The number 21 play in our countdown to determine the best plays of Tennessee’s 2015 season is Josh Dobbs first touchdown pass to Von Pearson versus Vanderbilt.
When coming up with a game plan, Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord always has the big picture in mind. Play calls early in the game are called not just to gain yards, but to set up later play calls.
A great example of this principle came when Tennessee played Vanderbilt. On the Vols’ first drive of the game, DeBord called a simple packaged play. Both of the Vols star running backs, Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, lined up in the backfield, one on either side of quarterback Josh Dobbs. Right before the snap, Kamara began to sprint towards the right sideline in motion.
Dobbs took the snap and had two options. He could either handoff to Hurd on an inside zone going left, or throw the ball to Kamara on the swing screen to the right. His read was on Vanderbilt’s nickel back.
The Commodores nickel back blitzed, so the read was easy. Dobbs threw the ball to Kamara. The speedy back had two receivers to block for him out wide, and since the nickel blitzed, Vanderbilt only had two defenders, the corner and the safety, to that side of the field.
Johnathon Johnson and Ralph David Abernathy IV both held their blocks, and Kamara ended up gaining 18.
After a handoff to Hurd gained three on the next snap, DeBord went back to the split back formation with Hurd and Kamara in the backfield. Kamara went in motion again, but instead of throwing it to the flat, Dobbs pump faked to Kamara. Johnson, the outside receiver to the playside, ran a deep post route, while slot receiver Von Pearson faked a block before slipping down the sideline on a wheel route.
After being shredded by Kamara two plays earlier, Vanderbilt’s defense was on high alert to stop Kamara in the flat. The cornerback stepped up and actually tackled Kamara, even though he didn’t get the ball.
This left the safety in a bind. With both Johnson and Pearson running downfield, the Commodores were outnumbered. The safety followed Johnson inside, so Dobbs found Pearson wide open in the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
Pearson’s fake block was perfect, and the double move left him wide open. The playcalling by DeBord was outstanding. Vanderbilt wasn’t prepared to defend the second play because of DeBord’s use of the first play. The result was perhaps the easiest throw Dobbs made all season and a Big Orange touchdown.
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