UTSA vs Georgia State: Winning in Overtime

Hey! we won. That means we feel better about the dreadful play preceding the final field goal by Sean Ianno. It is funny how that happens. I mentioned on the podcast about the Cult of The Quarterback and how a comeback or two by Tebow seemingly erases all his flaws. Perhaps it is just that the glow of a win makes any flaws imperceptible. Wins are glamour shots — the team looks like a hollywood starlet with the soft lighting and a perfect smile.

And so it goes.

Soza had some throws that were nearly cause for a benching. My dad, in his first visit to The Bird Dome (yeah, I said it) did a double face palm after the heave down the middle to a lone Georgia State safety (who smartly let it fall). When that play is broken down, you’ll find that it was a miscommunication between Soza and Kenny Harrison. Soza read the safety and threw down the middle while Harrison read the safety and broke outside on a corner route. Without the benefit of a second look I’ll go ahead and say it was Soza who read wrong. There was more room outside than there was inside.

That said, despite losing their best linebacker, the defense stepped up late. The post-would-be-interception drive could have been a four minute, clock-eating display of power football. Instead it was eaten up by the HardHat defense, giving the offense one more shot at redemption. Prior to that, they had forced three straight punts and a missed field goal. I don’t know how much you credit a team for forcing a missed field goal when they didn’t block it but you give them some credit for not allowing a touchdown.

There are always some lucky plays in football. Coaches obsess over controlling the outcomes of all the others. In our case, the two missed field goals were fortune we needed. More concerning is the two touchdowns scored in the first half. One was a sickening cutback by Donald Russell that started as a sweep/outside zone run to the left and ended with him scoring near the numbers from the right side.

From the glow of a win look at that run as evidence of our fast-flowing defense and a risk when you attack the ball carrier. If we lost? Well, that is our youthful inexperience in these matters. The truth lies somewhere in that space between. If you are going to give up big plays, do it in the first half. The other team could fall in love with themselves and look for the big throw/big run instead of doing the little things. Maybe they were beneficiaries of busted coverage (GSU was, Mark Waters got caught in no man’s land on Albert Wilson’s 54-yard TD), in which case you simply don’t do that anymore.

UTSA’s defense didn’t give up a big play in the second. In fact, here are GSU’s second half drives:

  • 11 plays 56 yards missed fg
  • 7 plays 32 yards punt
  • 5 plays 15 yards punt
  • 5 plays 17 yards punt
  • 4 plays 3 yards missed fg
  • 1 play kneel end of half
  • 4 plays -6 yards missed fg (OT)

Not only did we see progress from the defense in this game, but also in this season. University of South Alabama came down here and ran the ball fairly well in the second half, which led to their comeback, which led to their OT win.

That is the good. The bad is very bad. The offense looked terrible all game until the last drive. It was enough to make me consider the benefits of simplifying the offense. I’ve maintained that Soza looks infinitely better when he makes quicker decisions.* When he throws on the run he seems more comfortable (though not as successful). He is reading the defense too slowly. The interception was not into triple coverage no more than any throw against a zone is against double or triple coverage. Kam Jones was running a drag/slant across the middle.

*I don’t know his progressions. I don’t know the pass keys. I don’t know. Sure looks like he holds the ball too long and is indecisive.

Soza has to throw this ball as Kam crosses behind the defender and the linebacker is backpedalling. Instead, he waited for Kam to sit in the zone which let the defender sit and wait to react to the pass. I can’t give you the real reason. Travis Bush and Soza know.

Throw it when Kam gets to point A. Not when he stops.

The good news is that during the last drive Georgia State played zones. It wasn’t quite prevent defense but it sure wasn’t aggressive either. Although we lined up in five and four receiver sets, Eric Soza was only looking to one side. In this case that was to the short side of the field (left). GSU played a couple different coverages but all with the same personnel. Some times the corner would take the flats and other times he would sprint back to cover the deep quarter. In those cases where he would sprint deep, the playside backer would sprint out and take the flats. The deep safety would either cover high or sprint up to the linebacker’s vacated spot. It all isn’t very complicated if you know anything about Cover 2, Cover 3 and Quarters.

When I say GSU wasn’t aggressive I mean a couple things: 1. They didn’t bring additional pressure to help their coverage. 2. They didn’t press.

They may have feared our speed. We did burn them on a couple wheel routes (against man coverage the wheel route is deadly) and so maybe they didn’t want Brandon Armstrong to do more of that? Perhaps, but I think it was more Bill Curry betting against Eric Soza.

Back to the drive. Against that coverage we ran two man routes and Soza just found the open man. The combinations and routes and contstraint plays (backside screen to Kam Jones) aren’t the real story. The fact that Soza was taking three and five-step drops, reading only one half of the field and making a throw was key. He looked every bit the quarterback we want him to be.

Unfortunately he also looked like the guy who deserves a lot of criticism. He was still inaccurate on a couple of those throws. The incompletions to Kam across the middle and to Brandon Armstrong on the sideline were just poor throws.

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