Sunday, October 22, 2006

Holy Crap What a Play!

So that happened. The Irish faithful stand anxiously as Brady Quinn drops back into the shotgun for our last-chance desperation drive. A day of frustrating ineffectiveness has left the Irish trailing by four points with no timeouts and less than a minute to go. Quinn drops back, scrambles around a little bit, and then, all of the sudden, there is massive pandemonium. Samardzija has the ball! And he's running! Before anyone can fully digest what's happening, I am leaping into the arms of complete strangers around me and celebrating like a madman. Mother of mercy, miracle of miracles, it actually happened.

Since it was only the third time in Irish history that we've scored a gamewinning touchdown with less than thirty seconds, it is fair to guess that this play will endure in the immortality of Notre Dame lore. In light of the significance of this play, I've decided to fire up the Tivo and document, as best I can, as much detail about what transpired as you can tolerate. Brendan Loy's video, while very Zipprouder-esque, was very useful in finding out what was going on on the opposite side of the field, which we never got a shot of on the NBC cameras. A big hat tip to him is in order.

The Play

  • Seven men are blocking for Brady Quinn. As you can see, RB Darius Walker (3) and TE John Carlson (89) stayed back to block, meaning there were only three receivers running routes. With our line getting abused the entire game, it makes sense that Weis made sure they did everything to protect Brady from a sack, which would have effectively ended the game as the Irish had no timeouts remaining.
  • Shark is in the slot. Jeff Samardzija (83) is lined up in the slot and runs a drag route directly across the center of the field, trying to find a hole in the zone. Rhema (5) runs a deep post to stretch out the defense and draw the strong safety into coverage. David Grimes (11) runs a quick out route to the sideline, most likely as a safety valve if Quinn needs to get a quick completion and stop the clock.

The Defense

  • UCLA comes out in a nickel package. Four down linemen, two linebackers (2 and 33) and five defensive backs. Due to the circumstances of the game, they are playing somewhat conservatively, but it's clearly not a "prevent" defense. The general idea seems to be to force the plays to the middle of the field, negating the opportunity for the Irish to attack the sidelines for quick, clock-stopping strikes.
  • The strongside corners are guarding the sidelines. The two CB's on the strong side (3 and 23) lined up against Shark and Rhema are guarding the outside shoulders of their receivers, backing up and pointing their hips toward the center of the field. The strong safety (11) is bracketing coverage over the top, ready to switch onto a receiver that runs a go route or a deep post.
  • The other corner (1) is covering the flat. 1 is in press coverage against David Grimes. His responsibility is to jam Grimes at the line, then release him to the free safety (14) and cover the flat should Darius Walker come out on a screen route.
  • The linebackers are playing middle zone. Both linebackers are more or less holding down the center of the field, ready to make a tackle or break up a pass that gets forced to the center.
  • The right side of the D-line is stunting. While on the other end, 44 sets up wide and attempts to speed rush Quinn off the right tackle.

The Pump

  • Seven blockers take care of four rushers. Not surprisingly, the max protect works well, as each defensive lineman has two bodies square him off. Darius does a good job of standing up the speed-rushing end, and RT Sam Young quickly comes back to help out, effectively clearing the end out of the play. This is important, because with the stunt on the left side, the entire right side of the pocket is free for Quinn to move around.
  • Quinn makes his reads. He eyes Shark, checks over to Rhema, then looks down Shark again. At this point, Samardzija is directly in the middle of three defenders guarding the zone in the center of the field.
  • Quinn pump fakes, causing a linebacker to make a play for the ball. In addition to fooling the NBC cameras, Quinn's pump fake made the linebacker (2) break his contain and jump to make a play on the ball. By the time he realizes the ball isn't coming, he has effectively eliminated himself from the play.

The Toss

  • Samardzija sprints past the frozen linebackers. With a full head of steam, Samardzija blows past the reacting linebackers and finds himself in a clearing on the right side of the field. Sensing that the right side is clear, Quinn scrambles to the right and lays a pass into Samardzija's numbers, hitting him nicely in stride.
  • The strong safety overpursues. Switching off onto Rhema's deep post, the safety (11) is racing horizontally across the field to try to catch Samardzija. After catching the ball, Samardzija stops on a dime and reverses direction toward the center of the field. Unable to slow down, the safety falls over and is gingerly swept away by Rhema McKnight.
  • The footrace is on. Samardzija gallops down the field, stumbling slightly after being tripped up on his turn, and it's nothing but open field. Numbers 23 and 14 make chase, trying to run down the Shark from opposite sides. As the three converge near the goal line, Shark leaps and stretches out the ball, catapulting across the goal line.

...and the rest, they say, is history.

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At 12:23 AM, Blogger Clashmore said...

it seems everyone in the media is breaking down this play.

brady's pump fake and samardzija's ability to not get tripped up is everywhere in the notre dame world.

what a great play.

At 1:14 AM, Anonymous Judge said...

One of my buddies says the Irish could have had a holding call on thier last play. Anything suggest that from your angle?

At 8:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, one of my buddies says that UCLA could have had a holding call on about 5 other times when they had the ball as well. The Pac-10 refs tried desperately to help out UCLA win the game, they just came up a little bit short.

At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Andy said...

Hasn't anyone played Madden? "Holding happens on every play."

Seriously though, it is humorous that anyone would complain about holding against Notre Dame, considering Victor is held on literally 75% of pass plays.

At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Andy said...

By the way, Good breakdown Amish.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger The Contrarian said...

A very well-done analysis of the GW play. For a minute, I thought I was reading BGS. Kudos to ya!

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Uncle Smokey Stank said...

It's a damn good thing that the UCLA coaches didn't notice the glowing white circle undeneath Jeff. They might have tried to cover him with ten players.

It's a chame that we are thin with depth on defense. I think we could go wire to wire with the no huddle offense.

At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those refs gave UCLA that Pass Interference call against Lambert late in the game. Its a shame we always use refs from the conference of our opponent.

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Wayne said...

It felt like I'd run a marathon after celebrating that play.

I can't remember a more exciting time in the stadium.


At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That really was an incredibly bad pass interference call on Lambert. The two were handfighting the entire way down the field and the refs had been letting similar plays go all day. Awful suspicious that they chose that moment to tighten up their PI calls. As for the holding, they should just show a highlight reel of Abiamiri to all the Big 1? and Pac-10 refs during the offseason and tell them, "See, this is the definition of holding."

While I'm ecstatic the Irish won, the final play was more frustrating than anything. The defensive call was perfect, especially the stunt on the strong side, as I'm sure their DC thought that Weis would send Carlson on a route and not max protect. It was simply a matter of the Irish players making better plays. Why couldn't they do that all game?

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous dbldomer7375 said...

Nice analysis, guys.

At 1:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great job on the analysis, and for correctly pointing out that this was not a cover 4 or a true prevent defense. It was designed to take away the long ball and (as you stated) the outside routes, but it was no prevent. I'm tired of hearing people criticize Dorrell (in a veiled attempt to discredit ND's stellar play on the last drive).

Also, is that Loy kid a prick or what? He should stick to meteorology.

At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Tommy O said...

i'm going to be a PAC-10 official for the halloween party this year. Simple really: Referee costume with money bursting out of the pockets. i hope nobody goes as bob stoops...

At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The worst blown holding call was on a Zbikowski blitz, right before the bogus PI on Lambert. Those two calls nearly sank us.

At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Erik '04 said...

I agree, anonymous. Zibby got jerked backwards by his collar from behind while he had a clear path at the QB. If that's not holding, I don't know what is.

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Sean H. said...

Seriously, that much analysis after a weekend with the EDSBS guys. Did you have to take a nap after that post?

Nice job.

At 10:30 AM, Blogger BrianM8614 said...

Just a late note. NCAA Div-I rules are that the visiting team provides the officiating crew. ND, as an independent, has a contract with Big Ten officials.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Sean H. said...

Conference based officiating. The diry underwear in the NCAA football's dresser.

Why there aren't regionally based crews that report to the NCAA is beyond me. Oh wait, I know! The conferences like their cozy little deal. But there's is no bias. Really.

At 12:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Brian, as was discussed ad nauseum after the Oklahoma-Oregon game, the PAC-10 normally switches it around and has the home team provide the officials. Any rules must be on a conference-to-conference basis rather than imposed by the NCAA.


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