If you read Inside the Pylon this summer, or follow Mark Schofield on twitter, or are related to him, or just bumped into him on the street, you know that he is a fan of North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz. When Wentz led a game winning drive in a matchup between two of the Top 10 teams in the FCS? You can be sure Schofield will write about it.
With a 28-24 lead and 2:39 remaining, the University of Northern Iowa, the #10 team in the most recent FCS poll, lined up for a 37-yard field goal that would push their lead over the #3 team in the country to seven. But senior placekicker Michael Schmadeke pulled the kick wide to the left, giving Carson Wentz and the Bison the football at their own 20-yard line with 2:30 remaining in the game, but without any timeouts.
On first down, Wentz’s pass fell incomplete, setting up a 2nd and 10. The Bison empty the backfield with 11 offensive personnel, putting two receivers on the left with a trips formation to the right. The Panthers set up with their base 4-3 personnel in the game, showing Cover 2 in the secondary. The Bison use a smash concept on the right, with slot receiver RJ Urzendowski (#16) on a corner route while running back Chase Morlock (#25) lines up to the outside running a short curl:
Shortly after the snap, UNI defensive tackle Karter Schult (#93) executes a swim move and forces Wentz to climb the pocket. The quarterback uses his feet well to extend the play, even utilizing a pump fake along the way to buy some time before finding Urzendowski on the scramble drill right on the sideline with a perfectly delivered strike:
[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay1Video1.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay1Still1.jpg”]
But cue the flag.
WIth the previous play called back for holding, the Bison now now face a 2nd and 20. Wentz attempted a throw along the sideline that missed its mark, setting North Dakota State up with a 3rd and 20 with only 2:03 remaining. The Bison quarterback sets up in the shotgun with an 11 package on the field, with trips right and a single receiver on the left. UNI’s base defense sets up with Cover 4 in the secondary. Wentz looks for Urzendowski, the middle trips receiver, along the opposite sideline on a deep out route:
[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay2Video1.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay2Still1.jpg”]
Wentz delivers a strong throw from the left hashmark toward the right sideline, where only the WR can secure the pass. Urzendowski makes the catch while sliding to the turf, picking up 13 yards and setting the Bison up for a pivotal 4th and 7.
NSDU needs to convert this fourth down to keep their hopes alive. They line up again with an 11 personnel group, Urzendowski alone on the right and trips left. With the football on the right hashmark, Wentz again attacks the opposite sideline:
[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay3Video1.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay3Still1.jpg”]
The QB hits senior WR Zach Vraa along the sideline with a rocket of a pass. Notice the torque that Wentz generates with his chest and left shoulder, ripping his upper body through this throw. For his part, Vraa does a great job of catching the ball with his hands and getting not just one, but both feet down before stepping out of bounds:
After a review, it was confirmed as a catch, setting North Dakota up with a fresh set of downs at their own 37-yard line.
On this 1st and 10 play, the Bison set up with 11 personnel with trips right and the TE alone on the left. Once again, DT Schult gets pressure on Wentz from the interior:
[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay4Video1.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay4Still1.jpg”]
Schult and Adam Reth (#99) cross at the snap. Both DTs begin the play in a 1 technique, on each shoulder of center Zack Ziemer (#73). As the play begins, Reth crosses the face of the center, moving from Ziemer’s right shoulder to his left, blasting the C with a strong first punch. As Reth makes his move, right guard Jeremy Kelly (#54) tries to help, getting a quick shot on the UNI DT. But that is when Schult crosses behind his teammate, to the outside of Kelly. The RG tries to adjust but Schult squirts past him. Wentz tries to climb the pocket and make a throw to the outside, but can barely get the football out before Schult drives him to the turf. This play was very close to a crucial sack for the Panthers.
Having avoided the big sack, the Bison set up for 2nd and 10 again with an 11 package and 1:30 remaining on the clock. NDSU has Wentz in the shotgun with trips formation to the right, and a single receiver split to the left. The Panthers keep their 4-3 package in the game but change things in the coverage:
UNI sets up with a Tampa 2 look presnap, with the three linebackers lined up deeper than normal:
With this deep coverage, Wentz quickly checks down to Morlock releasing out of the backfield to the weakside:
[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay5Video1.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay5Still3.jpg”]
The RB picks up seven yards, setting up another big moment for the Bison, and the clock is ticking.
FB/TE Andrew Bonnet (#46) lines up as an inline tight end, and he runs a post route against this coverage, finding some space between the two safeties. Wentz takes his shot:
[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay6Video1.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay6Still1.jpg”]
This might have been Wentz’s best throw of the drive. Only a jarring hit from safety Tim Kilfoy (#24) prevents the big completion. Notice on the replay how the QB makes one last quick look outside to his left, to try and fake the backside safety and open up more room for Bonnet, before making his throw. An impressive throw to be sure, but an incompletion on the stat sheet, bringing up 4th and 3.
A few things to point out. At the bottom of the picture the receivers are in a tight slot, because the football is on the left hashmark. Therefore the linebacker to that side can maintain a relationship with the slot WR without widening his alignment. But at the top of the screen, the receivers are in a wider alignment with huge splits. The outside receiver is on the middle of the numbers. So Urzendowski, who is in the slot, is uncovered at the snap. Outside linebacker D’Shawn Dexter (#30) stands on the midfield logo, inside the hashmark, while the slot WR stands to the outside.
So when the outside receiver cuts inside, and Urzendowski runs a quick wheel route, Wentz’s favorite target is wide open:
[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay7Video1.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay7Still2.jpg”]
The outside CB follows the slant route inside, and because of Dexter’s alignment the two defenders cannot switch, otherwise the slant route would be wide open. So when the slot WR drifts to the outside, he is wide open. Urzendowski hauls in the easy toss from his quarterback, racing into Panthers territory with the second fourth-down conversion of the drive.
When Matt Waldman and I discussed Wentz before this season started in the RSP Film Room, we noticed how the QB shows awareness pre-snap, often recognizing when receivers are uncovered and throwing the football out to these players quickly, taking advantage of weaknesses in coverage of alignment. On the biggest play of the NDSU season to-date, Wentz demonstrates this trait perfectly.
With the football at the UNI 33-yard line, and under a minute remaining, they set up with Wentz in the shotgun and an empty backfield. This forces the Panthers’ defense to widen their defense before the play:
At the top of the image are running back King Frasier (#22) and Vraa. Both receivers run in cuts:
Wentz takes the snap and looks first to the trips side of the formation, before working back to the in cuts from Frasier and Vraa. UNI linebacker Brett McMakin (#49) sinks under the RB, but Vraa is able to find a soft area between the LB and the CB. Wentz comes to his third read and finds the WR:
[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay8Video1.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay8Still1.jpg”]
Vraa’s catch-and-run brings the ball inside the red zone, and makes the senior the all-time leader in receptions for the Bison.
Facing 1st and 10 at the Panthers’ 18-yard line, Wentz goes for the knockout:
[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview6NDSUPlay9Video1.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CFBReview9NDSUPlay9Still1.jpg”]
The QB lofts a touch pass to the back corner of the end zone, where redshirt freshman Darrius Shepherd (#20) is running a vertical route. With two defenders draped on him, the throw and catch need to be perfect – and both are.
The extra point gives the Bison a three-point lead, and the Panthers’ final drive ended on a completion after UNI reached midfield with :12 seconds left. After the game, Wentz described the young receiver who hauled in the game winning TD as a “warrior.”
But in truth, the entire Bison offense stepped up on the drive, from the receivers on the outside, to the blockers up front who held off the relentless pressure from Reth and Schult. For Wentz, this was another game-winning drive in a collegiate career full of them, and the drive contained a number of memorable throws.
While Bison fans might recall the final TD toss of the day with fondness, it was his throw on the first fourth-down conversion of the drive that was the most impressive. Not only did it keep the drive alive, but it was yet one more example of the arm talent that will have scouts salivating as the 2016 draft approaches.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
Footage courtesy of GoBison.com and Sidearm Sports. (Note, I pay for this subscription, so if we get some cease and desist letter – which would be hilarious – I think we’re covered).