Film Study: 4th and 26

We're cracking the lid back open on some of the most significant plays of the 2017 season, this week we look at SMU's 4th and 26 conversion in overtime vs. Cincinnati. 

The Situation

What your go to 4th and 26 on the road in overtime? Double check your play sheet, is it on there? No, just saying chuck it deep doesn't count. That's what Chad Morris faced against Cincinnati in mid-October of last season. The Mustangs fumbled and sacked themselves into a fourth and long at the 41 in overtime. Left with the choice of trotting out a #collegekicker for a 58-yard field goal attempt or relying on his receivers, the best athletes on the roster, Morris chose to go for it. 

The Play

Sometimes we do these features, and they involve superior scheme, technique or play selection. Here SMU uses the old "just make a play" strategy because this ain't how you draw it up. The Bearkats are in a sticks defense, defending the yard to make the line, they drop seven into coverage, rush four, banking that they can make a play on the ball or get pressure before SMU can get off a pass. 

SMU quarterback Ben Hicks is 25 of 34, with two touchdowns. Trey Quinn's already caught sixteen passes; his seventeenth is a biggie. 

You've run this play on Madden; it's an all go concept. Alabama won the National title with a similar play. Everyone is running nine routes except Quinn, who ducks under and locks up with a linebacker. Hicks rolls out to his right, the boundary side, and the sideline is closing in, so is the line of scrimmage. When he throws this ball, Quinn isn't open, he's covered, or maybe a better phrase is "interfered with." Cincy's linebacker drapes onto Quinn like a cape. 

Perhaps Hicks does an excellent job of throwing Quinn open by putting the ball into green grass so Quinn can make a play. The other option, and this looks to be the case based on Hicks' eyes, is that Hicks is just throwing this up for grabs and hoping something good happens. His eyes are up the field as the sideline and the line of scrimmage close in then they dart to the middle of the field and Quinn. Again, Quinn isn't open, but Hicks throws to him. Either way, Quinn does what will probably make him a ten-year pro, and creates just enough separation to make the catch. SMU needed 26, Quinn scratched out a 32-yard gain. 

This play might be the conversion of the season. Four plays later SMU kicks a field goal and the Mustang defense, in an equally miraculous turn of events, gets a stop. If you watch SMU play defense, you know stops weren't often the result. Mustangs win, qualify for a bowl game a week later, and Chad Morris gets to go to Arkansas to play for fifth place in the SEC West. 

A game of Inches

Looking back this play could've gone a different way on so many occasions. The Bearcat rush was closing in, Hicks was inches away from an illegal forward pass, half a foot from out of bounds and the linebacker swipes at the ball with his paw just after it clears into the waiting arms of Quinn. 

As it stands, Quinn makes a 32-yard play and the Mustangs live to play another down. 

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Posted on January 23, 2018 and filed under SMU, Southwest Round-Up.