October 30, 2012

Tape Review: Anatomy of three big plays

In Florida State's 48-7 win over the Duke Blue Devils, there was no shortage of the big play. The Seminoles used both long passes and one big special teams play en route to a satisfying win ahead of the bye week. In this week's Tape Review, let's examine a trio of big plays and what went into the success of each.

The Big Plays

Manuel to Greene - 71 yard touchdown

Florida State's first score of the afternoon came on a third down bomb from quarterback EJ Manuel to sophomore receiver Rashad Greene. This play happened for three key reasons.

Reason #1: Manuel's pre-snap read

The senior quarterback surveyed the scheme Duke was bringing pre-snap, calling out a few last minute checks to his offensive line and receivers. It's hard to know exactly what Manuel saw or what he changed to in this instance, but who can argue with the result?

Reason #2: Duke rushes three

Two things stood out when watching this play in real time. First, Manuel had all day to throw the football. Secondly, it looked like center Bryan Stork was all by himself in the pocket. Upon further review, this angle shows Duke left one defensive lineman back in coverage while rushing just three. The guards and tackles did their jobs in order to provide time and space to execute a deep pass.

Reason #3: Greene wins a footrace

This one is simple. Greene showed burst off the line of scrimmage, and due to the time that Manuel received in the pocket, the sophomore was able to make good on gaining inside position against his defender. It also helped that Greene was a step and a half in the clear.

Hunter returns punt 75 yards for TD

More than just the situation in the moment, all eyes were on sophomore defensive back Tyler Hunter because this first quarter return would serve as an official debut in his new special teams role. Hunter made good on his first impression.

Reason #1: Brooks, Williams create initial lane

As you can see in the snapshot below, the return all started with some clear-out blocks from defensive backs Terrence Brooks and P.J. Williams. Both Brooks and Williams kept the immediate fielding area clean for Hunter on what was a high, long hangtime punt.

Reason #2: Hunter's athleticism

In two quick moves, Hunter makes a cut to the left (the short-side of the field), and bursts through a tackle attempt. Although he was given a fair chance to break the return, to hit the lane then bounce it outside with fluidity speaks to Hunter's as an athlete. As long as he catches the ball, Hunter looks comfortable in traffic.

Reason #3: Escorts

Coach Jimbo Fisher is fond of saying that in order to make a 10-yard run go for 50, there needs to be downfield blocking from the receivers. In much the same way, this punt return only goes the distance because of Karlos Williams' and Chad Abram's effort up the sideline. Hunter didn't clear the Duke return team in the first 15 yards. He needed two escorts up the sidelines to clinch the second score of the Seminole afternoon.

Benjamin hauls in 35-yard fade for TD

No question the game was already in hand before this score, but there is one reason that the Manuel touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin went as it did: clear pre-snap diagnosis.

Reason: Manuel sniffs out blitz

Prior to the snap out of the shotgun, Manuel verbally faked the snap. What he saw as a result was Duke sell out on a blitz look. Eight Blue Devil defenders packed the box on third-and-five, and with the requisite time to change the play, Manuel did the math. If there are eight in the box, his three receivers are all in single coverage. That reasoning was good enough for the senior quarterback to make the right decision: give Benjamin a shot in single coverage.

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