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Stanford Game-Video Breakdown: Offense vs. Virginia Tech (Orange Bowl)

Here we go again taking a look at the offensive plays Stanford had against Va Tech in the 2011 Orange Bowl.  This was Jim Harbaugh's as well as his staff's last game calling plays for the Cardinal offense, so if recency is at all important to predicting what Harbaugh and Co. might bring to the 49ers, this is as good as it gets.

I remember watching some of this game and realizing just how many formations there were and which plays Harbaugh ran from each.  I also remember the killer-instinct he showed in continuing to use shifts, motions, etc. later in the game, while a sizeable lead had already been established.

That sort of killer-instinct was lost on the 49ers in 2010, which saw a team often "protecting a lead" of ten points or less, often times early in the game.  Mike Singletary never valued offensive production much, instead preferring to let the defense attempt to hold the opponent to very few points...a sometimes unrealistic expectation.

But enough crying!  On to the Stanford Offense vs. Virginia Tech Defense video, after the jump!


High level overview and thoughts:

Lots of 22 personnel (2 backs, 2 TE's) and a myriad of passing plays from this typical "run formation". 

I love how much onus there is on Luck to find an open man (not scripted plays, rather going through progressions, moving his feet, deciding to pass or run).  It's not typical of what the WCO has been in the past, with the ball getting out quickly, almost similar to a spread offense with the drop-back, plant,, Jim Harbaugh didn't limit himself or his all-star QB with a lot of predetermined plays that can also tend to have the "what now?" reaction when receivers aren't open.

Stanford just kept on running, even though every play wasn't a big-gain, there were a few gashing runs that paid dividends.  I like how Harbaugh was unwilling to give-up on the run.  Three downs inside the two yard-line and he calls three straight runs...resulting in a touchdown.  There was a huge play-action touchdown pass that resulted from the comittment to the run, too.

Wow, two touchdowns to the TE, no wait...THREE touchdowns to Fleener!  And the kid isn't even nearly as fast or athletic as Vernon Davis!  Ok, the guy is good but I'm just getting amped to see Davis and Delanie Walker get to shine in the two-TE sets that Harbaugh loved to use at Stanford...and the 49ers have been using for a few years now too.  This match has "made in heaven" on the tag.

Some specific plays to note:

First play of the game is three-TE formation (23 personnel) and Luck naked-bootlegs to his left, keeps his eyes down-field and then runs for a nice gain.  The 49ers have two athletic QB's in Alex Smith (isn't it a forgone conclusion he'll be back?!) and Colin Kaepernick and frankly we just haven't seen enough bootlegs and sprint-outs in the offense lately.

At 1:55 the offense lines up in 22 personnel, two-TE's to the left side (via motion) and not only do both TE's block, the FB blocks, AND the right guard pulls around and blocks...result = HOUSE!  Now they can line up and run that play as a fake handoff later in the game it should be money.

8:00 mark, 11 personnel, everyone is worrying about the WR's and the TE just slips up the field into the void between everyone else, the safety playing man-to-man was fooled on the shallow routes and allowed Fleener to run right by him down the sideline for the easy touchdown.  Love hitting the TE in a 3 WR formation. 

Once again I love Harbaugh's offense while at Stanford and I think he's got even better personnel to work with on the 49ers.  I think we WILL see a lot of what we see here on this video, featured in 2011 and beyond in San Francisco.

Until next time!