The Louisiana State Tigers used trickery to cap off a key fourth quarter drive against their SEC rival, Florida Gators. Mark Schofield details the game winning drive and enlists Chuck Zodda to breakdown how a Trent Domingue run gave the Tigers the lead.
Following Antonio Callaway’s 72-yard punt return for a touchdown, the Florida Gators pulled even with LSU on the road – and Death Valley is a mix of concern, despair, and fear. What better way to calm a restless crowd than by giving the football to your talented running back using the staples of your offense?
Starting at their own 25-yard line after the touchback, Brandon Harris and the Tigers’ offense line up with the quarterback under center and 21 offensive personnel on the field in an i-formation, with pro alignment on the right. The Gators have their 4-3 defense in the game showing Cover 2 in the secondary:
As you can see, X receiver John Diarse (#9) is completely uncovered before the snap, but Harris has no intention of calling an audible here, because it’s time for the lead toss play. Looking at the offensive alignment here, LSU employs an unbalanced line, moving left tackle Jerald Hawkins (#65) to the right side, giving the Tigers a guard and two tackles on the right. Tight end Colin Jeter (#81) lines up in Hawkins’s usual spot:
On the backside, both Jeter and left guard Maea Teuhema (#75) need to cut off the pursuit angles from the the nose tackle and the defensive tackle. The TE is able to get inside the DT while Teuhema uses a cut block on NT Caleb Brantley (#57). Playside, the linemen all flow to the right, with Hawkins blocking the outside linebacker, RT Vadal Alexander (#74) handling the other DE, and right guard William Clapp (#64) flowing to the second level to take on the middle linebacker. Center Ethan Pocic (#77) makes sure that Teuhema has handled Brantley before working to the second level to seal off the backside linebacker:
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One last player poses a problem for LSU on this snap: Florida strong safety Marcus Maye (#20). As the play begins, the safety explodes down into the box and into the anticipated hole. Enter fullback Bry’Kiethon Mouton (#47). The FB leads Leonard Fournette into the hole and is able to turn the SS toward the sideline with a very effective block. The RB cuts inside off his fullback’s effort and rips off an easy seven-yard gain on first down, settling the crowd somewhat.
Armed with a fresh set of downs, the Tigers turn to another pillar of their offense, the HB lead play. LSU lines up with Harris under center, 21 offensive personnel in the game, but with a standard alignment up front with the TE on the right side of the offense in pro formation. Florida stays with their base 4-3 defense, showing Cover 4 in the secondary.
The Tigers run their lead play to the weak side of the formation with Mouton in front of Fournette as the two players head for the B Gap:
Where the previous play worked because of execution up front, this run works because of the footwork from the big RB. Off the snap Brantley gets a good initial push on Pocic, driving the center into the backfield. This forces Fournette to make a quick cut behind the line of scrimmage. The RB looks to test the outside after cutting, but DE Bryan Cox Jr. (#94) has established outside leverage on the LT, forcing Fournette to make another cut before even leaving the backfield:
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After these first two moves, Fournette is in the secondary, where he puts a quick juke move on cornerback Jalen Tabor (#31). Maye finally pushes the RB out of bounds, right at midfield after a 14-yard gain.
After Fournette is then stopped for no gain on first down and Harris keeps the football for a five-yard gain using read option on second, the Tigers face their first third down of this drive. They line up at the Florida 45-yard line, with the QB in the shotgun and 10 offensive personnel on the field using trips formation on the right. The Gators have a 4-2-5 package in the game, showing Cover 1 in the secondary. One LB shows A Gap blitz while the defensive backs to the the trips side of the formation show off man coverage:
WR Travin Dural (#83), the middle trips receiver, runs a skinny post route. He is able to get inside leverage on nickelback Brian Poole (#24) thanks to the deep alignment from the DB before the play:
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Harris takes advantage of the big throwing window, delivering the football before Mays is able to break down on the route. The 14-yard gain gives the Tigers another set of downs and keeps the drive alive.
After the Gators hold Fournette to a four-yard gain on a first down lead toss play, LSU faces 2nd and 6 at the Florida 27-yard line. The offense sets up with another i-formation using 21 offensive personnel, but has the TE on the left side of the field to the slot formation, covered by the X receiver:
LSU runs a split zone play here with the offensive line moving to the left at the snap, leaving the backside edge defender unblocked. While Fournette heads left, Mouton cuts to the right to seal off the DE from any pursuit angle:
As with any zone play, Fournette has some options. But Hawkins and Jeter make it easy for him:
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At the snap the LT executes a perfect reach block, firing out his left foot wide toward the sideline before turning upfield and driving his upper body into the defensive end. From there, Hawkins remains engaged with the upper body while using his legs to drive the DE upfield, turning him away from the play. The TE has an easier angle, with OLB Jeremi Powell (#23) lined up outside of him before the play. Jeter simply uses his alignment and positioning against the linebacker, sealing him off from the hole. Fournette makes his bang read and splits the gap between Jeter and Hawkins. From there, the first player he faces is DB Keanu Neal (#42). But remember, the Tigers still have two receivers to the outside with this unbalanced look. Slot WR Trey Quinn (#8) is in position to make a block on Neal, freeing up Fournette for his second 14-yard gain of the drive.
However now, on the tenth play of the drive, the Tigers are in a slightly more precarious position. After Fournette picked up two yards on first down, Harris tried to hit WR Malachi Dupre (#15) in the end zone, but the pass fell incomplete. LSU now faces a 3rd and 8 on the Florida 11-yard line.
What better time to dial up the ol’ TE screen play?
LSU lines up with Harris in the shotgun and 11 offensive personnel on the field. Dural and Jeter are on the right, both off the line of scrimmage, with the TE in a wing alignment just outside the right tackle. The other two wide receivers set up on the left in a slot, with both players on the line of scrimmage:
Dural comes in jet motion toward the football. Defensively, the Gators have their 4-3 in a base look and show Cover 0 in the secondary, with CB Vernon Hargreaves III trailing Dural as the WR comes in motion:
The design here is to get the entire defense flowing to their right. Harris fakes the jet sweep before dropping to pass. The OL flows to the left as well to sell the fake sweep. Jeter blocks the defensive end before releasing to the outside and remaining behind the line of scrimmage. The delay allows the right side of the line to release from their initial blocks and try and get in front of the TE before Harris dumps the ball off to Jeter:
Neal is having none of that:
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The defensive back reads this play perfectly, and races forward like a ball of heavy shot exploding out of a cannon. Neal chops Jeter down for a five-yard loss, setting up the Tigers with a 4th and 13 on the Florida 16-yard line.
Drive over, send out the kick team.
Cue Mr. Zodda and his band of merry specialists.
Having moved into chip-shot field goal range in a tie game with 10:48 left on the clock, the Tigers line up to kick from the right hash. Trent Domingue, the LSU kicker steps off his normal approach, stares down the center of the uprights, and nods at his holder. The long-snapper fires the ball back with Domingue… taking off to his left?
Yes. While kickers may not be the strongest or biggest players on the field, LSU nevertheless turned to the most unlikely of players on this fake. Holder Brad Kragthorpe makes a perfect toss to Domingue, who bobbles the ball for nearly five yards before sprinting into the end zone for the eventual game-winning score:
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And he drilled the extra-point right down the middle for good measure. Tigers win, 35-28.