Fancy Feet Foil the Cavs

(c) Harris Museum & Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Boldly they rode and well, into the jaws of Death, into the mouth of Hell, rode the C’ville one-hundred.” –The Charge of the London Brigade

So ends a classic game against Mike London’s Brawlin’ Brie-eaters. It had all the ingredients: angst over timeouts, a bizarre special teams call, and (most importantly) a Hokie win. As we wrap up the regular season, I want to give some props to Tech’s passing game, and in particular the route-running by its receivers. Some nifty footwork set up Tech’s biggest offensive plays of the game, and three in particular deserve notice. I’ll close out this recap with some quick thoughts on Coach Fuente.

The first play is Ryan Malleck’s reception at the end of the third quarter. His post-route catch and subsequent bulldozer imitation invigorated the Hokies after a UVA touchdown.

There are two things here that make the post to Malleck such a good play. The first is how the second-level players are aligned. The linebackers are bunched over the bubbles in the line and the nearest defensive back is aligned in the alley. This means that unless the defensive end does something funky, Malleck has a free release: there’s just no one in front of him to bump him off course or to run with him in coverage. At the snap, UVA linebacker Mark Hall recognizes Malleck’s release and tries to bump him off, but he never really had a shot due to his alignment.

UVA’s pre-snap alignment invites a post pattern by the tight end.

The second factor is the alignment of the safeties. Barring an aggressive post-snap shift, the safeties are in a two-deep alignment, which creates a natural opening in the middle of the field (a MOFO, or “middle of field open”) that the post route exploits. If the safeties play a true spot-zone, Malleck should be wide open; if they play routes or have straight man-coverage called, Malleck has the initiative. UVA safety Quin Blanding is nearest Malleck, making him the key defender in this situation.