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Inside the Play: Wisconsin

The Situation
There are 2 minutes and 28 seconds left in the third quarter, and Michigan's offense is like, kinda sucking. And by "kinda sucking" I mean "had 31 yards in the entire game prior to this drive." However, with 54 yards already racked up in this one drive, a touchdown would be the perfect thing to break the offensive funk. It would also put Michigan down by only 12 points, despite Wisconsin dominating most of the first three quarters. They might just be able to get back into the game...

The Personnel and Formation
Michigan is on the right hash in a basic spread set. Brandon Minor is the running back to Steven Threet's left. Greg Mathews and Junior Hemingway are the wideouts to the left and right, respectively. In the left slot is Martavious Odoms. At slot on the right side is tight end Kevin Koger, appearing in a game for the first time this year. Wisconsin counters with a 3-2-6 dime package. The four CB/Nickel players are head up over the receivers. The linebackers are head up over Threet and Minor. The two safeties are deep.

The PlayAt the snap, Threet takes a 3-step drop. Minor sets as though he's pass blocking, though Wisconsin only comes on a three-man rush. Free of the duty of protecting Threet, Minor runs a short circle route out of the backfield. Odoms runs a 10-yard stop route. The other three receivers all run vertical routes, with Mathews and Hemingway on fly routes down the sideline, and Koger running a seam down the middle.

Wisconsin rushes the three linemen, runs man coverage on the receivers (and backs, including a spy on Threet), and has two safeties taking deep halves over the top. Threet goes deep to Koger, who is behind his defender. Koger makes the catch at the 6, and isn't hit by a safety until after he's in the endzone.

Why it Worked
First things first, if your receivers are able to get open against man coverage, this is an effective play call against 2-man-under defense. Considering Wisconsin had a nickel corner lined up in press coverage against a TE, Koger should be able to get open, the question is whether he'll be able to maintain that separation. With his athleticism, Koger is able to defeat the defender down the field.

The wideouts on the outside are able to force the safeties to stay wide, so they aren't leaving their corners on an island (which they don't want to do in 2-man-under coverage - their duty is to defend anything over the top). That horizontal stretch allows Koger to catch the ball in the middle of the field in the seam between the deep men. Allow me to point out here that this is the point of Michigan's "look over to the sideline" no-huddle offense. The coaches in the booth saw two safeties high, and knew that a deep seam route would likely be effective. They told the coaches down on the field, who then relayed the read to Threet. One must assume that as he gets more comfortable with the offense (probably not until future years), Steve will be able to make these reads himself.

The protection on this play was also good. Michigan's dynamic offense forces the defense to account for every player, including the quarterback (though keep in mind that Michigan's offense had been anything but stellar at this point in the game). Because of that, Wisconsin had to rush only three men in order to man up on everyone and keep two safeties high. Michigan's offensive line, for all their difficulty run-blocking, has actually performed fairly well in protection so far this year, and the five blockers (which would have been four with Minor if the LB had blitzed) were easily able to corral the pass rush. Threet had enough time in the pocket to let Koger go deep, and the timing was perfect.

Now you know what it was like Inside the Play.

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“Inside the Play: Wisconsin”

  1. Anonymous Anonymous Says:


    I just wanted to add something I found out from another highlight of this play. Threet actually looks towards Mathews for a little while which forces the safety who's assigned to Mathews to kinda stay around there just making sure he's not there to break the pass up.

    This looking-off was probably an element of the play but kudos to Threet for exec'ing perfectly.


  2. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    This is so awesome. Keep doing shit like this.

  3. Blogger Max Says:

    Fabulous stuff.

    Correct me if I'm wrong though:
    "and the five blockers (which would have been four with Minor if the LB had blitzed)"

    If I understand correctly, wouldn't Minor have been an additional blocker in the case of a LB blitz - bringing the count to six?