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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-Tennessee football game.
Stephon Gilmore's Interception
The Gamecocks chose to try and get pressure with only their front four for most of the night. That was why they really didn't have that huge a night in terms of sacks and glamorous stats, but they did create enough pressure with only four to allow for overloaded secondary coverages.
If you watch this play several times you will notice we have two defenders on their running back out of the backfield and two defenders on the targeted receiver. Every other receiver has a defender running with them.
The free safety, Brison Williams, is in a great position to make this play and in fact does make a play. It bounces off of him and into Gilmore's hands. Gilmore does a fantastic job of making a play on the ball. This is yet another example of this team's talent level being the difference in close games. In the past, this type of play may have been made as an incompletion, but this year's team makes the interception.
One funny observation is Brison Williams' lethargic reaction to the interception due to the fact that Gilmore fell hard on his mid-section.
Connor Shaw 5-Yard TD Run
This play is wonderfully designed. Tennessee utilized their two safeties as extra defenders versus "in-cuts" from the receivers, allowing the man-to-man defenders to play press man and take away the fade routes. You will see the two safeties sitting on the receivers with no run responsibilities at all. They were in man-to-man so that means four other defenders on each of the four wide receivers and one linebacker on the running back. The Gamecocks motioned the running back out of the backfield which left the middle entirely open.
Do the math. Four receivers each have one defender, plus two safeties sitting on in-cuts, plus one linebacker on the running back, leaves only four more players on the line. The Gamecocks had five to block four in this case.
My favorite part of this play is our right tackle's block (Cody Gibson). Evidently, playing a few weeks in the SEC has allowed him the ability to gauge what the referees will call when it comes to holding. I love that Tennessee is the team on the side of complaining that they are being held. Typically, in the SEC, it's the losing team in this posture. Cool points to offensive line coach Shawn Elliott getting his young linemen ready for the battle in the trenches.
D.J. Swearinger's Interception
Swearinger actually was supposed to switch off his defender due to the motion of the wide receivers. From another angle, not shown here, you can see that Swearinger actually waves off Victor Hampton and decides to run with his motioning defender. This turned out to be a great decision.
This is a common goal-line route by the targeted receiver. Swearinger does an incredible job of recognizing it so quickly and jumping underneath it to get in the passing lane. The ball was thrown low or else this may have been a 99-yard interception for a touchdown. The other secondary players did a great job of not getting confused during the motion and sticking tight on their receivers.
The front four was actually held to stalemate here, which gave the quarterback a clear lane to throw this pass. Swearinger just made the play of the game to swing the momentum back to the Gamecocks.
Brandon Wilds 24-Yard Rush
The first thing worth noticing on this play is the free safety of Tennessee's pre-snap alignment. Alshon Jeffery only had three catches in this game but his impact on the gameplan can be seen clearly on this play. The respect the secondary gave Jeffery was one of the reasons this play went for over 20 yards instead of 8 or 9 yards.
Credit Tennessee for scouting the Gamecocks on this formation. For whatever reason, the Gamecocks do like to run the inside zone to the weak-side of the formation. Tennessee's response to this was to bring down the weak safety into the box quickly. So they were able to get eight in the box versus the inside zone play. However, the overall push that the Gamecock offensive line was able to create enabled a cutback lane to appear.
Wilds did an incredible job of reading this cutback and bursting through the line. When we coached the inside zone play we would always tell our running backs to go "smooth to the line and explode through the line." Wilds does a fantastic job of sniffing out the cutback and then EXPLODING through the line of scrimmage. But make no mistake, it was the movement created by the offensive line backside that allowed this big play to happen. Often the running back will get the backside cutback read but then run into a stalemate when he gets there. Not this time.
Also notice the center, T.J. Johnson, initially get driven backwards but keep his feet moving and use great upper body technique to still win his individual battle with the nose guard.
Also, I like the way Wilds runs with a chip on his shoulder. His posture is one of a man trying to prove everyone wrong about him. It seems like lately I keep seeing stories about this mentality in great players. Aaron Rodgers plays with it because he was not recruited by bigger schools as does Bart Scott of the New York Jets. The effort that Wilds gives exudes the subtext of "I TOLD YOU SO!" and I love that about him.
Brandon Wilds' posture and style remind me of the San Francisco 49er great Roger Craig. He seems to have a similar "gallop" to his stride that Craig had.
Ace Sanders gets a serviceable stalk block from his inside slot position, but Alshon Jeffery does not. Typically, on long runs I have been highlighting what a great job the USC wide receivers have done with their downfield blocking, especially Jeffery. However, on this one particular play, Jeffery hesitates slightly as he looks back over his shoulder for the runner and it is this hesitation that possibly cost Wilds a much longer run or even a touchdown.
I can understand if Jeffery gets bored occasionally, especially lately. But I am hoping he won't do this again, because he is normally a monster downfield on defensive backs.
Devin Taylor Sack for 6-Yard Loss
The first thing of importance during this play is the fact that USC only brings four people to create this sack. Ellis Johnson said he was only going to be bringing four and not blitzing a lot in this game because he was confident in his front four. That turned out to be right on this play.
There is also a very subtle nuance of Johnson's scheme happening on this play. The Gamecocks faked a blitz initially with Quin Smith, the weakside linebacker. This caused the tight end to step inside to block, leaving Taylor alone on the running back.
The Catch-22 for the offense in this scheme is Smith actually has the tight end man-to-man so if he does go out to help on Taylor on the end, then Smith would shoot the gap. Overall, this particular play shows some of the minutia in the coaching of Johnson's scheme which allowed Taylor to be in a one-on-one with a running-back. Taylor does a great job of holding on for the sack while the quarterback tried to duck him.
The strongside backer, Paulk, recognizes quickly that he has no back-out on his side and no tight end. He can therefore look for the first inside break. Since Paulk does this so effectively (after faking a blitz), it causes the quarterback to pump the ball to the first inside breaking target which allows time for Taylor to beat his running back.
Connor Shaw 23-Yard TD Pass to Rory Anderson
The best thing about this fourth-and-one play is the fact that it was NOT the toss sweep into the boundary run at the double-wing formation that has been stopped by multiple teams this year (see Navy or Mississippi State).
I was so happy to see Spurrier actually employ a form of deception into his thought process. (Although the execution of the play fake still leaves a lot to be desired, I will credit both the quarterback and running back for abandoning the fake in order to buy time and make a block.)
Again, Alshon Jeffery's impact on this game is not seen but felt. The deep safety that could have been in a position to help out on Anderson as he ran wide open is busy double-teaming Jeffery out to the wide side of the field.
South Carolina has gone for it on fourth-and-one many times this season and been stopped. Tennessee knew this and knew how to stop it. Unfortunately for Tennessee they were wrong this time. The actual player responsible for the tight end on a passing play was the playside linebacker. If you watch the entire play, that playside linebacker is the player that hits the quarterback as he throws the ball. Typically, it will be hard to hit the quarterback as he throws it AND cover the tight end 20 yards downfield.
This is the best argument for using deception more often in situations like this. However, when the Gamecocks utilize this type of decision strategically the players have to step up and make great plays. Shaw, Wilds and Buster Anderson all did that on this play.
Shaw buys time as he drifts back sensing the avalanche of pressure. Wilds abandons his fake to create a great collision at the point of attack, and Buster Anderson, a true freshman, defies the odds by being "drop-dead wide open" AND NOT dropping the pass!
There is an outside chance NOT having Marcus Lattimore made this decision easier for Spurrier to make. I am sure he has vivid memories of a true freshman named Jared Cook dropping a wide open touchdown versus Auburn in 2006. Having a player like Lattimore makes it that much harder to rely on the fringe players like Anderson. However, in this instance, not having Lattimore meant that Spurrier's mind was free to make the best overall decision from a strategic standpoint without factoring in personnel.
Wagner Interception, Cody Gibson Tackle
Cody Gibson made a game-saving play on this interception. However, he was not alone. I want to point out all of the incredible "great efforts" made during this interception run back.
Cody Gibson: I will start by outlining Gibson's effort. At the 45-yard line he is only 5 yards away from the ball carrier.
But by the 27-yard line it is obvious he is in no position to make any kind of play. He keeps hustling even though it seems futile. He is even forced to hurdle one of his teammates but still doesn't quit.
Rokevious Watkins: It is hard to figure out why Watkins is so far outside the hash mark when he finally shows up. My only assumption is he must have gotten tangled up with his original block long enough after the interception that he had to sprint around that Tennessee defender to the outside. Then he hustles all the way back to the goal line causing the runner to turn back to his left which eventually leads to the tackle. Watkins creates a huge collision right at the goal line as he is blocked, but it was his presence that caused the ball carrier to retreat back and eventually get tackled.
Connor Shaw: Unlike many quarterbacks during an interception return, Connor Shaw doesn't make a "token effort" at the tackle. He completely sells out sprinting back and changing directions to slow the runner down.
Brandon Wilds: Brandon's effort on this one play was probably the single greatest determining factor leading to Gibson's tackle. If you watch, Wilds is the first Gamecock to react to the Tennessee player's play. Wilds has kicked into high gear pursuit even before the catch was secured.
At the 50-yard line it would appear that Wilds is going to be able to catch the runner.
But the runner makes a nice shift to his right and a blocker forces Wilds to run toward the boundary away from the ball carrier.
Wilds continues to sprint down the sideline and eventually shows back up around the 5-yard line.
He does miss the tackle, but his effort was outstanding on this play. His missed tackle slowed the runner long enough to enable the lumbering Gibson to finish him off.
Wilds started his first collegiate game, rushed for over 130 yards, caught three passes, and was relied upon to replace the best tailback in the country, but it will be this play that stands out the most in my mind.
I have highlighted where Wilds lines up at the start of the play in the image below. Watch this play again and again simply staring at Wilds the entire play. You will have to conclude as I have that this is his finest effort of the ball game.
The Referee: An outstanding effort was made by the white-cap official to hustle all the way down the field on this play. Had he not done so, he may not have been directly in the way of the returner at his most crucial decision point.
Had the referee just loafed his way through this play, then the ball carrier may have been able to run down the middle of the field and out run Shaw, Watkins and Wilds for a touchdown.
From coach to comedian: Marty SimpsonClick So as much grief as we have given the officials this season, let's all take time to thank this white cap for his extra efforts on this particular play.Here to view this Link. is a former Academic All-Conference player for USC who scored the Gamecocks' first 6 points in the SEC. During 8 years as a high school varsity coach, Simpson led his team to the state finals and saw one player advance to set an NFL rookie record. Simpson now divides his time between his family, running a multimedia company named Blue-Eyed PandaClick So as much grief as we have given the officials this season, let's all take time to thank this white cap for his extra efforts on this particular play.Here to view this Link. and traveling the country performing stand-up comedy for clubs, churches, and corporations.

Check out Marty's comedian website here.Click So as much grief as we have given the officials this season, let's all take time to thank this white cap for his extra efforts on this particular play.Here to view this Link.
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