The OC (Frank Cignetti at Fresno State, Part II)

Posted by: Avinash on Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

After about a month’s break since publishing Part I of the series, we’re going to dive back into the basic tenets of what we can expect from our new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti. You’re getting all the nice political answers from Frank at Ted Miller’s blog, but here we’re going to dive into the trenches and look back at one of his finer efforts at Fresno State.

We’re going to take a look at the famous Fresno State-USC game of two years back, where the Trojans were severely tested for four quarters before ultimately triumphing over a strong Bulldogs effort.

Warning: These images are a little blurry because they’re YouTubed. This post will have an analog feel to it.

People who think Tedford’s offense was predictable might be a little disappointed by the standard sets that highlighted the Bulldogs’s 50-42 defeat. Nothing much stood out to me that seemed different from what Tedford ran last year except some occasional spread movement, so you can probably expect many offensive sets that remind you of the 2007 season; you can only hope they run better then they did last year.

Play 1: The wide receiver screen (Click here to view the photo set)


Watch as the wide recievers set up to the outside and take a look at how the Fresno State players (especially receivers) set up for blocking schemes. Notice in this sequence how the Fresno State players move in different directions, with the offensive linemen moving laterally upward.


You’ll see basic Xs and Os football–the wide receivers running excellent routes, the fullback coming in and bailing the wide receiver out of a failed block, and the wide receiver exploiting the gap for the first down. Straightforward, methodical, and not at all exciting for a fairweather football fan. But I do like the way that the receivers are set up this year, who are more physical and able to block up at the line of scrimmage.

Play 2: Spreading the field (click here to view the photo set)


Again you see another example of the screen offense with a throw up the middle in a shotgun set; Cal utilized plenty of lateral throws to the outside last year to try and exploit the stronger front sevens the Bears smaller offensive unit would face later in the season. Here you see an interesting variation of the screen, with the three wide receiver set spreading the USC front in route to scoring their first TD. Whether the first option was the screen can be questioned, but Pinegar clearly adapted well on the fly.


It’ll be important to see how Jahvid Best develops utilizing these screen attacks, since he’ll be the purest speedster we’ve had in the Tedford era. How good our receivers block could determine our success in the screen game since our offensive linemen will be experienced enough to create holes for Longshore and/or Riley to dart it to Best on the side or middle routes. There were a lot of plays like this in the USC game, where Trojans dropped deep into coverage and the ten yard routes were available to Cignetti’s backs and tight end.

Play 3: Thread the needle (click here to view this photo set)

Absolutely the strongest facet of this offense, it relies on great precision of running routes and placing the ball in the right spots. Automatically you can think which Cal quarterback would have the advantage here.


Here you can see the receiver Joe Fernandez thread right between the corner (freezing him with a quick shift in direction that fakes him right and takes him left) and the safety in precise fashion, allowing the Bulldogs to take a 21-10 advantage in the 2nd quarter.


This is the type of play you can feel good about Nate Longshore running when healthy. Riley has been working on this part of his game in the fall; we’ll see how much these type of plays factor into Cal’s offense. But this offense is pure nuts and bolts, with a tad of creativity waxed into the proceedings. We’re returning to basics and that might not be such a bad thing–this will not be the Dunbar Experience Redux.

Expect many variations of these three plays this year, rinsed and repeated with some unconventionality mixed in. It looks like another promising year for the Cal offense.

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