It was 3rd and 8 with 1:05 left in the first half. With Wofford unwilling to try anything risky deep in its own end, it appeared Georgia Tech was about to get the ball back. And then the picture changed a little bit.
The Yellow Jackets, who have made a battery of big plays out of their option offense, suffered the same fate. Wofford running back Ray Smith exploded for a 92-yard touchdown run on a simple option play. You can find a clip of it here. A look at what happened.
On the line, Tyler Stargel at left end, Shawn Green at nose tackle, Adam Gotsis at defensive tackle, Roderick Rook-Chungong at right end. At linebacker, Paul Davis (left) and Quayshawn Nealy. Safety Isaiah Johnson has walked down and is next to nickel back Demond Smith, in something of a 4-4 alignment Tech used often Saturday. Safety Jamal Golden is deep.
At the snap, Green gets double teamed. Stargel charges upfield, evidently Wofford’s “read key,” meaning quarterback Evan Jacks will decide to hand off or keep based on what Stargel does. (If he crashes on the running back, Jacks would keep. If he stays home, which he does, Jacks hands off to Ray Smith.) The left guard takes on Gotsis, and center Bradley Way releases.
Green is being double teamed out of the hole, and right tackle Anton Wahrby (at the 9-yard line) is about to scrape off the double team and take on Nealy. Way, the center, is at the 10-yard line and headed for Johnson. To Johnson’s right, Smith, anticipating a handoff, breaks to the middle. Davis appears to be tracking with the trailing running back at the 2-yard line. At the 17-yard line, Golden pushes forward hard, angling slightly to the left.
The critical frame. Initially double teamed, Green (at the 10) has been pushed back and to his right, and Smith is now trapped behind him. Johnson has been locked up by the center Way at the 12. Wahrby is canceling Nealy, and running back Ray Smith has taken the ball and is shooting the gap between Nealy and Green. Golden is putting on the brakes, but has run out of the play. It’s now a footrace to the end zone.
At the 11, Ray Smith breaks into the clear. Nealy tries to disengage, an instant too late. Demond Smith is at the 10 behind Green.
Demond Smith and cornerback D.J. White, who began the play lined up at left cornerback, pursue Ray Smith to the goal line.
Credit to Demond Smith and D.J. White for not giving up on the play. With the angle, White closed hard and might have caught Ray Smith with another 10 yards.
The remarkable thing about this play is that it doesn’t seem like it took that much for it to hit for Wofford. For it to be a successful play, it would seem that Jacks had to read it properly, Shawn Green had to be defeated by a double team and Quayshawn Nealy had to get taken out of the play by a 290-pound offensive tackle, none of which would seem unexpected results. Without knowing the defense’s design, it would appear two things in particular made the play go all the way. Demond Smith got lost behind Green and Jamal Golden appeared to be mirroring the pulling tight end, which took him out of the play when Ray Smith got the ball and sped up the middle. With Smith and Golden out of the way and Isaiah Johnson playing down in the box – as defenses playing against Tech often do with safeties – Ray Smith had a clear track.
It’s the nature of option plays. There were three (possibly four) potential ball-carriers, and each had to be tracked. When Tech got caught tracking the wrong one (or ones) and a couple blocks were executed well, a simple run up the middle went the distance.