Film Look: Breaking Down Spencer Sanders’ 2020 Interceptions

Spencer Sanders has done some great things on the football field for Oklahoma State over the past two seasons. He’s thrown 494 passes and completed 310 of them (63% completion percentage) for 4,072 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also has picked up another 897 yards on the ground and tacked on four more touchdowns. However, during his tenure as QB1 for the Pokes, he’s turned the ball over 27 times — 19 interceptions and eight fumbles lost.

While his stats are impressive, and he’s made some big time plays for OSU, the turnover numbers give some cause for concern going forward for the Cowboys. For today’s post, I wanted to dive deeper into these turnovers, specifically the interceptions, and provide some context. Not all interceptions are created equal, and on some of them, the quarterback isn’t the only one to blame.

Below I’ll break down Sanders’ interceptions from last season, going pick by pick to determine what the causes were. In addition, I’ll put each interception into one of three categories, The Good (as an Interception Can Be), The Bad and The Ugly. We will start off with The Good in this three part series.

The Good (as an Interception Can Be)

Iowa State

We’ll start with his first interception from last year. It was OSU’s fourth game of the season, but only Sanders’ second as he left early on in the opener against Tulsa with an ankle injury. In the image below, you’ll see the Cowboys are in an 11 personnel set, with a Cowboy Back on the right side of the line of scrimmage.

Iowa State looks to be in a variation of Cover 3, or a three-deep zone coverage. After the snap, the Pokes use play action to setup Sanders on the roll out to his right. The Cowboy Back chip blocks the defensive end before releasing on his route, and Sanders faces some initial pressure from that defender.

Sanders is able to out run the defensive end and get off a throw to Tylan Wallace who is running a comeback route. Although I don’t have the All-22 film for this game like I do for some of the other ones I’ll touch on in this series, Wallace looks to have been open and based on the coverage and the route, he should’ve been. That being said, Sanders made a good decision, however he needed to find a better throwing lane to get the ball by the Iowa State defender.

Additionally, the Iowa State defender who tips this ball makes a great play, and the catch on the interception was also pretty amazing. Here’s the full video below.

Now, when you watch the clip back and see the second angle, it looks as though Dillon Stoner is open across the middle. However, there are multiple Cyclone defenders in the area, and this would’ve been an extremely tough throw for Sanders to make back across his body on the run.

Overall, I don’t hate the decision here, and it was a great play by the ISU defender who deflected the pass and the one who made the catch, so I didn’t feel like this pick belonged in The Bad or The Ugly categories.

Oklahoma

Next, we take a look at Sanders lone interception from last season’s Bedlam matchup.

OSU is again in 11 personnel here, with the Cowboy Back lined up in the H-back position. The Sooners look to be in Cover 1 here, or a man-to-man defense with one safety in a deep, middle of the field zone. Prior the snap, Landon Wolf motion across the formation, looking like he’s going to get the ball on a jet sweep.

However, after the snap it looks to be a split-zone run-pass option (RPO), with the Cowboy Back blocking away from the flow of the offensive line. Sanders seems to be reading #13 Tre Norwood on OU’s defense. He sees Norwood bite during his mesh with running back Chuba Hubbard, pulls the ball back and fires to Wallace on the slant.

Wallace was open, as he initially tosses the Sooner corner out of the way before he makes his break. In addition, the motion from Wolf initially had brought Norwood near the line of scrimmage before the snap, leaving the OU corner guarding Wallace with no inside help. Here’s the full video below.

Overall, this is a great read by Sanders, but again he struggles finding the throwing lane. This results in another ball being deflected and another turnover for the Cowboys. The crazy thing is, as the Tape Doesn’t Lie Podcast’s Adam Lunt pointed out to me, Sanders has shown he can adjust his throwing motion to find an open lane, as you’ll see in the following clip, he just doesn’t do it with consistency.

TCU

And the last interception in this section is from the TCU game.

The Cowboys are in 12 personnel here, as you see two Cowboy Backs lined up on the right side of the line of scrimmage. Defensively, TCU looks to be in their pattern matching zone scheme. The Horned Frogs defensive backs played extremely well against the Pokes for pretty much the entire game, and they made another nice play here.

At the snap, OSU goes with play action as Cowboy Back Jelani Woods releases up the seam. Sanders makes a solid play fake and gets several TCU defenders to hesitate, leaving some space in between the second and third level defenders for him to make the throw to Woods. Sanders is a little late on his delivery and floats the ball too high for Woods to haul down, resulting in a tipped pass interception for the Frogs. You can see the play in its entirety in the video below.

I didn’t think this was a bad decision, it’s just a poor throw. The backside safety rotating over might have also caused Sanders to put this ball a little off the mark.

In the next post, we’ll take a look at The Bad interceptions.

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