Maryland football scored five offensive touchdowns on Saturday, and four of them were a direct result of Matt Canada’s patented jet sweep motion.
Okay, so Canada doesn’t actually have the jet sweep patented, but he may as well because his offense uses the motion on seemingly every snap. It’s part of what makes his scheme so hard to defend, and why he was a home run hire as offensive coordinator in January.
On Saturday, the Terps’ first three rushing touchdowns involved a jet motion. The fourth was on an actual jet sweep. But for the defense to feel obligated to honor the jet motion, an actual jet sweep has to be successful early in the game. Maryland got that out of the way almost immediately, with Jeshaun Jones running for 27 yards on the second play of the game.
The Terps ran their first play out of the shotgun, so this is the first time Minnesota saw the jet motion in live action, and it shows. Two players attempt to set the edge at the top of the screen instead of the requisite one. Blake Cashman (No. 36) has the right idea initially, but has to honor Ty Johnson running up the middle. Antoine Winfield Jr. (No. 11) is the final piece to the confusion puzzle. His eyes are on Johnson and before he realizes Jones actually has the ball, it’s nearly too late.
Now that the basics of the misdirection of the jet sweep are laid out and the confusion it creates is understood, we won’t have to break down every facet of each of the touchdown runs. In fact, we’ll provide the GIF of each play before the analysis so you can break it down for yourself.
Anthony McFarland’s first touchdown
Tayon Fleet-Davis is the motion man on this play, dragging Calvin Swenson (No. 27) out of the exact spot McFarland runs through en route to the end zone. There’s a split second of confusion as Swenson follows Fleet-Davis across the formation. Swenson looks back to safety Jacob Huff (No. 2) like he expects him to run with Fleet-Davis as he rolls to the safety position. Huff stays put, his angle to McFarland is poor and Swenson is all the way across the field. Touchdown, Maryland.
(Check out the pancake block at the second level from right guard Terrance Davis, too. We appreciate line play on this website.)
Ty Johnson’s 81-yard scamper
On this play, four defenders commit to McFarland’s jet motion. But there’s one problem: he doesn’t have the ball. This still image may better represent how badly the defense was fooled and how easy this became for Johnson.
At this point, it’s already just Johnson and the safety. Everybody else has been sealed off or was too fooled to be in a position to make a play. Maryland will take Johnson one-on-one with a safety all day, every day and a bunch of times on Saturday.
McFarland’s second score
McFarland’s insane burst and top-end speed is mainly responsible for this play, but the jet motion from Fleet-Davis still helped. Three players take to the flat to defend the jet sweep that isn’t coming. When McFarland recognizes that the designed run to the left isn’t going anywhere, he cuts back to a massive hole, and because three defenders moved toward the boundary, there’s virtually nobody there to stop him.
We’d like to submit this still as evidence that McFarland is a cheat code and his speed is unfair. Three players should have a legit shot at making the tackle. Nobody comes close.
Chigoziem Okonkwo’s first career TD
Finally, the motion the Golden Gophers have been respecting all game comes back to bite them. This is the 13th consecutive run of the drive for Maryland. The Terps had been pounding the ball down Minnesota’s throat the whole way, which contributed to nobody playing the jet motion on this particular play. Okonkwo gains the edge on the linebacker, who’s slow to the outside, and puts the exclamation mark on a huge day for Maryland.
The jet motion will likely have less success against the bigger and faster defenses in the Big Ten, but it could also play a role in slowing them down just a bit so the Terps’ athletes can thrive. There’s no telling exactly how it’ll play out, and Kasim Hill improving in the passing game will be a big factor, but the jet motion will at least keep elite defenses honest against Maryland, which will give the Terps a chance.