The Syracuse Orange defeated Wake Forest on Saturday, thanks in large part to two big passing plays that turned a four point deficit into a 10 point lead. The first was an 89-yard pass from quarterback Eric Dungey to wide receiver Brisly Estime.
The play worked due to a variety of factors. We went to the film to review the tape and have a full breakdown below.
The picture above shows the formation for both teams. Wake Forest has two corners playing off coverage, a four man defensive line, three linebackers in the box and a linebacker/safety hybrid (Hunter Williams) just outside of the big. A single high safety is standing at the 20 yard line on the left hash. Syracuse has Steve Ishmael at the top of the screen, Brisly Estime at the bottom and Ben Lewis as a double wing. Estime runs a deep square in, Ishmael runs a short corner route and Lewis runs a drag across the field.
Ishmael starts his route by faking a slant before cutting out towards the sideline. Lewis goes up field first and then crosses over the middle. Both of these routes end up on the left side of the picture above, leading Wake’s single high safety to read the play and head in that direction. Especially after seeing Dungey roll to that side of the field after taking the snap. Wake also used an extra rusher, who is starting to break free. Hunter Williams took Lewis initially, but lets him go as others take over covering his route.
The single high safety, Ryan Janvion, is now darting towards Ishmael to double him. The rolling action of Dungey causes Janvion to abandon his middle of the field responsibilities. Hunter Williams could have dropped back into coverage at this point, but sees Jordan Fredericks coming out of the backfield and immediately runs to cover him.
Dungey now has a Wake pass rusher in his face (circled to the right of the picture), but is able to avoid him by side stepping and pushing up in the pocket. With Janvion now focused on Ishmael and Lewis, Estime is starting to take his route to the middle of the field, where there is now a large open space. Because Wake used only one safety in deep coverage, using Williams to guard against the run first and then short pass second, his action allowed the field to open leaving them vulnerable to the big play. Dungey extending the play with his feet allowed all of that to develop.
Williams is now doubling Ishmael as Dungey is prepared to throw. Estime has the entire middle of the field in which to operate. He darts across the middle into the open area and Dungey sees the vacancy, sidearming the ball in an attempt to hit Estime in stride.
Despite the huge opening, Wake cornerback Devin Gaulden actually has solid coverage. However, he is still a step behind Estime over the middle. This means that only a perfect pass from Dungey will result in a completion. If the pass is behind Estime, Gaulden can either break the pass up or potentially pick it off. But Dungey’s pass is on the money, and Gaulden’s diving attempt cannot get to the ball. When Estime catches it, he is off to the races with no one in front of him. Touchdown.
There were several elements here that made the play work. The coverage Wake Forest decided to play, with one safety alone in deep coverage was a factor. His decision to leave the middle of the field and double Ishmael, falling victim to the rollout action of Dungey, also contributed. Then, Dungey’s ability to extend the play with his feet and deliver a perfect strike after recognizing the opening in the deep middle of the field sealed the deal.
Given Syracuse’s starting field position and lack of success in the passing game, it appears the Demon Deacons were banking on a run play and were left vulnerable as a result.