Iowa Exploits Poor Pursuit Angles

Mark Schofield breaks down Jordan Canzeri’s second touchdown run of the third quarter for Iowa against Nebraska, which took advantage of two poor pursuit angles, from two inexperienced Nebraska defenders, for a long scoring run.

Iowa clinched the Big Ten West Division with their 40-20 victory over Purdue, and moved into fourth place of the most recent playoff seedings. Needing to finish the regular season undefeated to keep their playoff, and national title hopes alive, the Hawkeyes visited the Cornhuskers.

The Hawkeyes line up with quarterback C.J. Beathard (#16) under center and 21 personnel in the game, using an inverted slot formation on the right with the tight end in the slot and the X receiver split left. Canzeri is the deep back in the i-formation, behind fullback Adam Cox (#38).

Nebraska’s base 4-3 defense lines up showing Cover 1, with weakside linebacker Marcus Newby (#3) splitting the difference between the right tackle and the slot receiver. A pair of true freshman defenders ‒ strongside linebacker Dedrick Young (#5) and free safety Aaron Williams (#24) ‒ are about to get taken to school:CFBReview12IowaStill1

Iowa runs the lead zone play to the left, with Canzeri aiming for the C gap behind the block of Cox:CFBReview12IowaStill2


Young identifies the play and reacts accordingly, flowing to the outside of the play in an attempt to set the edge. What the linebacker must do once in position is to establish outside leverage, and funnel this run back to the inside, where teammates can help:

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But instead of setting the edge properly, Young is too aggressive and gets upfield ‒ to the inside of Cox. The FB makes contact and turns the freshman LB just as left tackle Boone Myers (#52) rides the playside defensive end to the outside. These two blocks – aided by the poor angle taken by the young linebacker – open up a huge alley to the outside.

As the ball is snapped the freshman safety, Williams, is over the football, 12 yards deep in the secondary. Note the positioning of the Umpire ‒ this plays a role momentarily. Off the snap Williams takes a few steps to his left, away from the eventual hole. When the freshman safety does recognize the play, he crashes toward the line of scrimmage, but ‒ like his teammate ‒  he stays to the inside, and runs right into the back of the Umpire.

This disastrous route, and collision, keeps him in middle of the field, so when Canzeri cuts through the huge hole toward the sideline, Williams is out of position and unable to make a play:

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Putting these two elements together, we can see the entire 75-yard run in all its glory:

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Canzeri’s second touchdown run of the game pushed the Iowa lead to 11, and they would hold on for the 28-20 victory. Next up for the Hawkeyes? Big Ten East Champion Michigan State Spartans in Indianapolis to decide the Big Ten Champion, and perhaps ‒ one of the four spots in the college football playoffs.

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.

All video and images courtesy ESPN.

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