With 1:17 left in the first half, Tennessee had the ball at their own 17 yard line and trailed to the Georgia Bulldogs, 21-10. Georgia was set to get the ball to start the second half and had scored a touchdown on each of their previous 3 possessions, so the Vols desperately needed a quick drive to put points on the board and keep the game close.
On every play of this drive, Georgia ran a 2 Under coverage. 2 Under has the 4 defensive linemen rushing the passer, the linebackers and cornerbacks playing tight man coverage and the 2 safeties playing deep half field zone coverage.
One of the best ways to attack 2 Under is by using the running back on a delayed run, and this is what the Vols did on the first play of the drive.
Tennessee lined up in a spread formation and had all 4 receivers run vertical as if they were a receiving option. The offensive line let the defensive linemen get upfield before releasing to block for the run. Quarterback Justin Worley took the snap, hesitated for a second, then slipped the ball to running back Jalen Hurd.
The Georgia defensive linemen were so concerned with rushing the passer that they were out of position to tackle Hurd. Both ends rushed hard up field. The 3 interior offensive linemen all blocked down to the right and there was a giant hole for Hurd in between the left guard and left tackle. The middle linebacker, who was responsible for Hurd in coverage, took the wrong path to the ball and was out of position. The middle linebacker had a chance to tackle Hurd anyways, but Hurd ended up dragging him 9 yards before he finally went down for a gain of 18.
Once again, Georgia’s linemen were consumed with rushing the passer and left a wide open running lane for Hurd.By the time the middle linebacker recovered, Hurd was already out in the open field running. Hurd gained 19 this time before he was pushed out of bounds.
After another incompletion and a short pass, the Vols were faced with 3rd and 5. Tennessee called timeout and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian called another 2 Under beater, a running back screen. The principle behind this is the same. Fake a downfield pass to clear out the safeties, cornerbacks and outside linebackers, then block the middle linebacker and let the back run free.
Hurd’s job is to fake a block, then make himself open to catch the screen. Center Mack Crowder and left guard Marcus Jackson must drop as if to pass protect, then release out to block for Hurd. Tight end Ethan Wolf has possibly the most important job. He fakes a shallow cross route and is responsible for blocking the middle linebacker, the man responsible for covering Hurd.
The Vols execute this play very well. Wolf doesn’t get a great block, but he forces the middle linebacker inside and shields him from Hurd. Crowder and Jackson are able to get outside and the defense has no idea what is going on. Hurd was able to catch the ball and run for another 18 yards before he was again forced out of bounds.
On the next play, the Vols took a shot downfield. Bajakian dialed up 4 verticals. Against 2 Under, this is a tough play to run because each receiver has a man defending him, plus 2 safeties helping over the top.
However, on this play Georgia’s strong safety bit too hard on Wolf’s seam route. Wolf was already covered well by his defender. On the outside, flanker Jason Croom had beat his corner from the snap and was open down the sideline. The safety should have recognized this and come over to help, but he was too focused on Wolf. Worley was hit as he threw and the ball was slightly underthrown, but Croom was able to make a leaping catch and get both feet in bounds for a Vols touchdown.