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The return of the packaged play

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For the second year in a row, Carolina won a home game by 10 points where it spent a large percentage of the evening on offense running just one play.

The simple zone read / WR screen packaged play gave playmakers like Pharoh Cooper opportunities to shine against ECU.
The simple zone read / WR screen packaged play gave playmakers like Pharoh Cooper opportunities to shine against ECU.
Grant Halverson

I already wrote this article last year.  Seriously, go read it.  Obviously the players are different and the opponent was different, but South Carolina treated ECU like it treated Vanderbilt in 2013 - it hit a zone read / WR screen option play time and time again, while the defense simply failed to adjust to stop it.  Against ECU, Carolina did the same, and rode that play to a 33-23 victory.

The play requires a very simple read - the OLB.  If the OLB crashes down to stop the run, Dylan hits the WR screen, where (thanks to the vacating OLB) there's at best a 2-on-1 match-up and at worst a 2-on-2 match-up, with two defenders against a blocker and a ball carrier.

Let's look at the play in each iteration to get a full understanding.  The purple circle represents the OLB.  The yellow shows Dylan's read.  As the OLB comes crashing down, he leaves the two Carolina receivers with just a cornerback and a safety to account for them (and the safety has to come a long way).  The result - an easy catch-and-run play.

Gabecu1_medium

via cdn3.vox-cdn.com

So what happens when the OLB stays home?  On this play, you can see the OLB doesn't crash down.  That's an easy read for Dylan, and on 3rd and 4, it gives Mike Davis the chance to get a head of steam as he runs downhill.  The result for Carolina - a first down.

Gabecu2_medium

It's honestly not more complicated than that.  ECU simply never adjusted its coverage patterns, or simply didn't have the athletes to match up with Carolina's superior players.  Time and time again, the Gamecocks simply took what the defense gave them - either a safe hand-off, or a safe screen pass out wide.  And time and time again, they moved the ball at will against a team that simply had no answers for them.

Obviously this play is now on the radar of Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and every other Carolina opponent for the rest of the year.  But counters have counters, and if Carolina were to tweak the play to include a Dylan run option, or a fake screen pass (where the blocking WR fakes a block and then takes off on a go route), it could give the Gamecocks even more big plays in games to come.

Thanks to Timothy De Block for his assistance with the gifs in this article.