As soon as the ball was snapped, it went bad. By the time the ball reached Chad Kelly, it was even worse. And as the ball left Chad Kelly's hand, floating in the direction of Laquon Treadwell, it was headed towards unmitigated disaster.
OR SO IT SEEMED.
To the untrained eye, Kelly's decision to heave the ball across the field in the general vicinity of a pair of Ole Miss wide receivers was about the worst choice anyone had made since "Jimmy, this is Pete, tell Houston we're sending the plane for him." And sitting in my living room on Saturday night, trying to scream but unable to make any noise come out, I thought the same.
However, that all changed when I watched the film. As I'm about to show you through the power of screenshots, what we saw Kelly and the offense do was actually a perfectly designed play with nearly flawless execution.
First, let's take a look at the quiet purring of this intricately engineered football machinery.
As you see below, even though it's third and short, Ole Miss is giving a look that indicates maybe we're going to run, but MAYBE NOT, SUCKERS.
Initially, it seems like Ole Miss is trying to get a quick pass out to Quincy Adeboyejo on the bubble.
We've got Treadwell blocking a single defensive back, and Evan Engram and Jaylen Walton are staying in for protection purposes. The only work that remains is a good snap, an accurate throw, and Adeboyejo following Treadwell's block.
However, that's much too simple of a play design to work against a defense as great as Alabama's. If this play was going to work, it required some, nay, MULTIPLE wrinkles.
The illusion that things were going terribly wrong needed to be established. As you can see, Ole Miss did an excellent job of creating that illusion.
I think two Alabama defenders not being blocked, a busted protection by Engram and Walton, and the football being 15 feet in the air certainly qualifies as an effective illusion of things gone terribly wrong. But again, this is Alabama, and you've REALLY got to sell the fake disaster.
As the ball comes back to the earth, Ole Miss continues to sell it well.
I don't know about you, but from that angle it looks like Walton isn't giving it a hard enough sell. Luckily, ESPN's cameras are everywhere and we can see that he actually sold it quite well.
WHAT AN ACTOR. Also, pretty unchill of everyone to not tell Javon Patterson what was going on here.
As the fake chaos swirls around him, Kelly moves into the next phase of the play: launching the ball off of his back foot, across the field, and kind of in the direction of where some receivers are putting on a milling-about show. But what really makes fans think Ole Miss is totally collapsing on this play is the performance of everyone who was assigned to "block", minus Patterson, who is in a full-scale panic, but that ends up working out well here.
A good rule of thumb in football is that if all seven blockers have their heads turned away from the line of scrimmage and back towards where the quarterback normally hangs out, it means that the quarterback is about to be crushed by multiple defenders. That's what happens here, but the difference is Ole Miss WANTED it to happen.
Also, keep an eye on Rod Taylor at the edge of the screen. He's not wandering down the field for no reason, like say, practicing for a pop pass (PAAAWWWWWLLLLLLL). We'll see his role in the next screenshot.
Now Kelly's floater arrives where Treadwell and Adeboyejo were performing their milling-about routine. It's up to Treadwell to not catch the ball over smaller defenders like he has easily done his whole career, but to direct the ball off the Alabama defender's helmet and into the hands of Adeboyejo.
And here we see the genius of this play. The speedy Quincy Adeboyejo with the ball and a massive offensive guard ready to demolish any defensive back that dares to get in the way of a touchdown.
All that we need now is for Taylor to get on his horse and lead Adeboyejo to the end zone. As we see in the final series of screenshots, it didn't go quite as planned, but ultimately, this touchdown was the result of a brilliant play design by Hugh Freeze and near-perfect execution by his players.
NEVER STOP RUNNING, QUINCY.