Check The Tape - Purdue 2021

Sep 30, 2021

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I'm impressed with myself. I have this "I'm never watching that game again - no Check The Tape this week" trump card that I allow myself to play once every year. And I didn't use it on the as-time-expired loss to Maryland nor am I using it for the "in the redzone but couldn't score" loss to Purdue. Maybe I'll complete 12 Check The Tapes this year?

By the way, that's the same thing that happened last year against Purdue. One game we were trailing by 7, the other game we were trailing by 4, but here's the last two games against Purdue:

2020: Trailing 31-24, Illinois is driving and has first and ten at the Purdue 15 with 2:02 remaining. Incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, and 7-yard gain on 4th & 10 and Purdue kneels it out.
2021: Trailing 13-9, Illinois is driving and has first and ten at the Purdue 19 with 1:36 remaining. No gain, incompletion, incompletion, incompletion and Purdue kneels it out.

Two redzone chances for the Cannon, 7 yards in 8 plays.

Let's get into it.

The One TD

We shall begin with the only touchdown scored the entire game by either team. One. One touchdown. In a college football game in 2021.

Let me just say that I hate this play so much. Everything went right for Purdue. Third down, FG would tie, TD would take the lead, and they come up with a huge play.

The pass will go to this guy:

The tailback goes in motion, so Tarique Barnes follows his motion.

This means that Khalan Tolson shifts into the middle of the field on the snap (since Barnes is vacating the area to follow the tailback).

Let me give some props to Aidan O'Connell here, a walkon QB. Steps up and fires to the spot just has his receiver is starting his break. This is the kind of throw that has to be on the money or it's getting picked off. And Purdue cannot afford an interception here because they need to at least tie the game with a field goal on this drive.

Here's the ball being released just as Sheffield (8) makes his turn.

Sheffield has gained separation on the slot guy (Quan Martin) and the ball needs to get there before the safety (Kerby Joseph) gets there. This is why I gave props to O'Connell above. He has a quarter-second window to put the ball within a one square yard area.

And this is that area (below). If the ball is a quarter-second late, Kerby knocks it down. If the ball is in front of him, Kerby picks it off. If it's well behind him, Quan picks it off.

Please also note that the throw is a tiny bit behind Sheffield. This is him opening up his shoulder to spin a bit so he can catch it.

And here's the "everything went right for Purdue" part. On a slant like this, you have to catch it and pay the price. That's the plan. Sheffield catches it in the one square yard between Quan and Kerby. He'll get hit immediately, but hopefully he gets the first down.

But here, because he had to spin back to the ball to his left, when Kerby's hit arrives, it actually stabilizes him and helps him spin inside. You're not going to see many "catch the slant and then spin backwards 270 degrees before racing to the endzone" catches, but this is one of them:

Glancing blow (because the ball was behind him), spin stabilized, time to head for the endzone.

Watching it live, I thought Quan had a shot at keeping him out of the endzone here:

But it was actually Tony Adams (who left his outside receiver once the ball was thrown) who had an angle on him.

But couldn't keep him out of the endzone.

Here's the full play. If the ball hits him in stride, it's a crunch from Kerby and we'd have to see if he had the wherewithall to hang on. Instead, the throw is slightly behind, and opening up his back shoulder to catch it means that Kerby's crunch was turned into a spin stabilizer.

Don't get me wrong. Crazy athleticism from TJ Sheffield to keep his balance and score. And Kerby went a little too ball and not enough man. But still - the only way this pass is complete is if it's low and inside. And it was low and inside.

I feel like I need to show that one screencap above again. Nobody catches a slant like this:

Just a perfect storm. The throw is low and inside so instead of catching it in stride he catches it with two feet down, back to the endzone. And then he spins backwards and escapes out the back door.


Spot Of The Week

Let's just get this one out of the way. Every week this season I've chosen to point out how much I hate the "just spot the ball near one of the yardlines that's probably maybe kinda close to where the ball was" system that has been implemented in college football. It's meant to speed up the game, but it offends every ounce of my sensibilities. I want a ball spotted exactly where the ballcarrier advanced it. And we have a system now where they place it on whatever yard line seemed closest until they're in the redzone. If you're wondering why we don't see the chains very much anymore, this is why. As long as the initial spot was on a hash mark, determining first down is easy.

(I do see the benefits of this system. I'm just saying that it offends my "if he got to the 34 plus 11 inches, mark it exactly at the 34 plus 11 inches spot" brain.)

Anyway, let me show you two spots I noted as I was watching the game. The first one was Tip Reiman trying to hop out of an ankle tackle and pick up the first down just before McCourt's final field goal. Watching it live, I really felt like he dove forward and got to the line to gain. The black line I drew here is where he needed to get to, and I felt like he kept himself up with his left arm and then dove to the spot.

But in looking at the replay, his knee was down right where the official spotted the ball.

Good call. Great call, actually. Spotted it perfectly.

This next one was not a good call. This is the Josh McCray run setting us up in the redzone at the end of the game. Allow me to note that this had nothing to do with the outcome of the game. We had four plays after this and gained zero yards. It doesn't matter if that happened at the 19, the 18, or the 17.

But it still bothers me. I just want officials to get these calls right. I want them looking at the grass for markings and then spotting the ball off of those. I get that the official isn't standing right there. But I still need them to approximate better.

I froze this right when McCray stepped out of bounds (right after the Purdue linebacker shoved him. His foot (orange arrow) steps out right at the 18. He's leaning forward with the ball hanging over the 17. The ball was marked at the 19 (black line).

Here's a better view. This is when the linebacker makes contact (so a quarter-second before the image above). This is just before McCray's foot steps out of bounds.

You just cannot mark this at the 19 (black line, which is where the official marked it).

The actual spot (if balls were marked on actual spots and not at the nearest hash) is probably just in front of the 18 yard line between the 18 and the 17. Marking this at the 19 is just so lazy.

Bad spot. Didn't matter, but... bad spot.

Kerby's Smart

So interesting that Kerby Joseph is the breakout player this season. I've said this several times, but it bears repeating. The "turn Kerby into a safety" project was abandoned in 2020 and he was moved to wide receiver. It wasn't until there were multiple injuries during the 2020 season that he was moved back to DB. And now he's the breakout safety in 2021.

The thing that pops out on film (and the reason you see him making so many plays) is his vision. He seems to have a good feel for reading and reacting.

Like this interception. I don't really need to screencap any part of it or point to anything. Just watch him keep his head up, flow with the play, read the QB, and make the interception:

Man, so good. Heads-up football. Looking forward to the next 20 Kerby Joseph football games.

Stick Shaker

Our final drive got to the 19 (ahem, 18) and then it just completely stalled out and spun in. I want to go through the three passing plays on second, third, and fourth down.

I mean, I don't want to. But we need to. Hide your eyes. But pay attention. Still, gross warning.

After a first down run where the defensive tackle was able to dive at Josh McCray's feet and trip him up for no gain, here's the final three plays.

Second down, and this pass is going to Isaiah Williams.

Pardon my crude "just sketch on the image", but I don't have an endzone view so I just have to show you the route IW is supposed to run. Cut towards the sideline to get the DB to flow with him, then bust it upfield.

I don't know the route here. Maybe he's supposed to start the slant one yard beyond the line of scrimmage (maybe hoping for some kind of rub route where the DB's get picked?), but please note that the Purdue DB is not fooled one bit. IW is running towards the sideline, but he knows (and you know, and I know) that he's going to turn it towards the endzone.

They disappear off the screen for a bit, but once they reappear, the DB is running with his stride for stride. Wasn't fooled an ounce.

Can't have much better defense than this. Zero separation gained.

Here is the full play. Very little chance of a completion here.

Now it's third down and it's Luke Ford's turn.

Just like IW, the plan is an out-and-up. Not where I've sketched it here (this is a much deeper route, but that's the route he's going to run. Get the DB flowing towards the sideline, then separate and head to the endzone.

But this play is busted by Purdue freshman defensive tackle Damajhe Lewis. He beats Julian Pearl and heads right for Brandon Peters. Note that Ford hasn't even started his "out" yet, let alone his "up".

Peters has to let it fly about .93 seconds early (because of Lewis). And that's the reason we didn't win the football game against Purdue.

Once the camera pans to pick up Ford, he's still in his "out".

He eventually turns it "up" and completely loses his man but it's too late. The ball had to be thrown .93 seconds early and so the ball is already here.

Where it bounces harmlessly out of bounds.

Who knows if Peters would have made a good throw or not had he had a pocket. But Ford beat his guy. If Lewis isn't in Peters' face, we probably win this game right here.

OK, now it's fourth down. We don't necessarily need a touchdown but we do need 10 yards. Here's the alignment:

Reggie Love stays in to help Palcho with Karlaftis and/or to help with blitz pickup. But Purdue only rushes four.

My guess - I don't know this, but this is my guess - is that we were expecting the blitz and wanted someone in single coverage right here. But no blitz came.

This is where Peters does a little pump fake (???):

...and then with a full pocket (no pass-rushers have broken through), he... runs the other way? Was this designed? What's happening here?

My hope here would be to hit Casey Washington (arrow). No safety help, so put it over the linebacker's head.

But now Peters is set up at the 32, the routes are mostly dead, and defensive linemen have eventually broken through.

He has to throw it somewhere (it's fourth down), so he does, but he releases the ball at the 34. Look at how far that is from the line of scrimmage (or the first down line).

The pass is headed for Donny, but Donny is A) at the 10 where he'd be a yard short and B) not Robert Wadlow.

Here's the full play:

The ball is just a tiny bit out of Donny's reach.

That's a play that just completely fell apart. I'm guessing it was expectation of blitz, followed by "need to get to a spot where I can release it because a sack ends the game", followed by someone in his face so he just throws it somewhere to someone. And that someone was in the stands.

Nice drive up to that point, and then a complete and total stall. Game, blouses.

Quit Yer Whinin'

One other thing before we get to That Play.

Purdue fans booed and booed the PI call on the bomb to Deuce Spann. And then, while watching the film, I found out that the announcers questioned the call as well.

But did you see how quickly the flag showed up on the field? It was down before the players even tumbled together at the goal line. Because the penalty happened at the 14 yard line.

The film goes grainy at this moment of the game. I tried watching it several times - even restarted my laptop - but right when they get to the replay it's really grainy. So this isn't the best shot. But it tells the story.

Look at Deuce Spann's jersey right here. The Purdue DB has Spann's white jersey in his right hand creating that line of white you see straight down from his back:

The back judge is looking right at it (just after this he grabs for his flag). The side judge also saw it and came running in, tossing her flag between the 15 and the 10. He simply grabbed on to the jersey and waterskiied behind Spann. Which is one thousand percent a pass interference penalty.

Disconcerting Signals

OK, let's talk about it.

Actually, I already talked about it. Saturday's From The Stands and the game story centered around the fourth down call. I've already covered most of it.

But I want to talk about a different part of it. I mentioned this on WCIA on Sunday night and on WDWS yesterday, but my theory on this play is that there was going to be a penalty on Purdue for simulating the snap count.

Fourth and two. Bret Bielema decides to go for it. Josh McCray is in the backfield. Blake Jeresaty jumps, so now it's going to be fourth and seven, but wait! Bret Bielema called timeout before the false start. The coaches talk about it during the timeout and, perhaps influenced by the near false start, decide to punt. The punt is all anyone will talk about the following 72 hours (myself included).

But I have a different theory on what was going to happen. I'll take you through it.

Keep an eye on Jeresaty (55). As soon as he jumps, he immediately turns and starts complaining about something. My guess (at the time and now) was that someone on Purdue's defense did a fake snap count. It's illegal, and it's a penalty if defenses do it (fake a "hut hut" to get an offensive lineman to jump), so I'm guessing that's why Jeresaty was immediately started complaining. Start by just watching 55 here:

Josh McCray is also pointing at the guy. At least I think he is. Maybe it's just a simple "they jumped", but he immediately points to the guy.

Which guy? This guy:

Watch the gif again. He clearly says something just before Jeresaty jumps. And he immediately celebrates more than all of his teammates. I'm reading that as a "got him!" celebration:

There's a lot that happens immediately after this. For starters, the play clock was winding down. That's why Bret Bielema took the timeout. The play clock is not on the screen there, but it was at 3...2...1... just before Jeresaty jumped. The cameras captured Bielema pointing at the play clock (to tell Peters "hurry up") just before they huddled.

So there's a whole bunch of reactions here. Jeresaty is complaining about something. McCray is pointing at the defense. Peters immediately sees the linesman running in signaling timeout and turns to Jeresaty to say "you're fine - we called a timeout". The officials quickly huddle and decide "none of this mattered - Illinois took a timeout".

But the official who would call "Disconcerting Signals" is the umpire (the guy behind the linebackers). It's his job to listen for it. My guess here - and I can't know for sure, I can only guess - is that he was planning to call Disconcerting Signals on Purdue.

He even yells something to someone (the Head Linesman running in, I think?) and points at Purdue's end:

All of it was immediately moot. Jeresaty is still pleading his case above, but it doesn't matter. The Line Judge has run in to tell the referee that there was a timeout before anything happened. "Whew", said the Illinois fans.

But my theory is that had there not been a timeout, there would have been a five-yard penalty on Purdue for faking the "hut-hut". First down Illinois and we'd keep driving. However, without the timeout, there's likely a delay of game penalty because they clearly weren't going to get it snapped before :00.

So to recap:

  • I think Purdue was going to be called for a penalty there. It wasn't going to be a False Start, it was going to be Disconcerting Signals.
  • That means it would have been first and 10 for Illinois at the 29.
  • But it really wouldn't have been, because we talked about it too long, didn't huddle until 17 seconds on the play clock, and were well on our way to a Delay Of Game penalty when we had to burn a timeout.

None of this matters, of course. The timeout was taken, and when we came out of the timeout, the punt team was on the field (exactly like the Maryland game). We lined up to go for it against Maryland, faked a fake punt, took a timeout, and then punted. They drove the length of the field and then scored. We lined up to go for it against Purdue, the play clock was running down, we took a timeout, and then punted. They drove the length of the field and then scored.

Third time's a charm, Charlotte?

Can't End On That

I can't end on that. So I'll just end with a Josh McCray gif.

Save us, you beautiful 245 lb running back with vision and shiftiness and a penchant for stiff-arms.


thumpasaurus on September 29, 2021 @ 08:44 PM

I really hate to put it this way, but I think what happened is that Peters heard footsteps. His pocket presence has been...sporadic at best. He does his best work on rollouts, but that also takes away half of the field. I think this is a problem with Sitkowski too; they both seem to overanticipate pressure. That's really been one of Peters' biggest issues: the happy feet, the lack of pocket awareness. These have really limited his great physical tools, and they're really difficult habits to get rid of in a hurry.

I don't have a solution to this. Sitkowski does the same thing and nobody else on the roster is physically the kind of QB Petersen wants to play.

IlliniOrphan on September 29, 2021 @ 08:59 PM

On the other post route to Spann that was incomplete, you can see the DB with a handful of jersey on that play, too. It starts about 15 yards up the field.

IBFan on September 29, 2021 @ 09:45 PM

Yep saw that rewatching game.

Joe Edge on October 2, 2021 @ 06:29 PM

Yup... I saw that as well as one other hold by that Purdue DB that wasn't called...

BUT . . . I rarely ever think that blaming the officials is a 'winners' strategy...

Brave Illini on September 29, 2021 @ 09:20 PM

Feels like an autopsy report. Fascinating analysis.

IlliniJedi on September 29, 2021 @ 10:39 PM

The final Gif nails it. Robert, earlier today you pointed out the big ten players of the week and their lack of competition. If the Illini had won that game, McCray is offensive player and freshman of the week.

ktcesw on September 30, 2021 @ 06:39 AM

On the td pass, what were the two ILB's doing? Everyone should have been yelling ball the moment the pass is thrown. 44 never turns to the ball and 45 never finds it even after it has been caught. What angle was he using in pursuit? They both should have been in the vicinity and 44 didn't once look over his shoulder and actually runs out of the play. How are they not taught to find the ball? Very frustrating!

San Joaquin on September 30, 2021 @ 08:33 AM

great stuff, including wadlow reference

qwetz29 on September 30, 2021 @ 09:01 PM

People have been complaining about Tony Petersen for a bit now, but that third down play finally convinced me that he's bad. If you look at the routes, Isaiah and Washington are flowing to the exact same part of the field. Even if one of them beats his man, he wouldn't be open because the other's defender would be there. That's terrible play design.

Robert on October 1, 2021 @ 09:10 AM

Two things.

One, I believe the design is to isolate Ford. Donny curls short to keep a defender with him. Isaiah crosses the field deep to hold the safety (two receivers on that side, both deep, only Ford on this side, safety has to honor two over one). It's a paint-yourself-in-a-corner play call (if they blitz, the quick pass is probably Donny because CW and IW are just decoying), but the whole design, in my view, is to get Ford isolated without safety help.

Two, if you're going to put this at Petersen's feet, it must be acknowledged that it worked as designed. The safety stayed with two deeps on his left and Ford beat his guy. If Julian Pearl holds his block, this is the winning TD. I might question a play call that requires this offensive line to provide a 3.5-4.0 second pocket (Peters had to release at 2.75 because of the pass rush), but this is a guard blocking a DT. No college DT should get a 2.75-second QBH.

I looked it up. PFF has this as one of only two Damarjhe Lewis QBH's in 55 pass rush snaps this season. 53 out of 55 times he's neutralized. One of the two QBH's wins a game.

ktal on October 1, 2021 @ 07:57 PM

On 4th and ten only 1.5 of the four receivers who went out were across the first down marker when the ball was thrown. I only mention that because I'm not sure whether completing an eight yard pass on that play would have been a more satisfying way to lose.

Duce20 on October 5, 2021 @ 12:22 PM

The problem on all 3 pass attempts is Peters.

On the first pass attempt, he has all day and the cleanest pocket imaginable. If he waits the receiver in the endzone in the middle of the field could've broke right to a wide open corner for Peters to throw him a wide open TD.

On the second pass attempt, he feels pressure but simply rolling to his right would have alleviated the pressure and the receivers could work on getting open.

On the third pass it's pure phantom pressure that isn't there that sends a 6th year Senior packing.

He has no pocket awareness, he's never going to have it. We need to make a change.

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