Marty Simpsons big-play breakdown
In this special feature, former Gamecock football player Marty Simpson takes a look at some of the big plays from the South Carolina-Clemson football game.
Shaw 18-Yard Pass to Jeffery TD
We don't need a graphic to see how the orange team is playing tight man to man on the two flankers. The tight ends both stay in to block for the quarterback which means there are 8 offensive players to block 7 defenders on the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, Justice Cunningham doesn't have his best block of the day and some pressure gets in Shaw's face.
However, Shaw does a great job of hanging in the pocket long enough to get the throw off. He also does a great job of throwing "to the field" like we discussed back during the Kentucky week. If you didn't read that article here is the link to that explanation.
Alshon makes a great catch snagging it out of the air just as his feet are in bounds toward the end zone's back line. Worth noting: when the defenses get in this formation against this offensive set is when Coach Spurrier likes to run the tight end shallow cross (to Buster Anderson), but this time he stuck with the deep post to Alshon.
Everyone but the right tight end makes a great block on this play.
The orange team has a former high school offensive coordinator constructing their offensive schemes and it showed on this particular play. There is a principle called "big on big" in the NFL and in college. It means you want your big players blocking their big players. You never want to put a small running back on a huge defensive linemen. That is exactly what the orange team does here. The offensive right guard pulls and attempts to block the left defensive end as if it were a running play. This allows Travian Robertson a free hole in which to sprint into the backfield to be picked up by the skinny little running back. This may work in high school offenses, but I bet the little skinny orange running back was thinking, "Why am I blocking this monster?"
This pressure causes the orange team's quarterback to feel the pressure crashing down on him and instead of scrambling or taking a sack he tries to force the ball into coverage.
DeVonte Holloman did a great job of stepping in front of this ball and making the catch. However, it does appear that he is sort of beat deep if the receiver had wanted to keep going. It's hard to tell from this camera angle. Holloman may have been in a better position that I am crediting him for and actually "baited" this throw from Boyd.
Either way, the girls in the stands have the best reaction to the play. One is expressing pure surprised excitement and joy and the other is sort of saying with a swagger, "Yeah, you know it..."
Melvin Ingram Sack
Whenever Ingram and Clowney line up on the same side on passing situations it's brutal on offenses. The tight end on that side is going out for a pass which means that tackle is going to have to handle Clowney from that wider position. Clowney's job in this situation is make sure that Ingram has space to play with his offensive guard. Clowney will attack wider creating a huge gap for Ingram to be able to spin or juke but either way blow by the single team. There are not many offensive linemen that are able to handle Melvin Ingram one on one, but the orange team's guard doesn't even touch him.
Also notice Robertson lined up over the guard but slanting in on the center. This is to draw the center's attention away from being able to double team Ingram also. He and Taylor are involved in a late switch stunt where Robertson will hit the center then loop around as Taylor crashes inside. Notice all this pressure is coming with only four defenders attacking the quarterback. At the start of the play there is a running back and a tight end in the offensive set. That means the offense has 7 to block our 4 and we still got the sack.
I love watching the athletic ability of Ingram also. After he sacks the quarterback his celebration dance appears more athletic than any of the orange team's players that tried to block him.
Devin Taylor Sack
Devin Taylor's sack is created by outstanding effort and technique. First, his speed rush causes the offensive tackle to really give a lot of ground as he sprints up field. Then the twist by Ingram and Robertson occupy all three interior linemen so the tackle on Taylor's side will have no interior help. The space created by the initial speed rush causes the back on that side to assume all is well so he can release for his route. Clowney's spin move to get back down inside creates just enough fear in the orange team's quarterback to cause him to scramble toward the open area. Unbeknownst to the quarterback, this area would not be open for long. Taylor also uses a nice spin move to get right back into good shape for the sack. If you saw a football practice you would see Coach Lawing working on these spin moves for a long time and it's paying off.
Anderson TD Pass
The first thing to notice is the unbalanced line from Coach Spurrier. This causes instant confusion on the defense's part as they scramble to match up man-to-man. Basically in this alignment the right "tight end" has become a second offensive tackle on that side as he is covered up by Jeffery, the end man on the line of scrimmage. Therefore, when the orange team's defender is guarding him man-to-man he is in essence guarding an offensive tackle man-to-man in pass coverage. In the end, it's his fault that Buster Anderson is wide open.
You can instantly see the widest cornerback on the orange team confused by this alignment.
The reason is based on how teams typically set up their rules. Typically a defense starts counting from the outside and counts in. The corners will have #1 (the widest receiver), the safeties will have #2 (the second widest receiver) and so on and so forth. However, typically the linebackers have the tight ends. So this is where the confusion starts to set in and on this play ultimately leads to NO ONE guarding Buster Anderson. Anderson is technically the tight end (for all intents and purposes) but visually there is actually Justice Cunningham (a real tight end) lined up where a normal tight end lines up but in this case he is a second tackle on that side and not eligible to go out for a pass.
You can see the player realize that he is guarding a backside tackle and not an eligible receiver so he starts looking around for the receiver that must be his.
Just for good measure, as Spurrier likes to do versus man-to-man, he runs a rub route here with Ace Sanders. So if the defender had gotten wiser sooner he would at least still have to run around Ace Sanders running the rub route. Overall, just excellent imagination and execution on the part of the offense here.
You know you always hear things like "Connor Shaw makes good decisions and doesn't make any stupid plays." Well this is a great example of one of those times. Shaw realizes quickly there will be an unblocked defender crashing into the backfield. Instead of really selling the ride handoff fake hard and trying to fool the defender Shaw decides to almost abort the fake handoff quickly and get the ball thrown to the wide open Anderson right away. However, this didn't work for Shaw as he noticed that Anderson hadn't even turned around yet and a quick throw may fall incomplete or even worse be intercepted by someone else's defender in the area.
So Shaw makes a quick decision after already making an earlier decision to abort the fake. He decides to pump fake on the unblocked defender, which will buy just a second for Anderson to be ready to receive the pass. It is these types of decisions that cause people to say "Shaw is a good game manager."
55-Yard Pass to Buster Anderson
The orange team gives away that they are in man-to-man too early. Watch number 5 on the right side of the screen come running up yelling something and pointing to his man. This lets Coach Spurrier know that they are in man-to-man. This is one of Coach's favorite plays versus man-to-man and we outlined this exact same play versus Kentucky and other times during the year. If you remember, versus Kentucky, Buster Anderson turned that one into a big play as well.
Only one player on the orange team's defense is playing zone defense, and that defender was the one assigned to Buster Anderson. You can see he is the only defender that takes a zone drop instead of running with a particular receiver man-to-man. Remember hearing Ellis Johnson say things like, "We have simplified our coverage packages so we won't have so many busted assignments." Well this is an example of the orange team NOT doing that. They changed their coverage late in the play clock countdown and it cost them a huge play.
However, even if the lone doofus on the orange team had gotten his signal, the Gamecocks are running a triple-rub route to stop him from guarding Buster Anderson on this play.
What an amazing extra effort by Buster to turn a 25 yard play into a 50 yard play though, right?
Shaw 15-Yard Touchdown Run
Alright class, let's see if you have paid attention all year long. How can we know for certain that this is a called quarterback draw and not a scramble for a first down like so many of Shaw's great runs versus the orange team? That's right, the offensive linemen jet downfield to make blocks after pausing just for a second. If the linemen pass block the entire play, then you can know it was a scramble.
Watch Justice Cunningham the entire play. He sprints downfield to block his defender, but then he keeps hustling and ends up blocking four of the orange team's defenders as Shaw cuts back behind his block. Ellington's block was effective at first, but he allowed his man to slip off and Cunningham cleaned him up.
Kenny Miles makes a great decision to hit the first thing that shows in the hole. Normally, Miles is blocking a downfield linebacker, but because the orange team had a twist stunt called, the defensive right end loops back into the inside right where the play is going. Miles creates a huge collision as he blows up that hole allowing Shaw to bounce outside (and then back inside as he scores).
Kenny Miles 28-Yard Run
Watch the unblocked defensive end. Connor Shaw is reading him. If he crashes down on the running back Connor will keep this ball and run where that defender came from. However, since Shaw had been burning the orange defense, the end had to "honor" the fake. This allows Miles just enough room to get a head full of steam into the line of scrimmage enabling him to run through one tackle and then one blatant facemask (that the referees didn't call).
The orange folks were in man-to-man for this play which makes the blocking that much easier for the wide receivers. Notice how the receivers just pretend to run deep routes and the defenders are forced to respect it. The free safety makes a decent play to engage Miles in the line of scrimmage, but Miles makes him miss (everything but his facemask).
One thing worth noting here as well is Coach Spurrier's managing of the personnel. Remember back in 2006 when the orange team had a hot running back churning up the Gamecock defense but the soon to be fired orange coach pulled that running back from the game, even as the fans chanted his name? Well Coach Spurrier didn't make that mistake at all. He realized his fourth year running back, Kenny Miles, was playing inspired football so he continued to get the ball.
I do have a question for the ESPN cameramen, though. How is it that the camera never seems to find homely people. I have been to enough games to know that there are some there.
Shaw's 34-Yard Run
How can we know this one is a true scramble or a called passing play? That's right, because no offensive linemen go downfield. Good class.
There are a number of things that jump out at me on this play. The first one is watch Alshon at the top of the screen. He sprints his man out of the picture and never returns! Not even when Shaw is sliding into second at the fifty yard line. That means that Jeffery sprinted his man deep and kept him running or kept blocking him out of the picture. Either way, well done, Alshon.
Another thing I see is our left tight end, Buster Anderson's incredibly quick jump off the ball. As soon as the ball is snapped he jets out of his stance and into the flats and is open for the first down if it had been thrown. Anderson has great quickness for a freshmen tight end.
Another thing I see is two holding penalties on our left guard, neither of which got called. First he held him as he is beaten right off the ball. Then, just for good measure, as he is falling down totally beaten by the defender he goes ahead and tackles him directly at the point of attack. All completely ignored by the official. Welcome to SEC football orange team.
Another thing I see is a fantastic, non-holding block, made by the Gamecock center, T.J. Johnson. As well as great blocks by both linemen on the right side and left tackle, Rokevious Watkins.
Brandon Wilds releases into his route, but then immediately engages in the block that allows this run to be huge instead of just six or eight yards. Overall, this was just a fantastic play for the Gamecocks.
Ellington 49-Yard Bomb
It is not often that your team stands in the paint at the fifty and throws a completed pass into the paint of the end zone. This play should be called, "From Paint to Paint." This was probably the prettiest play of the season. Coach Spurrier said on the television show that whenever there isn't a safety deep we like to throw it deep. But on this play there is actually a safety over the top. I am not sure what made Connor Shaw know that Ellington had them both beat deep, but I am glad he did. Either way, on third and six it's not awful to throw a deep ball interception as it would turn out like a punt. The mystery to me on this route though is why there is no one going over the middle. Typically, when there is a deep post route down the middle there would be some intermediate depth route to occupy the safety in order to slip the post behind him. I have to believe the offside receiver ran the wrong route on this play. Either way, this play had five great blocks by the linemen, one great throw by the quarterback, and one heck of a catch by Ellington.
And again, cameraman, can we get a crowd shot of one ugly person before the end of the season? Oh wait, the season's over! Find me an ugly person at the bowl game, ESPN!
Shaw 16-Yard Pass to Cunningham
The respect that Shaw gets running causes the linebacker to come up too early. This enables Shaw to dump a touch pass just over his head to Cunningham. These type of plays were there all season, but before Shaw started playing, unfortunately, they weren't always taken advantage of by our quarterbacks.
Watch our right guard, Terrence Campbell the entire play. The orange helmet is getting jacked back and forth and the fight that is going on (within the rules) is stellar. Overall, this is one of the best pass protection blocks I have seen on film all season long.
Shaw 19-Yard Run
Not much to point on this play other than it's third-and-four and I feel like the coaches told the receivers, "Go run stand behind a defensive back." That way, versus man-to-man all the defenders would have to run covering their receivers and leave plenty of room to run for Shaw. Besides, it's not like the folks in orange have a basic plan for a running quarterback. (None that I could decipher from the film study anyway.)
From coach to comedian: Marty Simpson is a former Gamecock Kicker and Punter and now tours the country doing stand-up comedy.
Marty performs in downtown Columbia, S.C., on December 9th and 10th in the Vista.
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