Yes, we know it's time to talk about the Indiana game, but when Smart Football wants to talk about MSU some more, well, we listen.
Anyway, what was the key to the slant dagger in Sparty's heart last weekend? Aside from a great throw and catch, the MSU fans' lament was that the Spartans didn't put a man in underneath coverage to take away the slant to Marvin McNutt. Small problem: Ricky Stanzi probably wouldn't have thrown the slant if there was a zone on... and he knew there wasn't.
How did Stanzi know? By watching MSU respond to Moeaki going in motion. We'll let Chris Brown take it from here:
This leads to the other aspect of the play, the wrinkle that helped it succeed: The motion by the H-back/tight-end before the snap. He began on the left side of the formation and motioned across. Why was this relevant? Watch the clip above again. What did Michigan State do? A single defender followed the H-back across — a clear indicator that the defense was in man coverage. Knowing this, Stanzi knew that his backside receiver was one-on-one, and he went to him.
But what if they hadn’t reacted this way? Had Michigan State, rather than having a man follow the H-back instead "bumped across" so that a defender on the offense’s left merely repositioned slightly to account for the new receiver, this would have indicated that the play was zone. And unless the zone was very unbalanced to the single receiver, Stanzi would have no doubt looked to the three receiver side as a kind of flood for the zone. His read would have been the flat defender: if he widened for the tight-end in the flat, the slant should be open; if he hangs back then the tight-end ought to be open in the flat.
There's also video of the play at the site if you haven't seen it 50 times in a row by now (you have, right?). Good stuff, and a good reminder that there's more that goes into quarterbackin' than is immediately evident even before the snap.
It also makes you wonder what KOK was thinking when he called a fade. That MSU would put men in underneath coverage? Possibly. To have been a fly in that sideline huddle...