This post continues our series counting down my picks for the most memorable plays of 2012. Number seven is Marcus Lattimore's TD run against UT. Here's the play:
The play is our base inside zone-read play. For more info on the zone-read, check out this article, which features a couple of videos explaining the finer points of Oregon's offense. The basic idea is that the play begins with the QB optioning an unblocked defensive end, in this case the right-side UT end. If the end plays the QB, the QB hands off to the running back. If the end plays the running back ("crashes"), the QB keeps the ball and should have some room to run towards the space vacated by the crashing end. If executed correctly (the QB's read is very important here), this approach basically takes the end out of the play, so the opposing team's best end is often the one targeted, given the obvious benefits of taking that player out of the play. We run some variations on this idea, but this is the basic gist of the play.
Here, Connor Shaw sees that the end is playing to contain the QB, so he hands off to Lattimore. As you see, the end isn't in position to affect Lattimore because he was playing Shaw. At this point, it becomes a simple matter of blocking and vision by the back. Lattimore initially looks like he might run towards the left side of the line, but he shows off his noted ability to follow blocks wisely by diving through the right side between guard and tackle after seeing nice blocks from Brandon Shell and T.J. Johnson. Ronald Patrick doesn't exactly own the linebacker he's blocking, but he pushes him inside enough to allow Lattimore a nice hole. Good work all around here from Shell, Johnson, and Patrick. Lattimore then breaks into the secondary and catches the safeties tied up on the right side of the field. It's not really clear why the strong safety moved too far right on the play, but the result is that Lattimore has a huge space to run into for the touchdown.
Of course, the reason this play is on the list is because it was Lattimore's last TD as a Gamecock, coming shortly before his gruesome injury. Lattimore is one of the best players in Carolina history, and while his on-field production was sadly limited by injuries in his final two seasons, there are still many plays we can remember him by. This TD run is merely my choice for most memorable this past season. Another possibility would be his TD run early in the game against Vandy.
The injury itself would probably be high on a literal list of "memorable" plays from last season, but I don't plan to subject anyone to rewatching that play by posting the video here. I will note that South Carolina and Tennessee were recently honored for displaying sportsmanship while Lattimore was being carted off the field.