CHICAGO – It’s the final play of regulation in the Big Ten Championship and it’s a seven-point game. The team that’s trailing scores as time expires, making it a one-point game with no time left on the clock.
The team that’s trailing is playing aggressive and plans on going for two and the win.
There could be a College Football Playoff berth on the line.
What play are you drawing up?
That’s the hypothetical we posed to Big Ten football players on Friday at the conference’s media days.
Offensive players had to draw up a play they think would reach the end zone for the game-winning two-point conversion. We asked running backs to draw a play for themselves.
Defensive players had to draw up a scheme they think would stop the opposing offense.
The one special teams representative, Penn State punter Blake Gillikin, had to draw up a hypothetical fake PAT.
Here are the results.
Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
“I’m definitely throwing the ball,” Moore said. “Hmm, let me think about this. This is a good one.”
“Nah, not the goal line, man,” Moore said, dismissing a reporter’s suggestion of running a jet sweep to Moore. “It’s hard to cut the ball up.”
“Yeah bro, I’m just going to make it real simple here. I’m the outside receiver (to the right).”
“What’s the coverage?” Moore asked. It’s up to him. It’s hypothetical.
Moore draws up four slants playing against man coverage. The receiver lined up inside of Moore will likely be matched up across from a linebacker, Moore says, and will ideally open a lane for a throw to Moore in the end zone.
The running back will provide flat control and a safety valve in case no one else is open.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
“I’m probably going to run outside zone,” Taylor said. “That’s bread and butter. Right (side), strong side.”
Toren Young, RB, Iowa
“We’ll spread everybody out,” Young said, “put receivers (three-wide), tight end over here. We’ll just go right up the middle, quick hand-off and let it ride.”
Zach Venesky, OL, Rutgers
“You gotta throw a little trickery in there, man,” Venesky said. “So I would go something like tackle screen right or something like that. I don’t know wide receiver alignment the best but I’ll try to throw it in there. We’re making the right tackle eligible, I just wanna block.”
“Hey man, we’re good,” Venesky said, laughing, when asked if he wanted to make himself eligible as a receiver on the play.
“So we’re gonna throw it up. We’re gonna block inside zone left here. Have everybody just go out, have him block down,” Venesky said, referring to the lone wide receiver lined up to the right. “Tackle slip out, quarterback just throw it out there. Sound good?”
Ben Bredeson, OG, Michigan
“It’s basically a guaranteed touchdown every single time,” Bredeson said confidently as he diagrammed his play. “So you put all your receivers out here, quarterback, halfback and, I don’t know, a receiver, tight end. And, sure, we’ll put a fullback there.”
“Alright, three, seven, yeah, we’re fine,” he reassures himself as he makes sure he has the proper number of players diagrammed. “All these guys, all the O-line sprints to the left. This guy, tight end, comes three steps, works out. Halfback rolls out, runs a wheel (route), fullback comes across, quarterback rolls out, it’s a reverse left tackle screen. Throws it to him, all the linemen block.”
“Two points,” a reporter says.
Bredeson: “Every time.”
Jared Thomas, C, Northwestern
“Alright, let’s see here. What hash are we on?” Thomas asks.
It’s up to him.
“Gotcha.” He decides the left hash.
“I’m thinking some form of–I’m thinking national championship game, Clemson, to win the game,” Thomas says. He’s referring to Hunter Renfrow’s catch to beat Alabama at the end of the 2016 season.
“The rub route. It was some sort of here and here and the third guy goes here,” he said, drawing the routes for the wide receiver trips. “So quarterback, drop it off.”
Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s center was pretty mum on what play he would draw up for the Badgers, electing to pass off that burden, hypothetically, to Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst. However, he did provide a formation.
“I Right,” Biadasz said. “Anything we can score on. I mean, I’ll do anything. Whoever it is (for), I trust ’em. I remember the last Big Ten Championship, we went for two and we threw it against Ohio State, to your question, we threw on that play and we scored, so whatever it takes.”
Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue
“I’m going to say we’re going to drop eight,” Bailey said. “Ball’s on the left hash. I’m just going to draw the offense up. I’m going to draw the offensive play a lot of people do first. This is a two-point conversion situation. A lot of people like to do sprint out in these type of situations so they’ll probably motion this guy over (from the left slot), motion, motion, motion, motion, boom, set hut.”
“He’s probably just going to run a vertical over here like a fade, he’ll probably run deep over here and then he’ll probably run underneath like that,” Bailey said, drawing the routes of the three receivers on the right.
“Or, you do that and then he’ll probably come in here and snag up right here,” Bailey said of the receiver lined up on the inside to the right. “He’ll go all the way out because you can’t really run too much of a smash pattern at the goal line so either way, they’re trying to get people on the move and get the spacing so we’d run some drop eight coverages.”
“It’d be like a five-down front look,” Bailey said, now switching to the defense. “It’s two-by-two at first, so the corner over here, free safety, strong safety, corner, they’d probably press down more. As soon as that goes in motion, we’re going to rotate over here. We’re going to shift from Cover 4 to Cover 3 and come here. This is all condensed because of the goal line. He’s going to come down here, he’s going to say, ‘Sky, sky, sky.’ He’s going to come inside more and we’re expecting this route to happen so this guy that would come inside and this guy that would buzz down, hopefully he would try to stay here and then the flat player would have the play on that and then depending on how we’re getting coached to do it that week, sometimes this guy that would come inside, when they run the sprint out, he would go down here and set the edge right now so it pulls up the quarterback.”
“So either way, we’re trying to get a bunch of guys in coverage and have good spacing right there so if we’re going to do the zone option, that’s what we would do because if we ran man, unless we have some really good dudes that know exactly what the play’s going to be…if you’re playing man on these kind of routes, you can get the mesh effect so I would say a zone or a drop eight is good for this kind of stuff at the goal line.”
Cam Brown, LB, Penn State
“He dropped eight? He’s a DB isn’t he?” Brown said, when shown what Purdue’s Markus Bailey drew up. “He’s a linebacker and he dropped eight? Alright, well I’m giving you a blitz no matter what. It’s going to be some form of blitz.”
“So what I’m thinking out here, you know you got your basic curl, flat combo out here,” Brown said, drawing the routes for the two wide receivers lined up to the right (left side of the picture above), before moving to the opposite side of the field. “This is your backup, if everything in here’s looking meshed. You got the fade ball out here. And then you got the stick nod here.”
“That’s a – pfhhh – this is literally a touchdown, oh my gosh,” Brown said, proud of his hypothetical offensive play-calling. “No matter what defense, this is a touchdown. I should be an offensive coordinator.”
“I have the free safety coming down to the edge, honestly. He’d play that heavy, though. And my blitz, I’m sending myself, sending the Mike through this gap, put my nose (tackle) over here, my end in here, my tackles here and my other end is sticking in here. He’s going to plug this gap and he’s sticking here and the Will’s responsible for this gap.”
“I don’t know, I should be a coach,” Brown said, now equally impressed with his defensive play-calling. “I really don’t know because I trust my DBs, this is almost man-to-man on these two, I’d have him play the curl-flat, it’d be man concept backside. And then this is going to be zone side. So they’re pretty much playing two-on-two.”
“I don’t even know who wins. You gotta tell me who wins this game!”
Jordan Glasgow, LB, Michigan
“It’s a two-point conversion, it’s going to be a quick play,” Glasgow said. “We’re a great run and pass (defense) so I would think that they would do some sort of rub route or try and spring some guy free by doing some things that offenses can take advantage of. Our corners, they play a lot of man in practice and I trust them in any situation to cover their guy.”
“I can understand why it would be so difficult as a coordinator to decide because it’s going to be a quick throw but if you don’t get pressure, you don’t want to give them time. If it’s a mobile QB, then you’re going to have to treat it differently than if it’s a pocket passer.”
“What I would want to do would be, I would want to send pressure from the weak side because I would feel like it’s less likely that they run it there, especially in this situation and then I would want, I would do something like, let’s go with boom, boom,” Glasgow said, drawing blitzes for the nose tackle and left defensive end, “zone, zone back, protect from a slant,” referring to the Mike and Will linebackers, respectively.
“And then have a safety here to try and protect these two, protect both of these guys from a slant and possibly have help over the top, so then you would zone off, boom, Will would zone off here to protect the edge on a run, protect from a slant here and then man, man, man, so we’d have four going here, but I trust our D-line and what they’re able to do. Send four, I mean, obviously with the three-yard difference in what we’re able to do, people are going to feel stressed to get the ball out quick.
“It might be a first read type of throw, quarterback scrambles, freaks out, tries to make a throw that maybe isn’t there, so I feel that making sure that we don’t have any open (receivers), shut down the first option, panic them, make sure that we’re able to cover a QB scramble, something like that. I mean, this is my feeling, what I think would be best. Coach Brown is the one that’s paid a lot of money to do this and he’s probably going to choose something different, I actually guarantee that he would choose to do something different than this but I mean, this is what I can think of right now.”
Tyshon Fogg, LB, Rutgers
“Of course we gotta have our corners at the ends, sticking our receivers,” Fogg said. “You always gotta have your corners out. Mike, Will and Sam linebackers, we’re gonna walk them up, not too far from the line.”
“We blitzing all out on ’em. You know what I’m saying. We trying to get them to get the ball out fast so once we get the ball out fast, everybody’s just going. Everybody in their rush lanes, we’re sending the Mike, Will through the interior gaps. Sam, sending him around. Corners stay man-to-man. Safeties back, covering the zone over top of the corners but I feel like that should be the play right there to stop it.”
Tyreek Maddox-Williams, LB, Rutgers
“I would draw up a blitz. I’m manning it up,” Maddox-Williams said of the defensive line and corner backs, respectively.
“Obviously they’re coming,” he said of the linebackers, “because I don’t expect them to be running (the ball) and we’re going to have another one right here.”
“I’m manning it up. The safety’s got the running back. We’re man here, we’re man here. Everybody gotta go get ’em.”
Blake Gillikin, P, Penn State
“You gotta line up in the field goal formation,” Gillikin says, setting up his trick play. “They think you’re playing conservative. Tight end’s here, got your wings, got your holder and your kicker. So hypothetically, what I would suggest that you do is you have some sort of roll out with either the kicker or the holder.”
“It’s your (actual) kicker and holder,” Gillikin says, dismissing the idea that you try to sneak a skill position player at either position. “You can’t do that, first of all. Second of all, I think the holder and kicker should be good enough athletes that they can get the job done. Not that difficult but the theory is, I think they probably sell out for the block if it’s going to be (to tie) the Big Ten Championship.”
“So you have some sort of rollout and you flood the eligible players into that zone, so this guy would run a short little two-yard out, maybe a five-yard drag over the top of it, little out, and drag these guys across the back side for if something goes wrong. You’re playing some game with the holder, kicker to kind of be deceptive. If it’s open to run, that’s the first priority.”