WE'RE BAAAAACK, and man, does it feel good. Not that is was a very long absence. For the second time in five seasons, Oregon will be going to the
BCS College Football Playoff Championship, after demolishing Florida State in the Rose Bowl. After a tight first half that saw Oregon take a 18-13 lead into the locker room, the Ducks blew the doors off the Seminoles in the second half, turning five FSU turnovers into 35 points. Let's take a look.
Marcus Mariota lateral to Charles Nelson for 16 yards
After a long opening Florida State drive put the Seminoles ahead 3-0 early in the first quarter, Oregon quickly took the ball 73 yards and into the end zone to take the lead at 8-3. The most memorable play of the drive was the Mariota lateral to Nelson, who attempted to dive into the end zone from about six yards out.
On this first down play, Oregon runs a two-level read option look. The first read is a standard read option, with an unblocked end that Mariota must read to decide whether or not to hand the ball off to Royce Freeman.
Mariota sees the end crashing in on Freeman and correctly decides to keep it himself.
Usually, this is the end of the decision making portion of the play. But on this play, Oregon adds a second wrinkle. With the two receivers on the right side of the field, the Ducks set up a screen option for Mariota. Darren Carrington initially blocks the pressing corner, before releasing him in towards Mariota. This is by design, and if the corner commits to Mariota then he throws the lateral out to Nelson.
Mariota makes the pitch, and Carrington moves up to throw a block on the safety, springing Nelson down the sideline.
At full speed, the two reads happen so fast that it is easy to overlook just how much Mariota is tasked with on just about every play.
Jameis Winston sacked by Tony Washington Jr.
Despite getting a decent amount of pressure on Winston throughout the game, Oregon only managed to actually bring him to the ground two times in this game. The second one came early in the third quarter, and was nearly another Florida State turnover.
On this play Florida State anticipates Oregon rushing three defenders, all down linemen. But the bunch formation the Seminoles come out in makes it hard to differentiate between who is in coverage and who is coming off the edge at the quarterback. So while Florida State thinks three, Oregon actually sends four rushers from different locations than they originally showed.
The man who eventually gets the sack, Tony Washington, is the blitzing linebacker at the top of the screen. He momentarily bumps the lead receiver at the line before taking a looping route towards Winston. At the same time, FSU has devoted two lineman to both down linemen rushers on the edge, and the Florida State center is left with no one to block after Balducci drops back into coverage. Winston keeps one of his backs in for blitz pickup, and the back sees Coleman coming off the edge and picks him up, leaving Washington with an open lane to Winston.
The last hope Winston has at not taking a sack is freshman running back Dalvin Cook. Cook is supposed to run a route to the flats here, most likely as Winston's check down in case the pocket breaks down. However, Cook probably should have realized that he was the last line of defense between Washington and his quarterback and atleast thrown a shoulder in Washington's path.
He doesn't, and Winston feels the aftermath.
Marcus Mariota 30-yard touchdown pass to Darren Carrington
After Dalvin Cook's second fumble of the third quarter, it took Oregon a grand total of two plays to reach the end zone and extend their lead to 39-20.
This play is a great example of two staples of Oregon's gameplan - the pace at which they run their offense, and using the previous play to set up the current play. Here, Florida State is scrambling to line up in the correct positions before the snap. A Seminole defensive back rushes down to the trio of receivers split out to the left side of the field.
Now we get to the second of the two staples - the setup. Here, the Seminoles are running man-to-man coverage with one deep safety. Post snap, Oregon sets up a screen look to Keanon Lowe with Nelson and Carrington blocking. Oregon had run quite a few screens up to this point, and time Florida State was ready. The two backs who are there (remember, the third is scrambling to get over in time) jump their blockers, hoping to get to Lowe as he makes the catch and bring him down for a loss.
Except, you know, the screen never comes. Nelson and Carrington run fly routes down the field, with Carrington wide open. The safety can't get to Carrington in time, and the rest is just up to Mariota. And when things are left to Mariota, those things usually go very well.
Royce Freeman Thomas Tyner Run of the Game