We are on to Part 2 of the Spencer Sanders’ 2020 interception breakdown series. In this post we will cover the picks that I categorized as “The Bad”. As a reminder, we took a look at The Good (as an Interception Can Be) in Part 1. Now, the Part 2 interceptions fall a little bit more on Sanders shoulders, and I’ll break them down below.
Iowa State film
First up, we take a look at Sanders’ second interception against ISU.
OSU is in a 10 personnel set, with two wide receivers split to each side of the formation. At the snap, Sanders fakes the give to running back Chuba Hubbard and then looks to throw down the field. The wide receivers are running a four verts concept, meaning all four receivers are running deep routes down the field at the same time. The Cyclones only send three defenders on the pass rush, so Sanders has a nice, clean pocket to operate from.
Iowa State drops eight defenders into coverage, in what looks to be Cover 6. This pass coverage is a combination of Cover 2 and Cover 4. The defense will play Cover 2 on one half of the field and Cover 4 on the other. On this particular play, ISU is playing Cover 4 to the boundary, or short side of the field, and Cover 2 to the wide side of the field.
After Sanders makes his play fake to Hubbard, he keeps his eyes to the boundary side and never takes them off. With both the corner and the safety to that side dropping deep into zone coverage, Sanders has a tight window to fit his throw in. It looked as though he thought he could get enough zip on the throw to deliver the pass to his receiver before the safety rotated over to make a play.
Sanders starts off poorly by completely telegraphing this throw. In addition, the safety shaded to the boundary side should’ve alerted Sanders pre-snap that this was probably not the best option in the route concept. There are four defenders dropping into coverage on the short side of the field, giving him very little room to operate. The full video of the play can be found below.
Next up, we have the first interception from last year’s matchup with Baylor.
The Cowboys are in an 11 personnel grouping. They have a Cowboy Back and running back in the backfield, two receivers to the field side, or wide side, and one receiver split into the boundary. After the snap, you can see the Cowboy back, offensive line and running back are all in pass protection. The wide receiver to the boundary is running a deep outward breaking route, the slot receiver to the field is running a quick out and the outside receiver on that side is running a deep inward breaking route.
Pre-snap, it looks as though Baylor might be in Cover 2, with two deep safeties each covering one deep half of the field. BU’s pre-snap look is shown in the image below.
However, just before the snap, the safety to the field side starts to roll down towards the line of scrimmage. In addition, Baylor’s #8 Jordan Pitre creeps inward towards the defensive linemen and ends up coming on a blitz off the edge.
Sanders feels some pressure with the blitz, and has to move around a bit in the pocket, but he does have enough time to get the throw off down field. The problem here though is that Sanders again eyeballs his target from when the ball touches his hands off the snap to when he delivers the football. This allow the single-high safety to cheat to the field side and get in the throwing lane to make a play. Sanders also doesn’t make a great throw, which doesn’t help the situation.
To Sanders’ credit though, he probably should’ve thrown the ball a little earlier, but had to side step Pitre on the blitz. In addition, outside receiver Dillon Stoner could’ve sat down on his route and found an open space in between the zone defenders. If BU would’ve stayed in their Cover 2 look, Stoner might have been able to turn this route into a skinny post and split the two safeties, but in Cover 3 his ran his route directly into the middle of the field defender.
With the BU pressure and coverage look, and it being first down in the middle of the field, Sanders should’ve looked off Stoner and fired the ball out to slot receiver Brennan Presley in the flat or moved out of the pocket and thrown the ball away. The full clip is shown below.
Baylor part dos
The last interception in this section is the second pick from the Baylor game.
Honestly, I didn’t know which section to put this one in. I think this could’ve gone into Part 1, and there’s not really a whole lot to say about this interception. The Cowboys are in 12 personnel, with a Cowboy Back split to the boundary and one in the H-Back position.
The Bears look to be in man coverage, which is what OSU wants as they are looking to get the ball to wide receiver Tay Martin split to the field side. Martin slightly delays his go route off the snap and then tries to speed by the defensive back. This play requires a three-step drop and throw from the QB, which you will see in the full video that Sanders has time to execute and does.
On this back shoulder throw, Sanders leaves the ball too far inside. This throw is also a little short, but the quarterback has to give his receiver a better chance by throwing the ball more to the outside. In addition, Martin could’ve done a better job of attacking the football. All that being said, it’s nice coverage and an overall good play made by the BU defensive back.
In the next post, we’ll take a look at The Ugly interceptions.
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