How Einstein Avalos Saved Roller Coaster Arroyo in the Rose Bowl

Mike West Analysis

There was much dismay among Ducks fans when Andy Avalos’s Boise State defense overwhelmed Marcus Arroyo’s offense in the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl. FishDuck fans across the nation fretted over Arroyo’s up-and-down, “roller coaster” tendencies.

Little did we know it would be Avalos’s defensive brilliance that would redeem Arroyo’s roller-coaster offense just two years later.

Even when Coach Eric Boles introduced FishDuck fans to the fundamental elements of Avalos’s 3-3-5 base defense last winter, we couldn’t have imagined just how vital Avalos’s defensive genius would be to the Ducks. In fact, it wasn’t until the 2020 Rose Bowl, when Avalos devised the 5-1-5 defensive formation that stifled Wisconsin’s offense, that I came to fully comprehend Avalos’s genius.

It was then that Andy Avalos earned the moniker, in my mind at least, of “Einstein Avalos.”

Even Before the Interception

Avalos debuted the 5-1-5 late in the first quarter of the Rose Bowl on a key third-and-four play which forced Wisconsin to punt. One drive later, Avalos slid Kayvon Thibodeaux to the nose tackle position, and, as Coach Ken Woody referenced in his article, Deommodore Lenior intercepted Jack Coan’s pass. Let’s take a look at how Avalos initially introduced the formation in this game.

In the video above, Bryson Young and Issac Slade-Matautia bracket Austin Faoliu, “Fat Mac” Jordon Scott, and freshman phenom Thibodeaux. Slade-Matautia shifts out of the formation in reaction to Wisconsin’s shift into a “trips left” formation (three wide receivers lined up on the left side of the offense).

There is so much “meat on the bone” that explains why this play demonstrates Avalos’s genius-level thought process that I’m going to write a separate analysis exclusively for this play. Ultimately, the Ducks’ pressure forces Coan to throw an errant pass.

Avalos implemented this formation to stifle the Badgers’ passing game, yet it was flexible enough to defend Wisconsin’s potent running game as well.

Wisconsin again lines up trips left in the video above. The closest receiver to the left tackle lines up close to that tackle, so Slade-Matautia approaches the line of scrimmage (LOS), and the five-man front returns. With the tight end lining up on the right side of the Badgers’ formation, Thomas Graham is also able to crowd the LOS. Avalos brilliantly designed the game plan to allow for a shift into this new formation.

Slade-Matautia immediately recognizes it’s a run play, blows up Wisconsin’s blocking scheme, and meets Brandon Dorlus and Troy Dye to hammer running back Jonathan Taylor for no gain.

Sealing the Deal

Not convinced of Avalos’s genius? Check out the video below. Avalos positions another effective pass rush specialist inside, this time La’Mar Winston. Thibs is set up to terrorize Wisconsin’s offensive line once again, but he lines up against the right tackle (the third different position he lines up at in the game), and pressure tactician Drayton Carlberg joins Bryson Young as the quartet pressures Coan into a quick throw. The fifth guy? Slade-Matautia on Thib’s left edge, where QB Coan can’t tell if he is going to blitz or not.

In the video above, Coan throws the ball so quickly the referees notice wide out Danny Davis III blocking Deommadore Lenior while the ball is in the air, netting a crucial pass interference penalty that effectively kills the drive, giving Roller Coaster Arroyo his redemptive shot at securing a Rose Bowl victory.

The Theory of Relativity

Why do I dub Avalos an “Einstein”? Not only did he install a new formation, he developed and implemented strategies to unleash the strengths of every player used in the formation, freshmen included. Recruits now know that if they can apply their respective talent in an impactful way, they will play as freshmen. Avalos’s ability to productively utilize available talent through defensive scheming affects not only game results, but recruiting.

Plug and play. Win all day. Avalos and his staff are only getting started.

Mike West                                                                                                                                             Top Photo by Tom Corno
Las Vegas, NV

Phil Anderson, the Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.

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