PSU Playbook: Butler Touchdown Strike

Get a closer look at Anthony Morelli's 29-yard touchdown pass to Deon Butler, which put the Nittany Lions up 17-7 over Wisconsin in the second quarter of last weekend's clash. What did the formation look like? Why did it work so well? What did Morelli do to help Butler break the play open?

One of the most intriguing and entertaining aspects of the Football Fantasy Camp at Penn State is having the ability to dig into PSU's playbook and learn about the various schemes, formations and play variations the Nittany Lions run from the coaches themselves, like Larry Johnson, Galen Hall, Jay Paterno and Brian Norwood. Periodically this season we'll take a closer look at the inner-workings of a specific plays or schemes PSU runs to help give you a better understanding of the game and give you just a taste of what you can experience and learn from the PSU staff at Fantasy Football Camp.

In Saturday's 38-7 win over Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions got their second touchdown off a 29-yard touchdown strike from Anthony Morelli to Deon Butler. You can see the play at the 55-second mark of this video recap here.

The general play formation is a staple of Penn State's offensive scheme. However, this set ran a slight variation, maintaining maximum pocket protection of Morelli. Called Spread Right Pistol RZ Streak, the naming of the play is pretty simple — spread refers to the split ends spreading wide on the play, right basically means the open end of the formation is to the right. Pistol is a general PSU term where the X and Y positions are on opposite ends of the formation and "RZ streak" means the R and Z split ends will run streak patterns.

The play is a spread formation with the split ends (R, Z) lined up wide on the wings and the X receiver in the slot up on the line of scrimmage, the "slot" being inside between the offensive line and the split end. The trips right formation includes the tight end (Y) off the offensive line and a single back (A) lined up behind the quarterback (Q). Here is how the basic formation is set.

Here are the routes each target is directed to run in the formation:

X: Slant @ 5 Steps, Out @ 5 Steps
Z: Streak Pattern
Y: Block Protection
R: Streak Pattern
A: Block Protection

Notice both the A (RB) and Y (TE) are kept in to provide maximum protection for quarterback (Q). This is presumably to provide him with enough time for the play to develop and throw in the fake before he releases the ball. Wisconsin was not blitzing, so the added protection, particularly the A back, was not needed for the plays success.

In the play Morelli starts under center. On the snap the split ends (Deon Butler - R, and Jordan Norwood - Z) hit their streaks, while the slot receiver (Derrick Williams - X) takes an inside slant at five steps and then shifts to an out after another five steps. This X route serves as a decoy, drawing the safety support in and away from the wing and carrying it into the center of the defensive backfield, and hence away from the intended target, the R receiver.

At the same moment Morelli looks left to the Z receiver and throws a hard pump fake, which freezes the Wisconsin linebackers for a moment and further draws the safety support toward the far side of the field, and away from the intended target, the R receiver.

Williams' X route and Morelli's fake remove the deep strong safety support and allows Butler to take advantage of the man coverage by accelerating past his corner assignment, who was also thrown off his coverage for a moment by the fake. At this point he breaks a bit wide on his route to create further separation from the coverage. Morelli launches a deep pass once Butler hits his acceleration point and hits him in the end zone.

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