This week in the ‘Film Room,’ UteZone will analyze two of the bigger offensive plays and a drive in the 3rd quarter of the game vs San Jose State. Four of the six plays are passes, but three of those include some kind of play action or off the inside zone.
2nd Quarter – 2nd & 7 at Utah’s 28-yard line
This is the first big play we’ll break down. San Jose State had just scored a touchdown on the previous drive and Utah needed to respond. They had just handed off to Moss on the same run the play before which went for a gain of 3. Utah is in a trips left, with Butler-Byrd in the slot, and Harrison Handley lined up next to Jackson Barton. SJSU is lined up in a 4-3 with a single high safety, no corner to the boundary (short side of the field).
Moss takes a handoff to the short side of the field, with Uhatafe and Asiata pulling in front of him. Bolles and Dielman need to ensure there’s no penetration and pursuit from the backside. Dielman chop blocks the lineman covering him, while Bolles has a second level block and attempts a block on No. 5 but misses.
The crucial parts of this play were Handley, Barton, and Uhatafe all successfully winning their blocks. Uhatafe has the difficult job of locating the edge defender and connecting on his block. This will be more difficult as he faces better athletes, but he did extremely well here. Handley and Barton have to block against penetration in the backfield and then seal the edge. Again, not easy but they did just that and Moss was off to the races for a 51 yard gain. Also, Moss deserves credit on his run for tucking that ball high & tight as pursuit was closing in, that’s a heads up play from a freshman that was running away from guys in HS last year.
2. 2ND Quarter –2nd and 10 at Utah’s 37-yard line
Utah got the ball with about a minute and thirty seconds left in the half fairly deep in their own territory. After a first down, Utah attempted to get the ball downfield on the play before to Raelon Singleton streaking down the left side, but Singleton wasn't able to hang on to what looked like a perfectly placed pass. Here, on second and 10, Utah would once again test the SJSU secondary. Utah lines up in trips right to the field with Tim Patrick the lone receiver to the left. SJSU does a good job of disguising coverage pre-snap, it looked like a cover-2, but the corners dropped into quarters coverage (cover 4) at the snap.
After the snap, the defensive backs all drop into their cover 4. On this play, Tim Patrick will run a skinny post as he breaks towards the left hash, where a safety should be in quarters coverage. Patrick's route is good, but it's Cory Butler-Byrd who makes this play possible. Butler-Byrd runs a 12 yard dig route, but as he gets to the linebacker, he releases to the inside and then works upfield on his dig route. Butler-Byrd is at the left hashmark by the time he makes his break to the sideline. Because of that, it forces the bottom safety to stop in his backpedal, and work back up field, which creates a window for Troy Williams to throw into.
Williams throws a beautiful ball to Patrick in a relatively small window. Knowing the play, his read was the safety the entire time. If the safety stayed over the top of the play, and continued to drop in coverage, Williams would throw to Butler-Byrd. Luckily, the safety did come up in coverage as Butler-Byrd tripped and fell to the ground, making it an easy decision for Williams and a big gain for the Utes.
3. 3RD Quarter – 2nd and 8 at Utah’s 43-yard line
The first play of a drive in the 3rd quarter, this drive impressed me as each play centers around the inside zone run play-action. The offense went 3 & out on the previous possession after a five yard loss on a 1st down run set them back. Utah had a gain of two on 1st down, and it became apparent SJSU was selling out to stop the run. To combat that, Aaron Roderick figuratively put the ball into Troy’s hands to move the ball, as they called an RPO (run-pass option).
During the mesh point, Williams' responsibility is making the correct read between handing it off to Shyne or pulling the ball & making a quick throw to Patrick on a slant route. The decision has to be quick to avoid any penalty for an illegal lineman downfield, as the interior guys are run blocking. The line has done a good job of not working too far, if at all, past the line of scrimmage on most of their RPO calls. Williams' eyes will be on the backside linebacker, if he comes up to defend the run - it’s a pass. If he stays put or works towards Patrick at all - it’s a handoff.
The linebacker attacks playside where the run would go, so Williams pulls and throws a dart to Patrick who makes the catch and then takes it for 15 yards.
4. 3RD Quarter– 2nd and 19 at Utah 49-yard line
After a sack on 1st down for a loss of 9, another RPO is called. Again, Williams is responsible for reading the backside linebacker, who on this play attacks the run. So Williams once again takes what is given and completes the pass to Patrick, who picks up another 15 yards.
5. 3RD Quarter - 3rd and 4 at SJSU 42
Utah just completed a 15 yard pass, it’s a reasonable distance on 3rd down, especially considering how well the running backs had been running. This is a two-back set, with Patrick up top, Butler-Byrd in the slot, and Wilson at the bottom of the screen. SJSU is in a 5-1-5 look, with a middle linebacker & a strong safety just off the LOS to the field (wide side), with a safety over the top of Butler-Byrd, and then McCormick is set in motion to the field.
At the snap, you’ll notice the inside zone play action, which the middle linebacker again jumps on. Butler-Byrd runs hard off the line directly at the safety, which leaves the strong safety 1-on-1 with McCormick. Despite looking like he had the angle, McCormick is just too fast and beats him to the edge for a gain of 11.
6. 3RD Quarter - 1st and 10 at SJSU 25
This is the last play on the drive that we’ll break down. After multiple play-actions off the inside zone, the offense finally goes with the run. After getting picked apart on this drive, the defense understandably hesitated to jump the run on this play. The offense is in a four wide shotgun formation, with the play side to the field. Wilson & Simpkins are to the top of the screen with Butler-Byrd & Patrick at the bottom. SJSU is in another 5-1-5 look with a single high safety and defensive backs lined up 5 yards off in the slots, press coverage from the cornerbacks.
At the snap, Wilson takes an outside release and turns the cornerback around away from the play. Simpkins fires out of his stance, running directly the defensive back covering him. Butler-Byrd backs up and breaks to the sideline on a bubble screen, while Patrick blocks his man for the screen.
At the line, Asiata & Bolles perform a fold block which is a beautiful sight to see. Asiata takes a bucket step (drop step) and pulls to the left, while Bolles down blocks the man covering Asiata. While that is going on Barton is pulling across the line and either kicking out or sealing off the first man that shows. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but Garrett down blocks so well that he pushes the guy back into the linebacker. Not only that, but it looks like he even gets a shoulder on him.
With Barton pulling, it leaves a defender uncovered who becomes the option-man. He attacks Williams, which makes the decision a pretty easy one. Shyne takes the handoff behind Barton and follows him through the Grand Canyon-sized hole for a good 10 yards.
This was a drive that used the pass to set up the run. It wasn’t necessarily pass-first play calling, but by using RPO’s, Coach Roderick trusted Troy Williams to make the correct reads, which he did and the offense moved the ball down the field.