Aggies at South Carolina – Breaking Down the Hail Mary Plays

I was jotting down notes for my full blog and one of them was going to be a point on how the final play perfectly encapsulated the entire offensive side of things. We couldn’t even get off a Hail Mary.

I pulled up the video of the game at lunch to see if South Carolina rushed 3 or 4 people. I remember seeing 3 defensive lineman but couldn’t remember if another South Carolina defender rushed in.

Well, what I saw was worse than anything I imagined. I grabbed screen shots so you can clearly see just how bad it was.

Before I get to those screenshots I have to tell you about the offensive series before the final two plays where we kicked the field goal.

For those that watched the game with me they know I was yelling for Jimbo to kick a field goal when we got to the 36 yard line. There was about 22 seconds left and Jimbo called a timeout after a 2 yard Weigman scramble. We had one timeout left. My point was we needed a field goal so let’s go ahead and try it which would give us about 17 seconds and a timeout if we made the field goal.

That’s a 53 yard attempt which is by no means an easy field goal but we’re in a desperate situation. I thought it gave us the best chance to win assuming we hit the field goal and got the onside kick.

Here’s what happened after that timeout:

  • Conner Weigman throws the ball away because he was pressured and nobody was open.
  • The refs called a roughing the passer which moved the ball to the 21 yard line. That’s a 38 yard field goal which is much better than 53 yards.
  • That previous play burned 5 seconds so there’s 17 seconds left and we still have one timeout.
  • 38 yard field goal with 17 seconds and one timeout. It’s a no brainer to me and I’m yelling to kick the field goal even louder.
  • We run a pass play which gets us 15 yards to the 6 yard line and burns 4 seconds off the clock. We’re down to 13 seconds and the clock will keep moving when the chains are set.
  • Jimbo is forced to burn a timeout.
  • Now we’re attempting a 23 yard field goal with 13 seconds left and no timeouts.
  • We could have been attempting a 38 yard field goal with 17 seconds left and one timeout.
  • In reality we’re splitting hairs but give me the 38 yard field goal with 17 seconds left and one timeout all day long. It at least gives you a little more flexibility on play calling if you get the onside kick.
  • In what is only fitting for this game the Aggies false start on the field goal attempt. We got pushed back five yards. The EIGHTH false start of the game. EIGHT FALSE STARTS IN THE SEVENTH GAME OF THE SEASON COMING OFF A BYE!!!!
  • We attempt a 28 yard field goal instead of a 23 yarder. We still make it.
  • Maybe Jimbo was afraid we’d false start on the 38 yarder so he knew we needed more yards before the attempt. That why we pay him $9.5 million a year.

As if that questionable decision making wasn’t enough let me show you why none of it matters.

Thanks to a well executed onside kick the Aggies get the ball on the 49 yard line with 9 seconds left. Plenty of time for at least one Hail Mary.

This is the first snap of the second to last play. Notice South Carolina has three defensive linemen and a linebacker moving forward. Notice the Aggies have five offensive lineman and a running back. That is SIX on FOUR. Should be a big advantage for the Aggies.

The downside to that math is it also means South Carolina has seven defenders to cover four Aggie receivers. This is why they call it a Hail Mary but we’ll worry about that later.

Before we get to the next photo look at the Aggie left tackle above. The defensive end next to him is CLEARLY firing off the ball and headed to the backfield. He should pick up that defensive end as our tackle is clearly the closest to him.

Our left tackle doesn’t even engage that defensive end and for some reason goes inside where nobody is. He leaves that defensive end COMPLETELY unblocked.

To make matters worse notice two of their four guys were CLEARLY coming towards the backfield and aren’t even being noticed by ANYONE in a white uniform. There are two South Carolina defenders in pursuit of Weigman that nobody is even looking at. Our left tackle COMPLETELY ignored that defensive end AND linebacker firing off the ball.

We have SIX people engaged with TWO people when we should have IMMEDIATELY known there were four coming. We somehow completely ignored two defenders. They were there the entire time.

How the hell does the left tackle completely ignore them and go inside leaving them unblocked? We’re rolling the pocket to the right which is another issue but it doesn’t mean we leave the guys on the left alone.

If you look even closer we have FOUR guys on one defender as our right tackle and running back have the other defender engaged. So that’s FOUR on ONE and two running free.

Here’s where it gets real comical.

What in the world is our center doing? There is not a South Carolina defender in his 180 degree peripheral. However, he’s in pass blocking mode doing nothing. At least all of the other linemen are pursing someone.

How does he not know to turn around and find someone? Did he think a defender hit invisible mode and is going to show up out of thin air? How does he think what he’s doing is okay?

You can say what you want about the player but that’s 100% on coaching to me. A well coached lineman knows to turn around and find someone when there’s nobody there. A good blocker is always looking for someone to block even if it’s not their assignment. If you have no one to block go find someone.

Even worse is you still have the two South Carolina defenders running unnoticed. One guys is about to get caught up with the mass of people but the other guy has a clear line to Weigman with nobody picking him up. That’s the guy the left tackle should have engaged from the start but somehow let him run free.

Let’s continue to watch the play develop. Our center continues to do a WONDERFUL job of blocking air. If he turned around he would have picked up the linebacker that no one had noticed. Seriously. If he turns 90 degrees to his right the moment he realizes there’s no one to block he probably picks off number 22.

Our right tackle has dis-engaged which is actually the right thing to do but like our center he’s headed off to block air. In his defense that guy shouldn’t be sneaking up behind him because the left tackle should have engaged him from the start but he’s not looking for anyone else around him. Just headed to green grass with no South Carolina defender. I’m sure his intention is to help wall off anyone from Weigman so it’s not a horrible move by him. No reason to think there’s a guy running full speed behind him at this point.

Next sequence above shows that linebacker and lineman that nobody on the left side noticed with free lanes to our quarterback because nobody even touched them. They had to navigate a little bit of traffic but no Aggie blocker ever engaged them. This entire time SIX blockers have been focused on TWO defenders.

That is TERRIBLE coaching. I have no clue how this is happening at a program like Texas A&M. Blame youth all you want but how do two guys go COMPLETELY untouched this entire time?

Weigman starts to wind up for the throw but he’s got serious pressure coming. He’s running for his life and can’t even fully wind up. He lets it fly and the ball only gets to the 10 yard line. He can’t even get the ball to the end zone because he’s under so much pressure.

Two guys never accounted for are two steps away from him as he’s winding up trying to throw the ball 60 yards in the air.

Look at Weigman’s feet above. He can’t even get a full throwing motion he’s under so much pressure. He never had a shot to get that 60 yards downfield into the middle of the end zone for a chance at a score.

Weigman winds up getting knocked down. The dude never had the chance to set his feet.

Go ahead and scroll those photos from top to bottom just to see how bad it was.

Since the football gods are funny they left one second on the clock so the Aggies could make one more Hail Mary attempt.

Here’s everyone lined up for the final play. Notice anything different? South Carolina has moved their linebacker to their left side which is the Aggies right side. They clearly noticed the Aggies rolled the pocket to the right and are giving their defender a shorter path to where Weigman likely wants to go.

Does it work? Let’s play it out.

Here’s a MASSIVE improvement for the Aggies as the left tackle engages the defensive end. The left guard and center are doing a nice number on the defensive tackle while the right guard and right tackle are in position to intercept the defensive end. The running back is putting himself in position to engage the linebacker.

So far so good.

The blocking looks INFINITELY better but there’s one slight problem. South Carolina’s adjusting of the linebacker appears to have cut off Weigman’s path to the right. Does it work?

It sure does.

Weigman is cut off so he pulls up. The offensive line is doing a much better job of engagement but South Carolina cut off Weigman’s path from the previous play. Wonderful adjustment by South Carolina.

Something else to notice is that Weigman is under SERIOUS pressure and the furthest Aggie receiver is only 10 yards downfield. The South Carolina defender has advanced 8 yards into the backfield and the Aggie receivers are barely to 10 yards.

You don’t need to know anything beyond basic math to know these are not numbers in the Aggies favor.

Weigman pulls up but he finds more pressure. He still wants to go right but there’s barely a lane to get there. At least the Aggie receivers are beyond 10 yards down the field. The math for the Aggies is getting better, kids.

Weigman tries that lane to the right only to find that linebacker South Carolina smartly moved right where he wants to go. This is a WONDERFUL job by the four South Carolina defenders anticipating where the quarterback wants to go and not letting him get there. Notice the bottom two South Carolina defenders just staying in the general area to cut off any potential of Weigman coming back to the left.

Weigman has no choice but to load up and throw because he’s got a defender with a clean line to him.

As he’s about to release the ball and the defender is coming at him.

Weigman gets his arm moving forward but the defender makes contact and the ball just pops up into the air. You can see it around the 48 yard line. It’s that little dot in the air.

It lands at about the Gamecocks 39 yard line while Weigman lands on the ground at the Aggie 46 yard line. A 15 yard Hail Mary attempt. At least the receivers got more than 25 yards down the field at this point.

There’s obviously some execution areas here but there’s also something else I feel like. I feel like the players are overwhelmed in their assignments. The coaching staff also just keeps going back to the same thing not expecting the defense to adjust.

That first Hail Mary attempt probably works if the left side of the line engage those guys that went completely untouched. The pass probably doesn’t get completed but it looks like a real Hail Mary attempt.

However, when South Carolina moved the linebacker to the Aggies right side someone should have picked up rolling to the right wasn’t the best idea. We ran the same exact play and South Carolina shut it down. That’s on coaching for not pointing out what is likely to happen.

I get that it’s a Hail Mary so options are limited but the awareness of what the defense might be doing seems completely lost on this offense. They just have to run the play as it’s designed and called even if it appears the defense knows what’s coming.

Not sure if I’m going to do a full blog this week because it’s so demoralizing going through all the obvious issues. Some of it is clearly player execution but I put more on the coaches for not letting the players have a better chance at executing.

As I finishing typing this I just learned that Bryce Foster and Aki Ogunbiyi are out for the year. That’s our starting center and starting left guard. The hits just keep on coming…

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