It wasn’t the prettiest game, but in the end the Bearcats came away with the dub! Conference games are always tough and no matter the Vegas line, teams always play tough. But, good teams find a way to win and that’s exactly what this team is and what they did! Going into this game, I made it a point to watch the offense more closely because I was interested in how Cincinnati would attack the Bulls’ defense, who have been giving up nearly 200 rushing yards per game, with their rushing attack averaging about the same. While watching, however, I became more interested in the basic Offensive personnel packages Cincinnati was using and the play tendencies associated with them. So read below for a very basic explanation of personnel packages and breakdown of how Cincinnati’s offense utilized each personnel package.
When I refer to personnel packages I’m not identifying I-form, shotgun, etc; I’m referring to a two number system that denotes how many running backs and tight ends are on the field. For instance, 12 personnel will tell you that there’s 1 running back and 2 tight ends on the field. By process of elimination (5 lineman and the QB), that also tells you there are 2 wide receivers in the personnel group. Hopefully that makes sense! Now we continue to game info.
In 11 possessions, Cincinnati ran 62 offensive plays, one of which was negated by penalty, but I still charted the personnel package. They favored their 11 personnel package (29 plays) more than the others, but not by much. It was a close split with 12 personnel (27 plays). They ran 5 plays in a 4 wide receiver look, at least I think they did. The camera angle made it difficult to see the number of all the receivers so some of those plays could have been 11. They also ran one play in 13 personnel, the last 4th and 1 play near the end of the game. I broke down each personnel package a little further below, and patterns began to emerge.
We’ll start here since over 46% of the Cats’ plays utilized it. More often than not the running back was McClelland and the tight end was Whyle. With this grouping (essentially a 3WR set) passing plays were dominant and accounted for 71% of the play calls. Of the 20 passing plays out of 11, 7 resulted in first downs, 1 resulted in a TD and one resulted in an interception (the first offensive play of the game for the Cats). They ran the ball 8 times, which accounted for 2 first downs and a TD. Overall, the offense was very efficient in this grouping as nearly a third of all plays resulted in first downs. It seems as though they were very predictable in this grouping, but the combination of execution and enough running plays was enough to keep the defense honest.
We a slightly more obvious pattern in 12 personnel, where typically they bring in Taylor. 12 personnel accounted for 43% of plays. In contrast to 11, 12 was dominated by the rushing attack, accounting for 74% of the plays run. While rushing in this grouping, 7 plays resulted in first downs and 1 play resulted in a TD. Of the 7 passing plays, none resulted in a first down, but one did end up hitting pay-dirt. Similar to 11 personnel, I’m guessing that play execution by better players and enough passing plays to keep the defense honest prevented the Bulls from playing the very clear tendencies.
4 Wide Receivers
This grouping was primarily used at the end of the 1st half trying to get into field goal range under limited time, but in that scenario it proved effective. Of the 5 plays ran in this grouping, 3 were pass and 2 were runs. First downs resulted from two of the passing plays, but one interception as well. Although it was a hail mary end of the half chuck it down there play, so no biggie! One first down resulted from a run play.
One play was run in this formation, a run on 4th and 1 near the end of the 4th quarter to ice the game and it worked.
Overall, it seems the pattern is that they’re 3x more likely run out of 12 personnel and pass out of 11. But they’re good enough and execute at such a high level that it doesn’t matter against a team that just doesn’t have the talent that Cincinnati has. Another possibility is that Cincinnati liked the defense personnel matchups and went up tempo to prevent substitutions. If the offense doesn’t sub, the defense can’t if they run plays more quickly. I consider a drive ‘up tempo’ if they are not substituting and snap the ball with more than 15-20 seconds left on the play clock. With that in mind, of the 11 drives, the Bearcats went up tempo on 7 of them. The 4 drives in which they didn’t: 1) the first play INT 2) end of the half 4 WR sets 3) the 2 play TD drive and 4) the final drive in which they were grinding out the clock. Good teams with good talent and good coaching can play well and play fast and that’s what we saw a lot of last Saturday.
Take all of this with a grain of salt though! I have not taken into account the play formations, motion, individual player subs or the fact that Bryant barely played in the 2nd half due to concussion issues. It’s just fun, as a fan, to see how they take the field on offense!