Inside the Film Room

Welcome to yet another new HLS staple.

In this series, I will put aside the stats and take an in depth look at the game film. More often than not, I will be taking a look back at most recent game and highlight the plays that stand out to me–frustrating and spectacular alike. I hope you enjoyed the Blue/Gold game because, for the foreseeable future, this series will be heavy on that film until September.

For this week though, I picked out two Irish TDs that stood out to me this past Saturday. In these plays both Hendrix and Golson faced different blitz packages and were able to make solid reads for the eventual scores.

First, let’s start with the Hendrix TD pass.

Right before the snap, the CB shows blitz and the safety begins to cheat towards Eifert.

After the ball is snapped, Hendrix looks only in one direction and it’s the right one: directly at Eifert. He wastes little time in getting the ball out, forcing the safety to make a choice to either try to make a play on the ball, as indicated by the solid line, or take an alternate angle, as shown by the dotted line, in order to mitigate damage and save a TD.

The safety decides he can actually make a play on the ball and goes for it. Ultimately, this was a bad decision as Eifert was able to slip past him; however, this doesn’t happen if Hendrix doesn’t get the ball out as quickly as he did. Had Hendrix of waited longer, the safety could have easily adjusted his angle to Eifert and the result of the play could’ve been must different.

So yes, making the right read is important, but so are timely decisions. Here, Hendrix’s quick decision forced the safety into making a higher risk play than he probably should have.

Now let’s take a look at Golson’s TD.

At the snap, Golson is facing six pass rushers. Five were initially showing and one of the inside LBs timed his blitz perfectly at the same.

Golson takes a look at his first read towards the near sideline and sees that Eifert and Riddick only have two defenders in their area. These routes end up crossing each other so Golson waits to see how the defense will react as both receivers could end up in single coverage (with one being a huge potential mismatch with a LB), or the defenders could blow their assignments and leave someone wide open.

After Eifert runs out of the frame, the resulting coverage becomes clear: Riddick ends up mismatched against the LB and easily burns him. Golson, with the 300+ lbs Nix (circled) free to come after him, has waited just long enough to make the correct read and get rid of the ball, lofting it up for Riddick to make a play.

Now, here, I am going to be a bit critical. Ideally, the ball should be in the circled area in yellow. If thrown here, the worst case scenario is a harmless incomplete pass as the defender has no prayer of making a play on the ball. However, the ball is underthrown and ends up in the red circled area. While the play did end up working (and Riddick made one hell of an adjustment to make it work), the defender can actually make a play in this situation. Granted, in this case he was so badly burned that an INT would’ve been unlikely, but you just can’t afford to leave a ball there against some of the better DBs in college football.

And just to demonstrate what a ridiculously small window Golson fit this in, above is an alternate angle of the catch. The yellow dotted line represents the (very approximate) path of the ball which ends up falling just over the defender’s outstretched arm.

Make no mistake, this was a fantastic play, but if you wonder why I am driving this point home, look no further than Tommy Rees. Lord knows that I am extremely harsh on him for doing this exact thing; in fact, in my pre-HLS days, I highlighted a play in which he did exactly that:

Above, Eifert is absolutely wide open and had the ball be thrown in the yellow area, it’s an easy TD. Instead, Tommy throws the ball in the red area and the previously beaten defender is easily able to pick the pass off.

Granted, Golson was under pressure from Nix who ended up flattening him on the play via a personal foul; however, I would much rather prefer for him to step up into the hit and get the ball in the correct location rather than trying to avoid contact by lofting the ball from off his front foot. In the end, this looks like a rather small blemish on an absolutely fantastic play, but as Tommy has unfortunately shown us in the past, small mistakes can turn into huge, point-swinging disasters.

And with our wide-open QB battle it could be the difference between the field and the bench.

  • irishfanatic

    Good breakdowns Tex. In the first one, I’m not sold on the fact that he had to different angles to choose (the tackle or the ball), but you definitely could have sold him on it after the fact. It seems as though he took the wrong angle to even get the tackle, and in doing so, put himself in position to get awfully close to making a play on the ball.

    The breakdown with Golson to Riddick is dead on, and it was a great adjustment on both parts. If Golson doesn’t open up his sideline shoulder falling back, he doesn’t make that catch. However, he knows that only half his body is being covered, and the CB doesn’t know how close the ball is to being caught. On the other hand, Golson spins it really well, and doesn’t put too much air under it. This of course doesn’t give the CB enough time to react, and the only one reacting (making an adjustment) is Riddick. Great throw and catch.

    I’m a film junkie, so I’ll be looking forward to more of these film breakdowns from now until September, and hopefully beyond! Well done Tex.

  • Vairish84

    On the first play, it is not just the decision. The throw was rocketed in to Eifert. Not sure Rees, even mkaing that decision, gets the ball there on time.

    On Golson’s, the ball was definitely underthrown, but I did not realize how close Nix was to getting him. I think that is an LB covering Riddick, and a walk-on at that. A scholarship CB makes that play a good coverage LB may make it. He definitely needed to push the ball to the yellow circle. Somehow, I have a strange feeling the coaches will make the same point to him. The better read might have been top right where whoever the receiver was, the DB was never within 8 yards of him from your screen shots. It was also single coverage there, and a broken or missed tackle and it is also a TD.

    • Joe Schulz

      In my mind these two situations emphasize the biggest difference between the two quarterbacks. I believe Golson has the arm strength to make the Hendrix TD pass; but I doubt that Hendrix could have made the Golson pass.
      The difference is that Golson was the star point guard as well as QB in high school. The role of the point is to get the ball to the “open” man. This entails reading both the receiver and the defender. When the defender turns his back on the passer, he becomes meat for the passer. If necessary you can pass it under his armpit. By turning his back the defender took himself out of the play and was relying on the position of his body to block the pass. The Golson throw was the easiest for the receiver to catch. Golson’s experience at the point separates him from most of the other D1 QBs. He can and will throw the ball with the proper touch to the place that maximizes the likelihood of success. I can’t wait until he is lobbing the ball up to Niklas. He will put it at the right spot with the right touch just like tossing it up to the center under the basket.

  • Joe Schulz

    I apologize for not complementing you on your analyses. I was really interesting and I appreciate the “marked up” photos. I have felt for some time that Hendrix’s only real problem, one he shares with Cutler, the Bears QB, is that he has an incredible arm and enjoys showing it off. This means he throws line drives when he should be making some other throw that gets over or around the short defender while arriving in time to avoid the safety. Golson made such a throw in the game by waiting for Ishaq to move out of his way so he could get the ball to the receiver.

    • JDriveSthND

      I agree Joe. I would also point out that Golson made a couple throws on the run Saturday that the other QBs, including Hendrix, just can’t make. Golson is a smooth, fluid athlete. That is something you cannot quantify and can’t really teach, but you know it when you see it. He looks natural rolling out. The others do not. He also looks natural and comfortable throwing to his left, including on the run, and the others look like fish out of water doing it.

  • Brad

    1) The throw by Hendrix was not only impressive due to his arm strength. To me, it was far more impressive just how fast he recognized the blitz and got the ball out. I think that shows that he is getting much better at reading the field, which I think he is the least experienced at doing among the QBs on our roster (he played high school in an option offense, and the others all spent time in spreads throwing the ball around).

    It looks like we have four verticals going on this play, with the innermost slot player on the top of the field beginning to bend his route over the top of his man. Hendrix would have been in just as solid a position by pump faking that throw and then lobbing it up to the slot man.

    2) You list Nix as “300+” pounds? Should that be more like “300+++” pounds?

    3) Totally agree on Golson. He seems very natural in his throws. I think he has just as if not very close to the arm strength that Hendrix has, but seems more comfortable taking a bit of steam off a throw. However, I sometimes get the feeling that throws like these are a result of him focusing on his reads (which is good) so much that his mechanics are suffering at times. Regardless, he has the ability to be able to put this ball where it needed to be, and if he can clean that up can be a dangerous QB for us.

    • Milf

      RE #1: Re-watch that play, the blitzing CB is on top of Hendrix just after the ball is released. I doubt that he would have had time to pump fake.

      I do agree with you though that the slot receiver (Welch) is open at that point. Not sure if that’s a coverage breakdown or not – it looks like they’re playing cover 3, except that the safety in this case (Collinsworth?) never leaves the right hash mark to cover the middle of the field It looks like he locks onto Toma’s vertical route and never even looks at Welch.

      I could be wrong, though, it may have just been cover 2.

  • JDriveSthND

    I have a couple comments to add about the Golson TD:

    First, Riddick wasn’t being guarded by some scrub from the intramural squads. Joe Schmidt had at least a couple major college football scholarship offers and he traveled with the team last year as a true freshman walk-on. So that speaks to how highly Diaco/Kelly think of him.

    Second, you can’t really compare the Golson-to-Riddick TD to the Rees-to-Eifert INT against Pitt. Golson may have under thrown the ball a little, but it still basically hit Riddick in stride. Both Riddick and Schmidt were moving at nearly full speed when Riddick caught the pass. In fact, you even point out the incredibly small window Golson had to fit that pass into and he did.

    By contrast, the Rees pass you’re comparing it to was so badly under-thrown that Eifert literally had to stop his forward momentum and come back to try and meet the ball in an attempt to prevent the interception. It’s just not apples to apples.

    • Brad

      JDRivesthnd,

      While they aren’t apples to apples, I still think they are comparable throws. I think the only point that NDTex was making was that there is a big difference between placing the ball right where it needs to be, and placing it in a dangerous place.

    • SDI

      I would also add that depending upon the circumstances (score, down and distance, matchup etc.) sometimes it’s ok to give a talented athletic receiver in one on one coverage a chance to make a play. Sometimes a slightly underthrown pass that gives your receiver a chance to make a play is preferable to the throw that ends up in the 3rd row of the seats, especially in this type of case where it is essentially a back shoulder throw. It is much more difficult for a defender who is running full speed with his back to the QB to stop and make this play then it was for the Pitt DB who saw the pass the whole way. I would expect to see Eifert get all sorts of attempts this year to make a play on imperfect throws and I like his odds of succeeding in most cases of single coverage.

      Good post Tex.

    • NDtex

      Honestly wasn’t trying to compare the two as “apples to apples” just showing how such throws could end up dangerous. Kelly himself mentioned that Golson is a heart-attack and I believe this play is a great example of a reason why. It was a fantastic play, threaded perfectly through the smallest of windows, but definitely room to improve and take the danger out of the play.

  • Milf

    Am I the only one who thinks that Eifert was the correct read on the Riddick TD? For all intents and purposes it’s man on man coverage, with the middle of the field open. Eifert has inside position on the DB on top of him, and if you watch the replay Eifert blows right by him as the DB is caught flat footed from having slid over top of the wheel route. All Golson has to do is throw away from the defender towards the goalpost – easy pitch and catch.

    • NDtex

      I would have been just fine had Eifert been the target because he did beat the one-on-one coverage. What I like about Golson’s read though is that he found the best mismatch. Give me WR against LB all day.

  • Brad

    Milf,

    I think they were both one on one, so really either of those throws is fine. However, we can’t see (at least from these pictures) what kind of underneath traffic or Louis Nix’s might have been in the way of a throw to Eifert.

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