The offense stepped onto the field friday night for it’s first series. There’s a good chance the poor kids in Africa who get all of the Buffalo Bills Super Bowl championship t-shirts from the 90s knew that MSU was going to hand off to Le’Veon Bell on the first play. So MSU lining up in the I formation should be expected, right? RIGHT? MSU lines up in the I Formation and Roushar tosses in his first wrinkle of the season on the very first play.
Yes, that’s right. Larry Caper was lined up as the fullback. Boise doesn’t appear to react at all. There’s really no reason for them to, after all the I formation is still the I formation and Bell is still getting the ball.
The ball snaps and Caper goes out to get his block on this HB sweep.
Caper gets popped here. While he doesn’t lay waste to second level linebackers like an Offensive Lineman would, he does manage to take a potential Bell tackler out of the play at the Line of Scrimmage, which allows Bell to pick up four on this play.
The strange thing is that one of the things I’ve learned from rewatching Friday night’s game is that Palazeti is a definite upgrade from previous years in the run blocking game at Fullback. He routinely took his guy out of the play all night long. So why even bother with this wrinkle?
Then in the second quarter:
Notice how much farther back Caper is lined up in this instance? He’s almost an extra yard back, which doesn’t seem like much, but it might be enough to telegraph the upcoming “FB handoff”.
Caper gets the handoff and start his off-tackle run. The linebacker who is correctly crapping his pants everytime Bell touches the ball tonight, freezes when he realizes Bell doesn’t have the ball and that Caper in fact has the handoff. MSU has handed off to the Fullback probably less than two dozen times since Dantonio came to town, so it doesn’t surprise me that Boise would ignore the notion that MSU might have handed off here.
But by now Caper is already out to the same level as the linebacker and appears to have a hole the size of Rhode Island to run through. Sims is already engaged with a second level blocker and Caper looks almost assured to pick up the first down.
Caper cuts inside instead of outside. Just outside of the frame to the upper left of where it says “Wide Open Spaces” lurks a deep safety who is probably just waiting for Maxwell to drop the hammer on playaction. So the space is open for now, but cutting outside isn’t the obvious good I thought it would be when I screencapped the play. So to answer my own rhetorical question, you bring Caper in as the “fullback” so he can take an unexpected handoff later in the game and pick up some needed yards.
This is the kind of Rousharian quirk that’ll get you some extra needed yards out of this run formation when you really need them. By having Bell and Caper(both capable receivers) in the backfield the potential to move into a 5 WR set is there, the potential to motion Sims(Dion) back as an H-Back into a heavy run formation is there. This ties strongly back into Roushar’s shared tendency with Scott Linehan to line up in a typically strong run formation and switch to a pass play or vice versa.
Or maybe it’s just a quirk MSU played with once and we’ll never see again. You just never can tell.