Perhaps the most exciting play in the Tennessee Vols 29-21 loss to the Missouri Tigers came on a fake field goal touchdown for the Vols early in the second quarter. The score came when walk-on quarterback/holder Patrick Ashford completed his first career pass to a wide open walk-on tight end Alex Ellis for his first career touchdown reception. So let’s take a look at how the Vols scheme attacked the Tigers defense and resulted in the easy score.
The play design for both teams was very simple. Tennessee called for a basic switch concept. Tight end Ethan Wolf ran a wheel route while Ellis, the wing, ran down the seam. Ashford took the direct snap and dropped to pass, while kicker Aaron Medley ran a swing route as a last resort receiving option. This is very similar to the post/wheel concept the Vols like to run on playaction, but with a seam route replacing the post because of formation alignment. Ashford’s reads are simple: post, wheel, flat. The switch concept is similar to a vertical concept, but has the two receivers “switch” position as they go downfield. Wolf, the original inside receiver, ran a wheel to get outside, while Ellis, originally lined up outside, ran the inside seam route.
Missouri was in a simple field goal defense. They rushed seven players at the kick, five from the field and two from the boundary. Four players dropped into zone coverage. Because the rush was coming from the (offensive) left side, three of the four safety players were dropping from the right side. The Tigers put all eleven players at the line of scrimmage to disguise who was rushing the kick. At the snap, Ashford pulled up to throw the ball. The left/middle safety, Ian Simon, was coming from right to left and was running hard to get to his position to defend the fake. Wolf did a great job executing. He ran his wheel route perfectly, running wide to gain separation from Ellis and extending his hands towards both defenders as he faked a block. Wolf’s great route resulted in both defenders covering him.The switch concept created confusion as both defenders ran with Wolf and left Ellis wide open. Simon’s momentum moving to the left side kept him from being able to get back to Ellis. Ashford threw a perfect pass and Ellis caught it for a 31 yard score.This was a really well designed play by the Vols coaching staff to attack Missouri’s defense. The Tigers presnap alignment to have all eleven players on the line of scrimmage put Simon in a tough position to defend his zone. Tennessee’s route combo put him in a worse position, as he had to run to his zone and, by that point, it was too late to get back. If Simon had originally been aligned as a safety, he probably could’ve read the play and recovered to defend the pass. But instead, he was consumed by covering his zone and couldn’t react to the seam route. The Vols knew Missouri would align like this and called the play to attack this weakness.
Lastly, Ashford, Ellis, Wolf, and all the blockers executed this play perfectly. Wolf was able to pull both of the safeties away from Ellis. The route concept to have Ellis and Wolf to run the switch created even more confusion. The pass was perfect and Ellis made the sure-handed catch. Overall, this was a perfect play for the Vols.