This week in the ‘Film Room’, UteZone will be analyzing three offensive and defensive that helped shape the 28-23 loss to Cal. The following are key plays throughout the game, both good and bad, that made a noticeable difference on the game.
1. 3RD Quarter – 3rd and 10 at Utah’s 41-yard line
On Utah’s second drive of the second half, they face a 3rd and long, trying to sustain a drive and take their first lead of the game. Utah lines up with two receivers to the left and a tight end offset of the left tackle. Cal shows a Cover 2 look at pre-snap, with only three down linemen.
Handley and Moss stay in the backfield, as Utah has max protect on. Cal doesn’t blitz, so Utah has seven blockers on three defenders. As you’d expect, there’s absolutely no pressure on Williams. Cal drops in to a Cover 3 with a QB spy. The outside receiver to the left (Singleton) runs a go route, while the Simpkins, in the slot, runs a 10-yard dig route. Williams first read is over to Singleton on the go route, but it’s well covered.
Because the middle linebacker is spying, he creeps up towards the line of scrimmage, which leaves a hole over the middle. Williams progresses to Simpkins over the middle and makes a perfect throw in stride. Simpkins make the grab while absorbing a hit, and extends the drive, which ultimately led to a Utah touchdown.
2. 4th Quarter –1st and 10 at Cal’s 36-yard line
Down 11, and desperate for points, Utah has driven in to Cal’s territory behind the arm of Troy Williams. After a first down, Utah lines up with trips to the right. Cal is in a 4-2-5 formation, and is showing Cover 1 man to man. Utah decides to take a deep shot on 1st down, and runs 4 Verts (all go routes).
Cal doesn’t back off the Cover 1 man to man look, and keeps the linebackers towards the line of scrimmage in the “hook to curl” zone. Two Ute receivers “win” off the line of scrimmage. Tyrone Smith, the lone receiver to the left, and Demari Simpkins in the middle of the trips formation. The single high safety was cheating over towards Smith’s side, so the safer throw would’ve been to Simpkins, but Williams goes to Smith instead. Smith has his guy beat, but has the safety closing in on him fast.
The throw from Williams is good, very good, but it’s not perfect. The ball needed to be placed more towards Smith’s outside shoulder. However, the throw does beat both the safety and corner, and squeezes in to a small hole between the two. Smith does a great job at focusing on the ball, and pulls in the catch, setting Utah up on the 1-yard line.
3. 4th Quarter – 3rd and goal at Cal’s 1-yard line
One play for all the marbles. After two failed attempts at reaching the end zone from the one-yard line, and the play clock ticking, Utah lines up for the last play of the game. Three seconds left. Utah is in their goal line package, with two tight ends on the right of the formation. Cal has five defensive linemen, and three more linebackers in the box, shading the right side of the Utes’ offense. The play is the Utes’ standard power run play. They pull right guard Isaac Asiata, and the rest of the offensive line down blocks to their left.
The line blocks the play beautifully, except for one small thing. The Cal defensive tackle is able to get more penetration on Sam Tevi than you would like on this play. Tevi’s job is to take the man lined up over Uhatafe, and drive him to the left of the field. Tevi does just that, but it takes place behind the line of scrimmage. Not a deal breaker on the play, but not ideal. Williams hands off to Moss, who almost immediately cuts up field as he thinks he sees an opening slightly to his left. He’s not wrong, as there is definitely an opening, but because Tevi’s job is to push the defensive tackle to that side of the field, the whole is essentially closed up by Moss’s own teammate. Had Moss not followed his first instinct, and stayed behind Asiata pulling, he would have walked in to the end zone untouched. Not much more you can ask from your offensive line than that.
Tevi continues pushing the defensive tackle to his left, directly in to the path of Moss, and Moss isn’t able to break the tackle of a 300lb defensive tackle, coming up about 6 inches short of the goal line. Ball game.
1. 1ST Quarter – 1st and 10 at Utah’s 39-yard line
Cal lines up with trips to the right, but motion the lone receiver on the left, over to the right side before the snap, essentially making the formation Quad Right. The motion gives the Cal offense insight that Utah isn’t running man to man, as corner Reggie Porter does not follow the receiver in motion.
With all four receivers now on the right of the formation, safety Chase Hansen adjusts his zone and covers the middle of the field, about 10-yards deep. Marcus Williams and Brian Allen drop straight back in to coverage, which means it’s Cover 3. The motioning receiver runs a wheel route, and Cal’s play design is intended to get the zone cover defender to follow the furthest outside receiver towards the middle of the field, running a post route.
The play design works to perfection, as Brian Allen abandons his zone and follows the outside receiver towards the middle of the field, not seeing the streaking receiver up the sideline. Davis Webb makes a safe and easy throw, and Cal takes a 14-point lead.
2. 4th Quarter – 3rd and 6 at Cal’s 15-yard line
Utah’s offense just failed to convert on a 4th down, so now Cal has the ball deep in their own territory. The Ute defense has bottled up the Bears on 1st and 2nd down, and now just need to get off the field. Cal has trips to the right side, and then motion Melquise Stovall towards the slot position on the right. Utah once again gives a zone look on defense.
The Utes only rush three, and drop a defensive tackle in to coverage. On the trips side, Cal’s two outside receivers run go routes, which is intended to clear out defender for the out route being run by Stovall. Both corners to the trips side, Hatfield and Thomas, do not have deep zone responsibilities, and are playing shallow zones. The clear out routes work as intended though, and neither of the corners make quick enough breaks to stop the pass to Stovall.
Webb delivers a high ball to Stovall, who makes a great leaping grab, and falls down right at the first down line, right in front of Hatfield and Thomas. The play is ruled a first down, and three plays later, Cal throws a bomb over the top of Brian Allen for another touchdown.
3. 4TH Quarter – 2nd and 15 at Utah’s 26-yard line
After a good response by the Ute offense to make it a one possession game, the Utes are relying on their defense to do something they seldom did, stop Cal from scoring. After an incompletion and penalty, Cal faces 2nd and long, and lines up with trips to the right. Utah gives a man coverage look pre-snap, but resorts to Cover 3 at the snap.
Once again, Utah drops Pasoni Tasini, a defensive tackle, in to coverage, and only rush three. Pita Taumoepenu gets a great jump off the ball like he usually does, and uses his speed to run around the left tackle. Meanwhile, Davis Webb is looking to go deep to his left, but Brian Allen is running stride for stride with the receiver. With the linebackers in zone coverage, the middle of the field is covered as well, and that’s where Webb’s second read is.
Seeing as his first two reads are covered, and sensing the pressure from his backside, Webb attempts to escape the pocket. Taumoepenu has the beat the left tackle with speed, and then simply side steps the running back. As Webb runs backwards out of the pocket, Taumoepenu is able to trip him up for Utah’s only sack on the day.