The number 8 play in our countdown to determine the best plays of Tennessee’s 2015 season is Josh Dobbs’ completed fourth down pass to Von Pearson.
Trailing the Georgia Bulldogs 24-3, Butch Jones and the Vols were in desperation mode. Tennessee was 2-3 on the season and was staring straight at a blowout loss that would leave them devastated.
With 2:11 left in the first half, Tennessee faced a fourth-and-four at the Georgia 47 yard line. Jones elected to roll the dice and go for it, risking giving the Bulldogs the ball back in scoring position. Jones knew his team needed to put points on the board before the half ended if they had any shot of getting back in the game.
Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord called Y Stick. The Vols run the Y Stick play out of a trips formation with three receivers to the wide side of the field and one to the boundary. The outside receiver (Josh Malone on this play) will run a fade route. The next receiver (Von Pearson) will run a speed out, while the “Y” receiver (Ethan Wolf) will run a stick route. Wolf’s route is actually an option route. Versus zone coverage he will sit down in the open hole, but he will run a speed out versus man coverage. On the backside, the split end (Josh Smith) will also run a fade route.
DeBord called this play expecting Cover One Man Free from the Bulldogs. The two speed out routes are good versus tight man, while Dobbs could throw either fade route if he liked the matchup outside.
Pre-snap, Dobbs saw the alignment of the Bulldogs’ defense and knew they were playing man free. He also knew that he would have Pearson open. The defensive back responsible for Pearson inexplicably did not play press like all the other defenders. He lined up 6 yards off the ball, so Dobbs knew that Pearson would be open on his four yard speed out.
Dobbs was right. Pearson made his cut outside and the defender was in no position to make a play.
Unfortunately, Dobbs misfired. The ball was low and behind Pearson. As Pearson adjusted to come back to the ball he lost his footing and fell the ground. Somehow, he was able to maintain his concentration on the football, and caught the pass from the ground.
Pearson deserves an enormous amount of credit for making this catch. The degree of difficulty of this catch cannot be understated. To be able to stay focused on the ball and catch it while laying in the ground was incredible.
The effort of Pearson can perhaps only be topped by the importance of this conversion to the game. This fourth down conversion set up a touchdown four plays later, and started Tennessee’s comeback. It is not unrealistic to say that without Pearson’s catch, Tennessee likely does not win this game.
For more information on Y Stick and the rest of Tennessee’s offensive scheme, be sure to check out my book, Fast and Furious: Butch Jones and the Tennessee Volunteers’ Offense. It is the most in-depth study of Coach Jones’ offense ever released, and is a must read for any football fan who wants to learn a little bit more about the game.
You can learn more about the book and order your copy on Amazon by clicking HERE.
You can read previous installments of this series by clicking below: