• You do not need to register if you are not going to pay the yearly fee to post. If you register please click here or log in go to "settings" then "my account" then "User Upgrades" and you can renew.

"If do right, no can defense."

MonagHusker

Recruit
2 Year Member
I can only assume that when Daniel failed to connect on the crane kick in Karate Kid II that it wasn't done correctly, but Miyagi's words have come back to me since I guess it did work in the original Karate Kid.

I have been a lifetime fan, but I wasn't really a player and I've never been a coach. That said, I've always been fascinated with the X's and O's of the game. Case in point, just yesterday I watched a 45 minute video titled "Complete ISO Series From The Spread" by an assistant coach of a D-III school. I found it, and most of those types of videos, fascinating. I really enjoy how there are differences in handling fronts or other ways of dealing with what the defense throws at you.

As pretty as it looks drawn up and when you see it executed on film, there is still this whole "Jimmy's and Joe's" component that no matter how much you "do right" it can in fact be defensed.

I was thinking maybe specifically of the 1988 and 1991 seasons and the Orange Bowls vs Miami where if you combined the two games we had 76 carries for 162 yards and three points. In those cases, were we not doing it right, or was it more the Jimmy's and Joe's? Were those Miami teams (8 to 15 spots in the poll difference) just that superior?

Even beyond those drubbings, what are ways to tell if it's run correctly and it doesn't matter?

Sorry for being scattered, it made more sense in my head going in...plus I thought I had a great title! :)

Love to hear from the coaches or those way more in the know than me.
 

Huskerthom

All Legend
5 Year Member
As an answer to the question about 88 and 91 the U had a higher level of talent in those games and we were playing the wrong defense. A 5-2 does not work well against a pass happy team. Those types of games is why we switched to the 4-3.

As to the rest. You need both the right scheme and the right players to run it. The best example I can think of to demonstrate this. Look at 2012 Wisky games. The regular season game our O scored 30 points and the defense held them to 27. Mainly because Steinkuhler was blowing up plays in the backfield in the first game. In the second game with him out they jet swept us to death. Virtually everything else was the same. Offense scored almost exactly the same points. We just had no one penetrating and gumming up the Jet sweep.
 

MadRat

Red Shirt
2 Year Member
As much as I liked Steve Taylor, he folded in a few games. If he performed like he was capable, they could have won those games. We weren't exactly out of either game, just didn't execute under pressure. We also had some random balls bounce their way. It's easier to look back at lopsided losses and see it much uglier than it probably was.
 

GIFRRO

Red Shirt
5 Year Member
The whole late 80s to early 90s struggles were a combination of reasons.

1 - Defensive Scheme. Everything changed the moment we decided to go to a different D and to address speed on D.

2 - Defensive Scheme. Everything changed the moment we decided to go to a dfferent D and to address Speed on D.

And

3 - Defensive Scheme. Everything changed the moment we decided to go to different D and to address Speed on D.
 

GIFRRO

Red Shirt
5 Year Member
Per above, the offensive talent level wasnt really much different in the 90s than the late 80's. Maybe a little more depth.......

They had a D though that gave them lots more opportunities and better field position
 

Huskerthom

All Legend
5 Year Member
As much as I liked Steve Taylor, he folded in a few games. If he performed like he was capable, they could have won those games. We weren't exactly out of either game, just didn't execute under pressure. We also had some random balls bounce their way. It's easier to look back at lopsided losses and see it much uglier than it probably was.
We gained an average in the 2 games of 161 yards and 1.5 points per game. I would say we were never in either game. Especially the 1 game Taylor was in. We had 10 first downs and 111 offensive yards. Sorry to say but we got smoked in 88.
 
A good offensive scheme means that regardless of what the defense does, your offense has an answer for it. For example, if they're putting everyone up on the Line of Scrimmage to stop the run, you have to have a play-action pass play to make them pay for it, and it needs to be designed to attack where they're vulnerable because of their adjusting to take away your strength. If a defense is overly aggressive, sending everyone in pursuit after the first initial movements of the offense, you have to have a counter-play that mimics what you've been doing, but goes where they're now weakest. The basis of any offensive system is a small handful of plays that can be consistently called upon to produce positive yards, but that also have counter plays to attack the defense if they don't play honestly and stay balanced. If you look at Iowa's offense, everything is built around the Zone Stretch play, which is why teams whose defense could easily stop that were able to stop their whole offense; Nebraska couldn't stop it, so we struggled. A good offensive scheme has to also take into account the caliber of players that will be available to run it--so who can the team recruit regularly--but also the caliber of players who will be playing defense for the opposing teams. You could have what in theory is the best, most complete offensive system in the world, but if you can't recruit the necessary type of players to run it, you're toast; also, if the quality of the defenders that you're going against is enough to negate what you're trying to do, you're toast. The latter was more of the problem than the former in the late 80s and early 90s against Miami.

Osborne's offense had a few base plays, and although everyone thinks of the option, the primary bread-and-butter play back then was what everyone else now calls an ISO where the FB would do a one-on-one block (iso block) on a LB to the playside while the O-line and TEs cleared away everyone else in between. (In some offensive systems, such as the Wishbone, there are two lead-blocking RBs, and so there it is often called a "Blast" play, but other options like the I-formation and the Split-T often called it a "Lead" when there was a lead blocker in order to differentiate it from plays with the same numbering system, but involved a fake to a RB going in the other direction. Now almost everyone just says Iso,... except me ... I still say "Lead" or "Blast" because I'm stubborn.) The option plays were used as counters because any defense that shifted guys inside to defend the Iso would leave itself vulnerable at the edges to the option. Our I-back started 7 yards deep in the backfield, and that was to allow him to be at full speed as he burst through the line. Our O-linemen were widely spaced, which was designed to give us a wider base for either attacking inside with the Iso and/or the FB dive part of the option, but also stretch out the defense to give better angles for the offense to attack the perimeter with either the QB-IB part of the option and/or the Sweep. If you lined up in a 5-man front, or if you had read-and-react approach from your D-line in either a 3-man or 4-man front, Nebraska was probably going to steamroll you, and that's what it would feel like the next day after all of those 300+ lb O-lineman and 250 lb FBs and 220 lb IBs had spent 3-4 hours running you over.

Now I could talk about how Jimmy's defense was designed to crush the option, but I like to write book-length posts, so let's first look at Jimmy Johnson's background....

Quick, what do Barry Switzer, Jerry Jones, and Jimmy Johnson all have in common?... They all played football at Arkansas for Frank Broyles. Johnson and Jones played at the same time, and both were part of the '64 Arkansas team that won a NC. Barry was a few years older, but he was coaching RBs at Arkansas at the time that Jones and Johnson were playing there. Barry became the OC at Oklahoma in 1966 under Chuck Fairbanks, who was struggling. The struggles continue to the point that it looked like Fairbanks would be fired if he didn't turn things around quickly. Luckily for Oklahoma, Barry, and Chuck, there was an Oklahoma alum who had developed a new offensive system that was the high tech offense of its era, and he was willing to share it with Oklahoma's coaches because he was an alum. The fact that that alum was Darrell Royal, and that he was coaching at Texas, who had just won a NC ('69) with their new high tech offense called the Wishbone, didn't matter. He told the Texas offensive coaches to do everything that they could to help Barry and Chuck learn the Wishbone and to help them shorten the time it would take to install it as much as possible. It worked! Oklahoma's offense took off and began breaking records in '71. Their only loss that year was ... to Nebraska in the Game of the Century.

Barry Switzer is still bitter about losing the Game of the Century to this day, and to this day he still blames the defense for not being able to stop the Nebraska offense and not without evidence. He repeatedly has pointed out that Oklahoma scoring 31 points against that Nebraska defense should have been enough to win the game ... if only their defense could have gotten a stop even once when it mattered.

Jimmy Johnson was coaching the D-line on that Oklahoma team, which was running a 4-3 defense, which wasn't really popular at Oklahoma as Bud Wilkinson had pioneered the 3-4 at Oklahoma in the 50s, and nobody had been even remotely as successful, and a lot of fans and alums blamed this stupid, new-fangled 4-3 defense. Jimmy had only been on staff for a couple of years, so he didn't have a lot of influence at the time. Barry thought that he and the defensive staff as a whole had done a poor job of preparing the players for that game, so Barry said so early and often, and to all who would listen,... including Jimmy Johnson. As a D-line coach for Oklahoma, Jimmy Johnson's D-linemen had to face the Wishbone every day in practice, so Jimmy was getting a world class education on how to attack a Wishbone offense, and he now had a grudge against Barry that the two seem to carry to this day. It's not a coincidence that when Barry was hired as head coach to take over for Chuck Fairbanks following the 1972 season, Jimmy was already leaving as he took the job as the Defensive Coordinator at Arkansas, which was still being coached by Frank Broyles. When Broyles retired following the 1976 season, Arkansas hired a young head coach who had fizzled out at the Jets named Lou Holtz. Holtz wanted to keep Jimmy on staff, but Jimmy was a little offended that he'd been passed over for the Head Coach job in favor of Holtz, who had no connections to Arkansas, and who had never been successful at any place bigger than North Carolina State, which was in the ACC,... which was a basketball conference,... which didn't count if (like Jimmy) you'd been competing for NCs at places like Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Jimmy left to become the DC and Assistant Head Coach for the defending national champion Pittsburgh Panthers. The new head coach, Jackie Sherrill, was connected with Jimmy through Arkansas and Broyles (where Sherrill had been an assistant) and through their time together as assistant coaches at Iowa State under Johnny Majors. Although Jimmy was the DC, Pitt was running a 5-2 defense while he was there. Why? Pitt had been running an older form of the 5-2 for years, and they had just won a NC with it. Jackie Sherrill had been the DC at Pitt before taking over as HC at Washington State and then coming back to Pitt, and he was a 5-2 guy. After two years at Pitt, Jimmy was offered the HC job at Oklahoma State, which he took in 1979. He immediately installed a 4-3 defense, and he immediately began beating teams that ran any version of an option offense ... as long as the opponent didn't have far superior talent. Why? How?

Jimmy Johnson tangent is now over, and we can get back to talking about his defense....

Every option offense requires relatively wide spacing between the offensive linemen in order to establish a good base for both running inside and getting to the perimeter. Jimmy--the old D-line coach who had seen championship level option offenses every day at Oklahoma and almost every week at Arkansas and Pitt--attacked that spacing with quicker D-linemen. Ideally, every coach would love to have players who are bigger, faster, and stronger than the opponent, but when he had to choose, he chose speed over size. He had to go smaller in order to get the quickness, so he began moving guys who had been recruited to play LB, and he beefed them up and put them in the D-line. He moved Safeties to LBs, and he put speed everywhere. Instead of telling his DTs to take on one or more 300+ lb refrigerators with legs, he taught them to read their first movement and jump towards the hole in order to slash into the backfield. His defense was built around gap assignments where each D-lineman was only responsible for defending one gap, and he thought that the best way to defend it was to shoot through it. Other coaches had started to do something similar, including a guy named Howard Schnellenberger at Miami, but mostly those coaches had done it at least partly out of desperation as they just weren't able to recruit the big studs to put in the line to match up against Oklahoma or Nebraska or Notre Dame, et al. Jimmy embraced it, and he built an entire defensive system around it. If he could get a big, strong guy who was quick enough to play the position, he had no problem playing Jerome Brown at DT, but he'd always choose quickness over size, and then he'd build them up in a S&C program that emphasized speed and quickness over bulk. Jimmy's OK State teams never beat Barry, but he scared the heck out of Nebraska in '83. Fwiw, even after he left for Miami in '84 his former coaches and players at OK State continued to be a difficult out for Osborne in the 80s, even though Nebraska always beat them.

When Jimmy Johnson got to Miami, his defense was loaded with elite speed and NFL talent, and it created matchup problems for Nebraska all over because our huge, strong O-linemen were often not able to get their hands on Miami's smaller, quicker defenders. Miami's defense was designed to penetrate the O-line, and their DTs often seemed to live in the Nebraska backfield, and their LBs were free to roam wherever they wanted to go. It's easy as a Nebraska fan to focus on those two butt-whippings that Miami gave Nebraska after the ''88 and '91 seasons, but go back and look at what they did to Oklahoma in the 80s. Barry Switzer probably had the best Wishbone offense of his long and historically successful career as a coach in '87,... and Miami SHUT ... IT ... D O W N. Oklahoma looked helpless in that game, but it wasn't the first time. Jimmy's Miami teams had whipped them twice before, and the Wishbone didn't have any answers for the combination of Johnson's scheme and Miami's caliber of speedy defenders.

In later years Barry said that he had already been planning the transition to a more power and speed blended offense like what Osborne was running in the 90s when he was forced out of Oklahoma in '89. When Nebraska's O-linemen were able to get a half-step quicker to get hands on the defenders, the power still worked when you ran right at their smaller defenders. The counter plays worked even better once the power game was established because all of that team speed would take the defense out of the play when the ball was going against their reads. Also, by the mid-90s Osborne had adopted a more muscular version of the Miami 4-3, which helped Nebraska's offense even more by getting better field position and making opponents take greater risks with the fewer possessions that they would have.
 
Last edited:

ColombianHusker

Throw the damn bones!
2 Year Member
A good offensive scheme means that regardless of what the defense does, your offense has an answer for it. For example, if they're putting everyone up on the Line of Scrimmage to stop the run, you have to have a play-action pass play to make them pay for it, and it needs to be designed to attack where they're vulnerable because of their adjusting to take away your strength. If a defense is overly aggressive, sending everyone in pursuit after the first initial movements of the offense, you have to have a counter-play that mimics what you've been doing, but goes where they're now weakest. The basis of any offensive system is a small handful of plays that can be consistently called upon to produce positive yards, but that also have counter plays to attack the defense if they don't play honestly and stay balanced. If you look at Iowa's offense, everything is built around the Zone Stretch play, which is why teams whose defense could easily stop that were able to stop their whole offense; Nebraska couldn't stop it, so we struggled. A good offensive scheme has to also take into account the caliber of players that will be available to run it--so who can the team recruit regularly--but also the caliber of players who will be playing defense for the opposing teams. You could have what in theory is the best, most complete offensive system in the world, but if you can't recruit the necessary type of players to run it, you're toast; also, if the quality of the defenders that you're going against is enough to negate what you're trying to do, you're toast. The latter was more of the problem than the former in the late 80s and early 90s against Miami.

Osborne's offense had a few base plays, and although everyone thinks of the option, the primary bread-and-butter play back then was what everyone else now calls an ISO where the FB would do a one-on-one block (iso block) on a LB to the playside while the O-line and TEs cleared away everyone else in between. (In some offensive systems, such as the Wishbone, there are two lead-blocking RBs, and so there it is often called a "Blast" play, but other options like the I-formation and the Split-T often called it a "Lead" when there was a lead blocker in order to differentiate it from plays with the same numbering system, but involved a fake to a RB going in the other direction. Now almost everyone just says Iso,... except me ... I still say "Lead" or "Blast" because I'm stubborn.) The option plays were used as counters because any defense that shifted guys inside to defend the Iso would leave itself vulnerable at the edges to the option. Our I-back started 7 yards deep in the backfield, and that was to allow him to be at full speed as he burst through the line. Our O-linemen were widely spaced, which was designed to give us a wider base for either attacking inside with the Iso and/or the FB dive part of the option, but also stretch out the defense to give better angles for the offense to attack the perimeter with either the QB-IB part of the option and/or the Sweep. If you lined up in a 5-man front, or if you had read-and-react approach from your D-line in either a 3-man or 4-man front, Nebraska was probably going to steamroll you, and that's what it would feel like the next day after all of those 300+ lb O-lineman and 250 lb FBs and 220 lb IBs had spent 3-4 hours running you over.

Now I could talk about how Jimmy's defense was designed to crush the option, but I like to write book-length posts, so let's first look at Jimmy Johnson's background....

Quick, what do Barry Switzer, Jerry Jones, and Jimmy Johnson all have in common?... They all played football at Arkansas for Frank Broyles. Johnson and Jones played at the same time, and both were part of the '64 Arkansas team that won a NC. Barry was a few years older, but he was coaching RBs at Arkansas at the time that Jones and Johnson were playing there. Barry became the OC at Oklahoma in 1966 under Chuck Fairbanks, who was struggling. The struggles continue to the point that it looked like Fairbanks would be fired if he didn't turn things around quickly. Luckily for Oklahoma, Barry, and Chuck, there was an Oklahoma alum who had developed a new offensive system that was the high tech offense of its era, and he was willing to share it with Oklahoma's coaches because he was an alum. The fact that that alum was Darrell Royal, and that he was coaching at Texas, who had just won a NC ('69) with their new high tech offense called the Wishbone, didn't matter. He told the Texas offensive coaches to do everything that they could to help Barry and Chuck learn the Wishbone and to help them shorten the time it would take to install it as much as possible. It worked! Oklahoma's offense took off and began breaking records in '71. Their only loss that year was ... to Nebraska in the Game of the Century.

Barry Switzer is still bitter about losing the Game of the Century to this day, and to this day he still blames the defense for not being able to stop the Nebraska offense and not without evidence. He repeatedly has pointed out that Oklahoma scoring 31 points against that Nebraska defense should have been enough to win the game ... if only their defense could have gotten a stop even once when it mattered.

Jimmy Johnson was coaching the D-line on that Oklahoma team, which was running a 4-3 defense, which wasn't really popular at Oklahoma as Bud Wilkinson had pioneered the 3-4 at Oklahoma in the 50s, and nobody had been even remotely as successful, and a lot of fans and alums blamed this stupid, new-fangled 4-3 defense. Jimmy had only been on staff for a couple of years, so he didn't have a lot of influence at the time. Barry thought that he and the defensive staff as a whole had done a poor job of preparing the players for that game, so Barry said so early and often, and to all who would listen,... including Jimmy Johnson. As a D-line coach for Oklahoma, Jimmy Johnson's D-linemen had to face the Wishbone every day in practice, so Jimmy was getting a world class education on how to attack a Wishbone offense, and he now had a grudge against Barry that the two seem to carry to this day. It's not a coincidence that when Barry was hired as head coach to take over for Chuck Fairbanks following the 1972 season, Jimmy was already leaving as he took the job as the Defensive Coordinator at Arkansas, which was still being coached by Frank Broyles. When Broyles retired following the 1976 season, Arkansas hired a young head coach who had fizzled out at the Jets named Lou Holtz. Holtz wanted to keep Jimmy on staff, but Jimmy was a little offended that he'd been passed over for the Head Coach job in favor of Holtz, who had no connections to Arkansas, and who had never been successful at any place bigger than North Carolina State, which was in the ACC,... which was a basketball conference,... which didn't count if (like Jimmy) you'd been competing for NCs at places like Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Jimmy left to become the DC and Assistant Head Coach for the defending national champion Pittsburgh Panthers. The new head coach, Jackie Sherrill, was connected with Jimmy through Arkansas and Broyles (where Sherrill had been an assistant) and through their time together as assistant coaches at Iowa State under Johnny Majors. Although Jimmy was the DC, Pitt was running a 5-2 defense while he was there. Why? Pitt had been running an older form of the 5-2 for years, and they had just won a NC with it. Jackie Sherrill had been the DC at Pitt before taking over as HC at Washington State and then coming back to Pitt, and he was a 5-2 guy. After two years at Pitt, Jimmy was offered the HC job at Oklahoma State, which he took in 1979. He immediately installed a 4-3 defense, and he immediately began beating teams that ran any version of an option offense ... as long as the opponent didn't have far superior talent. Why? How?

Jimmy Johnson tangent is now over, and we can get back to talking about his defense....

Every option offense requires relatively wide spacing between the offensive linemen in order to establish a good base for both running inside and getting to the perimeter. Jimmy--the old D-line coach who had seen championship level option offenses every day at Oklahoma and almost every week at Arkansas and Pitt--attacked that spacing with quicker D-linemen. Ideally, every coach would love to have players who are bigger, faster, and stronger than the opponent, but when he had to choose, he chose speed over size. He had to go smaller in order to get the quickness, so he began moving guys who had been recruited to play LB, and he beefed them up and put them in the D-line. He moved Safeties to LBs, and he put speed everywhere. Instead of telling his DTs to take on one or more 300+ lb refrigerators with legs, he taught them to read their first movement and jump towards the hole in order to slash into the backfield. His defense was built around gap assignments where each D-lineman was only responsible for defending one gap, and he thought that the best way to defend it was to shoot through it. Other coaches had started to do something similar, including a guy named Howard Schnellenberger at Miami, but mostly those coaches had done it at least partly out of desperation as they just weren't able to recruit the big studs to put in the line to match up against Oklahoma or Nebraska or Notre Dame, et al. Jimmy embraced it, and he built an entire defensive system around it. If he could get a big, strong guy who was quick enough to play the position, he had no problem playing Jerome Brown at DT, but he'd always choose quickness over size, and then he'd build them up in a S&C program that emphasized speed and quickness over bulk. Jimmy's OK State teams never beat Barry, but he scared the heck out of Nebraska in '83. Fwiw, even after he left for Miami in '84 his former coaches and players at OK State continued to be a difficult out for Osborne in the 80s, even though Nebraska always beat them.

When Jimmy Johnson got to Miami, his defense was loaded with elite speed and NFL talent, and it created matchup problems for Nebraska all over because our huge, strong O-linemen were often not able to get their hands on Miami's smaller, quicker defenders. Miami's defense was designed to penetrate the O-line, and their DTs often seemed to live in the Nebraska backfield, and their LBs were free to roam wherever they wanted to go. It's easy as a Nebraska fan to focus on those two butt-whippings that Miami gave Nebraska after the ''88 and '91 seasons, but go back and look at what they did to Oklahoma in the 80s. Barry Switzer probably had the best Wishbone offense of his long and historically successful career as a coach in '87,... and Miami SHUT ... IT ... D O W N. Oklahoma looked helpless in that game, but it wasn't the first time. Jimmy's Miami teams had whipped them twice before, and the Wishbone didn't have any answers for the combination of Johnson's scheme and Miami's caliber of speedy defenders.

In later years Barry said that he had already been planning the transition to a more power and speed blended offense like what Osborne was running in the 90s when he was forced out of Oklahoma in '89. When Nebraska's O-linemen were able to get a half-step quicker to get hands on the defenders, the power still worked when you ran right at their smaller defenders. The counter plays worked even better once the power game was established because all of that team speed would take the defense out of the play when the ball was going against their reads. Also, by the mid-90s Osborne had adopted a more muscular version of the Miami 4-3, which helped Nebraska's offense even more by getting better field position and making opponents take greater risks with the fewer possessions that they would have.
I know many will say “too long”, but a damn good, informative post. Kwitcherbitchen people.
 

CrabHusker

Alienating everyone, one post at a time.
5 Year Member
We gained an average in the 2 games of 161 yards and 1.5 points per game. I would say we were never in either game. Especially the 1 game Taylor was in. We had 10 first downs and 111 offensive yards. Sorry to say but we got smoked in 88.
The 'Under pressure' part was from the kickoff to the final whistle.

Other than that timeframe, we were right in there.
 

CrabHusker

Alienating everyone, one post at a time.
5 Year Member
A good offensive scheme means that regardless of what the defense does, your offense has an answer for it. For example, if they're putting everyone up on the Line of Scrimmage to stop the run, you have to have a play-action pass play to make them pay for it, and it needs to be designed to attack where they're vulnerable because of their adjusting to take away your strength. If a defense is overly aggressive, sending everyone in pursuit after the first initial movements of the offense, you have to have a counter-play that mimics what you've been doing, but goes where they're now weakest. The basis of any offensive system is a small handful of plays that can be consistently called upon to produce positive yards, but that also have counter plays to attack the defense if they don't play honestly and stay balanced. If you look at Iowa's offense, everything is built around the Zone Stretch play, which is why teams whose defense could easily stop that were able to stop their whole offense; Nebraska couldn't stop it, so we struggled. A good offensive scheme has to also take into account the caliber of players that will be available to run it--so who can the team recruit regularly--but also the caliber of players who will be playing defense for the opposing teams. You could have what in theory is the best, most complete offensive system in the world, but if you can't recruit the necessary type of players to run it, you're toast; also, if the quality of the defenders that you're going against is enough to negate what you're trying to do, you're toast. The latter was more of the problem than the former in the late 80s and early 90s against Miami.

Osborne's offense had a few base plays, and although everyone thinks of the option, the primary bread-and-butter play back then was what everyone else now calls an ISO where the FB would do a one-on-one block (iso block) on a LB to the playside while the O-line and TEs cleared away everyone else in between. (In some offensive systems, such as the Wishbone, there are two lead-blocking RBs, and so there it is often called a "Blast" play, but other options like the I-formation and the Split-T often called it a "Lead" when there was a lead blocker in order to differentiate it from plays with the same numbering system, but involved a fake to a RB going in the other direction. Now almost everyone just says Iso,... except me ... I still say "Lead" or "Blast" because I'm stubborn.) The option plays were used as counters because any defense that shifted guys inside to defend the Iso would leave itself vulnerable at the edges to the option. Our I-back started 7 yards deep in the backfield, and that was to allow him to be at full speed as he burst through the line. Our O-linemen were widely spaced, which was designed to give us a wider base for either attacking inside with the Iso and/or the FB dive part of the option, but also stretch out the defense to give better angles for the offense to attack the perimeter with either the QB-IB part of the option and/or the Sweep. If you lined up in a 5-man front, or if you had read-and-react approach from your D-line in either a 3-man or 4-man front, Nebraska was probably going to steamroll you, and that's what it would feel like the next day after all of those 300+ lb O-lineman and 250 lb FBs and 220 lb IBs had spent 3-4 hours running you over.

Now I could talk about how Jimmy's defense was designed to crush the option, but I like to write book-length posts, so let's first look at Jimmy Johnson's background....

Quick, what do Barry Switzer, Jerry Jones, and Jimmy Johnson all have in common?... They all played football at Arkansas for Frank Broyles. Johnson and Jones played at the same time, and both were part of the '64 Arkansas team that won a NC. Barry was a few years older, but he was coaching RBs at Arkansas at the time that Jones and Johnson were playing there. Barry became the OC at Oklahoma in 1966 under Chuck Fairbanks, who was struggling. The struggles continue to the point that it looked like Fairbanks would be fired if he didn't turn things around quickly. Luckily for Oklahoma, Barry, and Chuck, there was an Oklahoma alum who had developed a new offensive system that was the high tech offense of its era, and he was willing to share it with Oklahoma's coaches because he was an alum. The fact that that alum was Darrell Royal, and that he was coaching at Texas, who had just won a NC ('69) with their new high tech offense called the Wishbone, didn't matter. He told the Texas offensive coaches to do everything that they could to help Barry and Chuck learn the Wishbone and to help them shorten the time it would take to install it as much as possible. It worked! Oklahoma's offense took off and began breaking records in '71. Their only loss that year was ... to Nebraska in the Game of the Century.

Barry Switzer is still bitter about losing the Game of the Century to this day, and to this day he still blames the defense for not being able to stop the Nebraska offense and not without evidence. He repeatedly has pointed out that Oklahoma scoring 31 points against that Nebraska defense should have been enough to win the game ... if only their defense could have gotten a stop even once when it mattered.

Jimmy Johnson was coaching the D-line on that Oklahoma team, which was running a 4-3 defense, which wasn't really popular at Oklahoma as Bud Wilkinson had pioneered the 3-4 at Oklahoma in the 50s, and nobody had been even remotely as successful, and a lot of fans and alums blamed this stupid, new-fangled 4-3 defense. Jimmy had only been on staff for a couple of years, so he didn't have a lot of influence at the time. Barry thought that he and the defensive staff as a whole had done a poor job of preparing the players for that game, so Barry said so early and often, and to all who would listen,... including Jimmy Johnson. As a D-line coach for Oklahoma, Jimmy Johnson's D-linemen had to face the Wishbone every day in practice, so Jimmy was getting a world class education on how to attack a Wishbone offense, and he now had a grudge against Barry that the two seem to carry to this day. It's not a coincidence that when Barry was hired as head coach to take over for Chuck Fairbanks following the 1972 season, Jimmy was already leaving as he took the job as the Defensive Coordinator at Arkansas, which was still being coached by Frank Broyles. When Broyles retired following the 1976 season, Arkansas hired a young head coach who had fizzled out at the Jets named Lou Holtz. Holtz wanted to keep Jimmy on staff, but Jimmy was a little offended that he'd been passed over for the Head Coach job in favor of Holtz, who had no connections to Arkansas, and who had never been successful at any place bigger than North Carolina State, which was in the ACC,... which was a basketball conference,... which didn't count if (like Jimmy) you'd been competing for NCs at places like Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Jimmy left to become the DC and Assistant Head Coach for the defending national champion Pittsburgh Panthers. The new head coach, Jackie Sherrill, was connected with Jimmy through Arkansas and Broyles (where Sherrill had been an assistant) and through their time together as assistant coaches at Iowa State under Johnny Majors. Although Jimmy was the DC, Pitt was running a 5-2 defense while he was there. Why? Pitt had been running an older form of the 5-2 for years, and they had just won a NC with it. Jackie Sherrill had been the DC at Pitt before taking over as HC at Washington State and then coming back to Pitt, and he was a 5-2 guy. After two years at Pitt, Jimmy was offered the HC job at Oklahoma State, which he took in 1979. He immediately installed a 4-3 defense, and he immediately began beating teams that ran any version of an option offense ... as long as the opponent didn't have far superior talent. Why? How?

Jimmy Johnson tangent is now over, and we can get back to talking about his defense....

Every option offense requires relatively wide spacing between the offensive linemen in order to establish a good base for both running inside and getting to the perimeter. Jimmy--the old D-line coach who had seen championship level option offenses every day at Oklahoma and almost every week at Arkansas and Pitt--attacked that spacing with quicker D-linemen. Ideally, every coach would love to have players who are bigger, faster, and stronger than the opponent, but when he had to choose, he chose speed over size. He had to go smaller in order to get the quickness, so he began moving guys who had been recruited to play LB, and he beefed them up and put them in the D-line. He moved Safeties to LBs, and he put speed everywhere. Instead of telling his DTs to take on one or more 300+ lb refrigerators with legs, he taught them to read their first movement and jump towards the hole in order to slash into the backfield. His defense was built around gap assignments where each D-lineman was only responsible for defending one gap, and he thought that the best way to defend it was to shoot through it. Other coaches had started to do something similar, including a guy named Howard Schnellenberger at Miami, but mostly those coaches had done it at least partly out of desperation as they just weren't able to recruit the big studs to put in the line to match up against Oklahoma or Nebraska or Notre Dame, et al. Jimmy embraced it, and he built an entire defensive system around it. If he could get a big, strong guy who was quick enough to play the position, he had no problem playing Jerome Brown at DT, but he'd always choose quickness over size, and then he'd build them up in a S&C program that emphasized speed and quickness over bulk. Jimmy's OK State teams never beat Barry, but he scared the heck out of Nebraska in '83. Fwiw, even after he left for Miami in '84 his former coaches and players at OK State continued to be a difficult out for Osborne in the 80s, even though Nebraska always beat them.

When Jimmy Johnson got to Miami, his defense was loaded with elite speed and NFL talent, and it created matchup problems for Nebraska all over because our huge, strong O-linemen were often not able to get their hands on Miami's smaller, quicker defenders. Miami's defense was designed to penetrate the O-line, and their DTs often seemed to live in the Nebraska backfield, and their LBs were free to roam wherever they wanted to go. It's easy as a Nebraska fan to focus on those two butt-whippings that Miami gave Nebraska after the ''88 and '91 seasons, but go back and look at what they did to Oklahoma in the 80s. Barry Switzer probably had the best Wishbone offense of his long and historically successful career as a coach in '87,... and Miami SHUT ... IT ... D O W N. Oklahoma looked helpless in that game, but it wasn't the first time. Jimmy's Miami teams had whipped them twice before, and the Wishbone didn't have any answers for the combination of Johnson's scheme and Miami's caliber of speedy defenders.

In later years Barry said that he had already been planning the transition to a more power and speed blended offense like what Osborne was running in the 90s when he was forced out of Oklahoma in '89. When Nebraska's O-linemen were able to get a half-step quicker to get hands on the defenders, the power still worked when you ran right at their smaller defenders. The counter plays worked even better once the power game was established because all of that team speed would take the defense out of the play when the ball was going against their reads. Also, by the mid-90s Osborne had adopted a more muscular version of the Miami 4-3, which helped Nebraska's offense even more by getting better field position and making opponents take greater risks with the fewer possessions that they would have.
Good write up.

I liked it, but honestly, you had me at '5-2'.

Anybody old enough to remember what that looked like and how it ran gets a like in my book.
 

MonagHusker

Recruit
2 Year Member
A good offensive scheme means that regardless of what the defense does, your offense has an answer for it. For example, if they're putting everyone up on the Line of Scrimmage to stop the run, you have to have a play-action pass play to make them pay for it, and it needs to be designed to attack where they're vulnerable because of their adjusting to take away your strength. If a defense is overly aggressive, sending everyone in pursuit after the first initial movements of the offense, you have to have a counter-play that mimics what you've been doing, but goes where they're now weakest. The basis of any offensive system is a small handful of plays that can be consistently called upon to produce positive yards, but that also have counter plays to attack the defense if they don't play honestly and stay balanced. If you look at Iowa's offense, everything is built around the Zone Stretch play, which is why teams whose defense could easily stop that were able to stop their whole offense; Nebraska couldn't stop it, so we struggled. A good offensive scheme has to also take into account the caliber of players that will be available to run it--so who can the team recruit regularly--but also the caliber of players who will be playing defense for the opposing teams. You could have what in theory is the best, most complete offensive system in the world, but if you can't recruit the necessary type of players to run it, you're toast; also, if the quality of the defenders that you're going against is enough to negate what you're trying to do, you're toast. The latter was more of the problem than the former in the late 80s and early 90s against Miami.

Osborne's offense had a few base plays, and although everyone thinks of the option, the primary bread-and-butter play back then was what everyone else now calls an ISO where the FB would do a one-on-one block (iso block) on a LB to the playside while the O-line and TEs cleared away everyone else in between. (In some offensive systems, such as the Wishbone, there are two lead-blocking RBs, and so there it is often called a "Blast" play, but other options like the I-formation and the Split-T often called it a "Lead" when there was a lead blocker in order to differentiate it from plays with the same numbering system, but involved a fake to a RB going in the other direction. Now almost everyone just says Iso,... except me ... I still say "Lead" or "Blast" because I'm stubborn.) The option plays were used as counters because any defense that shifted guys inside to defend the Iso would leave itself vulnerable at the edges to the option. Our I-back started 7 yards deep in the backfield, and that was to allow him to be at full speed as he burst through the line. Our O-linemen were widely spaced, which was designed to give us a wider base for either attacking inside with the Iso and/or the FB dive part of the option, but also stretch out the defense to give better angles for the offense to attack the perimeter with either the QB-IB part of the option and/or the Sweep. If you lined up in a 5-man front, or if you had read-and-react approach from your D-line in either a 3-man or 4-man front, Nebraska was probably going to steamroll you, and that's what it would feel like the next day after all of those 300+ lb O-lineman and 250 lb FBs and 220 lb IBs had spent 3-4 hours running you over.

Now I could talk about how Jimmy's defense was designed to crush the option, but I like to write book-length posts, so let's first look at Jimmy Johnson's background....

Quick, what do Barry Switzer, Jerry Jones, and Jimmy Johnson all have in common?... They all played football at Arkansas for Frank Broyles. Johnson and Jones played at the same time, and both were part of the '64 Arkansas team that won a NC. Barry was a few years older, but he was coaching RBs at Arkansas at the time that Jones and Johnson were playing there. Barry became the OC at Oklahoma in 1966 under Chuck Fairbanks, who was struggling. The struggles continue to the point that it looked like Fairbanks would be fired if he didn't turn things around quickly. Luckily for Oklahoma, Barry, and Chuck, there was an Oklahoma alum who had developed a new offensive system that was the high tech offense of its era, and he was willing to share it with Oklahoma's coaches because he was an alum. The fact that that alum was Darrell Royal, and that he was coaching at Texas, who had just won a NC ('69) with their new high tech offense called the Wishbone, didn't matter. He told the Texas offensive coaches to do everything that they could to help Barry and Chuck learn the Wishbone and to help them shorten the time it would take to install it as much as possible. It worked! Oklahoma's offense took off and began breaking records in '71. Their only loss that year was ... to Nebraska in the Game of the Century.

Barry Switzer is still bitter about losing the Game of the Century to this day, and to this day he still blames the defense for not being able to stop the Nebraska offense and not without evidence. He repeatedly has pointed out that Oklahoma scoring 31 points against that Nebraska defense should have been enough to win the game ... if only their defense could have gotten a stop even once when it mattered.

Jimmy Johnson was coaching the D-line on that Oklahoma team, which was running a 4-3 defense, which wasn't really popular at Oklahoma as Bud Wilkinson had pioneered the 3-4 at Oklahoma in the 50s, and nobody had been even remotely as successful, and a lot of fans and alums blamed this stupid, new-fangled 4-3 defense. Jimmy had only been on staff for a couple of years, so he didn't have a lot of influence at the time. Barry thought that he and the defensive staff as a whole had done a poor job of preparing the players for that game, so Barry said so early and often, and to all who would listen,... including Jimmy Johnson. As a D-line coach for Oklahoma, Jimmy Johnson's D-linemen had to face the Wishbone every day in practice, so Jimmy was getting a world class education on how to attack a Wishbone offense, and he now had a grudge against Barry that the two seem to carry to this day. It's not a coincidence that when Barry was hired as head coach to take over for Chuck Fairbanks following the 1972 season, Jimmy was already leaving as he took the job as the Defensive Coordinator at Arkansas, which was still being coached by Frank Broyles. When Broyles retired following the 1976 season, Arkansas hired a young head coach who had fizzled out at the Jets named Lou Holtz. Holtz wanted to keep Jimmy on staff, but Jimmy was a little offended that he'd been passed over for the Head Coach job in favor of Holtz, who had no connections to Arkansas, and who had never been successful at any place bigger than North Carolina State, which was in the ACC,... which was a basketball conference,... which didn't count if (like Jimmy) you'd been competing for NCs at places like Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Jimmy left to become the DC and Assistant Head Coach for the defending national champion Pittsburgh Panthers. The new head coach, Jackie Sherrill, was connected with Jimmy through Arkansas and Broyles (where Sherrill had been an assistant) and through their time together as assistant coaches at Iowa State under Johnny Majors. Although Jimmy was the DC, Pitt was running a 5-2 defense while he was there. Why? Pitt had been running an older form of the 5-2 for years, and they had just won a NC with it. Jackie Sherrill had been the DC at Pitt before taking over as HC at Washington State and then coming back to Pitt, and he was a 5-2 guy. After two years at Pitt, Jimmy was offered the HC job at Oklahoma State, which he took in 1979. He immediately installed a 4-3 defense, and he immediately began beating teams that ran any version of an option offense ... as long as the opponent didn't have far superior talent. Why? How?

Jimmy Johnson tangent is now over, and we can get back to talking about his defense....

Every option offense requires relatively wide spacing between the offensive linemen in order to establish a good base for both running inside and getting to the perimeter. Jimmy--the old D-line coach who had seen championship level option offenses every day at Oklahoma and almost every week at Arkansas and Pitt--attacked that spacing with quicker D-linemen. Ideally, every coach would love to have players who are bigger, faster, and stronger than the opponent, but when he had to choose, he chose speed over size. He had to go smaller in order to get the quickness, so he began moving guys who had been recruited to play LB, and he beefed them up and put them in the D-line. He moved Safeties to LBs, and he put speed everywhere. Instead of telling his DTs to take on one or more 300+ lb refrigerators with legs, he taught them to read their first movement and jump towards the hole in order to slash into the backfield. His defense was built around gap assignments where each D-lineman was only responsible for defending one gap, and he thought that the best way to defend it was to shoot through it. Other coaches had started to do something similar, including a guy named Howard Schnellenberger at Miami, but mostly those coaches had done it at least partly out of desperation as they just weren't able to recruit the big studs to put in the line to match up against Oklahoma or Nebraska or Notre Dame, et al. Jimmy embraced it, and he built an entire defensive system around it. If he could get a big, strong guy who was quick enough to play the position, he had no problem playing Jerome Brown at DT, but he'd always choose quickness over size, and then he'd build them up in a S&C program that emphasized speed and quickness over bulk. Jimmy's OK State teams never beat Barry, but he scared the heck out of Nebraska in '83. Fwiw, even after he left for Miami in '84 his former coaches and players at OK State continued to be a difficult out for Osborne in the 80s, even though Nebraska always beat them.

When Jimmy Johnson got to Miami, his defense was loaded with elite speed and NFL talent, and it created matchup problems for Nebraska all over because our huge, strong O-linemen were often not able to get their hands on Miami's smaller, quicker defenders. Miami's defense was designed to penetrate the O-line, and their DTs often seemed to live in the Nebraska backfield, and their LBs were free to roam wherever they wanted to go. It's easy as a Nebraska fan to focus on those two butt-whippings that Miami gave Nebraska after the ''88 and '91 seasons, but go back and look at what they did to Oklahoma in the 80s. Barry Switzer probably had the best Wishbone offense of his long and historically successful career as a coach in '87,... and Miami SHUT ... IT ... D O W N. Oklahoma looked helpless in that game, but it wasn't the first time. Jimmy's Miami teams had whipped them twice before, and the Wishbone didn't have any answers for the combination of Johnson's scheme and Miami's caliber of speedy defenders.

In later years Barry said that he had already been planning the transition to a more power and speed blended offense like what Osborne was running in the 90s when he was forced out of Oklahoma in '89. When Nebraska's O-linemen were able to get a half-step quicker to get hands on the defenders, the power still worked when you ran right at their smaller defenders. The counter plays worked even better once the power game was established because all of that team speed would take the defense out of the play when the ball was going against their reads. Also, by the mid-90s Osborne had adopted a more muscular version of the Miami 4-3, which helped Nebraska's offense even more by getting better field position and making opponents take greater risks with the fewer possessions that they would have.
I was hoping you would chime in!

So it's post-Thanksgiving circa 1988 and 1991. Osborne and his staff find out we get to play Miami in Miami again (probably has that same look he gave when he found out we were playing OU after beating them in 1978). Maybe they have a pretty good idea (especially by 1991) that our offensive style might struggle. They can't re-write the playbook, but what discussions did they have? Was there something different they tried or could have tried, or was that just our Kryptonite at the time, something that we don't get out of our system until 1993?

From a personal level, have you have these coaching moments?
 
Top