Late in the fourth quarter against South Carolina, the Tennessee Volunteers were in a tough spot. Sophomore quarterback Josh Dobbs was starting his first game of the season, and the Vols were down 7 points at their own 15 yard line with 1:23 left in the game and no timeouts to work with. So what did Dobbs do? He promptly drove the Vols all the way down the field for a touchdown. This put the game into overtime, where the Vols would eventually come out on top. So how did Dobbs and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian pull off this brilliant two minute drill?
The most important concept the Vols called on this drive was a dig. We’ve covered the dig route previously this season, but this concept was slightly different. Here, the Vols lined up in a spread formation with two receivers to each side of Dobbs. The slot receiver ran a vertical route to clear out the deep safety and the split end ran a dig route. The backside slot receiver ran a shallow cross and the back ran to the flat on the dig side. This created a three level vertical read for Dobbs.
This was a really good play for Bajakian to call on this drive. The Gamecocks played primarily deep zone defense, just hoping to prevent big gains. The dig is a good concept versus this defense because of the vertical read. If the seam route clears out the linebacker, the dig should be open. Worst case, there are two receivers in the flat with a lot of room to run.
Bajakian called this play for Dobbs on the first play of the drive.
South Carolina only rushed three defenders, and dropped eight into a cover three coverage. The strongside linebacker ran with slot receiver Von Pearson on the vertical route. This left split end Pig Howard open on the dig. Howard was able to run for yards after the catch and the play resulted in 31 yards. On the next snap, the Vols attempted to run 4 verticals. With the Gamecocks in a deep prevent zone defense, no one was open and Dobbs had to throw the ball away.
On 2nd and 10, Bajakian came back to the same dig play. Here, both Howard and Pearson were covered so Dobbs dumped the ball to a wide open Jalen Hurd in the flat. Hurd was able to get out of bounds after a 9 yard gain.On 3rd and 1, the Vols faced a tough decision. Run the ball to get the first, but risk losing time, or throw the ball and risk not converting. Bajakian decided to let Dobbs keep the ball on a quarterback draw.The blocking was executed well. The right defensive end rushed hard upfield, and left tackle Kyler Kerbyson kept him out of the play. Left guard Marcus did a good job of sealing off his man to let Dobbs run through the open space.Most importantly, Dobbs had the awareness to avoid the last defender and get out of bounds to stop the clock after gaining 8 yards.
On the next play, Tennessee went right back to the dig.Howard was able to find an open spot in the zone coverage and sit down. Dobbs hit him for a gain of 18.On the next play, Bajakian called for the dig concept once again. This time, Dobbs tried to throw to the backside receiver on the fade route, but he was not open so Dobbs threw it into the ground.
On second down, what could the Vols do but go with the dig? Here, the linebacker sunk to defend Howard. Dobbs was flushed out of the pocket, and once again, he made a smart decision. Rather than running the ball himself, costing the team valuable time, and risking not getting out of bounds, Dobbs just threw the ball to a wide open Hurd, who ducked out of bounds after picking up the first down.On first and goal, Dobbs attempted to throw another fade route to Howard, but it was tipped away. Bajakian went with a snag pattern on second and goal and the Vols marched in for a touchdown (We covered this play in depth last week, so I won’t detail it now. You can read more about it here).
Throughout this drive we can see a common theme. The dig route was incredibly effective versus the Gamecocks’ prevent zone defense. Dobbs was 4/4 for 68 yards when throwing to Howard on the dig or Hurd in the flat. When Dobbs tried to throw fade routes into South Carolina’s deep coverage, he was 0/3. Bajakian also did a great job of knowing when to throw in the situational plays. On a critical 3rd and 1, the draw worked perfectly. The snag concept and the rollout in the goal-to-go situation kept South Carolina off balance and resulted in a touchdown. Dobbs executed the 2 minute drill like a veteran and Bajakian did a great job of putting him in position to succeed.