Take a chance on third downs. Set up the slant route, then have the receiver break it off in symphony with a Richardson pump fake and go deep
Some things we learned about Sam Richardson on Thursday against Tulsa:
He has no problem trusting just about anybody to make plays. Ten different receivers caught a pass in the win. Even after tight end E.J. Bibbs dropped the first three balls his way, Richardson went back to him.
He's icy on third downs. Seven completions on 12 attempts (six yards per attempt), for a touchdown. On fourth down, 1-for-1 with six yards, the necessary amount.
He can take a hit. In situations in which the pass was all but inevitable — third-and-four or longer — Richardson was blitzed 21 times. Two sacks on third down. His average time in the pocket in those circumstances was 2.44 seconds. That's just enough time to wait for a longer route or one involving a double-move to develop. Richardson's touchdown pass to Jarvis West right before halftime against Tulsa was an example of the latter. West faked like he was running a smash route to the outside then cut back in.
Offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham: "To me one of the biggest plays we had against Tulsa was Jarvis on the touchdown right before half. Sam did a great job, stood in there — knew he was going to get hit because they brought more linebackers than we could block but he also knew that if he gave it a chance Jarvis was going to get open."
The slant route might be his favorite. Quenton Bundrage scored running a one-step slant against Iowa and Richardson was inclined to throw to the route again Thursday. It's quick, easy, safe. When the blitz is coming, and Richardson finds a throwing lane, it's automatic in one-on-one coverage.
So here's my idea for this week: "Sluggo".
Take a chance on third downs. Set up the slant route, then have the receiver — Bundrage would be my preference — break it off in harmony with a Richardson pump fake and go deep. It should open up an alley on the outside against man coverage. Against Cover 2 it could be a deeper route. Against Cover 3 it'll be more intermediate. But take a chance, Cyclones, and throw it longer than 10 yards in the air. It might drop Richardson's completion percentage on third downs. It may result in a sack or two. But when you can't matchup with the athletes Texas has across the field, you've got to be a bit riskier. Texas' cornerbacks are as likely to lead a Fundamentals of Tackling 101 class as you or I. Make them make those stops in the open field.