How Did Croom Get So Wide Open?

The Tennessee Vols just completed the third best 4th quarter comeback in school history. They came back from down 14 to South Carolina, scoring 14 in the final 1:50 of regulation before winning in overtime, 45-42.

The play of the game came with just seconds left in regulation as quarterback Josh Dobbs hit a wide open Jason Croom for the tying touchdown. So how did Croom get so wide open?

Before we look at this play, let’s go back to last week against Alabama. The  Vols scored on a touchdown pass from Dobbs to Von Pearson. The play call was a snag route concept with Dobbs rolling out. The play is designed to beat man coverage by using the two outside receivers to “screen” the defenders, while the slot receiver is able to quickly catch the ball in the flat. This is an effective goal line pass play, because most defenses play tight man in this situation and you don’t need many yards.

We detailed this play here, but let’s take a quick review.AL Roll Snag 1.2The bunch formation with Pearson going quickly to the flat created confusion for Alabama, and Pearson was wide open. He caught the ball and was able to run into the end zone.Undoubtedly South Carolina saw this play on film. They knew that if the Vols got into the red zone, this was a play they might go to. With 15 seconds left, trailing by 7, this is the play offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian decided to go with.

Immediately after the snap, South Carolina shows they are playing cover 0. An all out blitz with man coverage behind it. The Gamecocks have three defenders all in position to defend the bunch. One was in press on Johnathon Johnson at the line, while corner Al Harris Jr. and safety T.J. Gurley were in off coverage.. So what happened? The Gamecock defenders were expecting the ball to be thrown to the flat to Pearson. They had seen us score on this play and knew this was Dobbs’ first read. Both Harris Jr. and Gurley ran to the flat and completely left Croom. Dobbs was able to complete it to him for an easy touchdown to tie the game and send it into overtime.So who is to blame? That is unclear. Some coverage schemes would call for Gurley and Harris Jr. to switch receivers. That would mean Gurley should’ve jumped the spot route (I would guess this is what happened, but that’s simply that: a guess). Other schemes would’ve had each guy staying on their assigned man. That would’ve been Harris Jr.’s fault for not sticking to Croom. We will likely never know for sure which scheme the Gamecocks were in..

Tennessee got exactly what they wanted on this play. Even though Croom was not Dobbs’ first option, the design of the play got him wide open. South Carolina was expecting the flat route to be thrown and they overreacted to it. Snag is a great goal line pass concept because the flat route is very tough to stop versus man coverage. Here, the Gamecocks were so worried about the first option that they forgot to defend the spot route. This was a really great call by Bajakian to take advantage of the overaggressive defense.

Keep an eye out for more film breakdown from this game later this week.


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