Two Huge But Not So Big Plays

Our guest expert Mike Stoeber offers his unique perspective on two plays in the LSU game that won't be remembered for years to come, but were two of the most important plays in the entire game that helped decide that it was going to be a blowout win in favor of Florida.

Mike Stoeber is a long time friend of mine and as qualified of a person as you will find in teaching football to the general public. As a matter of fact, Mr. Stoeber used to teach football as a course at the University of Florida. He was the Director of Football Operations under Ron Zook and before that Stoeber really sank his teeth into game planning and learning tendencies of Gator opponents as the Game Analysis Coordinator under Steve Spurrier and his staff. He worked for many years on the staff with current Gator defensive coordinator Charlie Strong.

Stoeber was my boss throughout my years on the staff at Florida and is currently still working in the field of analyzing plays and dissecting coaches video. He works for a large company that works with teams in analyzing opponents and developing game plans. His current client list includes more than 50 NFL and collegiate teams. Both teams that met in the Super Bowl last year are current client's of Stoeber and he also does work for seven SEC teams.

Here is his unique perspective on two very important plays in the game.

"One play at a time"
"Play every play like it is the most important play of the game"
"The game will be decided by 1 or 2 plays. Play every play like it is that play"

I have not been around a coach yet that has not used some form of coach-speak to describe the importance of every play in a game. I believe these sayings are very true and that there is an excellent example of this in the Florida-LSU game. Most people remember the big plays on offense and defense (Percy long TD catch, Demp's taking the option pitch for a long TD run, Spikes interception return for a TD). However, I believe it is selected plays between the big ones that are just as critical and important to the game's outcome.

In watching the game, two plays, one from each team, in the third quarter were big in the ultimate outcome. It is interesting how both similar and different these two plays were.

Both were third down and medium plays (3rd-and-3-6).
Both were on drives answering the other team's scoring drive.
Both were good play calls from the offensive coordinators.
Both plays involved their team's offensive playmaker.
Both plays were the result of the play in the trenches.

One resulted in a first drive while the other did not.
One was due to good execution while the other did not.

Play #1 – UF's first 3rd Down Attempt in the Third Quarter

SITUATION - After UF scored in the second quarter to go up 20-0, LSU put together a six-play, 60-yard TD drive to end the half and another eight play, 67 yard TD drive to start the 3rd quarter. Suddenly a rout changed to a one score game and more than half of the third quarter had already expired. UF completed a pass on first down for four yards, ran Demps for three yards on second down and was facing 3rd-and-3 on their own 40-yard line. Failure to convert would put the ball back in LSU hands with a chance to take the lead.

PLAY ("QB Power") - UF aligned in an empty set with four to one side. The TE motioned in before the snap. LSU showed a cover 0 look (six rushers, man-to-man coverage, no deep safety). At the snap, the TE crosses the formation to block the DE on the other side. The rest of the line blocks the man to their right. LSU does blitz six. For this play, the LSU linebacker (#56-Perry Riley) unexpectedly jumps outside the B Gap. Phil Trautwein actually misses the block because of this move, but then does a great job of boxing out the player like he was playing in the low post so as not to interfere with Tebow and protect the B Gap. The backer and the free safety (#27-Cutris Taylor) make the tackle, but not after the first down is made. In short, LSU blitzes and does not remain gap sound. UF OL does a good job. UF first down.

RESULT – After converting, UF took only five more plays (no third down plays) to drive the 56 yards for a TD, including a nice 37-yard pass to Murphy down the sideline. In fact, the offense got rolling so well that it was midway through the fourth quarter with UF leading 41-20 before UF even had another 3rd down attempt.

Play #2 – LSU's third down on Answering Drive

SITUATION - After UF scored on the drive detailed above, LSU got the ball to start on its own 24-yard line. An incomplete pass and a six yard run led to a 3rd-and-4 down situation. LSU needed to answer UF score or at least give their defense a little rest following UF long drive for a TD.

PLAY – LSU aligns in a one back, one TE set with two receivers opposite the TE. The shotgun formation is what has gotten LSU back into the game. The inside receiver (#1-Brandon LaFell) motions to the other side prior to the snap. UF, in their 3-3 defense package, shows blitz like LSU did. The only difference is that UF showed a cover 1 look (5 rushers, man-to-man coverage, 1 deep safety). At the snap, UF rushes 5, bring the backers from the outside. LSU outside receivers run outside routes to get their defenders out of the play. The TE and the WR run a textbook rub route. This is where the TE runs a five-yard out route while the WR cuts behind the TE on an in route. This was run perfectly with Joe Haden getting picked off by the TE. However, the playside backer beats the tackle on a great speed rush and hurries the QB. As a result, the QB (#12-Jarrett Lee) throws behind the wide-open receiver, resulting in an incomplete pass. In short, UF blitzes and gets pressure. LSU OL fails to stop the rush. LSU fourth down.

RESULT – LSU punted and UF started their next drive on their own 40. UF scored three touchdowns and and a field goal on the next five drives. In contrast, LSU's last five drives were an interception returned for a touchdown, two drives ending in turnovers by downs, and only one touchdown. LSU was 1-5 for the rest of the game on third and fourth down conversions with the only conversion happening with less than a minute in the game.

It is sometimes the little play that changes the game. Two third down plays in the third quarter went a long way to deciding the game. It is unlikely that these plays are seen on the highlight reel or even remembered in a week or two. However, their effect was great in this game and the outcome of this game will go a very long way to define the success of the 2008 Gators.

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