Welcome to the Film Room. First, learn the ground rules: No eating, drinking, talking or sleeping. And no cell phones. This is the start of a weekly post analyzing one big play from the weekend’s slew of college games and deciphering what it means going forward.
The game: LSU vs. Miami
The recap: The Tigers clobbered the Hurricanes behind an opportunistic defense (two interceptions, one returned for a score) and a solid debut from Ohio State transfer QB Joe Burrow that helped them jump out to a 27–3 halftime lead.
The play: Early in the second quarter, LSU faced a fourth-and-one at the Miami 49. Up 10–3, coach Ed Orgeron elected to go for it, and running back Nick Brossette carried for a two-yard first-down run, but only after Burrow audibled at the line, switching the play’s direction from the right side of the line to the left.
How it happened: LSU’s original call is an off-tackle run to the right side, but Miami safety Jaquan Johnson rushes into the screen from his deep spot and positions himself near the linebackers, near where Brossette is supposed to run. Burrow immediately recognizes this, and he checks out of the play, shifting the run to the left side. This is nothing new, apparently, for a guy who arrived at LSU in June.
“He’s a Peyton Manning. If he doesn’t like the call, he’s going to check it no matter what it is. He’s very smart,” LSU receiver Jonathan Giles said after the victory. “He’s been doing that since the first day of camp.”
Football isn’t as complicated as some would make it seem. In many ways, it is a numbers game, and this is a perfect example of that. Johnson (circled in black in the screen shot below) gives Miami a fifth defender on the right side of the line—the direction of the original play call—compared to four defenders on the left side. But Burrow’s audible is far from the only key on this play.
Credit Brossette for dodging a would-be backfield tackle from Miami defensive lineman Gerald Willis, who burst through the line after winning a one-on-one matchup with left guard Garrett Brumfield. Another key to the play is the double team by LSU on the left side of the line that left Brumfield one-on-one with Willis. Tight end Foster Moreau and left tackle Saahdiq Charles handled Miami defensive end John O’Boyle, and fullback Tory Carter took care of a linebacker to give Brossette a lane off-tackle for his two-yard gain.
But none of this is possible without that check at the line of scrimmage. Has LSU found a game-changing quarterback? We didn’t necessarily see that Sunday from Burrow, but we did see the presnap knowledge that his predecessor, Danny Etling, possessed last season, and that’s a good early sign. “I saw the safety come down the front side and we had the play called that way,” Burrow said. “I checked it to the other side and the O-line picked it up.”
The aftermath: Seven plays later, LSU scored a touchdown to go up 17–3 en route to a 33–17 win.