Hey Cougar fans! Welcome to this thrilling edition of my semi-regular True Blue Review column, where I’ll be reviewing some noteworthy plays from the exhilarating win over Arkansas as well as the loss to Kansas. As always, any critique of any player or coach isn’t personal in nature, and I do not own the rights to the video clips used. For a better viewing experience, I’d recommend watching (and rewatching) the clips below in either .5 or .75 speed. Lets dive in and make sense of some big plays from our BYU football players.
Play #1: Throw It Open
This play is successful at first due to smart game-planning by our offensive coaching staff, and ultimately due to incredible individual talent. Prior to the game against BYU, Arkansas’ defensive front had combined for 7 sacks against Kent State. This designed play-action rollout (and several others like it) were an excellent choice by Coach Roderick to slow down the relentless Arkansas pass rush. The O-line effectively washes the defensive front away from the play on the designed roll-out, though one free rusher was able to pressure Slovis on the throw.
Remember what I wrote about Slovis trusting his arm talent in the last edition of the True Blue Review? That all applies here again– The margin of error on this throw is so incredibly slim, but Slovis had the confidence to throw it yet again. Notably, this time, Rex (#83) was smothered by the Arkansas DB as Slovis released the ball. Slovis somehow managed to “throw him open”, by putting the ball just behind the reach of the DB trailing in hot pursuit. While certainly a risky decision to make this throw, again, I’ll give credit where credit is due. Kudos to Kedon for trusting his arm strength and to Rex for reading the situation well enough to slow his route just enough to help open a window at the perfect time.
Play #2: Move, Get Out the Way
(Unless you love Rod Gilmore’s voice, I’d recommend keeping the volume off for this one)
To appreciate the beauty of this play, Lets break it down by the individual Offensive Linemen and their assignments on this power run play vs a 4-3 Under front.
On the right side of the line (left side of the screen, from this point of view), you’ll see Right Tackle Caleb Etienne (#76) and Right Guard Connor Pay (#70) leave the Defensive End untouched. They have a combo block here, where they work together initially to seal off Arkansas DT #5 and allow Etienne to progress to seal off the strongside linebacker (#28). Center Paul Maile down blocks Arkansas DT #9. The goal from these three is to seal those three defenders off from the running lane that their teammates are about to open. Etienne whiffs a little bit here on the block while trying to seal off #28, but he does just enough to prevent him from making the tackle and stopping the big play.
Left Tackle Kingsley Suamataia (#78) and Left Guard Weylin Lapuaho (#61) both start the play pulling from their side of the line to clear a path for LJ Martin on the right. Kingsley’s task is relatively easy here– He just needs to clear out the weakside linebacker #27 (and he does so quickly). Lapuaho’s assignment, however, is a bit tougher. He has to work to get around to the other side of the Arkansas Defensive End (#6) who has crashed down the line and prevent him from filling the lane being opened by Kingsley. Watch the excellent technique as Lapuaho initiates hard contact, quickly “swaps hats” (or crosses helmets) with #6 and seals him off. Within a quick second, #6 is completely taken out of the play. Although the ESPN Broadcasting crew highlighted Kingsley on this block, I’d argue that Weylin Lapuaho had the tougher (and more impressive) block here.
Play #3: Shoot the Gap
As always, when the defense makes a stop on a 4th and 1, the tackler(s) generally get the credit. Truly, #10 AJ Vongpachanh has been a big-time playmaker and watching him violently shed his block to wrap up the running back for a loss is a beautiful sight. However, I want to highlight the unsung hero of this crucial play: #91 Jackson Cravens.
Prior to the snap, Cravens is lined up between the center and the guard in a “1 technique”. The Arkansas left guard had already been called for a few false starts (and got away with an uncalled flinch on another play or two). In this crucial short yardage situation, the left guard fires off the ball a bit late, and Cravens takes full advantage of it. He fires through the gap and gets parallel to the left guard before the left guard even gets out of his stance. Cravens gets just enough penetration here to force the running back to go a different direction. Stopping the running back’s momentum, and forcing him to bounce the run outside gives BYU’s second level defenders enough time to fill the gap and make a hit in the backfield. Although Cravens didn’t record a stat here, his contribution on this play is well deserving of praise.
Play #4: Flood It Out
BYU’s first touchdown to Darius Lassiter was a well designed play with a route concept universally known as “Flood”. Essentially, the Flood route concept (as illustrated on the graphic below, h/t to Youth Football Online) generally involves a deep route on the outside, combined with an intermediate out breaking (toward the sideline) route and a shorter out-breaking route. The idea is to “flood” an area of zone coverage with routes that force quick decisions from defenders, and leave pockets of space open.
It works like a charm here– Two defenders step up to cover the shorter out route from Keanu Hill (#1), while another defender scrambles (unsuccessfully) to cover Lassiter’s intermediate route. Credit to Coach Aaron Roderick for play calls like this in the red zone, where BYU has scored a touchdown on 13 of 17 red zone possessions.
Play #5: Sunday Throws
This play right here is absolutely going to be noticed by scouts at the next level. Every part of this play demonstrates Kedon Slovis’ pro-readiness– his pocket presence, football IQ, arm strength and accuracy are all readily visible.
To start, Slovis identifies just one safety in a deep middle zone (likely Cover-1, with one deep safety and the other defensive backs in man coverage). BYU calls deep vertical routes on both sidelines, and Slovis knows he has a favorable coverage for a deep shot outside of the numbers.
Right off the snap, the protection slides to the right, and freshman phenom RB LJ Martin shifts to the left to pick up the extra rusher as a part of the protection scheme. Initially, he lunges with his hands a bit and his feet are a little slower to follow, which allows his rusher to initially speed past him. However, credit to Martin for the incredible effort to keep Slovis clean and clear out his rusher.
Slovis’ awareness is on display here– He senses the pressure from the rusher coming from his blind side, and steps up to avoid the hit (in truth, likely preventing a sack). While doing so, you can see him look towards the left at either Keelan Marion or Darius Lassiter. This small look is key, because he baits the Kansas middle-field safety to that side of the field, away from Roberts on his right. Knowing that Roberts is matched up alone and the safety isn’t close enough to help, Slovis throws a perfect pass from the left wide hash mark to Chase Roberts down the right sideline.
Processing the play this quickly, and then placing the ball perfectly on a throw from the far-side hash mark is an incredibly difficult feat. This is the kind of throw that makes NFL scouts and General Managers drool, and Slovis went on to make a very similar throw later to Keelan Marion. Kedon’s NFL draft stock is rising, and I would be surprised if we didn’t hear his name called over the podium at some point in late April.
That’s all for now! What a great time to be a BYU fan. Keep an eye out for the next True Blue Review in about two weeks, where I’ll highlight the key plays from the Cincinnati and TCU games.