Columbia’s smarts can serve us well in tomorrow’s game
Columbia football played its best game of the season this weekend against Lehigh, bolstered by a strong running game and a defense that forced two turnovers. Thanks to some poor planning on my part, though, I don’t have any video of this game to show you.
What I will do is break down a certain type of play — the screen pass — which is very common in football, then discuss how Columbia’s defense was able to make two big stops against Lehigh when they tried to run this play.
The screen pass is a fairly simple concept that can be difficult to execute. Basically, the idea is to get the running back in space with two or three offensive linemen moving in front of him (the titular “screen”). To do this, the linemen have to be a little tricky. Rather than blocking the defensive pass-rushers, the offensive linemen just give those guys a little shove, then let the defense pass them. The quarterback then flips the ball to the running back before the defense can kill him, and the result should be a running back moving at full steam with very few defenders and a group of his own blockers ahead of him.
Here’s a YouTube video of the screen pass from a game between Texas and Iowa State:
Texas, in orange, is in the same formation that Columbia uses frequently — 11 personnel, quarterback in the shotgun. When the play starts, the quarterback steps back like he’s going to pass, the receivers all run routes, and the running back and linemen all feign blocks. In short, they’re trying to sell this to the defense as a long passing play.
And they succeed. The running back and the three linemen are all past the four rushers from Iowa State, who are hell-bent on getting to the quarterback. Here’s the tricky part — the quarterback needs to make a touch throw that gets over the onrushing players into the running back’s hands. Easier said than done!
The quarterback is very good, though, and makes the throw. Now the screen is set up — the back, with a little guard of big linemen, is ready to plow downfield and pick up big yardage.
That’s the basic concept of the screen. How did Columbia stop it? Simply, they played smart football. Early in the second quarter, the rushing linemen recognized that the play was a screen pass when the blockers stopped, you know, blocking them. Instead of chasing the quarterback, they ran over and clogged up the screen as it was starting—the pass was tipped and eventually intercepted by sophomore J.D. Hurt (what a great name for football, that one). It was a huge play, stopping what looked like a scoring drive for Lehigh. A similar play was made—without the interception — later in the game as well.
Football isn’t all about speed, size, and strength—it’s about smarts as well. Columbia needs to play smart if we want to win tomorrow against Penn. I hope to see all of you at the game!
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