This is the 2nd part of my attempt to analyze every play of the 2nd drive of the game. A drive that in 6 plays went 2 total yards. So let's put on those hip-waders and get knee-deep in this garbage!
Yesterday I analyzed the first play of the second drive, a read option that got disrupted by a stunting DT. Good thing we get 4 tries, right? Let's see what Cal does on 2nd and 7.
Remember, not an expert here. And thanks for those of you who encouraged me to do this again--it's fun!
Drive 2 Play 2 : 2nd and 7 at the 37.
Here's a video of the play at full speed:
Yuck, right? It's a pass to the big TE Richard Rodgers, but it doesn't work. Bridgford, no!!!
But is it really on Bridgford? Let's break the play down and then assign blame!
Here is the pre-snap look:
Cal has lined up in a shotgun, empty backfield, spread look. Keep in mind that I think this is similar personnel to the former play, so though I can't see their numbers, I think we've got 2 WRs, 2 TEs and 1 RB on the field, but I might be wrong.
The defense counters with a 4-3, safeties and corners playing deep. This looks like a very conservative defense.
So what happens next?
It is, unsurprisingly, a pass.
Bridgford looks immediately to his left, where both the WR and the TE are making their cuts--it looks like they are both slanting in towards the middle of the field.
What is the defense doing? Not much. They rush four, and the three pass defenders on the play side haven't really moved. The CB has actually taken a few steps backwards. It appears to be a zone, with only 3 underneath defenders.
Time to slice and dice this zone, right? 5 short routes, 3 underneath defenders--easy money. Let's see what happens next:
Bridgford is just starting his throwing motion here. He has picked his target, the TE Richard Rodgers, who is coming across the face of the smaller LB. Is this the right guy to throw to? Let's look closer:
It looks like the TE is covered BUT THE WR IS OPEN! It appears that Bridgford didn't see the WR, or thought the LB was going to let the TE go by. But you can already see that the LB's hips are turned, and that he has committed to covering the TE. Did Bridgford just throw to the wrong receiver?
One more picture and then we'll solve the dilemma:
The ball is in the air! This photo doesn't contain a lot of new information, except for this little gem: the TE is getting interfered with on his route! FLAG! PENALTY! CHEATING! You can clearly see the LB's arm all up in the TE's business way before the ball arrives.
We all know how this ends. Rodgers drops the pass under heavy, borderline illegal, coverage.
But what went wrong?
WHY THIS NO TOUCHDOWN?
At first I thought it was just a bad pass to Rodgers, but that isn't the case. It's a perfectly thrown ball, up high and in a place only Rodgers could get it.
And then it looks like a misread: did Bridgford just not see the wide open WR? Maybe, but if you watch the clip, and focus on the QB's helmet, you see something funny. Not the whiteness of the helmet. Not that awful whiteness, that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe. Not that whiteness, the dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows--a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink. No. Not the whiteness.
Let's look again at the QB's helmet, ignore the horrible fact that it isn't blue, and see if we can tell what he's looking at. Is he just locked onto Rodgers?
Did you see it? It happens fast, and I'm not even sure I see it any longer. But doesn't it seem, like right after the QB gets the snap, his first look is right at the WR? Am I seeing things?
If that's what happened, then the theory that Bridgford missed the open WR is not a good one. Because it certainly seems like he looks directly at him and then, at the last second (he has already planted his back foot), he snaps back to Rodgers and makes the throw.
Here's a visual representation of this, admittedly tenuous, hypothesis:
So, according to this theory, Bridgford looked at the WR, THEN at the TE. But why didn't he throw it to the open WR then? Here's my theory.
The play was designed to "look off" the LB by fooling him into thinking it was going to the WR. If the LB closes in on the WR, then the TE will be open and trucking down the middle of the field. I think it was designed this way, because:
(1) The QB begins his throwing motion before he has even started to look at the TE.
(2) The QB does not throw it to the open WR.
In theory, like most plays, it should work. There is only one guy covering two in his zone. Look at one and throw to the other. But it doesn't.
This play doesn't work for a number of reasons, the main one (I think) being that the LB is not playing the QB's eyes, but rather the first man who comes into his zone. The designed look-off doesn't work. But we can still take a few things away from this play:
(1) The QB throws a very good ball to the TE. The idea was to use Richard Rodgers's body to screen off the defender and make the defender have to go through him to get to the ball.
(2) There is pass interference on the play. Yet it was still almost a completed pass.
(3) The play is designed to anticipate what the defense will do, rather than giving the QB an option. That is, by dictating "look WR, throw TE," the play design prevents the possibility of the QB throwing directly to the WR if he's open.
(4) Nevada's defense is playing deep zone coverage, and which leaves big holes near the sidelines.
(5) The LT was the weakest part of the pass protection, getting pushed back almost into the QB.
That's it for Play #2. Thanks for reading!