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App State Film Review: Penn State Fourth Quarter/Overtime

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The craziness starts now.

Appalachian State v Penn State

This was the best quarter of the game by far for multiple reasons. The action really revved up with App State throwing and landing hay makers. It was also the best quarter to get a good look at some of the tendencies and styles of the coaching staff.

App State Ball, 4th and 2

This was my favorite play of the game and I’d imagine that most folks will feel the same way. On the play before, App State’s starting quarterback went down with an injury and they had to turn to their freshman backup quarterback. So what does Scott Satterfield do in a hostile environment with a guy that hasn’t even taken a snap in college? He calls a corner route on fourth and short and trusts his guys to go make a play.

The best thing about the play is the play itself. The formation is trips to the wide side, so he’s going to get a safety on his quickest receiver. App State has been running the ball well all game, so PSU has to go with zero coverage here to get enough guys in the box. Then you throw in a corner route that allows your receiver to separate from the coverage. That makes the throw much easier for the quarterback. It all went to plan and sparked a run for App State.

App State Ball, 1st and Goal

This was another outstanding play call that put PSU in a bind. They bring pressure from the slot and try to cover with a safety that is lined up in the middle of the field. The quarterback sees the pressure and just makes an easy pass here to a wide open receiver.

You can see that the quarterback utilizes the fake clap to make the defense react. That allows him to see this obvious blitz with no one behind it. If PSU doesn’t blitz, this is likely still the throw. It’s another corner route against a safety with a faster player.

Penn State Ball, 1st and 10

I expected to see a lot of things I didn’t like once I watched this game play by play. What I figured out pretty quickly was that PSU just had really good players that made plays for them in this game. App State guys didn’t miss tackles as much as guys made them miss. Receivers weren’t open for catches as much as they made contested catches. This is a play that fit what I saw. K.J. Hamler is one of the most talented receivers in the Big 10 and he just runs past the defense here. There’s not much they were going to be able to do to stop a well blocked play by Penn State.

The alignment on this play gives a good look of what the defense did in their base look. They walk a safety up on the short side of the field and end up in a “Cover 1” look. They relied on the outside linebackers to be more of a hybrid nickel/linebacker that can cover the slot. They don’t use an extra defensive back very often which leaves them susceptible to a play like this. If we’re being honest though, no one is keeping up with Hamler on this play.

App State Ball, 1st and 10

This is a nice misdirection play that worked really well late in the game. The offense isn’t “gimmicky” like some others but it does mix in some nice plays like this and jet sweeps from time to time. They get their fastest receiver in space on this play and it works because of the stretch runs that they run all the time.

I can’t say enough about how much their offensive line movements impact everything the defense does. Just look at how fast the defense flows to the run action here. The backside blockers don’t even have anyone to block on the play.

App State Ball, 1st and 10

This is the best play design that I saw from this offense out of all of the games I’ve watched so far. Let’s break down each part of it that made it work:

  • The motion shows the quarterback that PSU is in man coverage. If the corner had stayed on that side of the field, I’m not sure that they wouldn’t have backed out and done something different here.
  • The play action teamed with the hesitation from the slot receiver freezes the nickel corner long enough that the receiver gets a free release into his wheel route. You can see him look into the backfield for a split second and that’s all it took.
  • The outside receiver is essentially running a moving screen with his route. You can see him going about half speed or so because he has to make sure that the safety can’t get over top of this play.
  • Then you have a perfect throw from a quarterback making his first start since high school. No big deal.

Kickoff

Penn State scored a late touchdown in the second quarter and ran the onside kick where you nail a guy on the first line and jump on it. Scott Satterfield decided to run his own onside kick in the fourth quarter with the dribble onside. App State executes it perfectly and they have all the momentum.

App State Ball, 1st and 10

I’ve seen a few people call this offense “boring” because they are run heavy and they don’t do a lot of flashy things. I think that fans will actually enjoy it because Coach Satt likes to take shots down the field. They truly use the run to set up the pass and you can see here how they block those plays. The line goes from being five guys to seven with the h-back and running back turning into blockers off of the play action.

This is also just a really great catch by the team’s top receiver. He gets a step and shows “late hands” so the defender doesn’t play the ball. When his team got down by two scores, Scott Satterfield decided to start playing like he had the better team. His guys responded like they believed him.

PSU Ball, 2nd and 5

Bryan Brown watched the offense climb back into this game with two straight scores and he was still calling an aggressive game. This is an all out blitz with the two ends sinking into robber zones. Both safeties come as well as the two middle linebackers. I really like that they kept their rush lanes because it forces Trace McSorely backwards. I also really like that the guys that don’t get through angle back down the field in unison. Everyone just does their job.

PSU Ball, 3rd and 5

On the very next play they bring another all out blitz with one middle linebacker staying put as a spy. One safety comes and the nickel comes from the slot. They’re actually in a 3-2 Dime look here which they didn’t run a lot in this game. The plan is still the same, though. Run guys through gaps in the offensive line with overload pressure. The safety times this perfectly and McSorely has no chance to even find a guy to beat the blitz.

PSU Ball, 1st and 10

App State doesn’t have much size up front. Their nose tackle is 280 pounds and he made plays like this all game long. Watch how he fires off the ball and pushes the center back for just long enough that the line can’t get any push in the middle of the play. It’s all effort and energy. You can’t really coach this type of stuff but it is a part of your team culture. It says a lot that a guy that didn’t even make a tackle in the game ended up being the most important player on the defense.

By the way, MyQuan Stout only had 19 tackles on the year and was still named first team all conference. Every team that played him knew how big of a factor he was even though he didn’t light up the stat sheet.

PSU Ball, 2nd and 9

I know that someone requested a look at how App State’s corners play the ball on deep passes. You can see their top corner Clifton Duck look to play through the receivers hands here. He gets beat and the pass probably should have been made but he is playing this just how he did on any play. I think that shows good technique and coaching. I haven’t seen guys turn and look for the interception unless they had a legit shot at the ball. It seems like they’re coached to play the receivers hands unless they are in position to pick off the pass.

Keep in mind that they have finished in the top 15 or so in interceptions each year over the last few years. These guys can make the big plays when they’re there. It just seems to me that they don’t play reckless in coverage.

App State Ball, 2nd and 2

I really like the blocking on this play at three different levels. The line clears out a cutback lane for the back while the tight end takes on the outside linebacker. Then you have a receiver down the field finishing things off. This is also another play where you can see a very talented player making a great individual play.

Moore was a zero star recruit who turned into a star in this offense. You can see how well he developed as a player on this play.

PSU Ball, 2nd and 9

PSU gets down the field after a huge return from K.J. Hamler. They get a couple of soft first downs and end up in scoring position. This play ends up being the first of two “tendency” plays that lost the game for App State. They run the same blitz that I posted above. One safety comes and the slot corner comes. Only this time, McSorely knows it’s coming and he stands in and gets the ball away to Hamler. Hamler makes another great catch and ties the game up.

App State Ball, 1st and 10

App State got a big play on the first play of the drive with an easy cover two beater. The quarterback just has to hit the window between the corner and safety. I was really impressed with Zac Thomas’ accuracy all game. He put the ball on the money on almost every throw.

App State Ball, 3rd and 4

This play is significant for two reasons and I’ll get into the second reason in a bit. This ended up being a play call that I really didn’t like because they try to throw this to the short side of the field. The route needs space to work and the wide side would allowed that. It would also make the throw much easier. I’m also not a huge fan of not just getting the first down here. They have the entire field to work with and they have timeouts, so they could even run it if they want. They had just gotten six yards with an inside run the play before.

As much as I loved how aggressive they were to get to this point, you have to play the long game in this situation.

App State Ball, 1st and 10

This second reason the above play is significant is that it was another play where they targeted the slot receiver down the field. Coach Satt went to the well a few too many times and Penn State adjusted. On the previous posted play you can see that the defender stays over top the receiver and makes sure that he doesn’t end up in a trail position. That’s different than every other play in this game. That adjustment likely came from the coaches after they got beat a few times.

On this play, you can see the corner start to sink back before the snap. He completely bails on the outside receiver to make the play on the ball. Thomas had been hitting this throw for the last half hour and he finally made his first big mistake of the game and gets tunnel vision. However, this is something you’d like to see Satterfield anticipate. At some point a good team like PSU is going to adjust to what you’re doing. You’re also trusting a very young quarterback to make the right read here on a huge play. It was still a very good play by the defender to bait this and then go make the play.