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The Film Room: The Little Things Needed to Create Big Plays

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It's generally the things happening away from the ball that make-or-break big play opportunities

In his post-game presser after Youngstown State, Dana Holgorsen mentioned the importance of big plays in our offense. It's positive news, then, that in 2018 we've already generated 27 explosive plays (13 runs, 14 passes) in 136 offensive snaps, good for an explosive play percentage of 19.8%, a number which compares very favorably with the best teams in the country. We can all appreciate David Sills "Mossing" somebody for a jump ball in the endzone or Marcus Simms breaking ankles in the open field, but I want to highlight the kind of selfless, behind-the-scenes effort necessary for those things to happen.

Receivers doing dirty work

Growing up as a wide receiver in a run-heavy offense, I was always taught that downfield blocking was crucial to creating big plays on the ground - it was the line's job to get our backs to the second level; it was our job to get them to the endzone. Those years of drilling mean that I can't help but smile nowadays when I see a receiver buck the "prima-donna" stereotype and really get stuck in blocking downfield. And in this regard, I love what I've seen from our guys through our first two games. Let's take a look at a couple of our gashes from Saturday..

These two clips are both from our opening scoring drive. On the first we're staring at a critical 3rd and 2 from our own 9 yard line. Now this was always going to be a big play based simply on the way thePenguins lined up, but look at the way TJ Simmons and Gary Jennings are immediately looking to get downfield and get themselves a piece once Martell clears the second level. TJ doesn't get involved until late, and may get away with a tiny shove in the back, but if Martell is able to keep his feet there his hustle would've turned the play into a footrace to the endzone.

The second clip is an even better example. Just watch the way Simmons and David Sills attack the defenders lined up over top of them. The push they get on the edge is what allows Sinkfield to turn the corner and ultimately get into the endzone.

Our receivers have rightfully received a bunch of attention early in the year for their ability to get on the end of Will Grier's throws, but their work off the ball has, and will continue to be, every bit as important to our success offensively.

Leddie Brown pass pro

On the flip side of things, quarterbacks need time to throw if they're going to successfully push the ball downfield. One guy who's consistently made sure Will has had it is Leddie Brown. Take a look at these two plays from Saturday...

In both cases, Leddie is isolated on a blitzing Penguin, and in each case he takes the correct angle, stands his ground, and gives Will the time he needs to find our guys for scores. Brown has been on the field quite a bit during the first two games because of what he's able to do with the ball in his hands, but it's the little things like this that are going to keep him there throughout the season.