January 30, 2014

Final film review: A frantic finish

The BCS Championship Game featured chapters of dominance for both teams. Roughly the first 25 minutes belonged to Auburn. Florida State responded with a game-turning decision late in the first half, then a defensively dominant third quarter.

But nothing will ever top the final five minutes, a frenzy that will go down amongst the best postseason finishes the sport has ever seen.

It is fitting then that Warchant's final Film Review of the National Championship season would examine those final minutes.

Whitfield's house call

The story behind the return, called "Counter Left", was documented in the days after the game. But the help Auburn's coverage team provided the 'Nole returners can only be truly understood with this image, a perfect angle from ESPN's camera crew.

Player "1" is Jonathan Jones, who is just about to go down with a leg/hamstring injury. Player "2" is linebacker Kenny Flowers, who is about two full lanes out of position. In this still, you can see the up-men looking to their right to create a crease up the left sideline. Auburn did some work to aid that goal, making life easier for Karlos Williams and Levonte Whitfield[/b].

Greene's breakaway catch-and-run

Before breaking down the highlight play, first a chance to see how the Seminoles earlier employed a similar concept to [db]Rashad Greene's 2nd-and-2 play. After Steven Clark and the Auburn punt team downed the ball inside FSU's 5-yard line late in the third quarter, the 'Noles used a safe pass play to achieve down and distance leverage.

Tight end Nick O'Leary, with his hand in the ground and next to Cameron Erving, fires off the line and runs a curl route in which he turns his shoulders to the outside. Split out wide, Greene mirrors the curl with the same outside turn. Quarterback Jameis Winston eyes O'Leary first, then fires outside to Greene, who is defended by the Tigers' Chris Davis.

Eye discipline costs Davis, as he breaks toward the Seminole tight end as the ball is fired to the outside.

A similar concept, and Davis' eyes, both come into play as Greene went for 49 yards. Take a look at the routes that slot receiver Kenny Shaw runs along with Greene. Both will run very short identical routes, this time with inward cuts, underneath the off coverage from Auburn.

Davis' eyes fail him again. Not because he guesses incorrectly, but staring down Winston costs Davis a step as Greene makes his cut.

Winston's throw, from there, is absolutely perfect as it creates forward momentum to split the defense. Davis' assignment may be different than in the first example, but the difference between a quick tackle and what actually happened is eye discipline.

Just two plays later, the Seminoles dial up the same inward-cutting combo with Greene and Shaw to pick up a first down. Shaw's ability to break up the field and sit in the vacant area makes this play work.

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