Studying B.J. Daniels' Deep Passes Against Nevada

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 1: Quarterback B. J. Daniels #7 of the South Florida Bulls sets to pass against the West Virginia Mountaineers December 1, 2011 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

B.J. Daniels was pretty erratic throwing the shorter passes on Saturday, but he did pretty well throwing the deep ball. This seems to be a particular skill Daniels has, going all the way back to his freshman year when he threw a number of 50+ yard passes, including an 85-yarder to Carlton Mitchell, and of course two 70+ yarders against Florida State.

The play-by-play lists nine deep pass attempts by USF against Nevada. After I went back and watched them all carefully, I'm impressed overall. Nevada kept matching up their weak defensive backs in single coverage with USF receivers, so the opportunities were there all day. These were all good decisions, except for maybe one. Let's look at each one of them.

NOTE: The distances are measured from where Daniels let the ball go to where the ball landed or was caught. The line of scrimmage is not part of the calculation.

DEEP PASS #1
Time: 2:22 remaining, 1st quarter
Intended Receiver: Terrence Mitchell
Location: Middle of field
Coverage: Free safety matched up in single coverage
Distance In Air: 62 yards downfield, parallel to sideline
Result: Incompletion

Daniels' throw was off target. Mitchell was running a very deep post and B.J.'s pass carried him back towards the near sideline. Neither Mitchell or Duke Williams, the safety, could find the ball before it went over their heads.

DEEP PASS #2
Time: Last play of 1st quarter
Intended Receiver: Sterling Griffin
Location: Near sideline
Coverage: Corner playing short, free safety picking up coverage late over the top
Distance In Air: 46 yards downfield, ~52 total yards
Result: Incompletion

Another off-target pass. The ball landed a foot or so out of bounds and a yard or two past a diving Griffin. Nevada had poor coverage on the play -- Williams was late and too shallow to have made a play on the ball. A more accurate pass and Griffin scores.

DEEP PASS #3
Time: 5:05 remaining, 2nd quarter
Intended Receiver: Sterling Griffin
Location: Near sideline
Coverage: Strong safety matched up in single coverage
Distance: 43 yards downfield, ~47 total yards
Result: Incomplete, pass interference on Nevada

This is the play where Griffin's knee injury occurred. The Wolf Pack ran an overload blitz right at Daniels, who lobbed it up for Griffin running down the right side. Marcus Smith was too slow to catch up to Griffin in zone and didn't really make a play on the ball. As Smith shoved Griffin to draw the flag, Sterling lost his balance and his right leg planted awkwardly on the field before he went down.

DEEP PASS #4
Time: 4:56 remaining, 2nd quarter
Intended Receiver: Terrence Mitchell
Location: Far sideline
Coverage: Single man coverage, no safety over the top
Distance: 59 yards downfield, ~64 total yards
Result: Caught, but wiped out by an illegal touching penalty

The very next play after the Griffin injury. USF had three receivers left and one right. Daniels pump-faked to Derrick Hopkins, who ran a route into the left flat as the inside receiver. Meanwhile, Mitchell took off up the field on the outside. As the ball went up, Mitchell tried to beat Khalid Wooten on the outside, but took at least one step out of bounds in the process.

DEEP PASS #5
Time: 1:23 remaining, 2nd quarter
Intended Receiver: Chris Dunkley
Location: Far sideline
Coverage: Single man coverage, after the initial routes had been cut off
Distance: 48 yards downfield, ~52 total yards
Result: Incompletion

Daniels ran up out of the pocket after no one was open initially. As Daniels slid up and to the left, Dunkley, who started out as the top receiver, ran toward the end zone at the far corner. Daniels' pass wasn't perfect, but catchable. Dunkley timed his jump properly and got his hands on the ball, but couldn't pull it in. Khalid Wooten might have disrupted the catch by tapping Dunkley's left hand right after the ball got there.

DEEP PASS #6
Time: 7:35 remaining, 3rd quarter
Intended Receiver: Terrence Mitchell
Location: Middle of field
Coverage: Single man coverage
Distance: 57 yards downfield, ~59 total yards
Result: Incompletion

This was the play after the back-to-back false starts and timeout at USF's own goal line. Daniels rolled left into his own end zone and let one fly downfield for Mitchell. Khalid Wooten was there but Mitchell had about a half-step on him. Terrence found the ball, which was thrown well, but appeared to mistime his jump a little bit. The ball hit off his right shoulder or helmet and bounced away.

DEEP PASS #7
Time: 2:40 remaining, 4th quarter
Intended Receiver: Chris Dunkley
Location: Middle of field
Coverage: Strong safety in single man coverage
Distance: 50 yards downfield, ~51 total yards
Result: Caught for a touchdown

Dunkley was the only receiver to the near side, although Evan Landi was split out as a fourth receiver in a spread flex formation. Dunkley just ran a deep post against Marcus Brown, who was matched up with him in man coverage. Daniels threw an accurate pass and Dunkley ran under it and protected the ball all the way into the end zone.

DEEP PASS #8
Time: 1:17 remaining, 4th quarter
Intended Receiver: Andre Davis
Location: Middle of field
Coverage: Zone coverage with safety help
Distance: 53 yards, parallel to sideline
Result: Incompletion

The only one of these passes that you could consider a bad decision. Khalid Wooten had good coverage on Davis, with a safety trailing a couple yards behind. Wooten was the closest player to the ball as it floated over everyone's heads.

DEEP PASS #9
Time: 0:43 remaining, 4th quarter
Intended Receiver: Andre Davis
Location: Far sideline
Coverage: Single man coverage
Distance: 52 yards downfield, ~55 total yards
Result: Caught for a touchdown

The big one. USF lined up with three receivers right and Davis to the left. Davis got a clean release down the sideline. Bryan Lane, the nickel back, picked him up but wasn't looking for the ball. He collided with Davis, drawing a penalty, and Davis still caught the ball and strolled in for the winning touchdown. It's possible Duke Williams should have been helping out over the top, but he started running toward Derrick Hopkins, who ran a post and then turned it up the field a good 15 yards away from Davis. That took away Lane's help. He had no chance.

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