The conditions on Saturday didn’t exactly set the stage for crazy offensive production. Still, the Washington State Cougars managed to find the end zone four times on a miserable night when their opponent couldn’t break the goose egg on their side of the scoreboard.
Since we didn’t do an Awesome Play after Cal last week, we’ll do two from the game against Colorado.
We’ll get the most obvious play out of the way first. Davontavean Martin filled in admirably for Tavares Martin Jr. against the Buffs, hauling in four receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Following a first quarter comprised entirely of punts, Colorado carried their fourth possession into the second quarter and all the way to the WSU 28-yard-line. The Buffs failed to complete their 4th-and-10 pass attempt, and their best offensive tackle was ejected for targeting.
Following the change of possession, Gerard Wicks hammered a six-yard run on WSU’s first play and Luke Falk used his Maybe-Slower-Than-Andre-Dillard running ability to move the Cougs to the 50-yard-line on their second play.
Tay Martin took it the rest of the way.
Blue RT 70 619
ESPN’s color guy — Anthony Becht — broke this play down for the television broadcast, rather unfortunately chalking it up to a “missed communication” by Colorado’s defense. This sort of hand-waves the chess match Luke Falk was playing with the defense.
At this point in the game, WSU’s most successful drive was a 34-yard effort that took nine plays and over five minutes to sputter to a punt. The Cougs had punted on all of their four drives except for a one-play fumble they lost on their second possession. Wazzu had 58 yards on nine carries (6.44 YPC, not counting Falk scrambles) and Falk was 3-of-9 for 11 yards.
Colorado was similarly inept on offense. Given the conditions and how terrible both teams were throwing the ball, the Buffs tried to get Wazzu caught in a bad run check.
Colorado shows Falk a boundary-favorable 6-man run box, which should trigger a check. Wazzu has the numbers, with five offensive lineman and one running back blocking.
Shortly before the snap, the strong safety creeps to linebacker depth and replaces the Mike, who stunts A-gap at the snap. If the Cougs were actually running this inside zone instead of play-actioning off of it, CU would’ve probably gotten a nice stop here.
Instead, the boundary corner can’t keep pace with Tay Martin in man-coverage on a backside post (and may have been injured).
The field side is playing a totally different coverage than the boundary, against the two Wazzu receivers. This is likely “Combo” or sometimes called “Blue” coverage. The Free Safety (FS) is reading receivers inside out, meaning the furthest from the sideline to the closest to the sideline. In this case, the slot receiver — Jamire Calvin (Y) — is No. 2 and Dezmon Patmon (Z) is No. 1.
If No. 2 goes vertical past seven-or-so yards, the FS picks him up in man. If No. 2 breaks in before seven-or-so yards he plays over the top, with the OLB picking him up and the Nickel underneath drifting to the flat and watching for a running back out of the backfield.
If No. 2 breaks out before seven-or-so yards — which is what Calvin does on this play — the FS rolls to the sideline and looks to undercut or “rob” any in-breaking, or bench route from No. 1, effectively bracketing that outside receiver. Which is exactly what we see him in position to do on this play (below).
The corner is pretty much locked in on the No. 1 WR unless it’s something extreme like Shallow Cross. Three guys are covering two:
CU tried to bait Falk into a run play where they had the advantage, and rather than get suckered into a bad check, Falk attacked the exact spot the Buffs would be weakest with their run blitz.
Left one-on-one, Tay Martin roasted that very experienced and talented corner.
Pretty good stuff. Play the fight song.
Luke Falk didn’t look Dezmon Patmon’s way until the second half.
The Speed D got Colorado’s offense off the field in six plays and Wazzu’s offense was looking to score on its first drive out of halftime. Facing a 1st-and-10 from their own 36 yard line, the Cougs went to the same family of plays that got Martin a touchdown.
ACE 70 618
Jamire Calvin (Y) gets his signals a little crossed — which happens to freshmen sometimes — and he treated this like a run play when he’d normally run an option or stick route.
With 619 (the first play we broke down), you have an inside receiver (Y) on an out route to the right and a go route outside (Z); for 618 (this play) you have either a stick or option route from the inside receiver (Y) and a go route outside (Z). Both plays have backside double slants.
The Cougs added another play-fake to this one — why not, when the conditions are making you run as much as they were — and Falk is looking at either tight Cover 4 or man with two high safeties. (I kinda lean toward man, but it could go either way.)
The Buffs shoot their Mike at the A-gap on the play fake again, and Falk times up a real nice back shoulder with Patmon.
Falk and Patmon tried that back shoulder again a couple more times during the game. I, for one, would not be disappointed to see them build a rapport with back shoulder verticals. Stretching the field offensively doesn’t always require a home run shot over the top.
The back-shoulder puts vertical pressure on the boundary of the defense, while still being a relatively safe throw — if you execute it correctly. Patmon has the size that lends him the ability to body out corners, and the speed to stretch them down the sideline.
Falk’s final stat-line for the night — 17-of-34, 197 yards — might not have screamed Air Raid, but there was some great execution by him and a very young receiving corps on quite a few offensive snaps during absolutely horrible playing conditions.
And when you have a defense playing like this one is playing, that’s all you really need.