2 plays of note
In every football game, some plays go exceptionally well and others go poorly. In the first quarter of the Cal's 52-13 victory over Maryland Saturday night at Memorial Stadium, two plays stuck out on opposite ends of that spectrum. The first was Jahvid Best's 73-yard touchdown run that started off the scoring for the Bears. The second was Maryland's kickoff return after the Bears were up 14-0.
FOOLING THE DEFENSE
Best's touchdown run was triggered by Maryland's defense biting on the faked fly-sweep to wide receiver Jeremy Ross. Watch the below video, particularly the pre-snap movement of the weak-side linebacker, and the safety:
You'll notice that as Ross starts streaking towards the quarterback, both of them inch up towards the line. Then, immediately after the snap they rush into the backfield to intercept Ross, completely taking them out of the play. When the strongside linebacker goes up to take on tight end Anthony Miller on the other side of the line, it leaves only the middle linebacker to be accounted for.
With 5 Cal linemen, they're able to block all 4 defense linemen and the middle linebacker, clearing the way for Best.
All of this would not have been possible if two Maryland defenders had not been fooled by the faked fly-sweep.
PLAYING SNAP TO WHISTLE
At the other end of the play it is wide receiver Verran Tucker, who helps Best finish off the play. Instead of going 50 percent once Best is in the open, watching with awe like everyone in the stands, he continues to run at full speed down field. This allows Best to make a cut-back move to get behind Tucker who blocked the pursuing Maryland corner allowing Best to run into the end zone.
While it still would have been a big run without Tucker's support, Best would have likely been tackled somewhere just inside the red zone, Tucker gave Best some additional options to get all the way for six points.
In fact, both Best and head coach Jeff Tedford acknowledged the effort Tucker gave after the game.
"The corner had an angle on me so I couldn't get into the end zone," Best said. "Tuck was right there and I just cut back. I don't know what yard-line it was at, but there was a point where I noticed he had an angle on me. I waited a little bit to get Tuck's block. Thank God he was there. If he wasn't, it probably wouldn't have been a touchdown."
"Jahvid's long run, you got Verran on the backside busting his butt to get in position to make a key block to get him in the end zone," Tedford added. "It was indicative of the whole night the way they played."
On the other end of the spectrum is the kickoff return that Maryland returned to the Cal 38-yard line. The poor execution starts with Giorgio Tavecchio's inability to get the ball down the field. With the return starting at the 14-yard line, it dramatically changes the angles and timeline that the Cal coverage teams need to converge on the returner. Watch the below video, particularly the activity around the wedge:
As a result of Tavecchio's short kick, the coverage team is unable to break up the wedge before the return man is able to bust through it. In the coverage team's haste to get down to the wedge, many of them over pursued. Between D.J. Holt, Chris Little, D.J. Campbell, Jesse Brooks and Mychal Kendricks, all of them rushed by the wedge just as Maryland's return man was busting through the middle of it.
The two plays provide an excellent example of how every play is different and proper execution and good reads are critical to success.
Ken Crawford is a staff writer for BearTerritory. A lifelong Cal football observer, Crawford has covered the Bears since the 2006 season, which included an up close and personal view of the memorable 31-24 victory over Oregon at Autzen Stadium in '07. Crawford will continue to handle various Cal football assignments during the 2009 season.