Lewerke INT in End Zone
Ok so I wanted to look at this one because Lewerke specifically brought it up after the game. This is what he said regarding that play and about CMU’s defensive backs in general:
Lewerke said it was a missed hold/pass intereference call on the interception and says it was a good decision to throw to Davis on the play.— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) September 29, 2018
Brian Lewerke says his endzone interception was “100% pass interference”. Says more PI should’ve been called today by the officials— Jamal Spencer (@JamalWZZM13) September 29, 2018
So let’s see if what Brian says passes the eye test.
Felton Davis is at the bottom of the frame and it looks like he will be in single coverage given the defensive set up. He’s basically running an inside slant or post route. Actually both he and White, who is lined up in the slot, will both run basically the same route in different areas.
Targeting Davis in the red zone with single coverage is usually a good idea, as was mentioned in a piece I wrote last week. However, this feels more like an example of Lewerke locking on a guy and not surveying the field. More on that in a minute.
Here we can see the play and watch the coverage on Davis. The defensive back, Bunting, is playing press coverage and tries to jam Davis a little at the line. It looks like both players are hand-fighting a little bit as Davis pushes upfield before he cuts inside.
At the moment of the cut we lose sight of them for an instant, but Bunting is tight with Davis and as we see them re-emerge, the CMU corner now has the inside position.
Lewerke’s claim is that position was achieved by grabbing Davis and pulling him to propel himself forward. Tough to see from this angle, but it doesn’t look real egregious. Let’s see another look.
Here’s a view via replay showing the interception. It also doesn’t give a complete look but it shows Bunting coming across and gaining the inside position and making the pick. I don’t see anything here that looks like him yanking himself forward, to me it looks like he just straight jumped the route after and made a better play on the ball.
There was certainly some contact early and possibly some jockeying for position after Davis cut but I don’t see anything so obvious that it deserved to be called out by Lewerke as an excuse after the game. Especially when you look at this shot.
That player circled up top is Andre Welch, who came in motion from the inside slot at the snap, you can scroll back up and watch him. He is completely uncovered and unaccounted for. The two defenders on that side are both sold out defending the tight end in the corner of the end zone. That is an easy check down for a TD or at the very least it’s going to bring up third-and-goal from the one or two yard line, but it’s likely to be a touchdown given the positions of the defenders.
Again, I get looking to Davis first, but the claim that he was open and then was yanked back and the defender got away with an obvious penalty to make that play doesn’t pass the eye test, at least not from what we can see here. Davis was never clearly open, and the window to throw was small. If he goes through his progressions, he sees the open man and makes the easy throw. He didn’t and it ended in the pick.
Lewerke TD Run
Since we were being a little hard on Lewerke and his decision making on that last play, let’s give him some credit when credit is due. This play is a perfect job of executing the read option near the goal line.
Once again it’s second and goal, this time from the three yard line or so. Lewerke has Jefferson with him in the backfield. He’s going to have two choices, hand it off to Jefferson on the inside zone run, or keep it himself and take it outside. All of it depends on what the outside linebacker on that side (red) does.
From behind the QB we get a good look at Lewerke making the read. Here is the point where he needs to make the decision, and he is looking directly at the edge defender, who is sold out on coming to get Jefferson from the back side. Lewerke recognizes it, and keeps it himself and goes right past the defender.
Here it is in motion, you can see him do a great job selling the handoff before taking off the other direction. At this point there is one defender who is staying with the play, but he really has no shot, as we can see from the other angle.
Lewerke takes a great route towards the pylon and has too much speed and he’s untouched into the end zone. A good play call and perfect execution, a rare combo so far this season for the Spartans in the red zone.
Fullback Leads the Way for TD
It’s not often we bother to break down a one yard touchdown run but blocking has been an issue in short yardage situations this year so this one is worth a look. Specifically, we are going to look at the job done by fullback Max Rosenthal.
This play is going to go to the left side of the line, with the fullback (yellow) coming across from the offset-I formation to clear out the second level defender (red). Now watch the red-shirt freshman go to work and lead the way for Jefferson’s first Spartan touchdown.
Now that deserves the old John Madden “BOOM” for that block. He blows up the defender and Jefferson plows right ahead behind them for the score. Also a pretty good block from Campbell pulling across to take out the defender off the near edge.
Here’s the same thing from a slightly tighter angle, where you can really see the great block from Rosenthal, as well as maybe my favorite celebration by a Spartan in a while. Seriously, if you don’t love a fullback for yelling over a guy he just blocked onto his back for a touchdown then you just don’t get Big Ten football.
That’s it for this week. It wasn’t a particular clinic on either side of the ball, although the defense played really well for most of the game, until things got a little silly late with the vanilla defense followed by the trick play TD for CMU where the MSU secondary completely bit.
Overall I thought the defense did a good job tackling in space and getting pressure, which created turnovers. The offense, remains a work in progress, and one that suddenly went from having a ton of depth at wide receiver, to thin following a rash of injuries.