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Five Plays: James Madison Dukes

NCAA Football: James Madison at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure I can think of a game that was dominated in this way by UofL that produced so few highlights. The game left me frustrated because they didn’t come out and put this team away even though they were begging for that to happen. The offense didn't capitalize on their obvious athletic superiority and the defense allowed two long drives to give up points.

But, the players turned it on in the second half and pulled away easily. The offense got a few easy touchdowns and the defense just closed the door on JMU’s offense. A handful of plays were made to get this win and I clipped them below.

This is one of the best goal line plays they’ve run this season and I’m not certain why we don’t see this stuff more often. The bobble by Isaac Martin likely points to the answer as you have to trust these guys to make the play because you only get one shot. But, they’ve all made the play. They also have plenty of options including the running backs to run these play-action and misdirection plays down here and they just don’t do it.

The allure of Malik running the ball in is completely understandable when he put up 20 touchdowns last year but everyone is expecting it and he actually has the ability to do other things as opposed to being a one-trick pony. They have to find a way to get these types of plays into the plan.

I kept it to one bonus play this week and this was my choice because it shows how they got things going on defense in the second half. Every player on the defensive front is behind the line of scrimmage by the time the running back gets the handoff. Not only do they generate the push but they also make individual plays to beat their block and make the play.

Dez Tell makes a great play here to push the center into the backfield but then get back to the center’s right side. That’s important because Momo Sanogo is responsible for the gap on the opposite side and one of them will end up coming free. Instead, they both beat the center and combine for the TFL.

This is the most well-blocked play of the season, in my opinion. Everyone gets a hat on their guy and sustains their block until Tiyon Evans gets past them. He goes completely untouched on his way for a touchdown and he really doesn’t ever have anyone come close to him. Bryan Hudson, Caleb Chandler, and Trevor Reid do a great job of clearing their guys out and Chandler scrapes up to the second level before he celebrates his work. Isaac Martin gets his second highlight play as he takes out two defenders.

I also loved this play because it seems obvious that Scott Satterfield and his offensive staff saw something on film to set this up. Look at how the defense reacts to the motion. This is zero coverage with every defensive back in man coverage. The motion draws the safeties over and the second shift pulls one of them up to about five yards off the ball. UofL had been getting four or five yards of yards before hitting the second level all game. Once they had everyone at the line, they just had to block it up. Satt exploited JMU’s aggression here and it worked perfectly.

This ball is handed off almost immediately and Jared Dawson is a full yard into the backfield when the running back gets the ball. Watch him “get skinny” at the snap and split the double team. The left guard straining just to hold on is one of my favorite moments of this game. He essentially blows this play up by himself and it’s the type of play they need from the guys at nose tackle. This play puts JMU in a long third down and UofL has been dominant in that situation.

Man, this was great to see from Malik Cunningham. The inconsistency in his ability to make plays like this will always be frustrating but when he does stuff like this, it always leaves hope that we will see the offense score points. I can’t stress how much the highlights and the big plays don’t matter as much as the offense’s ability to just do stuff like this even if Tyler Hudson doesn’t score. Just stay on schedule and get chunk plays with the pass.

But, this is Malik at his potential peak. A third and ten play against a team that played man coverage all day. He takes his time and trusts his protection while climbing the pocket to avoid the rush and clear his sightlines. He takes his time as the underneath zone coverage steps up to take away the underneath receiver. Then he delivers a strike to Hudson and leads him down the field so that he can run away from the defense. One of the best throws Malik has made this year and probably his career.

Malik drops another dime here after the out-of-bounds play that drew a 10-minute review. UofL has been pretty good in the redzone outside of when they’re down at the goal line and this is a play they run a good amount. AHB scored on it against Boston College on another excellent throw from Malik.

I’m fairly certain that UofL didn’t call a single designed run for Malik in the second half of this game. He responded by only missing one throw and it was essentially a throwaway. The Syracuse game spooked them into abandoning keeping Malik in the pocket but I don’t think it has to do with that at all. They just need to take away the designed runs and rely on the running backs. Let Malik run when nothing is open and roll him out to give him a run/pass option. His legs should be an addition to everything else they do.