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How did Kansas State's Tyler Lockett get so open right before the end of the half?
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
For this week's breakdown, let's look at Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett's 48-yard reception over the middle with 11 seconds to go in the half.
First, let's take a look at the coverage.
From looking at the film, Coach says KU is playing a Cover 42 zone — more commonly known as a Cover 6 zone.
The reason it is sometimes known as Cover 42 is because, essentially, KU is playing Cover 4 on the strong side of the field (the one with more receivers) and Cover 2 on the weak side of the field.
What does this mean?
Essentially, on the side with three KSU receivers, KU will have two players splitting the deep half of the field in a zone.
On the side with one wideout, KU will have one safety playing a deep zone over the top of that receiver.
Some nuances of the coverage are more complicated than we'll get into here. For example, Coach says KU's defenders will read the second receiver from the top of the screen to determine exactly where they'll go on the play.
The basic concept, though, will look much like this — from a screenshot I found online from the NCAA Football 12 video game.
If you look, KU's setup before the play almost exactly mimics the Cover 6 diagram from above.
So what goes wrong?
Much like KU's players and coaches admitted after the game, one player doesn't follow his assignment.
Though it's tough to see the number because of the camera angle, this appears to be KU safety Lubbock Smith (who also was playing that position on KU's previous drive).
In the Cover 6 diagram above, we can see that Smith's responsibility on this play will be to cover his deep "quarter" of the field. In this case, it's middle quarter of the field toward the three-receiver side.
Smith does something different instead.
Notice he starts this play on the beak of the Jayhawk.
Once the play begins, instead of backpedaling to keep everything in front of him (blue arrow), Smith turns upfield to cover the tight end (red arrow).
This leaves the deep middle to his side wide open.
"The guy who is standing right on the Jayhawk is the one who messes up," Coach says. "He should definitely lock onto this (route)."
Coach says the only reason the safety might break on the tight end is if he thought KU was in a man-to-man coverage. Obviously, that wasn't the case, as every other KU player was showing Cover 6 zone principles.
One other aspect to look at: Notice how close KU's cornerbacks are to the receivers, considering there are only 11 seconds left to go in the half?
The cornerbacks and safeties are between eight and 10 yards away from KSU's receivers.
It's not a huge adjustment, but Coach says you'd like to have your secondary guys back a little farther.
"If it’s me, I’ve got all those guys back to at least the 45-yard line," Coach says. "When you’re deeper, things sort themselves out in front of you."
With a few more yards to see everything, perhaps one of KU's defenders could have noticed the blown coverage and tried to make up for it by trying to stay behind the deepest receiver.
As it was, KSU stole back all the momentum before halftime — all because one KU defender out of 11 found himself in the wrong spot.