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Film Room: Indiana

Jalen Nailor, Shakur Brown, and Kenny Willekes make the big plays this week.

Michigan State v Indiana Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

So while the game Saturday night was a little closer than it really should have been, there was mostly positives to take away from the performance. It wasn’t perfect, but the team managed to make plays in all three phases of the game. If they can just figure out how to stop shooting themselves in the foot, then things can really start moving in the right direction. Alright, on to the film.

Nailor Receiving TD

Let’s look at the first score of the game. The offense has had issues dealing with the blitz so far this year, and that happened throughout this game as well, but this was a good job by Lewerke of recognizing the blitz and getting the ball out quickly to the vacated area.

MSU is second-and-ten and in the I-formation with just two wide receivers, Davis to the top and Nailor to the bottom, who was in for Cody White after the big pass play to White two plays earlier.

Indiana is showing blitz with the linebacker off the near side (yellow), but as the play starts, the corner (red) is also going to come like he’s blitzing.

Here you can see the linebacker creeping up and the corner start to come in after the snap. It looks like this might have been a run blitz as the corner doesn’t come in full steam but sort of heads in the direction of the backfield before backing out upon realization that Lewerke is passing.

Lewerke immediately throws the ball in the direction of the blitzes. The running back Jefferson goes low and gets a piece of the blitzer (yellow) allowing Lewerke to have the minimal time he needs to make the throw, and Lewerke does a good job getting it over the leaping defender.

Nailor gets the ball in the window between the defenders as the safety comes up to try and make the play one-on-one. Already this play is a success as it is going to yield a first and goal situation at the very minimum.

But the safety overruns the play and is caught basically flat footed as Nailor turns upfield and Speedy runs him over en route to his first Spartan touchdown. We will see him again in a little bit.

Defensive End Play

Ok so here are two plays that occurred back-to-back that ended with much different outcomes. First up we have Indiana first down after a holding penalty in the secondary advanced the ball across midfield.

The Hoosiers run a read option with Ramsey, who came into the game as the team’s second leading rusher. Ramsey is going to fake the handoff to the back, keep it himself, and take off to his right. The outside containment needs to come from either the defensive end, or the linebacker.

Both Panasiuk and Thompson (yellow) are focused on the running back off the fake. Ramsey correctly chooses to keep it himself and as you can see, has a ton of room to run, as well as a blocker in the tight end to seal off Thompson from trying to chase him down.

And that’s exactly what happens. Thompson gets blocked, and Ramsey outruns Panasiuk to the corner. Ramsey gets the first down and a few more yards before stepping out of bounds untouched before the safety can get over to him.

No here is the very next play. MSU rushes four, and Kenny Willekes completely blows through the Indiana offensive line and grabs a hold of Ramsey, forcing him to try and get rid of the ball to the running back in the flat rather than take the sack.

This play shows the importance of getting pressure on the quarterback, even if it doesn’t result in a sack. When the QB needs to get rid of the ball before they want to it can lead to many things, like disrupted timing, or in this case, an errant throw.

The pass is high and behind the running back, who tips it right to Shakur Brown, who had just come into the game. Brown was coming to make the play on the back should he have caught it, and it was the right place at the right time as he takes it all the way to the house for the touchdown.

Pressure is key, and it showed up for MSU in the game. They were officially credited with five quarterback sacks in the game and according to Pro Football Focus, Willekes himself had 12 pressures in the game. This one resulted in six points.

Philor TD

Here is the play that got everyone feeling a little nervous, and got the Hoosiers back in the game despite the fact that MSU’s defense had basically been dominating them up until that point.

It’s first down at the Indiana 34-yard line. Whop Philor is in the slot at the top, one of four players out wide for the Hoosiers. Ramsey has one back in the backfield with him. MSU is in their base 4-3 defense, and rushes just four. They drop eight back into a zone defense.

Philor is going to run a little inside curl/post type pattern, the linebacker Simmons (red) is the defender lined up across from him and has the initial job of coverage.

So a couple of things here. First off, check out the communication between the three defenders at the top of the screen right before the snap. The corner, linebacker and safety all signal to each other. Clearly this was an attempt to make sure that everyone is on the same page about who gets passed off to whom and where everyone is responsible for.

Alas, it seems everyone was not on the same page. Simmons drops with Philor initially, but only for a step or two before passing him off to the second level. Ramsey sees this and delivers the ball in the zone between the defenders.

Philor catches it in stride and is off to the races. The safety, Dowell, cant catch up as he was shading over to cover the outside receiver near the sideline. The safety on the near side is out of the play because he’s covering a route across the middle of the field. Philor easily outruns everyone to the end zone.

Here is a shot from another angle that shows both the linebacker and the corner appearing to pass their men off to the next level. That puts the safety in an impossible position of being responsible for two guys. Simmons needs to get some more depth on his coverage and not let Philor have such an easy route and catch.

Nailor Sweep TD

This is going to be somewhat painful for me. If you follow me on twitter, you know the overuse of the jet sweep by the MSU offense is one of my greatest pet peeves. I’m certainly not alone in this either. So of course it was a jet sweep that scores the TD that saves the day for Michigan State against Indiana.

This is the first play after the kickoff following an Indiana field goal made it a touchdown game. MSU comes out with a tight, run heavy formation, with one deep back in the backfield and Lewerke under center. This is usually pound green pound time, and Indiana knows it, which is why every IU defender is basically between the hash marks within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Nailor (yellow) comes in motion from the top across the formation pre-snap.

Nailor gets the handoff as he comes across at full speed. Most of the Indiana defenders are in the red box there crashing in on what they assume will be a handoff between the tackles. Nailor already has a ton of open space available if he can get to the corner clean with the Indiana defense bunched in the middle of the field. It’s amazing how much more room this play has to operate when you aren’t running to the short side of the field.

Here is the start of the play, it shows one Indiana defender on the edge unblocked but he is just a tick late in realizing the play is going to Nailor rather than the running back, that split second indecision is all Nailor needs to get around him and turn the corner.

And look at this blocking. All three Indiana defenders left on this side of the field are completely sealed off by MSU blockers, and Nailor doesn’t mess around, he cuts straight upfield through the corridor his blocking opens for him, allowing him to get to that sprinter top speed that won him four track titles in high school.

And here is that speed in action. It’s pretty impressive because he doesn’t look like he’s even really running full speed. The Spartans might have found themselves a nice little weapon in Nailor. A high speed element is something the team has missed the last few years. I would love to see them use Nailor the same way Keshawn Martin was used. Get him touches in space running, catching, and on punt returns.

Well that does it for this week. Hopefully there will be plenty of good things to look at again next week following the game against Central Michigan. Also it’s going to be nice to have some sunlight in some of these plays.