About Those Third Down Conversions (or lack thereof)

The biggest negative from yesterday's win was our oh-for on third downs. I don't like taking statistics at face value so I decided to breakdown each play.

1st Quarter

3rd and 4

Both Andre Smith and Dyrell Roberts run 5-yard routes past the line to gain, a curl and out respectively. Smith was open with a 2-yard cushion and drops, not a perfect, but catchable ball. Even if he made the catch the Hokies were flagged for an illegal shift.

3rd and 5

From what I can see on the ESPN U film (H/T @vtphreak4evr) this looks like this is a much more aggressive play call by Stinespring. The receivers are running routes well past the first down and both Andre Smith and David Wilson are tasked as blockers (Wilson leaks out of the backfield when no blitz comes). Tyrod puts a ball right on D.J. Coles' hands and it's dropped. Having a receiving option underneath for just the necessary 5 yards would have been wise, but Coles has to make that catch.

2nd Quarter

3rd and 4

Stiney dials up the zone read play which I've been pretty vocal about running more often, but it fails here. The spread formation does a nice job of loosening the box–four defensive linemen, one linebacker with another outside coming on a blitz. Tyrod is keeping it all the way and is tripped up behind the line. Blake DeChristopher ignores the defensive end (last man on the line of scrimmage) and goes straight for the linebacker. The action between Tyrod and the running back (sorry I can't see his number) should freeze the free end, but it's lazy and he's able to quickly read Tyrod keeping it. This hurts because it's in the red zone.

The fake needs to be better to hold the free end.

3rd and 16

We're max protecting and Central Michigan is only bringing four guys. It's a numbers game, they have seven defenders to cover our three receivers. Given time one of the receivers could wiggle loose, however Andrew Lanier gets absolutely worked and Tyrod is sacked.

3rd and 2

There's a false start on Dyrell Roberts.

3rd and 7

Central Michigan is dropping eight men back in coverage. Like the 3rd and five in the first quarter it seems like all of our routes are being run well past the sticks. Nick Becton gets burnt to the inside (CAN I HAZ LEFT TACKLE THAT BLOCKS?) by the defensive end, who forces Tyrod outside the pocket to his left and he throws a ball out of bounds, just out of the reach of Dyrell Roberts.

3rd Quarter

3rd and 22

Once again Central Michigan is dropping eight guys back in coverage. This has become a trend that has seemed to elude Bryan Stinespring. It would have been the perfect opportunity for a draw. Look, most teams will not convert third and long. It's tough to do. But after the ball is snapped there are only three defenders in the box, all defensive linemen, and they're coming at Tyrod. In this scenario, I like David Wilson's chances in the open field. Anyway, Tyrod overthrows Jarrett Boykin with a man in his face.

3rd and 1

We line up in the I and look to pound the rock, logical. The tailback is Wilson and I'm not sure why Evans isn't in. He is our bruising back, right? Central Michigan linebacker Nick Bellore, who had a huge game, blows it up in the backfield for a 2-yard loss. Andrew Miller who's in at right guard comes off his block too late and misses chopping him down.


4th Quarter

3rd and 14

It's garbage time (38-14). Central Michigan actually brings the blitz, Thomas is pressured quickly and he overthrows Boykin out of bounds.

After watching, and re-watching these plays I believe sloppy execution was the overwhelming reason why we didn't convert on third down. More often than not, there was at least one missed block and balls that hit hands need to be catches. The ancillary reasons were unmanageable distance and bad play calls.

I hope this breakdown provided a little more insight for everyone.

DISCLAIMER: Blog posts may not have been written or edited by The Key Play staff.


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