The first time the Washington State Cougars ran Y-Cross on Saturday against the Oregon Ducks, Dezmon Patmon moved the chains on the second play of the game. The last time the Cougs ran Y-Cross, Dezmon Patmon effectively ended it.
Deep in the fourth quarter — after four (mostly futile) second-half series — the Washington State offense looked to find the end zone and slam the door on a Duck comeback. Quarterback Gardner Minshew II emptied the backfield on first-and-10 from the Oregon 22-yard-line and delivered a perfect strike to his leaping receiver. Only the formalities of a defensive stop and kneel downs remained as a College GameDay-juiced crowd was itching to move the party out of the stands.
The game was clinched with our Awesome Play this week but the reason it worked took root much earlier on Saturday; Y-Cross stole the Ducks’ lunch money all afternoon long.
Facing 2nd-and-9 from the Oregon 16-yard-line on their third drive of the game, WSU went back to Y-Cross — or, 95, as it’s known in Air Raid parlance — for a touchdown to Renard Bell.
The Ducks showed a similar look throughout the game, regardless of formation, rolling the free safety to the left side of the formation and playing a sort of quarters coverage to the right.
The field safety blitzes on this throw, leaving the secondary in man coverage against Tay Martin (X) and Renard Bell (H) who run and out/fade route combination.
Bell is given way too much cushion and without any help in the middle of the field, Jamire Calvin eventually springs free on the cross too. Minshew had his choice here and let Bell’s speed make a play for him.
A couple of series later, Wazzu again faced second down from the Oregon 16-yard-line and again dialed up 95.
Wazzu lines up in “Green” — with two receivers to the right and two backs in the backfield. Despite having formation strength into the boundary, Oregon cheats the free safety to the left (field) side.
You can see Minshew work a full field read before dumping off to Max Borghi in the flat. He spots the corner leverage Martin (X) with safety help and the outside backer flow with James Williams (F) out of the backfield. The Duck backers get good depth, taking away the cross and the free safety moves with Minshew’s eyes close on it pretty quickly. The corner stays over the top of Patmon (Z) on his dig.
There’s a good chance this is exactly how Oregon wanted the coverage to play out when they schemed it up. But great players make great plays.
Borghi squirts out of pass protection as an outlet, leaving only junior linebacker Troy Dye, who’d dropped into coverage under Patmon, between him and paydirt.
The clinching drive of the game had four of their first five pass attempts go to the left and three of those to Travell Harris at inside receiver (H). The Cougs went to 95 on a gut-check fourth-and-6.
Oregon plays their quarters type combo coverage to the boundary and mans up on the field side, with the safety again cheating over to the left of the formation. Like Renard Bell’s touchdown, Travell Harris is too fast for soft man coverage and whips the defensive back on his out route for a gain of 11 yards and new set of downs.
The next pass play went back to 95 for the last time. Rather than have Patmon sit inside to his dig route, the Cougs open throttle and send him on a post. Adding that wrinkle is called a “tag” to a playcall.
Wazzu goes empty with three receivers to the field side. Oregon counters with a defense that looks solid, on paper.
One Duck safety drops to the boundary, playing over the top of a robber coverage to the left of WSU’s formation — instead of man — by the other two defensive backs. They initially have the upper hand here with three defenders on two receivers, and were very clearly concerned with getting over the top of any deep shot, most of which have come to the left on Saturday and twice already this drive.
Dime personnel allows Oregon to throw four defensive backs to the field side to cover the three Coug receivers. They have the same basic responsibility WSU has seen from them on the right side of formation all game but this time WSU is aligns formation strength to the wide side of the field.
The outside corner has his deep quarter, the inside defensive back takes whatever in-breaking route comes his way and the backer hook-to-curl drops under any cross. The backer in space is essentially the flat defender.
This is all great for Oregon. Numbers advantage in coverage to both sides of the field and you’re hiding a robber to the left side where Minshew has been hot. Great, unless your corner can’t handle a one-on-one scenario.
Oregon also elects to spy Minshew from about 15 yards away. Wazzu’s offensive line was so dominant in pass protection the Ducks had a backer sit in the middle of the field and do nothing just in case, because that was a better allocation of his efforts than trying to sack Minshew.
The threat of Martin to the boundary holds the safety. Minshew locks onto cross to make sure the field safety picks it up, clearing the way for Patmon on his post route behind it.
Everyone gets the coverage they asked for and may the best man win.
Play the fight song.
WSU put on an Air Raid clinic in the first half and hammered the Ducks with their bread-n-butter.