What was Lee Ziemba Doing?

Well, if you're like me--an obsessively observant Ole Miss Rebel fan with a pretty good memory--you knew exactly what Lee and the rest of the Auburn offense was doing with the busted play seen below:

 

 

Auburn ran this against UGA in their annual rivalry matchup.  It looked stupid.  Very stupid.  Gus Malzhan was visibly pissed and the ESPN announcers were dumbfounded.  Bloggers poked fun and online idiot rodeos (also known as "message boards") threw up the YouTube link alongside animated laughing emoticons.  HA AWBARN IS SO DUM LOL HA! 

However, this play, if run correctly, can be quite successful; as in "it can score a touchdown" successful; as in "Ole Miss ran this exact same play to score a touchdown in the Cotton Bowl" successful. 

 

 

Formation_medium

 

Here's the play which we'll call "Oher for Harris."  Now, to really understand what is going on here, you've got to understand the rules about how a formation must be designed with regards to the line of scrimmage as well as what constitutes an "eligible" receiver.  To keep it as brief as possible, there must be seven men on the line of scrimmage and, of those on the line, only the two on the outer edges of that group may receive a forward pass.

If my MSPaint diagram doesn't demonstrate this well enough, the players labeled "TE," "LG," "C," "RG," "RT," "LT," and "X" are all along the line of scrimmage whereas the other four players are not.

If you're not with me so far, there are other websites out there for you.  If you are, let's run down how this play should ideally work:

  • Shotgun formation, three wideouts, a tight end, and a halfback (or, as Auburn ran, four wideouts and a tight end)
  • The player marked as "LT" is just that: your left tackle.  However you've got him lined up in the slot here with a tight end (appropriately labelled as "TE") taking his tackle position.
  • Two receivers to the quarterbacks weak side, the other plus a halfback to the strong side.
  • Quarterback takes the snap.
  • The LT then runs a phantom screen.  He jumps back and flails his arms around with the idea that he generates some sort of distraction for the linebackers.
  • Meanwhile, the tight end, masquerading as a left tackle, runs past the 'backers and into the secondary where he should split the safeties playing either a zone or looking to stop the phantom screen.
  • Remember, the TE, while lined up as a left tackle, is an eligible receiver because he is the last man on the weak side of the line.  The LT, however, is not being as how the split end, or "X" receiver, is the last man along the strong side of the line.
  • The quarterback momentarily stares down the LT, only adding to the diversion, just before turning upfield and hitting the tight end in stride.
  • The halfback (or fourth receiver) serves as a safety valve for this play and, honestly, it doesn't even matter what the other wideouts do depending on field position (this is a play which you ideally run on an early down in or close to the red zone).

Let's look at some grainy screen shots comparing Ole Miss' successful utilization of this play and Auburn's broken version, shall we?

Omformation_medium

Ole Miss has a first down and ten on the Red Raider 21 yard line.  Tight end Gerald Harris is atop the line at what would be Mike Oher's left tackle position.  Oher is, however, lined up on the line standing upright.  See him standing where the ampersand of the AT&T logo would be?  A shadow is kinda covering him up but that's the guy.  Notice Snead in the shotgun; Andy Hartmann as the HB, H-back, slot thingy; the split end down low; and the two receivers off of the line up top. 

Omplay1_medium 

I hope this screen cap isn't too grainy or muddled, but try to look at Oher moving backwards.  He has his hands up in the air as if he's calling for the ball.  The linebackers and safeties all on his side of the field are staring him down (once again, it's a bit hard to tell...  I know) while Snead has his body and head turned as if he is looking to get the ineligible Oher the ball.  Look at Harris though; he is now darting past a linebacker who has no idea he is within a few yards of the guy and will be able to split the two safeties right down the middle.

Interesting note: if you have this play on your DVR or something, watch it in slow-mo.  You'll see Oher watch Harris run downfield.  As Harris breaks into the secondary, Oher literally points downfield, signalling Jevan to look for Harris to make the throw.  It's a pretty badass play.

Omtouchdown_medium

A split second later, Snead glances upfield, sees Harris behind the mike linebacker and between two safeties, slings the ball to him, and it's touchdown Rebels.

Now it's Auburn's turn.


Auburnformation_medium

Same sorta deal but even grainier.  Tight end on the line up top, left tackle Lee Ziemba standing upright along the line.  The down and distance situations are different, but that's really about it.

Auburnplay1_medium

Ziemba drops back for the phantom screen while the tight end darts forward.  However, this time, nobody's staring down Ziemba's screen and a linebacker has the tight end covered.  Furthermore, the Bulldog defensive line is about to own the Auburn offensive line, hard.

Auburnplay2_medium

Another look.  The line didn't protect Todd very well at all and the tight end (bottom right) has the same linebacker standing in his stride.

Auburnplay3_medium

And a look at what was going on just as Chris Todd was about to throw to an ineligible Lee Ziemba reveals that nobody was fooled by Ziemba jumping around like the fat kid on the blacktop playing post ("I want the rock gimme the rock I want it I WANT IT I AM GETTING MOM").  In this situation, Todd shouldn't have thrown it to anyone, let alone Ziemba, but should have instead tried to crumble into a sack.  Georgia's defensive line won the battle in the trenches, their secondary and 'backers played good coverage, and absolutely nobody was fooled by the trickeration.  Well done, Georgia bulldogs.  Instead of a Touchdown for the Auburn Tigers, we saw

Auburnmalzhanmad_medium

GUS MALZHAN BLURRY ANGRY FACE!

I hope you enjoyed that bit of X's and O's talk.  No, I'm not Chris Brown of Smart Football.  But I am smart(esque).  And I like football.

Now back to your regularly scheduled HATE WEEK.

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