Boise State playbook: Anatomy of a blocked punt

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Friday night's Boise State - Fresno State game featured several game-changing plays almost all of which were at the expense of Fresno State. Hunter White's second-quarter blocked punt was one of them. Let's relive that play in exhaustive detail.

After the jump, I'll take you through the X's and O's of the punt block and discuss other random bits of strategy as well. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

The Hunter White block of destiny

Boise State beat reporter Chadd Cripe got some good quotes from White and special teams partner-in-crime Byron Hout postgame regarding White's blocked punt. Here are some tidbits.

White's blocked punt showed how smart he is on special teams. He and senior linebacker Byron Hout had discussed all week a way they might be able to gain an edge through the middle of the Bulldogs' punt formation. On the sideline, they adjusted to what they were seeing.

"Me and Byron had been watching film all week, trying to time something up," White said. "It was just perfect timing."

Perfect timing and bad Fresno State special teams. An excellent concoction if you're a Bronco fan, like lingonberry juice and Sprite.

Fresno State uses the shield formation for its punts, which features three blockers lined up behind the five blockers at the line of scrimmage. Some people are vehemently opposed to this formation because it seems to fail more often than traditional punting. I am not one of those people, but I won't hold it against you if you are.

Boise State lined up seven guys at the line, which can be an indication that a punt block is on. When you set up for a return, you often put two blockers on the outside guys (the gunners) so they can't get downfield as fast.

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Like Cripe mentioned above, Byron Hout (94) and Hunter White (25) were scheming this all week. At the snap, Hout drove into the guard to the right of the longsnapper. The snapper picked up the Bronco on the other side of White (Blake Renaud, I believe). This left a huge hole for White to break through untouched. Credit Hout for his hard move to the outside shoulder of his blocker and for maybe grabbing the blocker just a bit and pulling him out of the hole, opening a door to the punter like a gentleman opens a door for a lady.

Still, Fresno State could have and should have picked up White. The middle blocker on the shield, let's call him Schmitty, paused for a moment at the snap, checked the right side of the Bronco rush formation for pressure, didn't see any, and took off downfield. Schmitty touched no one and was completely unaware of White running full speed in a straight line toward the punter.

Here is a screengrab of the formation and Schmitty's error. View the video below for the live action punt block (3:11 mark), and apologies for the Eminem music.

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And what did special teams coach Jeff Choate think of the whole thing? He was amused.

Miscellaneous observations

  • Boise State showed a new wrinkle to its Hermione bag of wizardry with a 2-4 blitz, featuring Byron Hout and Aaron Tevis as outside linebackers and Billy Winn and Shea McClellin as middle linebackers. Intern, bring me my chalkboard.

    2-4_medium

    The play ended with a batted ball by Tevis. Think of the crazy stuff the Broncos could do from this formation. They can bring up to six on the blitz, they can drop Hout, Tevis, McClellin, and Root into coverage. It's going to drive some Mountain West offensive coordinators batty (er, battier). Good job, Pete Kwiatkowski. Good eye, forum8usa. Good luck, Colorado State.

  • On the screen pass to Matt Miller on the first drive of the game, Rod Gilmore stated that the play was designed for Kellen Moore to throw the screen to either side. While I believe that Moore could have used the other side of the field as an outlet, I am pretty sure this play was meant to go to Miller all along. Moore fakes to the left in order to freeze the linebackers and safeties. You can tell the play was meant to go to Miller because the offensive linemen go downfield in his direction.

Your turn

Got any questions about special teams strategy? See anything crazy cool in the Boise State - Fresno State game? Not sure if I used the word "longsnapper" correctly? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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