There was a lot going on Saturday night with Purdue football. First and foremost, they won the game. I don’t care how they went about it (although I did enjoy the process for the most part) as long as the W went in the win column.
One thing I was looking for was Jeff Brohm getting back into the flow as a play caller. I still have a few, shall we say, critiques, on his occasional abandonment of the run game, but I also saw parts of the Brohm offense that have been missing over the last two seasons, utilized to full effect.
I wanted to start with this play because it is my favorite play of the game and shows everything I enjoy about Jeff Brohm as a play caller.
Red Box - Offensive Line (5)
Blue Triangle - Tight End (1)
Green Circles - Wide Receivers (3)
Yellow Box - Running Back (1)
Purple Circle - Quarterback (1)
Purdue is lined up in their basic 11 personnel package. Purdue went with this look for the majority of the game on early downs.
Blue Box - Defensive Line (3)
Yellow Triangles - Linebacker (3)
Purple Circles - Cornerback (3)
Green Circle - Safety (2)
Despite Oregon State’s futility in run defense last season, they lined up in a 3-3-5 most of the night, daring Purdue to run the ball on early downs. If you’re looking at a play calling cheat sheet, 6 men in the box with two deep safeties is a run look all day.
Something is Off
This looks like typical 11 personnel, but something doesn’t look right. Brohm has the running back (Dylan Downing) lined up behind the center instead of Jack Plummer. You can see it better in live action, but Plummer is doing all the hand clapping to indicate the snap, but he’s behind the left guard. When the running back unexpectedly fields the snap, the defense is immediately alerted to the possibility of a trick play heading their direction.
That’s exactly what Brohm wants, because this is a simple play dressed up to look like a trick play.
I’m not sure the defense realizes that Plummer is behind the guard. He goes about his pre snap gesticulations the same way he always does.
At first glance this looks like a normal zone read play....but the running back has the ball and is reading the end (yellow triangle) while the quarterback plays the role of running back. One of the reasons I love this play, is that I think you’ll see it again. There are a ton of options off this look.
In terms of playing the zone read part, Oregon State does a good job. The OLB/End (Yellow Triangle) stays at home. The quarterback (in this case RB Downing) makes the right read and hands the ball to the running back (in this case QB Plummer). I’m sure the defensive coordinator is perfectly fine with Purdue running their quarterback off the right tackle. The middle linebackers flow with Plummer towards the front side of the play.
What makes this play is the slot receiver (Green Circle - Anthrop) running against the flow of play, and into the back field, setting up what looks to be a classic reverse.
Purdue leaves the back side end (yellow triangle) unblocked as the “read” man for the option. If he crashes down the line, the QB pulls the ball and takes the run back side. If the end stays at home (which he does) the QB gives the ball. Downing plays this by the book, holds the mesh point, reads the end, and gives the ball to the running back (Plummer) heading front side.
The linebackers (yellow triangle) flow towards the front side of the play, but at this point, it looks like they’re on high alert for a trick play. They’re not threatened by the Jack Plummer front side run, but the slot receiver reverse looks promising. They’ve been schooled on Brohm’s trick plays, and don’t over react and open up the reverse. Brohm uses this against them, because while they’re sitting on the reverse, they miss the subtle trick part of the play on the front side. It has nothing to do with what’s going on in the backfield.
Subtle but Deadly
The brilliance of this play, is the trick happens on the front side of the play, right in front of the defense. The tight end (blue triangle - Payne Durham) looks like he’s responsible for sealing off the front side end. With so much going on, it’s easy to forget he’s an eligible receiver and Plummer, the quarterback, has the ball and can still throw it.
Jeff Brohm needs to make a formal apology to the strongside linebacker (yellow triangle - #34 Avery Roberts) because this isn’t fair. Technically, he’s in man coverage with Durham, but Durham sells his blocking responsibilities perfectly. This is going to end poorly for Avery.
Do you see the Trick?
Oh man, this is nuts. You’ve got a direct snap to the running back, who hands to the quarterback on a zone read, and a slot receiver screaming behind the line of scrimmage on what is almost certainly a reverse, and the trick comes on end of the line between the right tackle and tight end. It’s hard to pick up, but 1 slide ago, Durham (blue triangle) was blocking the end. Now he has disengaged and the right tackle has taken over the front side blocking responsibilities.
That’s it, that’s the trick in this crazy play.
This looks like a reverse. Plummer does a great job of selling the fake and hiding the ball. In live action, I thought this was a reverse. Hell, on the replay I thought this was a reverse, and I knew what was about to happen. With any normal play caller, the slot wide receiver (green circle) is getting this on the reverse.
There is little I’ll miss about the 2020 season, but the on field boom mic would have been golden on this play, because I guarantee the entire defense is screaming “REVERSE” in unison.
The strong side linebacker (the afore mentioned Avery Roberts) slams on the brakes so hard in his attempt to get to the backside of the play, that he blows a tire. Keep in mind, he’s technically responsible for the tight end, who moments before was blocking. Now he’s break dancing and the tight end (blue triangle) is no longer blocking and is, in fact, wide open.
Into the Great Wide Open
The beauty of this “trick” play, is that despite all the bells and whistles, in the end, this is an easy pitch and catch between a quarterback rolling to his dominant hand, and a wide open tight end running an out route 2 yards off the line of scrimmage.
The set up was brilliant, but the final pitch and catch was something I expect a competent junior varsity team to pull off on a Friday night.
All 3 linebackers, and two out of the 3 defensive backs are in hot pursuit of Jackson Anthrop. The strong side linebacker, after recovering from his fall, has no idea that the tight end (blue triangle) is wide open on the front side of the play, a mere 5 yards away.
Oh...Oh No! Not Like This!
Durham is as wide open as you’ll ever find a tight end 3 yards off the line of scrimmage, and Plummer delivers an accurate pass the leads him outside, where nothing but green grass is waiting.
It’s at this exact moment, that the strong side linebacker realizes that something terrible is about to happen. The tight end that was blocking a second ago, the tight end that he abandoned when everyone yelled, “REVERSE!”, is wide open with only the strong side deep safety left on the strong side of the field.
Boilermaker First Down!
Payne is already 15 yards down the field, and he dives for another 5, but I would have loved a cut back because the safety wants no part of Durham in the open field. If the field wide receiver blocks the safety, it’s also a touchdown. At the same time, I’m not complaining about the outcome.
Brohm uses the 2 high safety look against the Beavers on this play. He doesn’t have to account for the strong side safety because the strong side safety is tasked with staying deep and keeping everything in front of him. The threat of Purdue’s deep passing game necessitates that linebacker play man coverage against Durham. Brohm causes the linebacker’s brain to melt, and the safety is left having to tackle a rampaging Durham. He does his job and makes the tackle, but not until Durham and the Boilermakers pick up a cool 20 yards.
This is the Jeff Brohm that set the college football world on fire at Western Kentucky. I don’t even know what to call this play. It’s a direct snap to the running back, followed by a zone read give to the quarterback, followed by a fake reverse to the slot receiver, that culminates in a 3 yard out to the tight end for a 20 yard gain.
As I mentioned above, store this one in your memory bank. Now that Brohm has this on film, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Downing pull the ball and take it back side if it’s open. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Anthrop on the reverse. The only thing that would surprise me is Jack taking the handoff and completing the front side run, but it wouldn’t shock me to see Purdue try this with Austin Burton, and have Burton finish the front side run.
This was the right play, against the right defense, executed to absolute perfection. Good work Coach, it’s nice to have you back. I’m excited to see what else you have in store for us in 2021.