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Air Raid Playbook: Play-Action Swing

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We're taking a look at a pivotal moment in the game against the Iowa State Cyclones last week.

Devin Lauderdale doin' the nae nae
Devin Lauderdale doin' the nae nae
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

With Texas Tech down four points with just over four minutes remaining in the game (and the ball on the 44), Kingsbury calls a play action pass. DeAndre Washington already has 180+ yard son the ground, and another 50+ in the air, so the Cyclone defense is wary of letting Washington get any space with the ball in his hands. Plus, the Tech offense was driving, taking up some clock, so the Cyclone defense needed a stop to hold onto a hard-fought home win.

But as the defense was converging to stop Washington, Patrick Mahomes hits Kenny Williams coming out of the backfield on a swing pass and there was nobody there.

Formation

From what I can tell and remember from the game, Tech was in a pistol formation with Williams as the H-back/fullback. Tech has run out of this formation earlier in the game when Washington broke off his 72 yard touchdown.

From left to right, you've got Devin Lauderdale at X, Washington at F, Williams at H, Brad Pearson at Y and Bradley Marquez at Z. The defense was in a nickel formation, covering the three receivers, and in off zone coverage.

Design

At the snap, Mahomes opens his hips as if to hand the ball off to Washington. Washington takes the fake handoff and heads off to his left a bit. Williams, instead of leading through the gap to lead block, heads out towards the sideline. The defense is so keyed in on Washington that no one follows Williams out. The outside receivers head downfield to grab their blocking assignments; Marquez has his corner and Lauderdale has a safety (the backside corner being too far removed to make a play).

Execution

You can see these initial moves in the screenshot below.

In the above screenshot, you can see both linebackers are looking in the backfield at the Mahomes/Weshington fake, the line is occupied by the offensive line, the nickel back is locking onto Pearson, the corners are locking onto their men and the only safety you see in the screen is locking onto Lauderdale. Nobody is looking at Williams. Nobody.

In the screenshot above, we're just a few frames after the first shot, and we're seeing Mahomes throwing to Williams. The defense still hasn't picked up Williams. The playside safety, which wasn't in the screen in the first screenshot (about parallel with Pearson on the 33 yardline) is so locked in to Washington, he's not even seeing the throw being made.

Here we see Williams making the catch. The defense is starting to catch on, I think. It looks like the only unblocked guy in the shot that has a clue what's going on is that backside linebacker on the hash on the 40 yard line. Marquez is just off screen, pushing his corner deeper downfield. The playside safety looks confused as Washington has broken the line of scrimmage, but doesn't have the ball. Washington is even looking at where the ball is going. Lauderdale has his corner to his outside and deep downfield. That backside safety is just off screen, but looks like he is turned in the right direction to be making a move towards Williams.

Here, you can see Williams turning the corner at the line of scrimmage. One thing I love about this shot is not the offense manhandling the ISU defense or the room Williams has, but Kingsbury in the bottom left. He sees it.

At this point, the defense is in full on "oh shit" mode. Williams is already 10+ yards downfield, unabated. You can see a linebacker and two safeties pursuing, and Marquez handling his corner. And although the corner has worked off Marquez's initial block, he never lost contact with the defender and never let his hands get on the outside of the shoulders for a holding call. He's driving him sideways here towards the line of scrimmage.

And finally the last bump to clear Williams for the endzone. Lauderdale had worked all the way across the field and nudged his guy just enough to remove any doubt Williams was going to score. This isn't the first time we've seen Lauderdale hustle all the way down the field to help out a teammate score. One that easily comes to mind is Justin Stockton's long touchdown against UTEP where he had multiple blocks downfield to free Stockton up.

Plays like this are only opened up when you have a rushing attack that demands the defense's attention. This play wouldn't have gone for many yards had that playside safety not committed to stop Washington from running. This play was set up all afternoon, with every carry or touch Washington got. A more effective rushing attack opens up the passing attack. It's not like Mahomes hit Williams on a bomb here - the pass was completed behind the line of scrimmage - and it's not like Williams made a bunch of people miss like Washington did on both of his two touchdowns from earlier.

I can't think of a better way to celebrate a pivotal touchdown late in the game than to roundhouse kick in the endzone. You keep doin' you, Kenny.