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Game-winning TD result of good play call by KU, blown assignment by Northern Illinois

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For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."

Let’s take a look at Jordan Webb’s six-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to D.J. Beshears on fourth-and-goal against Northern Illinois.

First off, Coach says this is a good play call in this situation, because it gives Webb lots of options.

“(Beshears) and the tight end (Tim Biere), they’re crossing in the middle,” Coach says. “It’s a good man-to-man-beater route because with those two guys crossing, a lot of times, that creates a natural pick. The defenders run into each other or maybe an offensive player runs into a defensive player.”

With the formation bunched like this, Coach says KU runs a pretty typical route combination on the outside, as Chris Omigie runs a corner route while Kale Pick runs a flat route. That route combination gives KU’s receivers plenty of room to work.

Webb said after the game that Beshears was his third read on the play, and Coach says that most likely, Pick was his first option and Omigie was his second.

With Northern Illinois playing man coverage with a free safety, KU’s play call is successful because of the crossing routes over the middle.

“You can’t see it in the picture, but I’m sure that tight end probably created a little natural pick right there to open up the receiver,” Coach says.

When NIU’s cornerback (No. 28) gets caught up in traffic, NIU’s safety (No. 19) isn’t quite quick enough to jump the route and break up the pass.

A couple of other interesting things with this play:

NIU coach Dave Doeren told reporters afterward that he called a blitz on the final play, but really, this isn’t much of a blitz.

NIU does blitz two players, but it also drops both of its defensive ends to help cover the underneath routes.

Coach says teams typically use this type of defense if the opponent runs a lot of shallow crossing routes.

“It’s kind of an interesting defensive call,” Coach says. “You would think if you wanted to bring more pressure, you would have rushed both those defensive ends and still brought those linebackers. But really, they dialed up a pretty good defensive call here.”

It all was negated, though, because of a lack of discipline from one NIU player.

Notice the top defensive end on this play (No. 90, Alan Baxter)? At first, he drops back to help protect against the crossing routes.

But when Webb isn’t pressured, he panics. The defensive end makes a late break toward Webb at the end of the play.

“I think if he would have just sat back and had his head and eyes on a swivel,” Coach says, “he would have saw the receiver coming from the other side and been able to break on the ball better.”

Webb essentially ends up throwing the game-winning touchdown pass exactly where Baxter was standing earlier — and where he should have still been standing at the end of the play.*

If he stays there, Baxter most likely knocks the ball down. That, or Webb would have been forced to look elsewhere and perhaps might have been sacked.

This just shows what it means when football coaches talking about players being disciplined. A defense meant to guard against shallow crossing patterns was beaten by a shallow crossing pattern — all because one player didn’t stick with his assignment on the play.

* — More frustrating for NIU has to be that its other defensive end (No. 95, Sean Progar) stays disciplined on the play, not moving from the spot where he's assigned to be. If Webb would have tried to throw to Biere, the pass most likely would have been knocked down.

KU also comes away with a touchdown despite less-than-ideal blitz pickup.

Though NIU only rushes four, one blitzer runs untouched towards Webb at the bottom of the screen.

“No. 74, the left tackle (Jeff Spikes), he needs to not get locked in on this linebacker blitzing right here and realize the guard is going to be able to pick up the linebacker,” Coach says.

Because KU’s center, Jeremiah Hatch, blocks the defensive lineman in front of him, and KU’s left guard, Trevor Marrongelli, takes the middle linebacker, Spikes’ responsibility should have been to take the blitzer on the outside.

Luckily for KU, the NIU player slips, which gives Webb the time he needs to win the game.

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