I want to add some more context to these play by play assessments of Brandon Harris, the first two games can be seen here and here: What I'm trying to do is take a look inside the Monday morning quarterback film session that Cam Cameron would be having with his quarterbacks. I've been in many quarterback meetings and I've run my own so I'm kind of familiar with the setup. Even though perfection is an abstract concept and wholly unattainable, when we break down film we have to live in a world where there is a possibility that we can and should be perfect on every play. If I'm harsh with Brandon Harris, it's not purpose, these posts are just a learning exercise for myself and anyone else who chooses to read them.
I also want to recount a personal story about this game: I live in Montreal and LSU NEVER plays in the northeast. I've been waiting my whole life to see LSU in person. I've been lucky enough to see the Saints in Buffalo, Cincinnati and a couple times in the Superdome but never LSU. Not only did they finally come to the northeast but they came to the closest FBS school to Montreal (about a 5 hour drive) and I couldn't go cuz I had a football game of my own and it made me very sad that I couldn't go see them. The chances that they ever play in Syracuse again or West Point or Buffalo are very slim. I'm hoping for a home and home with Boston College at some point to make my dream come true.
Anyways, on to the game...
8:30 1st Quarter, 3rd &7 at the LSU 40 -
I'm not quite sure what the route concepts are on this play. The camera view leaves a lot up to the imagination. John Diarse and Malachi Dupre end up very close to each other, which is weird. Anyways, Syracuse is showing pre-snap pressure with all gaps covered and ends up only rushing 5 which LSU picks up very well. Ethan Pocic gets blown up into Harris's lap which doesn't make Harris thrown easier. Harris must think that he's getting man coverage across the board because of the pre-snap but he does make an effort to look off the deep safety before coming down to Diarse running a dig route. The read is fine, but the ball is inaccurate.
7:22 1st Quarter, 1st & 10 at the LSU 9 -
This is the type of play that I like to see LSU run: wide side comeback routes like they used to in the days of Mettenberger-Landry-Beckham. The corner on top of Dupre shows man coverage pre snap but ends up playing a tight Cover 3 technique. Deep comebacks are a nightmare for Cover 3 because the corners first responsibility is not to get beat deep. Off play action, Harris steps up in the pocket and makes an accurate throw to an open receiver.
6:57 1st Quarter, 1st & 10 at the LSU 21 -
This play is bad. LSU is running a double hitch concept to the field side. Syracuse lines up in a 2-high safety defense with a very tight 4-3 box. When throwing double hitches, we'd like to throw to the receiver who is benefiting from the biggest cushion. In this case it's the slot receiver. The safety that's over the top of him isn't in a great position to jump a six-yard hitch route because he, again, has to be worried about getting beat deep. The only person who can make a play would be one of the linebackers coming underneath the route. Because of how far inside the linebackers, this is kind of impossible in this scenario as the sam backer blitzes. The play develops off of play-action and Desean Smith is open for an easy completion. Harris, however, decides to throw the ball to Trey Quinn against tight coverage and forces himself to throw a super ball for the completion. The throw is great but it all could have been avoided.
6:22 1st Quarter, 1st & 15 at the LSU 30 -
Harris makes up for the bad read on the last passing play by doing exactly what I outlined above. The play-action sucks the backers leaving the Syracuse flat defender in a bind. He jumps inside and Harris throws outside to the open receiver.
1:00 1st Quarter, 3rd & 15 at the LSU 30 -
The offense finds itself in a tough spot on this third and long. LSU is going to run four verts against a lot of deep Syracuse defenders. 'Cuse has five deep defenders pre-snap but will rotate to a Cover 4 when the play begins. There is a window to the ball to Dupre when the flat defender rolls down and the far side safety is late getting over the top so the read is good from Harris' perspective, the throw is just way too late. You gotta throw seams when your boy is about to be open, not when he's already open. Dupre gets laid out because Harris was late.
5:00 2nd Quarter, 2nd & 17 at the LSU 24 -
It looks like LSU runs 4 verts again. Can't tell exactly how the Syracuse plays it but we can see the natural arm talent that Harris has here. He just floats a real nice ball right to the sideline that should have been an easy catch and conversion. Look, there is tremendous innate talent to be harnessed but the late throws, bad reads and inaccurate balls are a problem.
4:51 2nd Quarter, 3rd & 17 at the LSU 24 -
Third-and-long screen pass but Fournette can't pick up the first down. Not much to say about this.
14:56 3rd Quarter, 1st & 10 at the LSU 20 -
Harris makes a good read here. He comes off play action and with Syracuse in man coverage, he knows he can hit his outside receiver right off his break. Unfortunately the ball is batted down at the line of scrimmage. Harris didn't get a ton of balls knocked down by defensive linemen this year but I find this one interesting from an LSU offensive scheme perspective. When you run a play action pass, you want it too look very similar to your actual run play. LSU runs a lot of zone run schemes so they often use this play action pass protection. You'll see the whole line block to the near side gap which is exactly what a zone run to that side would look like. The difference is that now you have to replace the gaps you've left to the top side of the formation. LSU often does this by having the fullback and tailback add themselves to the end of the line like they do here. The problem is that now Leonard Fournette has to take on a defensive end who he can only meet a few yards back in the backfield. It's a trade off. You wan't your play actions to look good but then you have to live with your running back blocking a defensive end. In this instance, that defensive end gets his hand on the ball since he is so close to the quarterback.
14:22 3rd Quarter, 3rd & 5 at the LSU 25 -
LSU runs one of their bread and butter Slant/Shoot + Slant/Slant concepts and Harris chooses to work the double slant side here. He's basically reading it inside to out and decides to pull the trigger on inside slant to Dupre. I'm not a huge fan of working the slant versus an off corner like that. The defender isn't going to open up his hips and start bailing on a 3-step slant meaning he's going to read and react and come down hard on the route. Dupre still wins the route but Harris is wildly inaccurate and the ball gets tipped before softly landing like a feather in Dupre's hands. You'll see John Diarse win CLEAN with the other slant and Harris probably should have went there with the ball.
12:52 3rd Quarter, 3rd & 4 at the LSU 39 -
It looks like 'Cuse is in man coverage again and corner routes are hard to cover in man coverage when the ball is thrown accurately. Harris let's it rip and floats it into Dupre's hands who makes a really nice over-the-shoulder catch.
11:14 3rd Quarter, 1st & Goal at the Syracuse 9 -
A one-man route concept that I think is just a fade route by Dupre who then cuts the route short when he can't beat the defensive back. I think, because the DB never turned opened his hips, Dupre should have kept running because if Harris put the ball to the back corner, the DB would now have to turn his hips and locate Dupre again which would have been difficult. Dupre cuts his route to a comeback but the DB is looking at it the whole way so Harris doesn't want to throw it and it's a good decision. Throwing the back corner fade would have been okay. Notice the same slide protection as noted earlier.
15:00 4th Quarter, 3rd & 5 at the LSU 18 -
A roll-out play where Harris has to bubble out too much because Colin Jeter can't get a reach block on his man (a hard block to be fair). I would imagine there is a corner route and a sideline hook as the concept, Harris rolls and waits a long time for anything to come open before trying to fit one into the sideline.
9:43 4th Quarter, 3rd & 9 at the LSU 38 -
The protection is really good here and I like seeing Brandon step up in the pocket before unleashing the ball downfield to the post route. It's unfortunately under thrown but Dural makes a play to go get it.
You can see on the replay that the middle of the field safety chose to jump the crossing route of Diarse, so Harris make the good read to throw the post.
9:20 4th Quarter, 1st & 10 at the Syracuse 11 -
Here's the same one-man fade concept from earlier except Harris throws it to the back pylon accurately and Dupre goes to get it instead of cutting his route short. With a "press" corner, your job is to put the ball up and let your receiver be an athlete, get off the "press" and go get it.