Let’s break down Donovan Edwards’ 67 yard TD run versus Penn State.
At the 11:30 mark of the 3rd quarter and Penn State leading 17-16, the Wolverines have a 1st and 10 at the 33 yard line. The Wolverines are trailing despite statistically dominating the first half, settling for two field goals while two fluky touchdown plays by Penn State brought the Nittany Lions back into the game.
At initial alignment, things look good for Michigan. They line up strong left and on the right side tight end has 86 Luke Schoonmaker has a good angle on the Penn State down lineman. If Michigan were to hand off or pitch to #7 Donovan Edwards, sweeping to the right, a nice gain seems possible.
But it wait, Michigan isn’t done yet- #7 Donovan Edwards move from behind QB JJ McCarthy and resets on his left. Michigan is overloaded to the left, strongly hinting the play will go that way to the wide side field.
Let’s take another look at the formation. From this angle you can see that #52 Karsen Barnhart and #86 Luke Schoonmaker have great angles to seal off the Penn State down lineman, potentially leaving #7 Donovan Edwards one-on-one with a Penn State edge defender.
Michigan has multiple options out of this formation, but with Edwards lined up in the backfield to the left, it seems like something is coming that way.
At the snap of the ball things start happening.
Michigan #18 Colston Loveland runs parallel to the line of scrimmage towards the left side the sideline. #1 Andrel Anthony and #8 Ronnie Bell match up with their respective defenders. This is important to freeze the Penn State Safety #16. It also causes Penn State #20 and second level defender to track Loveland, diverting them from the actual point of attack.
Next #76 Ryan Hayes engages #43- this is a key backside block with big implications as the play develops.
#77 Trevor Keegan, #52 Karsen Barnhart, and #86 Luke Schoonmaker perform seal blocks on the their respective defenders.
Then the hammer, Michigan pulls lineman #55 Ulu uluwatimi and #65 Zak Zinter to lead the way for #Donovan Edwards who takes the front hand off from QB JJ McCarthy and follows his pulling linemen to the point of attack.
#65 Zak Zinter blocks #4 Penn State while #23 Penn State inexplicably takes an inside path to the backfield, and Edwards is off to the races.
The image below shows the action:
(1) shows the Penn State safety distracted by the action on the left, not seeing that #76 Ryan Hayes (2) is blocking downfield, indicating a run play.
(3) shows the Michigan offensive lineman putting on a blocking clinic, while (4) shows Olu and Zinter pulling to clear the way for Edwards.
Below (3) shows Penn State #23 taking an inside angle into the backfield (where Edwards used to be), (2) shows #76 Ryan Hayes holding his block on #43, (3) shows the Penn State Safety #16 still not reacting the point of attack.
Now watch the play.
Linebacker #43 knows to key on the pulling guard (he’ll take you to the play) but #76 Ryan Hayes keeps him engaged while Edwards breaks through to the next level.
Penn State Safety (#16) recovers but takes a bad angle and Edwards makes him pay.
A few notes here. This play shows how many things have to go right for Michigan (and wrong for Penn State) for Edwards to score this touchdown. What could have been 5 or 10 yard gain turns into a 67 yard TD run because a backside block by #76 Ryan Hayes and bad angle taken by Penn State #23.
In defense of Penn State #23, he did have 6″3′ and 307 pound Olu bearing down on him.
This play also shows how incredibly fast the Penn State defense is. #20 and #43 on the backside of the play recover to race Edwards to the endzone when he cuts back. Make no mistake, Penn State was out schemed on this play but their talent nearly bailed them out.