Last week was do or die for the Tennessee Volunteers season. A loss to Kentucky would’ve taken them out of SEC East title contention completely, and a win meant their dream of reaching Atlanta and the SEC Championship game was still alive.
Quarterback Josh Dobbs did most of the heavy lifting, leading the Vols in both passing yards and rushing yards. However, the most impressive run of the game for Tennessee came from the feet of their playmaking running back, Alvin Kamara — who ended the game with 128 yards on 10 carries, which computed to a 12.8 yards-per-carry average.
In the play above, we go back in time to when the game was 42-22 in the Vols’ favor with a little more than seven minutes left to play. The setup for Kamara’s game-sealing 29-yard run was a pretty standard look from Tennessee. The formation showed the quarterback, Dobbs, in the shotgun, even with the running back, Kamara, to indicate an option play. Then, from there, they used three receivers and a tight end a step behind the line of scrimmage.
At the snap, the play revealed that it was a read-option by design — though the design was heavily favored for Kamara to receive the handoff. The key component in this play is actually what happened with the tight end. As the offensive line began to all block toward the left as a unit, the tight end was busy moving to the right. After leaving the far defensive lineman on the right unblocked on purpose, the tight end swooped over and contained him with the extra time the Vols knew they would have due to the play being emphasized to the left. That meant the left guard was then free to take on a block at the second level. This is called a split-zone blocking scheme (the offensive line goes one way, the delayed tight end block goes the other).
In the final screenshot, we saw the left guard make his way up to block the linebacker. With all of the other defenders blocked and accounted for, that left Kamara with the open running lane.
Though it did take a great cut and excellent burst from Kamara to weave his way into the end zone, I’m going to have to give this play a scheme label because of how well it was designed by the offensive coordinator, and how well it was executed by his blockers. This is a scheme Tennessee had a lot of success with last year. The Vols just haven’t been able to make it as effective this season.