Syracuse was able to find a way to win in Saturday's 30-27 overtime victory over Central Michigan. One of the key plays was a third and goal stop by the defense. The Chippewas got the ball first and quickly had a first and goal at the four yard line. Two plays later, it was third and goal from the one. Here is how Syracuse made the stop.
Central Michigan lines up in a Power I formation with two lead blockers. The lead blocker closest to the quarterback is Trevor Thomas (#35) while immediately behind him is Joe Bacci (#40). The running back is Devon Spalding (#25), who will get the ball on this play. Thomas' responsibility is to take out anyone coming off of the edge on the left of the formation to prevent them from coming down and stopping Spalding. Bacci is a traditional lead blocker here, responsible for blocking anyone attempting to fill the hole they are trying to create.
Here you can see the hole starting to develop. Thomas is attempting to block Ron Thompson, though Thomas' body is blocked by Bacci in this shot. The offensive line has crashed down to the right, and you can see the small circle where Syracuse is starting to get a little penetration. That would be linebacker Marqez Hodge, who is actually the key to Syracuse's stop on this play. That will become more clear in the subsequent pictures.
Here is a better shot of Hodge starting to get penetration. You can also see Rodney Williams coming down to fill the hole with Bacci looking to block him. He ends up taking Williams out of the play.
Now Hodge has beaten his block and plugged the running lane that was supposed to develop between Bacci and tight end Ben McCord (#89). His penetration forces Spalding to dart to his left rather than straight ahead for a potential touchdown. Ron Thompson is waiting just off the picture above when Spalding makes his cut.
Spalding is now moving laterally instead of north and south. Thompson has beaten his blocker, Thomas, in order to get to Spalding. If not for Thompson shedding the block, Spalding has an open area to the outside to still make the play work and get into the end zone.
Once Thompson gets by his blocker, he wraps up Spalding and other players fly to the ball carrier as well to make the stop.
The key to this play was two fold. First, initial penetration by Marqez Hodge altered Spalding's inteded path based on the play design. Then, Thompson was able to shed a block in order to contact Spalding and make the tackle. The play design was solid by Central Michigan, especially with two lead blockers to create a hole with the offensive line crashing to one side. But two superb plays by Orange defenders negated the design. Without Hodge's play, Spalding walks into the end zone.