Okay, so I’m just a loser on the couch who knows nothing. I played one year of organized youth football. That’s it. Not even high school. My credentials to criticize coaching strategies in college or pro, are literally non-existent.
But… and this is a big “but”…. I have WATCHED a metric ton of football as a fan. So I’m not a total idiot. And the play that effectively ruined Notre Dame’s season? I’ve seen that a million times. So somebody help me out as I post these screen grabs of the play in question.
Pre-snap, I already don’t like the look if I’m a Notre Dame fan. There’s just 3 lineman preparing to rush, and the DB’s are all a MINIMUM 12-yards off the line of scrimmage. It’s as if they think only a TD can beat them, so they are playing for ONE play, and to keep everything in front of them. Stanford wisely has plenty of timeouts available, so every sector of the field is available to them.
Rushing just 3, the 4th potential rusher is spying Kevin Hogan, who the Irish somehow mistake to be Michael Vick in his prime. Note that 2 Stanford linemen don’t even have anybody to block, and Hogan has plenty of time and huge throwing lanes.
Dangerous 6-4 wideout Devon Cajuste makes a simple in-cut to beat his man, who never comes closer to him than 5 steps. It is not an exaggeration to say that you, or me, could make that throw. Simple pitch and catch.
I have seen variants of this middle-field, last seconds left throw around mid-field to beat teams. Surely there MUST be a better defense in this spot?
If it were me, I would absolutely rush 5 guys. Hard. Not an all-out blitz, but legit plus-one pressure. I would have my corners and DBs be at least 3-4 yards off the line of scrimmage. Hell, I might even play press coverage on all 4 verticals, disrupt the timing, re-route a few guys and trust my two safeties over the top to rally to any deep throws over the top. Even remind your cornerbacks, that a pass interference call is not the end of the world, as the 15 yard penalty is much better than letting Cajuste catch a candy-cane-easy 25 yard skinny post!
But, as I mentioned above: what the hell do I know? I’m a moron on the couch. Sure, that coverage looked COMPLETELY STUPID and almost like Notre Dame was THROWING THE GAME.
But hey, you didn’t get beat on a 50 yard bomb over the top. Which I suppose is the one thing every football coach in America wakes up in a cold sweat to on a nightly basis.