You either win with fundamentals or you get beat with fundamentals. Georgia was reminded of this bitter lesson in the 2012 SEC Championship Game that saw them battle toe to toe with defending national champion Alabama. They valiantly drove down the field in the last minute, only to see the clock run out because of a tipped pass in an awful and surreal ending for the stunned Bulldogs, who expected to be able to see Aaron Murray throw two plays into the end zone with the ball at the 8-yard line and 15 seconds left (Chris Brown at Smart Football analyzes the clock logistics of the play here). The tipped pass by Alabama LB, C.J. Mosley, was seen as horrible luck, but really the play was preventable with proper fundamentals from the RB position.
Most young RBs have trouble getting on the field because of pass protection—not understanding the scheme of what to do and not being to execute it correctly. The game of football depends on the execution of all 11 players and a freshman RB made a poor play at the worst possible moment for the Bulldogs (one of many plays from the game that Georgia would like to change, not to pin the entire loss on one player). I will analyze the play by using the RB Pass Pro fundamentals that I got from a clinic talk by Tony Ball, the RB Coach (from 2006-2009) and now, WR Coach at Georgia, so you will get coached up with the same coaching points this player will be hearing as he watches this film with his coaches.
Here's the film, courtesy of CBS Sports and the SEC Network:
Fundamentals of RB Pass Protection
1. Scan the Defense.
Check. The RB scanned the defense and knew who to block.
2. Step with Inside Foot First.
Check. The RB stepped first with his inside foot to get inside leverage and to get his body turned correctly.
3. Close Space Quickly.
Big mistake here. Both the RB and the LB started off 5 yards from the LOS (line of scrimmage), so theoretically they should meet halfway—at or near the LOS. Instead of expanding the pocket to give room for the QB to throw, the pocket is condensed.
Even with the mistake of the RB not closing the space quickly, he can still do his job and block his man if he punches him at all. Instead, the defender takes off at the 11-yard line and continues in the air relatively unimpeded and tips the ball at the 13-yard line.
5. Expand the Pocket.
After the punch, the RB should continue to force the defender outside to expand the pocket. The RB "opens up the gate" and lets the pass rusher get upfield vertically instead of widening him. On a drop-back pass that takes longer to develop, the RB would need to keep his feet working to widen the rusher and expand the pocket.
A critical error was that the RB did not take the protection into account on how he attacked his defender. The Fade-Flat combination on this pass play is designed to be used with quick protection. The Georgia Offensive Line did a terrific job of firing out and stopping the Alabama Defensive Line at the LOS. The Left Tackle cut block the Defensive End, making him a non-factor in the play as well. All that was left was the RB's block on the blitzing LB to give Georgia QB Aaron Murray's pass a chance to reach its intended target in a play that will torture the Bulldogs for what could have been.