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Anatomy of a Play: Langham’s FSU Touchdown

Darrell Langham won the game for Miami and broke the streak – but how did he do it?

Miami v Florida State Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

We don’t need another excuse to re-watch Darrell Langham’s acrobatic touchdown grab that gave Miami a much-needed victory over Florida State in 2017. But I’m going to give you one anyway.

We know what happened, hell we can probably imagine the play with our eyes closed. Shotgun, Malik Rosier takes the snap, turns and lofts it to Langham, who outrebounds a defender for the ball and falls into the endzone. But how was the play drawn up? What was the FSU defense doing on the play? Let’s take a closer look.

Miami is lined up in 11 personnel – one back, one tight end and 3 wide receivers. Jeff Thomas and Braxton Berrios line up on the strong side, with Chris Herndon on the line of scrimmage next to them. Travis Homer is in the backfield next to Rosier and Langham is on an island in single coverage against the Noles’ best CB, Tavarus McFadden.

FSU has two safeties back and appear to be in man coverage, showing blitz. Six defenders are up on the line of scrimmage and their weakside safety, no. 7 Ermon Lane, is cheating closer to the line. At the last second, Lane runs up to the middle of the field, possibly on a delayed blitz, and the other FSU safety rotates from the right side over to the deep middle. FSU sends their blitz and is playing cover 1. This means that each defender is responsible for their receiver and there is only one guy back deep, safety A.J. Westbrook.

Miami isn’t running anything too exotic here, it’s just four vertical routes looking to end the game on one play. Sure they can kick the field goal and send it to OT, but where’s the fun in that? Richt likely has one message to Rosier; no sacks and no turnovers. This is the perfect play to limit both. Rosier takes the snap on basically a two-step drop and immediately looks at Westbrook. Seeing him closer to the left hash than the right, he knows his best chance for a 50/50 ball is with Langham, where Westbrook will have to cover more ground to defend no. 81 than against Berrios, Thomas or Herndon. In addition, Langham has the size advantage that the other wide receivers don’t. Seeing his chance, Rosier lofts a beautiful pass deep downfield where only Langham can get it.

With the pass placed on his back shoulder, Langham doesn’t perfect;y snatch the ball out of the air at its highest point. But he does grab it before McFadden can get his hands on it, using his 6’4” frame to shield the ball and fall into the endzone. Rosier doesn’t take the sack, doesn’t give the defender a chance to make the interception and Westbrook can’t get there fast enough to make a play. The QB does his job, the WR does his and the rest is sweet, sweet Miami Hurricanes history.