KNOXVILLE – Welcome to the Nooga.com film room. This feature will take a closer look at one of the bigger plays from UT’s big games and explain not only what happened, but why it happened. This week Tennessee gave up nearly 700 yards of total offense to the Oregon Ducks in a 59-14 loss. Many of those yards came on big plays. Here’s a look at a touchdown run by running back De’Anthony Thomas (screenshots via ABC highlights).
This first shot sets up the formations. Oregon is in a standard three-wide look with the tight end to the left and quarterback Marcus Mariota and Thomas in the backfield. UT counters with 4-2-5 (nickel) look as the Vols normally do when the opponent has three receivers on the field.
The Vols are in trouble from the beginning here. Right defensive end Jacques Smith slants inside on the play, but there’s nobdy readily available to cover his gap as he fires inside towards the interior of the Oregon line. Mariota and Thomas run the zone read – a play where Mariota can keep it or give it to Thomas. Seeing that the right side of the offensive formation is well defended, he gives to Thomas, who is heading for a lot of space on the left side.
With Smith virtually out of the play because of his slant inside, the Oregon tight end, left tackle and a crack-blocking receiver are free to release and look for linebackers and defensive backs. They all get at least a piece of a UT defender and Thomas has room to operate. Linebacker Brent Brewer looks especially hobbled at this point. He can barely reach full stride while pursuing Thomas.
It looks like a 15-20 yard or so gain for Thomas. That’s where the poor tackling comes in. Freshman cornerback Cameron Sutton has an opportunity to drive him out of bounds and prevent the score. He can’t. That’s simply strength, speed and experience shining through for the Ducks.
The end result: Thomas runs through Sutton’s attempted tackle and scores to give Oregon a commanding 38-7 lead just before halftime.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter@DanielNooga