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September 12, 2011

Marty Simpson's big-play breakdown





In this new feature, former Gamecock football player Marty Simpson breaks down some of the biggest plays from Saturday's USC-Georgia football game. A video of each play accompanies Simpson's analysis. Click on the video player to watch the play. In some cases, additional screenshots are provided.

Jadeveon Clowney sack, Melvin Ingram TD

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This play is remarkable actually once it's broken down. This is a designed screen pass. Which means the linemen are actually supposed to let the defensive linemen come through, baiting them in a way to over run the play. This means that Clowney was so much faster in the backfield than the quarterback anticipated, EVEN THOUGH the quarterback knew the linemen would be crashing in his face.

Watch Clowney get shot out of a cannon as he takes the inside position on a slant inside the offensive tackle. Then he uses his incredible balance and athletic ability to stay on his feet, grab the quarterback, and then throw him to the ground. This causes the fumble.

Melvin Ingram does something that we used to always coach our kids to do. Instead of trying to pick it up at first he goes to "scoop" it. This action bats the ball legally forward toward the endzone. (Because it's illegal to actually bat the ball, but you can be attempting to pick it up and this isn't illegal. Or at least "look like" you are attempting to pick it up.) Then when the ball gets into a better position to pick it up (or sometimes just fall on it in the endzone) Ingram shows off his coordination by picking it clean off the ground and scoring.

It was incredible watching Clowney do this type thing in his high school highlight video, but to see him do it in his second game of his career on such a big stage with such good athletes across from him was simply stunning.

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My favorite part of this play is when Ingram hands the ball to the referee after scoring his second touchdown and then he pats the ref on the fanny as if to say, "Yeah, it's me again, I've been here before." I am sure Ingram has heard Steve Spurrier yell for the running backs to flip the ball to the official and "act like you've been there before." But in Ingram's case, he actually HAD been there before, an hour earlier!

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Jay Wooten - 49-yard field goal

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This may have been the single most important play in the game. I realize I may be biased as a former place-kicker, but this was a huge momentum swing near the end of the game. Georgia had just tied the game on an emotional two-point conversion and this was the Gamecocks' answer.

For Jay Wooten to have his first career field goal for the Gamecocks come from so far out and in such a clutch time in the game, I say bravo! Key element here that may have gone unnoticed was the holder spinning the laces for a perfect placement.




Marcus Lattimore 36-yard run

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This is just a base power play where left guard A.J. Cann is pulling around up through the center/guard gap trying to find the linebacker on the second level. However, on this particular play, Cann really has no one to collision as the linebackers have taken themselves out of the play. Lattimore makes the backside safety miss with an electrifying cut to his left and then picks up an outstanding knockdown block by Alshon Jeffery. Lattimore does a great job of protecting the ball knowing that contact is coming from his inside at the end of the run.




Stephon Gilmore 56-yard fumble recovery

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On this play we get to see why Stephon Gilmore gave high school defenses fits while he played quarterback. He is an amazing athlete with the football, and if it weren't for the depth problems in the secondary, I am sure the coaches would find more ways to get Gilmore's hands on the ball in the return game. This is just a great heads up play by Gilmore to see the ball bouncing towards him. He makes the agile play to scoop it and run with it.

It is worth noting on this play that no one made a bonehead block behind the ball as sometimes happens during such a "jailbreak" type play. However, it is also worth noting that Jimmy Legree (#15) maybe should have been looking back behind the ball just a tad, as he signals touchdown and holds up the No. 1 sign in front of Gilmore just a tad early. I would have rather seen him peel back and pick up that last defender that caught up with Gilmore, wouldn't you?

As a general rule, if you are going to celebrate DURING the play, you can't be wrong about that decision, Jimmy!

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Stephen Garcia's 8-yard run on a quarterback draw

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This is a designed running play all the way. Kyle Nunn, the offensive left tackle, does a great job of not false starting as the defender jumps offsides. It's important to note that Nunn could have backed up when the defender entered the neutral zone, which would have drawn a flag on the defense, but it also would have stopped the play. Nunn was savvy enough to realize if he could still make his block effectively then the Gamecocks would get the benefit of a free play, knowing there would be an offsides penalty.

Lattimore does a good job getting just enough of the playside linebacker to give Garcia a good crease to dart through, and Garcia does a great job finishing the play.

Special Note: You can always tell it's a designed running play if an offensive lineman runs downfield immediately (passing plays linemen aren't allowed to go past the line of scrimmage.) In this particular play you will see the center T.J. Johnson, who is uncovered at the snap, get downfield and shield off a linebacker at the goal line. Not a fabulous block but it got the job done for sure, and Johnson's athletic ability gets him downfield quickly enough to at least run interference for the quarterback draw play. This play is designed to briefly look like a passing play so the linebackers and secondary will drop into their pass coverages and the defensive linemen will sprint upfield looking for a sack. The offense uses that leverage against the defense when it runs this type of action.




Stephen Garcia 30-yard pass to Ace Sanders

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This play is made possible by the great blocking up front by the line. Left tackle Kyle Nunn has a great block on the rushing end and left guard A.J. Cann's block was outstanding as well.

Here the quarterback's initial reads are not open so Garcia breaks out of the pocket to his right. From this point forward the receivers are in what is called, "scramble drill." Ace knows Garcia is on the move, so he needs to move as well. Typically the playside receivers will break DOWNFIELD and to the sideline when the quarterback is scrambling towards them. Sanders does this perfectly and it gets him in a one on one with an outside linebacker, which is a mismatch in Sanders' favor. Garcia makes a beautiful throw on the move. This is not an easy throw to make and keep the receiver in bounds.




Lattimore 3-yard TD run

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My wife asked me as this play started, "Why doesn't he break it outside?" I told her that Lattimore knows right away when he can score. The great backs have a feel for the endzone and how much force will need to be exerted in order to get there. When you see Lattimore plant his right foot and lower his shoulder for the endzone, it's because he KNOWS he can make it there. And for a back, the time to make that cut is the instant you KNOW! He didn't break it outside because he didn't need to. He knew he could score before that was even an option.

The outstanding blocks on the edge here were made by fullback Dalton Wilson as well as reserve tight end Rory Anderson. These two players were lined up as double wings and blocked down toward the center sealing the edge off as the center and playside tackle pulled around the pile to bulldoze a trail for Lattimore.

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Marcus Lattimore 24-yard run

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This play shows the particular nuance of the running game orchestrated by Steve Spurrier's offensive attack. Anticipating the flowing linebackers filling their backside gaps properly, the Gamecocks countered that with this play. And it was accomplished while Georgia was stacking eight men in the box.

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The 3-4 defense is a gap control attack. Therefore, when the flow starts to the defense's left, the backside linebacker will fill up into the backside center/guard gap and wait with his left shoulder in a leveraged position to make a tackle on any cutbacks.

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However, the fullback, Dalton Wilson, was assigned this linebacker knowing that the backer would be trying to defeat his block to the inside. Instead of fighting this leverage he used it against him.

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It is designed to go this way in my opinion simply based on the fullback's attack angle. Look at how the fullback starts to the left of the quarterback even though the tailback starts to the right. This is a counter action play by design. Lattimore is given the choice. If he can take it front side he will, but in this instance his vision was good enough to sense that the back door cut was going to be there.

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The play was sprung for a big gainer because of a great downfield block made by Ace Sanders. Sanders' willingness to sacrifice his body made this a big play. Also, Alshon Jeffery's stalk block allowed for 5 to 10 more yards at the end of the run.

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Antonio Allen interception for a touchdown

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This play started at the line of scrimmage. The Gamecocks were in a criss-cross stunt with the two inside backers. This caused Clowney to have sort of a robber position in the middle and it caused the defensive tackles to shoot wide for contain.

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The main thing this stunt did was create a scenario where the outside backers and spurs knew ahead of time that their underneath help was not going to be there because the inside backers were blitzing. This created a need to get underneath leverage for Antonio Allen, which caused him to get a good jump on this pass, knowing he had no help underneath.

Allen just made a great play on the ball and then a great play to finish it off. That's three regular season games in a row that he's scored a defensive touchdown. That's a decent average.




Stephen Garcia TD pass to Alshon Jeffery

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This is another example of the "scramble drill" like on the play to Ace Sanders. Garcia seems to be at his best so far this season when the play breaks down and he can play "backyard football."

This play is designed to go to the offensive left. Garcia takes the snap and makes his progression reads to that side and doesn't like what he sees there. (It's a simple high-low man-to-man route, but no one is open.) So, Garcia takes the ball down and drifts to his right. Since we are now in "scramble drill" Alshon does what he is coached to do and sprints deep and to the sideline where the quarterback is scrambling. The key ingredient here is that no one was open playside because the one deep safety had cheated all the way over into that route, which means Garcia knows he has single coverage now on Jeffery.

Meanwhile, Rokevious Watkins lays a great peel back block on the pursuit which allows Garcia the freedom to throw this ball in the open field with no pressure.

Jeffery goes up and does what he does better than anyone in the country and that is catch the ball with his hands. I realize this sounds stupid at first glance, but what I mean is he rarely uses his body to catch the ball. His hands are like super-hero sticky hands. Like Magneto's hands and the ball is metal (see the X-Men.) Also, Jeffery, like all great receivers, has an instinct about where his feet are in relationship to the boundaries. He keeps the most leverage possible between his body, the defender, and the sideline and then makes the grab. Like the play to Ace Sanders later in the game, Garcia does a great job of not throwing this ball out of bounds as he drifts to his right.

One note: Alshon could take some notes from Melvin Ingram on how to flip the ball to the referee. I am sure that would make Steve Spurrier happier too!




Jadeveon Clowney's first collegiate sack

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This play started with the blitz coming from the defensive left side. It looks like DeVonte Holloman had a clean shot at the quarterback but the quarterback dodged that one. In doing so, he then caught a mouth full of Clowney. This play really needed to be a fumble, but Clowney would cause his fumble later in the game.

Make sure to watch this play multiple times and take particular note of the offensive left tackle trying to block Clowney. He really just looks silly. Almost like he is a tired, lazy kid on the playground that is ready to tattle tail on this Clowney kid for picking on him.

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Georgia first-half TD pass

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It's worth pointing out the egregious holding that DID NOT get called on the Georgia left tackle on this touchdown. The quarterback had all day to throw this ball and it is because the offensive left tackle simply strangle-held Jadeveon Clowney as he rushed.




Melvin Ingram 68-yard punt fake

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This is the turning point in the game. Everyone knows the best time to run a fake is when the other team doesn't expect it. What this means though is you have to be willing to run a fake deep in your own territory when it's fourth-and-7. Spurrier knows this!

Watch this fake a few times though. After the game the players said that if the Georgia return team gave a certain look they were going to run this fake. Well, I see why. Check out the actual punter. The punter pretends to run with the ball to his right and NO ONE follows him either. He could have probably scored if he had the ball too. Georgia was so caught up in trying to set up a great return for their all-world return man that they forgot the basics. Basics like, "make sure the ball is kicked!"

Ingram is a 6-foot-4, 276-pound grown man and ran a 68-yard touchdown. He also had a fumble recovery for a touchdown and recovered the onside kick on the "hands" team. Spurrier said on the radio last week that Ingram is also the team's emergency punter and he punts left-footed. AND he can throw the ball 65 yards too, according to Spurrier.

Garcia was quoted after the game about Ingram, "You should film him after practice sometimes, he does some backflips. He does some crazy stuff."

From a coaching standpoint, this fake was a thing of beauty. Each Georgia defender was bailing out to set up the return and not paying attention. If you rewind this play and watch it several times you will notice that only one or two defenders even know Ingram has the ball after 20 yards. DeVonte Holloman made a great play hustling all the way downfield to run interference to make sure Ingram actually scored the touchdown.

But my favorite part is the camera cut to the Georgia mascot "Hairy" as Ingram scores. There is only one expression plastered on that huge face, but somehow he communicates pure angst, doesn't he?

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From coach to comedian: Marty Simpson is a former USA Today high school All-American and collegiate Academic All-Conference player for USC who scored the Gamecocks' first six points in the SEC. Simpson spent eight years as a high school coach and now divides his time between his family, running a multimedia company named Blue-Eyed Panda and getting the same pre-game jitters by performing stand-up comedy nationwide. For more information, please visit Simpson's blog.

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