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The anatomy of a pick-six: Darnell Savage’s score, from beginning to end

Let’s take a look at one of the few positive plays for the Terps from Saturday.

NCAA Football: Temple at Maryland Art Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football had a rough day Saturday. Rather than focus on what went wrong with the offensive line that allowed seven sacks or the passing game that mustered just 63 yards, let’s look at one of the Terps’ two scoring plays of the day.

Darnell Savage had arguably the biggest play of the day for Maryland, as he intercepted a pass and ran it back 23 yards for a touchdown. It pulled the Terps within a touchdown late in the second quarter after the offense looked anemic to start the game.

The situation

Down and distance: 2nd and 9
Time remaining: 3:30 left in the second quarter
Score: Temple 14, Maryland 0

The offense

Personnel: 10 (One running back, zero tight ends)
Formation: Shotgun trey open (Shotgun set, three (trey) receivers to the wide (open) side of the field)
Play: Stick

There are four receivers in the pattern on this play, but only one really matters. From the moment quarterback Anthony Russo receives the snap, he only ever looks at receiver Isaiah Wright, the closest pass catcher to his right side.

It’s a timing play, a quick drop and a five-yard stick route designed to make second-and-long into a third-and-manageable. Sure, the receiver at the top of the screen is running a drag and the two receivers at the bottom are running deep routes to clear out the other defensive backs in the area, but this ball was never going anywhere other than to Wright.

Just watch the offense, we’ll get to the defense next:


The defense

Personnel: Nickel (4-2-5) (The five defensive backs is where the name “Nickel” comes from)
Play: Cover 1 zone SAM blitz

Maryland’s three down linemen rush, while weak-side (WILL) linebacker Durell Nchami drops into a zone under the receiver at the top of the screen where Tino Ellis is playing man coverage.

Jordan Mosley rolls into a single-high safety look at the top of the screen as Tre Watson sits in a hook zone in the middle of the field and strong-side (SAM) linebacker Isaiah Davis runs a contain blitz. RaVon Davis and Marcus Lewis are in zone coverage at the bottom of the screen.

That leaves the marquee matchup of this play, as Wright runs his stick route into Savage’s zone. The veteran safety reads Russo’s eyes, breaks on the ball and the rest is history.

Okay NOW watch the defense!

Unfortunately for the Terps, this was 50 percent of their scoring for the day. Maryland will hope for more plays like this, but also a lot more offense Saturday when Minnesota comes to College Park for another noon start on BTN.