A Second-Look At Travon McMillian's Touchdown Reception Against Boston College

Virginia Tech used an unbalanced line and subtle backfield action to confound the Eagles.

[Mark Umansky]

Justin Fuente spit some X's and O's knowledge during his Tech Talk Live segment on Monday. The Head Hokie provided a detailed response when asked how Virginia Tech combatted Boston College's press man coverage defense.

"Boston College centered their defense around loading the box, so putting more people around the football than you can block, to eliminate the run game", Fuente said Monday night. "And then on the outside they didn't play zone coverage, they played man coverage, so the corners cover the widest guy to the field. They didn't play off of them either. They had one corner that was 6-3, and another one that was 6-1.5. So they had these big corners, and they played press man, so they're right up there next to you, right when the ball's snapped. Which really restricts some of the things you can do offensively. If you can't get people out of it, the combinations, and kind of fun stuff you get to do on offense is really, really limited. It's hard to run the ball. That was our primary focus going into the game was, how can we mess with them a little bit in man coverage.

"Can we line up a tight end at tackle. Which is what we did on the touchdown pass to Travon (McMillian), the first touchdown pass. We went quick, and had our tight end lined up at left tackle, so now there's a guy over there covering a guy that's lined up at left tackle. We had our left tackle lined up at right tight end. Those sorts of things to try and mess with those things, to get the ball out in space, and get things going, and we did that. And then the real chess match began.

"Then they started moving fronts, mixing in blitzes. They brought some things they had not shown before, and it was up to us to try and adapt. Heading into East Carolina, another team that likes man coverage. Another team that gets to it a little bit differently though. They don't play quite as much press, but they will. They load the box in different ways. They move the front, they move guys around, which creates a whole other issue of trying to get them out of that, to get them to their secondary calls."

Here's the play Fuente described above — Travon McMillian's touchdown catch against the Eagles. Bucky Hodges is on the line of scrimmage to the field (out of view), and C.J. Carroll is in the field slot. Isaiah Ford is split to the boundary off the LOS. And sure enough Tech's rolling an unbalanced line. Chris Cunningham is lined up at left tackle, and Yosuah Nijman is the tight end on the right of the formation.

Given how much Teller opens up, my educated guess is it's a designed pass all the way. There's a ton of backfield action happening quickly too. Carroll's motion draws free safety John Johnson (No. 9) across the formation with him. The fakes to McMillian and Carroll cause LB Ty Schwab (No. 10) to stutter just enough in his pursuit of Jerod Evans. DE Wyatt Ray (No. 11) is fixated on Carroll as he passes through the mesh point with Evans. The threat of Carroll carrying is enough to keep Ray at bay. The slick play design nullifies Boston College's numbers advantage in the box, and leaves the Eagles with one defender (LB Connor Strachan, No. 13) to account for Cunningham and McMillian flooding to the field.

The result of the savvy architecture is McMillian in space with the ball, and his power and speed ensure the play results in a Hokies' touchdown.


That's just pretty.

Justin's still playing his game, but effectively adapting it to the tape as well.


-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

Question...Cunningham is about 5 yards down field and steaming for the end zone by the time Evans releases the ball...if he's the left tackle, should that have been an ineligible receiver downfield?

This is the same question I have. I don't quite understand who is covered and who is not covered.

Hokies, Local Soccer, AFC Ajax, Ravens

I certainly don't claim to know but according to this it seems like it should be.


"Ineligible receivers include the center, offensive guards, and offensive tackles.". Cunningham is lined up at tackle and doesn't attempt to block anyone.

Nvm, HokiesAllDaWay has a good explanation below.

"These people are losing their minds!"

No. Nijiman would be ineligible if he didn't declare. That's how I understand the principles. I am sure college rules have some sneaky twist.

He is an eligible receiver. According to the rules, a team must have seven players on the line of scrimmage, and either player at the end of the group on the line of scrimmage is considered an eligible receiver. Players on the line of scrimmage, in this case, are Cunningham, our o-line and Bucky (you can barely make out his shoe on top of the screen on clip12) - making Cunningham and Bucky both eligible to receive a pass.

I am not 100% sure about the following, but IIRC there is also no rule that states that the snapper has to be between LG, LT and RT, RG. LG can snap the ball if desired.

" I am not 100% sure about the following, but iirc there is also no rule that states that the snapper has to be between LG, LT and RT RG. LG can snap the ball if desired."

.... but you are 100% correct in your statement.

Ah I see. Thanks for the explanation!

"These people are losing their minds!"


No. He is the end man on the line of scrimmage and there is no one covering him up on the outside. CJ is off the line and comes in motion. As stated below, the "TE" is ineligible, because he is covered up by Ford on the line of scrimmage. ^^^ Beat me by 3 seconds!

My old eyes may be playing tricks on me, but it looks like Ford is off the LOS.

Yeah Ford isn't on the LOS, that would make Cunningham inelgible if he was.,

Ford is 2 yards back from the LOS on the wrong side of the formation from the "TE" Nijman. I'm sure he meant that Bucky is covering Nijman on the LOS.

Correct Hodges, not Ford.

Yup. Another way of looking at this is that Cunningham is still a "Tight End" at the end of the line to the left. Hodges is a"Split End" on the end of the line to the right. There's still 5 OL in between them, and any of them can snap the ball.

As posted below, Nijman is covered by Hodges, is ineligible, and doesn't have slow the play process down by reporting.

An unbalanced line isn't all that unusual. Looks like when Fu went up tempo and does this, the defense quickly lines up as if Cunningham is the LT and has no time to recalibrate. It throws everything off.

To my untrained eye, looks like 13 had Cunningham covered but the unbalanced line and motion left number 11 and a DB (couldn't see the number) with pretty much nothing to do.

Fu is evil...heh, heh, heh, heh.

As stated the eligible receiver has to be on the end of the line of scrimmage. The beauty on this play is most unbalanced lines are run heavy formations since you have RT and LT right next to each other, so the defense was more then likely thinking run. Which made the play action even more effective.


I also think Miami used this unbalanced line set to get Greg Olson open on us all game in the 2006 game :(


Yeah but we beat them in 2006 so who cares :)

It is nice to review successes of the "master gamesman' opposed to what went wrong and how to hopefully fix it. THANKS COACH FU!!

I can't remember a time when a coach discussed an offensive play demonstrating the how's and the why's to that degree...THAT RESULTED IN A TOUCHDOWN!

We were not one block away on that play!!! Hallelujah!!!!

This shows another one of those sneaky routes that are almost picks. 85 crosses between bc13 and where the ball is going, giving tmac an extra step or so.

Eta: sneaky sneaky... his route ties up 2 defenders, as the safety is also having to defend him.

Eta: how many times did we see this play go for nothing over the last few years when the ball didn't lead the back and he had to stop or come back for the pass? Nice to have a qb with the size and touch to get the pass over the defender.

Brewer was a warrior, but his size was a liability on these types plays. Other qbs with the size lacked the touch to make that pass with any sort of consistency.

I enjoy having offensive coaches who can football.

Can't tell who but there was someone actually blocking down field deep in the end zone. Great job. Ford maybe.

Year 3 is coming up!

If you are talking about the right side where Tmac got his TD, it was Bucky

You are right he started his block 7 -8 yards deep and ended up at the goal line. Anyway, glad to see them engaging.

Year 3 is coming up!

Pretty sure this is the first time Bucky has ever been mistaken for Ford.

Bucky Phillips, as he's known by ESPNU.

What happened to Bucky Rogers? That dude was a DUDE.

"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior" Stephen M.R. Covey

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” David Wilson

He changed his name on Facebook to Bucky Phillips, using his middle name now so employers can't find him

You mean Montgomery Scott?


-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

Isn't he the coach of Eastern Carolina?

Seriously, everyone knows Bucky is actually Cam.

Their blocking is very similar at times.

Not this time, thankfully!

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

If you can't get people out of it, the combinations, and kind of fun stuff you get to do on offense is really, really limited.

And then the real chess match began.

I love having a coach that thinks offense is neat.

"I mean, you know, fuck them, but good for them." -Too Druck to Funk

So, as opponents have more film on Fuente's offense they'll have a more difficult task defending it because it establish tendencies the offense can then exploit?!!! Genius!!

Somewhat off topic but do you think having a modern and talented offense (both the players and the coaches) is an asset to Bud and the defense compared to what they ran against all the previous years? Or does it really have no impact either way?

It does from the aspect he can ask the offensive coaches about things but once the season starts, Bud isn't practicing against our offense much if at all, he is practicing against the scout team offense simulating the opponent's offense. Spring ball and fall camp is really when he will see any benefit.

"I'm too drunk to taste this chicken" - Colonel Sanders via Ricky Bobby

Thanks. I never played football so I wasn't sure how practice is done. Appreciate the explanation.

The small things make the difference in a small gain and a big gain, or in this case a TD. Cunningham makes sure to cross the face and cut off the pursuit of the LB in his route. This slows him up getting to the flat to get to McMillan. You can see him bend and twist a little to get his shoulders ahead and then turn up field some to cut off his momentum. This is likely part of the play design as Cunningham never really looks back for the ball, but it is executed perfectly.

"I'm too drunk to taste this chicken" - Colonel Sanders via Ricky Bobby

So, my question on a QB grading scale...shouldn't Evans have thrown the ball to Cunningham? The defender is between them with a chance to get McMillan, but Cunningham would have been untouched going into the endzone. Is this a negative in the Read, but a positive in the Result type of play for Evans?

Also, Cunningham starts celebrating the touchdown when Travon is on the 5 and is pointing him to the end zone. Pretty funny

We are now a one read, quick strike and go offense. Evans' first read was McMillan who was open, so he quickly went to him, as he should. On a beautifully executed play like that, it is not Evans' "read" to second guess the play and throw to Cunningham, because he appears more open. In fact, Cunningham isn't even looking for the ball since he had correctly run and rubbed off the defender. Great play that was perfectly executed.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to commemorate the demise of the slow-developing play. It shall not be missed.

"I mean, you know, fuck them, but good for them." -Too Druck to Funk

Yes. And that would have resulted in a touchdown. Wait...nevermind.

We put the K in Kwality

The defender is on Cunningham's hip at the time Evans begins his throw. He doesn't start chasing TMac until he see that the throw is going to him. Evans could have pumped to TMac, then throw to Cunningham, but with another defender in his face, that would've been difficult.

🦃 🦃 🦃

No, If you watch closely 13 has him covered until Evans makes the pass to a wide open McMillan.

Stop it with the Negative Waves!

Coach Fu and Coach Fo: Isn't this what we planned?


Left out- the jet motion freezing the linebacker was a basic concept that Fuente established early. He ran an inverted veer to McMillian back against the jet sweep motion on the opening drive, and then showed it again on the second drive before the score. The tackle-over (not unbalanced because there are still two on each side of center plus a "TE"- unbalanced would be if Nijman went over and Cunninham was on his side) confused the defense further.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I've always understood the basic requirement of an unbalanced set is three offensive lineman to either side of the center, e.g. TE G C G T T. For the play above, I would say it's an unbalanced line, tackle over. Perhaps it's a terminology disagreement, although I have Bob Davie in my corner: http://assets.espn.go.com/ncf/columns/davie/1463998.html.

I disagree with French on this one as well. Unbalanced has to do with whether or not the end guy is "covered" and if there are more on one side.

We could run our typical twins set, but have our "Y" to the same side as the twins on the LOS, covered by the "X" making the line-unbalanced. T G C G T Y.

Edit: After clicking on your link there is a picture to illustrate my point. See below:

If you flip the T and the TE, it's what I'm describing. Either way the one on left side of LOS is eligible which is why teams will typically move their Tackle Over.

This is what we did on this play except we were in 11 personnel instead of 21 as the picture above shows.


Right, typically the tackle will move over next to the RT and the TE take his place because if you were to align as you describe, I believe the LT would have to declare himself an eligible receiver due to his number being ineligible (and the TE next to the RT would be ineligible). I've just come to understand an unbalanced line as not having the typical 3 players on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the center. Like in the image you posted above, there are two on the line on the left of the center and four to the right. You could pull the guard over to the right too and make a 5 man blocking advantage with the TE still being eligible. Lots of confusing variables, but as long as there are 7 on the line, the two on both ends are eligible receivers (linemen would have to change jerseys or declare themselves eligible before the play if they are on the end).

Correct and therefore.....


We didn't treat this as unbalanced because of the impact on the defensive alignment. An unbalanced call would treat the right guard as the center and slide accordingly. This is still a balanced line for the DL call. If there is an overshift here, the weak side becomes VERY vulnerable if the Y can handle the DE 1 on 1.

We would call this "tackle-over" in our call. DL would slide one gap. Linebackers would stay put if I remember correctly. Versus unbalanced, our call would move DL and LB over a gap.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

On the contrary, BC did adjust to the unbalanced look. #10 walks up from his typical backer spot to the heavy side, and the DT (#96) slides just before snap towards that side as well.


Small nit to pick. TKP always seems to refer to "Bud's defense", and "Fuente's offense". Is Fuente calling the plays or Cornelsen? I know they are Fuente's concepts, but shouldn't Coach Corn get some credit for the play calling sequence?

Great analysis as usual, BTW!

Since this piece is mostly lauding the design of the play, I think it's right to give the praise to Fuente. However you bring up a good point that Coach Corn has done an exceptional job at play calling through three games.

"I mean, you know, fuck them, but good for them." -Too Druck to Funk

If we intend to give Cornelson credit for the offensive performance, I propose we henceforth refer to it as "Corn Ball".


I swear to drunk, I'm not God

That's an interesting way to spell Dragon

Nice play concept. And I completely understand the thought process behind using it to loosen up the BC defense. But now teams will be looking for it (which can be a bad thing and a good thing).

I'm not sure I would have wasted it early in the game - or even vs BC at all. But hindsight is 20/20 and everybody - including me and, more importantly Fuente & Co - thought points could be at a premium.

which can be a bad thing and a good thing

had the same initial reaction

i think opponents will have to spend practice time dealing with it or will have to call timeout. either is a benefit.

i'd also guess that's not all Fu will do out of that look...like a wheel route to the motion man

as an aside, when Urban Meyer was between gigs, he was great to listen to in the booth. he could instantly analyze what he was seeing and then predict the counterpunch. I'm thinking Fu is a lot like that.

man I never heard Urban call a game...I'm sure that would be fascinating..I'm kinda sad I missed that

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

Yeah that would have been pretty cool.

As far as people looking out for this play, I think Fuente has a lot more where that came from.

Don't worry about showing those schemes last week my friends!

Evans: "Same concepts just new installs, different ways of running stud so we make sure we can put up points."

ECU: "Oh Crap"


I think coach Fu might be throwing out a red hearing here. The way the play went down the unbalanced line didn't effect the design at all. The first time I read it, he makes it sound like he has made the defense cover an ineligible guy (Cunningham). If Ford had been on the LOS that would have been true but then Cunningham couldn't have run the rub. If your ECU good luck trying to figure that one out or what the next variation will look like.

"Don't go to, go through"

I thought his point is that it was a counterpunch to BC bringing more than they could block.

Regardless, freeze the video at 4 seconds. It's pretty impressive. I count 5 Hokie linemen completely sealing off 4 BC rushers and at least 3 BC defenders in no man's land.

This offense is so interesting to observe the way it throws off defenses,
basically creating these sweet plays. Some on here have said they haven't
fully opened the playbook so that'll be interesting when that happens.


Stiney, OCain, and Loeffler

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

Awwww... I miss Tecmo Bowl

All of a sudden, I found myself in love with the world
So there was only one thing that I could do
Was ding a ding, dang my dang a long ling long....

"Our offense started six drives in the opponent's territory. That statistic is a result of TEAM."

I know some of you were asking if Tech Talk Live was available online or as a podcast. Well it is, and you should listen. The man that Joe quoted (CJF) was allowed to talk for 45 minutes (minus commercials), and every one worth the time.

HokieVision posts an .MP3 (pronounced "jiff") of the entire show a few days after the broadcast, available here:

Visit HokieSports.com - click HokieVision - click Archive.

Here you can find TTL, as well as many of the cool videos they play at games, interviews, and the stuff that goes on the Virginia Tech Football YouTube channel.


-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

Thanks. Sometimes can't listen live so this is great.

Thanks this was really helpful and I agree, this is worth a listen.

PS. Also thanks, never knew how MP3 is pronounced, I always thought it rhymed with seven.

"Don't go to, go through"