plays get to be a smaller percentage of the total yardage gained, while still making a positive impact on ball movement and scoring chances.
  • Including penalties, 12 plays went for a loss. That's not great, and is pretty similar to what Syracuse went through for most of 2015.
  • Bowling Green was three-for-four in the red zone, getting stuffed on the two-yard line on one occasion. They never bothered with field goals, and also scored a touchdown from the 25 (just outside the red zone), as well as another from the 45.
  • Six drives that were either three-and-outs or turnovers might seem bad, but remember it's less of a back-breaker when you have 15 or 16 possessions..

Keeping these further notes quick: We saw an attack that's run much better than what Syracuse had this past season, but with similarly talented personnel. Obviously Bowling Green had the benefit of a senior quarterback and some veteran halfbacks. But the make-up of the receiving corps wasn't much different and overall, the skill players in Orange can largely be plugged into similar roles to the ones on display in the MAC Championship Game.

Along with the overall play-calling pattern varying a ton and being very hard to predict, it looked adaptable to both the run and pass, and the situation at hand (save maybe running out the clock at game's end). The Bowling Green staff was willing to make adjustments, and that bodes well for Syracuse, which had a previous staff hell-bent on not making them -- at least from where I sat. Third down proficiency is a godsend, given how badly the Orange have struggled there.

With its current personnel, Syracuse is well-situated to adapt to Babers's offense rather quickly. The screens and dives aren't completely dissimilar to what Tim Lester was doing, and for the older players, they should have some common ground with what George McDonald attempted to do during his 18-game tenure as SU offensive coordinator. But with experienced play-callers, more speed and better downhill blocking (plus a speedy run threat at QB), we could see some very different results this time around.

***

Questions, comments, big takeaways other than thoroughly enjoying what's to come for Syracuse? (or hey, share that too) Toss in anything else below.