In their 45-10 win over the Chattanooga Mocs, the Tennessee Volunteers had a lot of success running option plays. Four of the Vols six touchdowns came on option plays, so let’s look at why these plays worked so well.
Three touchdowns came on the basic inside zone, which we have already covered in depth.
The first came early in the second quarter on a first and goal from the 9. The Vols lined up in a doubles formation and ran inside zone to the weakside. Because Tennessee had a tight end on the backside to block the end, the read defender was the strong safety, who was down in the box to defend the run. The safety crashed down to stop running back Justus Pickett, so quarterback Justin Worley pulled the ball to run around the edge. Worley faced a one on one matchup with the cornerback on the edge, and he was able to avoid the tackle and get into the end zone.Late in the third quarter, the Vols went back to the inside zone in another goal line situation. This time, they lined up in a trey formation and ran to the strongside.
Worley’s read defender was the backside end, and the end crashed hard to tackle Pickett. The end tackled Pickett, but Worley pulled the ball and ran around the edge. The outside linebacker was frozen by the fake and Worley was able to get around him and into the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the game.Late in the game, the Vols ran the inside zone one more time and backup quarterback Nathan Peterman found his way into the end zone.
The Vols were in a trey formation and ran inside zone to the weakside. Rather than block the defensive end, tight end Brendan Downs executed an arc block. He left the end unblocked to be read and went to block the outside linebacker. The end crashed hard, so Peterman pulled the ball. Peterman got to the edge, but then cut the ball back, and he followed Downs’ block and a dominant double team from left tackle Brett Kendrick and left guard Austin Sanders. The Mocs’ safety (#19) still had not realized that Peterman had the ball and was chasing after Scott. By vacating the deep middle, the safety opened up a huge hole for Peterman to get into the end zone.The Vols did more than just run the inside zone. Early in the second half, Tennessee unveiled a new run/pass option play and it resulted in an easy touchdown.
The base playcall was another inside zone. Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian put a twist on this play. The backside of the line blocked down on the backside tackle and end, and the H-Back ran through to block the backside linebacker. This tag is similar to split zone, but has the H-Back bending to the backside linebacker rather than kicking out the end.
The option comes on a post route by the slot receiver. Worley’s job is to read the free safety. If he comes down to stop the run, then the middle of the field is wide open for the post. But if he drops to cover the post, the offense has numbers in the box. Lastly, Worley could also throw a hitch route to the split end.
Here, the safety came down hard and vacated the deep middle. The nickel back was expecting help over the deep middle, and when he didn’t get it, Johnson was wide open for a touchdown.While Tennessee scored touchdowns on these four plays, they also had success with other option plays. One of those plays was a new concept that Tennessee showed for the first time.
This is similar to the inside zone/Y pop play the Vols have run recently, but it is run from a different formation with difference options. Tennessee lined up in a trey formation and ran inside zone on the inside while the tight end ran a seam route. The two receivers to the field blocked for the run and the flanker ran a quick hitch route.
Worley was responsible to make two reads. First, he read the strongside linebacker to determine if he should hand off or throw the ball. If the strongside linebacker comes down to stop the run, then Worley must read the strong safety to decide if he should throw the seam or the hitch.
Here, the strongside linebacker crashed to stop the run and the strong safety covered the tight end down the seam. This left flanker Jason Croom wide open, and Worley completed the pass to him for an easy gain. Later, the Vols went back to this play. The strongside linebacker crashed on the run once again, but the strong safety ran to cover the hitch. This left tight end Ethan Wolf open down the seam. Worley completed the pass to a wide open Wolf for a 16 yard gain.The Vols did a really good job attacking Chattanooga with option plays. The Mocs obviously wanted to stop the Vols inside running game, so Tennessee put their defenders in conflict by making them defend multiple options at the same time. This enabled the Vols to hit on some big plays and get the ball into the end zone.