Welcome back to the 18 Stripes Film Room.  Dexter Williams returned to the field on Saturday and responded by slicing through the Stanford defense for a touchdown on his first carry behind a plethora of tight ends and pulling linemen.  So pull out your lunch pail because we’re talking some smash mouth football today.

The Play

The Irish line up with two tight ends to the left and two receivers to the right.  Dexter Williams sets up behind Ian Book in the pistol.

Chip Long calls a play known as GT Counter.  If you follow any X’s and O’s twitter accounts, you might recognize this as the latest “flavor of the week” play.  Oklahoma used it to pile up rushing yards last year.  This year, you’re seeing a lot teams adding quarterback reads and RPOs to it.

The idea of this play is to have one side of the line “down block” (that is, block the nearest defensive lineman away from the play) to create a wall on one side and then have the backside guard and tackle (thus the “GT” in the play’s name) kick out the remaining defenders to create a lane for the running back.  Down blocks create favorable angles for the linemen since blocking from the side is easier than going straight at someone.

On this play, Sam Mustifer blocks down on one defensive tackle while Alex Bars and Liam Eichenberg double the other tackle.  Cole Kmet works his way up to block the backside linebacker.  Alize Mack takes on DB on the outside.  Tommy Kraemer pulls around and seals the defensive end lined up over Kmet.  Robert Hainsey leads through the hole and takes on the middle linebacker.  The backside end (yellow circle) is left unblocked, so Book probably had an option to keep the ball.

(Book kept the ball three times on GT Counter option plays against Stanford.  He ran twice for a total of four yards, and tried to run a third time but ended up flipping the ball to Michael Young as defenders converged on him for a loss of three yards.)

You can start to see the lane opening up for Dexter.  The right side is sealed off.  Hainsey is sizing up the linebacker and Kmet is blocking the other linebacker.  The safety has come down to play the run but he’s too far outside to affect the play.  This will prove disastrous for Stanford when Dex hits the open field.

The wall has formed on the left side.  Kmet does an excellent job staying on his block.  Kraemer and Hainsey stone the Stanford defenders.  And it’s off to the races for Dexter.  With the safety out of the play, there’s a clear lane to the end zone.

Here’s the full play:

Final Thoughts

I don’t remember seeing this play before Saturday.  But the week prior, Oregon torched Stanford and had plenty of success running GT Counter.  This type of play fits into Chip Long’s offensive philosophy – running the ball with multiple tight ends – so it’s no surprise he installed it.

I don’t know the exact number, but Notre Dame ran this play a lot on Saturday.  Dex broke another longish run off this exact play later in the game.  The line has been pretty bad at running its standard pin-and-pull outside run this year so adding another run play to the repertoire is a good thing.  Hopefully we see more of it in the coming weeks.

Finally, how great is it to have Dexter Williams back?  I’ve always loved his speed and ability to change directions.  But I really liked seeing his ability to step through tackles and gain extra yards on Saturday.  Josh Adams was an expert in that area.  With Armstrong and Jones injured, hopefully Williams can continue to play at this high of a level.