How Cam Akers and the wildcat formation sliced up the Syracuse defense

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Syracuse expected Cam Akers to be good. It knew he could break tackles and cause problems in the open field. What the Orange didn’t know was that he could throw. And it most certainly didn’t expect him to play as quarterback repeatedly. “It was very interesting to have Cam Akers out there trying to throw the ball, playing quarterback,” Syracuse linebacker Lakiem Williams said. “I mean I’ve never seen that before.” Akers lined up at quarterback several times in Florida State’s 35-17 win over the Orange at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday. The Orange (3-5, 0-4 Atlantic Coast) said they hadn’t seen that many direct snaps to Akers at quarterback on film. Its lack of preparation from SU showed. Akers completed two passes for 26 yards on his first series at the position. He’d only throw once more but the threat opened up the ground game, where Akers finished with 144 yards and tied a school record with four touchdowns. “When you’ve got a first round draft pick and you’ve got 10 guys blocking, that’s a really really good formation,” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said. “I would be very surprised if they don’t consider to use it throughout the year.” Babers explained the mismatch by saying that Akers now had less tackles to break than before. Instead of breaking three or four tackles, Akers had less players to go by to pick up big yardage. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFSU created this predicament in part not only by using a direct snap to Akers but also through its blocking scheme. On many plays, the Seminoles sent one or two offensive linemen pulling out in front of the nation’s 12th leading rusher. Then came a crack-back block, meaning someone, who lined up outside the offensive tackle, would come back inside and seal the edge. “I got to find a way to get through the double team then I got to identify who’s trying to crack back on me and got over the top of him,” Williams said. “So it just makes it difficult…It was kind of like a push everybody down and let him bounce it and hit it in a way.”The plays often featured another back lined up next to Akers, whom he’d either handoff or at least fake the ball to. On one play in the second quarter, he kept the snap, ran wide right and with a block from quarterback Alex Hornibrook, dove into the end zone for a touchdown. The next play, Akers faked a pitch to the running back beside him and waltzed into the end zone untouched for a two-point conversion. Both Williams and defensive tackle Josh Black noted that the hardest part about defending the wildcat was that it was something the Orange hadn’t seen on film. Syracuse’s defense would’ve normally set rules to fall back on but those became murky as the quarterback was really a running back. Unsure of assignments at times, Syracuse failed to fill their run gap responsibilities. Akers hit repeatedly off tackle, frequently cutting up field between the tackle and slot receiver. Then, he often broke a tackle, sometimes two. It was a wrinkle Syracuse wasn’t prepared for, and it paid the price. “This game is like a game of chess whoever has the move ahead is going to get the advantage,” Black said. “And they were able to do that on us.”  Comments Published on October 26, 2019 at 10:23 pm Contact Josh: jlschafe@syr.edu | @Schafer_44last_img

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