Why am I writing this?
This is my first FanPost, but I wanted to explain why I was so frustrated by the PA pass that led to a safety in the Florida game. I'm going to do my best to break down what happened on the play and explain why I wasn't on the same page as most of the other Georgia fans I saw online (here, elsewhere, twitter, wherever).I could do a break down of the whole 3rd quarter, but this is just focusing on the safety.
Ok. At this point in the game, the score was 23-10. Our third quarter wasn't going very well.
Here's what preceded this play:
- 43 yard kickoff by UGA to the upback, Trey Burton returned out to the Florida 37.
- Florida had a 7+ minute drive, converting two 3rd downs and a 4th down. Then, Garrison Smith gets a big sack, Murphy throws incomplete, then rushes for 1 yard, then they miss a 47 yard field goal short.
- The offense comes out with a first down at our own 30, up 23-3
- Burnette is called for holding on first down. 1st and 20 at the 20
- Murray rush for 8 yards. 2nd and 12
- We run a backside screen to the TE (really want to look at this and break this play down too). The ball is low and is not placed in front of Lynch. He drops it and doesn't realize that the ball was basically straight down the line, making it a lateral and thus a live ball.
- Florida picks up the ball and runs with it, but John Theus makes a smart play and tackles the guy at the UGA 14.
- 9 yard rush by Mack Brown, 5 yard rush by Mack Brown, the game is 23-10.
So, short version: the defense gets a stop after a long drive where they have trouble getting stops (though Florida had to convert a 4th and 5 to even get a shot at the FG they ultimately missed). Then, after literally being on the field for almost exactly half the quarter, the defense goes back out on the field less than a minute later. What's worse, Florida now has the ball 16 yards closer to the endzone than they did when the defense got the stop. That kind of stuff crushes young defenders and energizes the opposing offense. I'm not surprised that we gave up a TD there. It sucks, but that's just how the game goes.
Next we had a little less drama. The offense comes back out. Gurley runs for 4, Murray runs for nothing, Bennett drops the ball. A three and out here while Florida gets momentum sucks, but it happens. It's not the worst possible thing. We get off the punt cleanly and Florida takes over at their own 36.
Florida runs 6 plays and punts. It would have been a 3 and out if not for the horse collar penalty on Josh Harvey-Clemons as he made the stop a yard short of the first down. Anyway, the punt is downed at the 3 and now we're all caught up.
First and 10 at our own 3 yard line. The offense comes out in 22 personal (2 backs, 2 TEs, 1 WR).
It looks like this:
Murray's numbers look pretty good, huh? Anyway, as I said, this is 22 personnel. That means we have 2 backs behind Murray and 2 TEs. That is a 7 man front with a fullback and only 1 WR. Those numbers are slightly deceptive since - at least in Richt's offense - the TE often counts as a WR. But this is a run formation for sure. And we are in a typical run situation. Anyway, the formation is a 2 TE I-formation 2 back set with the flanker out on the numbers to the bottom.
Here's who we have on the field in this formation:
The offensive line is (from left to right): Gates, Lee, Andrews, Burnette, Theus.
The play is a PA pass with the TE and the WR running routes. Lynch is running a 10-yard out to the left sideline. Bennett looks like he's going to run a skinny post and cuts it inside under the safety. That's a 10 yard dig route. Neither of them are exactly wide open, but Murray is accurate enough to make me think he could have completed the pass. It's hard to say, because, before either of them even get out of their breaks, Murray is on the ground. A rather ugly, MS paint version of the play diagram would look like this:
Anyway, I'm not entirely sure that Gurley and Hicks should have been running through the same gap to go block, but Gurley gets knocked down anyway and the play is over before he and Hicks can make a block.
There is stuff to like about this play:
- It puts the ball in the hands of our extremely good QB
- The 2 guys running routes are generally reliable.
- Bennett was dominating Hargreaves.
- Florida was blitzing and if we block everyone, it should (usually) be a decent gain.
So what went wrong? Let's start by talking about the defense really quick and why we should've audibled out of the play or at least changed protection.
Florida came out in a base 34 defense with 2 high safeties.
There are 8 men in the box. The CB at the top of the screen is covering no one and is on the LOS. That was a pretty clear sign that he was blitzing. The safeties are both watching for the run and Hargreaves is in man press coverage on Bennett at the bottom of the screen. The two ILBs are lined up 5 yards off the LOS. The front looks to be in an "under" alignment, but I can't tell for sure. Both OLBs are showing blitz. As we go up to take the snap, the defense shows their intentions. If you look at the other pre-snap picture at the top, you can see Purifoy leaning forward ready to blitz.
After the snap here's what happens:
- Hargreaves tries to jam Bennett, fails and immediately gives up inside position.
- The safeties pause, see the play action, then go into coverage. The safety at the top of the screen runs a up a little bit, then gets his hands on Lynch before Lynch cuts outside. The safety at the bottom of the screen watches the PA, then steps up to provide safety help on Bennett.
- All three DL rush. Neiron Ball, the OLB on the bottom of the screen rotates around the TE to set the edge.
- Dante Fowler, the other OLB, blitzes.
- The inside backers both delay then blitz.
In this picture you can see Bennett taking inside of Hargreaves. Murray is mid-fake and Purifoy is almost there already. The safeties are moving into position. The ILBs are starting to blitz, Ball is trying to set the edge at the bottom (in case the blitz doesn't get there and drives Murray or the back his direction) and our 6 blockers are tied up with the other 4 rushers. Total, Florida sent 7 and we had 6 blockers + the two backs who have to carry out the PA before going out to block.
What went wrong?
This has become a pretty lengthy post, so I'll try to address this quickly.
A run down of Georgia players and what they did:
- Michael Bennett - ran his little dig and got open. Very good. If we had blocked better, he would've gotten this ball and gotten 8-12 yards, depending on what the safety did.
- Arthur Lynch - ran his out and got kinda open. Good.
- Quayvon Hicks - acted like a lead blocker and cut down the inside backer. That would clear up the passing lane to Bennett. As Bobo and Richt as "passing lane" QB coaches, that is pretty big. Bennett was clearly the intended receiver on the play (and was where Murray was looking coming out of the fake). Very good.
- Todd Gurley - took the fake, ran to his gap, got knocked down. Good enough, really.
- Hugh Williams - went to block the OLB, saw that he wasn't rushing, doubled the DE. Good.
- Aaron Murray - dropped back, faked the handoff, looked up, got rocked. Held on to the ball. However, he is supposed to audible the protections or change the play or at least call time out if he knows it will be a disaster. Not making someone accounted for the blitzing, totally uncovered CB was a big no-no. Murray or Bobo should have known that the CB wasn't there to cover air and that he wasn't going to run coverage against the TE. It wasn't zone and he wasn't manned up on anyone. That is... not so good. But he may have changed the protection and the line blew it. So I'll give it just a "not very good".
Now the offensive line...
- Kenarious Gates - briefly reached towards the corner, then doubled the OLB (Fowler) and mainly just moved him into Lee's space. Which was already Lee's blocking assignment. He is 100% responsible (execution-wise) for the guy getting to Murray completely untouched. Gates would be charged with the sack and the safety. Disastrously terrible.
- Dallas Lee - took the OLB and, even with a little help from Gates, immediately gave up space inside as 6 "got skinny" and ran right past him. Even without the CB blitz, Fowler probably would've sacked Murray. Lee basically was nothing more than a brief annoyance as Fowler ran across a gap and headed straight for Murray. Awful
- David Andrews - took the DE and dominated him. Kept him entirely out of the play. Then asked Lee and Gates what happened after the play. He wasn't able to help Lee out, but I don't think he was supposed to. He also didn't do anything about #51 Michael Taylor blitzing. But the play was over before Taylor would have made a play. Overall, pretty good.
- Chris Burnette - Gets beat on the outside should by #4 Damien Jacobs almost immediately. Luckily he gets some help from Theus to slow him down.
- John Theus - Gets a good block on #90 Jonathan Bullard, the DE. Then, after he gets a little help from Hugh Williams on Bullard and Burnett gets beat, he helps with Jacobs. Very good.
If I were to give letter grades to the OL for that play they would be (left to right) F-, F, B+, C-, A+. And an A for Hugh Williams, even though he's not on the OL.
So what made the play go wrong? The entire left side of the line failed miserably.
One final section and I'll wrap all this up...
Bad Play or Bad Call?
First off, why can't it be both?
The execution was very poor. That is unquestionable. But there are a lot of reasons I don't like the call.
- Florida was gaining momentum. Giving up a safety there only added to it.
- Muschamp is a Saban disciple who loves to blitz.
- Throwing out of run personnel and running out of pass personnel is good sometimes, but sometimes you only trick yourself. If we were in a different personnel package/different formation, we may have had a hot read Murray could have hit.
- Murray was in the endzone after the snap and had his back to the defense. We called a pass play from the 3 where the quarterback had to spend the first few seconds of his protection looking the wrong way.
- I originally thought the routes were deep routes. These routes are relatively quick, but there was nothing like a slant or swing pass that Murray could have hit immediately.
- Defenses play extremely aggressively and do risky things when they have a chance to get a safety. It's worth 2 points plus a free possession with good field possession. That is why Reggie Davis has a 98 yard TD reception. However, against a team with a top 10 defense and insane talent, the risk is significantly higher. I don't think that a 12 yard pass to a double covered receiver or a 10 yard out to a TE covered by an athletic safety are worth the risk
- We have the best TB in the country and he was there doing nothing but getting hit and falling down.
- We have a freight train of a FB who hit the gap full speed and destroyed a LB. He probably could've done that with the ball in his hands.
- We are prone to catastrophic plays in high risk situations and Florida's defense (for all of their issues and injuries) is still significantly better than UNT's or Clemson's.
- Florida was playing high-risk, high-reward defense. Them blitzing gives them a better chance to stop the run and a good chance to sack Murray for a safety. They showed 8 people blitzing pre snap and, while they only sent 7, that is a lot to ask of a walk on TE and an inconsistent OL. Especially when one of the guys showing blitz is one of Florida's best players, Purifoy.
I don't mind throwing out of the end zone. If we wanted to do that, we should have called some quick routes and done it out of the gun. If we wanted to go into a power formation, we could have tried a power run. There are a lot of things you can do from the 3 yard line that are less risky than a PA pass. If we had simply gotten 3 yards, we would've had a better chance on 2nd and 7 from the 6 to run a play without the risk of a safety. Perfectly executed, it would have been a moderate gain and maybe a first down. Instead it was a disaster. One that we easily could have avoided. And with the defense reeling, it was an unnecessary risk, in my opinion.
Anyway, I'm glad we ended up winning because I hate Florida. However, things like this one play added a lot of drama to the game that was totally unnecessary. All in all, the offense had the ball for exactly 2 minutes and 30 seconds in the 3rd quarter. We ran 6 plays (if you don't count the punt as an offensive play). Those 3 possessions resulted in -2 points, a turnover that put Florida on our 14 and led to the TD, and a 3 and out. According to the stats we run 6 plays for -5 yards in the 3rd quarter. After the free kick, Florida started at the 50. They covered those 50 yards in 50 plays and 1:59. They scored and got the 2 point conversion against a tired and frustrated defense. Then the offense came out and 6 plays for 19 yards and ran off 3 minutes before turning the ball over on downs at our own 39. Then the defense had to come back out on the field. They help Florida to 6 plays for -18 yards and a punt in 3 minutes. Then the offense came back in and took over and ran out the clock. It was an impressive ending for both sides of the ball.
Anyway, that's my rather lengthy analysis. Next time we're on our own 3, staring at a blitz, and facing an extremely good defense, I hope we call a different play. Or we at least block better.
Edit: fixed a few typos and I wanted to add video so people can see what I was talking about in real time (start around 35:20 and you can see the play and a few replays):
2013 Florida vs. Georgia 2nd Half (via Gamma Delta)