September 08, 2013
Kentucky's first play of the game was successful in its own right, picking up 21 yards on the the ground.
It also laid the foundation for two touchdowns on separate possessions later in the first half.
All three plays -- a sweep by wide receiver Javess Blue, a play-action pass to running back Jonathan George, and a dive by running back Raymond Sanders -- came out of the same base formation with the same pre-snap movement.
Although each of the plays went a drastically different route, they each started with Maxwell Smith in the pistol formation, with Sanders behind him and George lined up immediately to his left, and Blue sent in motion from right to left.
Here's how they all looked at the outset of the play.
All giving pretty much the same look, no?
So, here's how they played out:
The very first play of the game, and offensive coordinator Neal Brown shows an important component of this offense -- using motion to get his playmakers the ball in space. A sweep with Blue led to a big run in which he sprinted up the left sideline before cutting back into the middle of the field for even more yards.
Important as well is the action from George, who pulls left and throws a nice block at about the line of scrimmage. He's functioning in essentially a fullback role here, taking out a linebacker with his block.
Now, one drive later, Brown will call a play that has the same look, from the formation through the initial moments after the snap. You see Sanders lined up behind and George lined up beside Smith in a pistol formation and (what we all think is) a hand-off to Blue again after he goes in motion.
Instead, it turns into a wide-open downfield pass to George for a 48-yard touchdown. George did a great job selling the play-action play himself, even slowing down and squaring up to the linebacker as if he was going to block before taking off down the sideline and leaving the defender completely off-balance.
"That was something we saw on film," Brown said. "We did a lot of our speed sweep stuff early in the game and we had some success with that. We usually carry a play-action pass off of that and that was one we thought had a chance this week.”
Then, late in the second quarter, Brown calls a play that's essentially the same look. It's modified a bit because UK is inside the goal line, but the basics are the same. Blue is on the right side, and Sanders and George are lined up the same way in the backfield. (The only change? Moving the tight end from the slot to the line on the overloaded side.)
This time, Smith fakes the give to Blue and instead hands it off to Sanders, who blows straight up the middle for an easy five-yard touchdown run. It's made so much easier from a blocking standpoint because the linebackers are momentarily frozen. They've been burned by Blue on the sweep, so they're tracking him going left; and they've been burned by play-action, so they're not ready to move up toward the line to stop a run they're not even sure is coming. UK's offensive line gets out quick and seals a wide hole up the middle for Sanders to cross the goal line.
All in all, some beautiful play-calling, and it shows the diversity of Brown's playbook. Three plays run out of essentially the same set with the same pre-snap movement resulted in three very different outcomes: outside run, downfield pass, inside run. But the success of each builds toward the success of the next as the defense has to account for more and more options every time they see the same look. It takes a disciplined, quick-reacting and talented defense to counter that kind of look.
Miami (Ohio) didn't have that, and Kentucky's offense had a field day with it, racking up the third-highest yardage total in program history.