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Inside the Play: Austin Carr ties the Northwestern touchdown record

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Opposing defenses just have no way to cover Austin Carr.

Every week, our Ian McCafferty will go back and critically review one or more plays from the past Saturday's game. These are the plays that, more than any others, were crucial in determining the outcome of the game. He'll check the film and break down the how and why of those decisive few seconds.

That was one of the most delightful Northwestern football games in recent memory. Despite a terrifying slow start, Northwestern came out firing in the second half, scored on all of its third-quarter possessions and blew out the Boilermakers in West Lafayette. It was the complete opposite of last year’s nail biter of a game at Ryan Field. The Northwestern offense scored 45 points, and most of it came in the second half. But 14 of those points did come in the first half, all courtesy of Austin Carr. Carr’s first score was on a 2-yard crossing route, but his second TD was a long 33-yard one, and that’s what we’re going to look at today.

(All Video Via BTN)

It seems that all the rumors and worries of Northwestern’s offensive demise were greatly exaggerated.

It turns out playing a top-five defense does actually effect your offensive output, and this Saturday Northwestern was playing far from a top-five defense (112th actually). The Wildcats got off to another slow start on the road, because apparently that’s their new thing, but still managed to have a lead at half.

The halftime scoreboard read Northwestern 14, Purdue 10, but in reality it was Austin Carr 14, Purdue 10. The Big Ten’s leading receiver scored his 11th and 12th touchdowns of the season to score the first 14 points of the game for Northwestern. His first TD was only two yards, but his second was a bit longer.

This touchdown gave Northwestern the lead, a lead the team would never relinquish. Let’s see how it happened.

The Breakdown

Pre-snap alignments:

So this screenshot right here is pretty telling of what’s about to happen. Northwestern is in the shotgun with three wide receivers, but the placement of Dickerson gives off the appearance that it could be a run play. Purdue is in a base nickel look, but the near side safety has come down into the box. The other safety is down as well, completely opening up the middle of the field. Also the cornerback covering Carr is roughly 12 yards away from his at the snap, so he gets a free release.

Carr (at the bottom of the screen) gets more than a free release here. He just doesn’t get covered. Northwestern runs a play-action fake and almost everyone on Purdue bites on it. The safety just above Carr bites harder than anyone though. He moves down to make the “tackle” and Carr just runs right by him. Also important is that the play-action freezes both linebackers and the safety. They don’t bite, but they stop for just a split second long enough for Carr to be able to get behind the defense.

This is a couple seconds after the snap and yet everyone on Purdue is still staring into the backfield. There’s no one within five yards of Austin Carr and all he has in front of him is open space.

This is the point where Purdue linebacker Markus Bailey realizes that Austin Carr is wide open and about to run by him for an easy touchdown. The only problem is that he realizes it too late and the angle he takes isn’t good enough to properly cover Carr.

Carr blows by Bailey and is wide open for the touchdown. Clayton Thorson under throws him a bit which leads to an impressive catch from Carr, but he had at least two steps on Bailey at this point. It was poor coverage all around from Purdue and Northwestern was able to take advantage. Isolating your best player often results in very good things.

The Takeaways

Northwestern continues to be able to hit the deep ball, especially on play-action passes. Having a dominant receiver like Carr helps, but other players like Macan Wilson and Garrett Dickerson have been able to score on plays like this throughout the season. Also long as the running game is competent, the play-action has become Northwestern’s deadliest weapon.

Also:

Austin Carr is a very good wide receiver.

You should probably cover Austin Carr.