X's and O's
Behind Jarvis Landry’s spectacular touchdown against Arkansas
By Billy GomilaPosted Nov 28, 2012
Last week, we discussed the Vertical Concept, and how LSU has found a way to stretch defenses down the field with the deep passing game. It proved prescient, as LSU found another way to score on it Friday against Arkansas, albeit with a slightly different look.
Jarvis Landry pulled in one of the best catches of the year (and in LSU football history) Friday afternoon on a 22-yard touchdown that he scooped into his body one-handed, just out of reach of an Arkansas linebacker.
“Jarvis was on a slower linebacker, and I back-shouldered it,” quarterback Zach Mettenberger said after the game. “You know, Jarvis makes those kinds of catches almost every day in practice. It’s just exciting to see him finally get his opportunity to make one in the game.”
Through the formation, LSU found a way to create the matchup of Landry on Arkansas linebacker Otha Peters, and the Razorback defensive call isolated the two one-on-one. LSU lined up with Mettenberger in the shotgun next to one running back, but with three receivers aligned in a “trips” set – with all three on one side of the field – and tight end Travis Dickson to the opposite side of the formation. Landry lined in a “wing” position, just a few yards away from the offensive line, on the near side of the three-receiver alignment.
Arkansas lined up in the standard “nickel” defensive look that most teams do versus multi-receiver offenses: four defensive linemen, two linebackers, three cornerbacks and two safeties. Two corners line up with LSU’s three receivers, while another stayed lined up in front of Dickson with linebackers in the middle of the field to make sure that the Tigers wouldn’t have a running game advantage to either side. The defense then dropped into what is known as a cover-2 shell. The safeties stay deep and split the field in half, while the underneath defenders each cover somebody man-to-man. It’s designed, actually, to prevent big plays and force teams to settle for shorter throws, but it has a vulnerability down the middle, especially if the offense can find a way to create a mismatch of a faster player on a linebacker.
Each receiver, and Dickson, released and went deep, while Spencer Ware ran what is known as an angle-route – taking a diagonal route out of the backfield before slanting towards the middle of the field. Both safeties split wide to cover the deep routes on each side of the field. The corners dropped with their assigned men, and one linebacker takes the running back while the other was left trying to handle Landry.
As previously noted, Mettenberger read the coverage pre-snap, and once he saw that Landry had a clear path, all that was left was to “throw him open,” which is to say, put the ball at the exact spot where Landry could catch it out of reach from the defender. This meant the receiver’s outside shoulder, away from the Arkansas linebacker. Had Landry not been able to turn and make the spectacular one-handed grab, the ball would have simply sailed out of the end zone.
Offenses always have one advantage on a defense. They know what they are going to do, and the defense doesn’t. Good play calling is not always about trying to come up with something a defense will never see coming. It is far more important to understand what players execute well and how to create positive matchups against a particular opponent. And LSU has quietly become a pretty good vertical passing team in the last couple of weeks by doing these things, and that’s a quality that they hope can carry over through their bowl game and next season.