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#1 Wisconsin-Whitewater 33   #1 Morningside College 30

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 Beyond the Highlights: 1st Half

Plays that won’t make most game summaries but crucial to the outcome.

 In every football game, there are plays or even bounces of the ball or key blocks within a play that won’t make any headlines, but were important in the outcome of the game nonetheless. 

 Here are some of the plays “Beyond the Highlights” in Thursday night’s Warhawk game against Morningside:

 Jordan Ratliffe 14 yard run on the first drive of the game.

 Ratliffe was dumped for a three yard loss on the first play of the game and quarterback Chris Nelson’s second down pass to tight end Brent Campbell missed.  On 3rd and 13 from the 27, the Hawks lined up in a power I formation with one wide receiver, Joe Worth,split right.  Ratliffe took a handoff from Nelson 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Ratliffe went straight ahead as fullback Jordan Gruettner got just enough of the left linebacker who was rushing downhill just outside the hip of the defensive end. Gruettner got there in time to kick him out. That block got Ratliffe to the line of scrimmage who then followed guard Conner Peters, already engaged with the other linebacker 2 yards downfield. Ratliffe burst through the big hole at the line of scrimmage and then glided to the right of Peters who occupied the backer long enough for Ratliffe to break through the second level untouched. He then ran past the cornerback who was forced into a bad angle by Joe Worth who was in perfect position to block him if he took a direct route to the ball carrier. By the time he was brought down by the safeties, Ratliffe had gained 14 yards and a first down.

 Why it Mattered: Along with the extra field position gained by the play and the following three plays, this prevented a quick three and out. The amped up Mustangs and their crowd would have sensed early momentum with a three and out.  Morningside’s first drive turned into disaster with two bad snaps. Would that have happened following a three and out with better field position? Maybe, maybe not.

 

5 Yard Touchdown Run by QB Chris Nelson

 On second and goal from the 5 on the right hash, the Warhawks lined up two tight ends with a receiver split on each side. Nelson stood 5 yards behind the center with Jordan Ratliffe just to his right. Joe Worth, split to the right showed short motion just before the snap, collapsing the secondary slightly on that side. At the snap, Worth ran a skinny post, Nelson executed a play action fake to Ratliffe, who angled off left tackle. When Nelson saw the corner chasing Worth on his post, he knew what he had. He pulled the ball down and dashed for the right pylon. With Tony Gumina pancaking the left defensive end, Nelson ran untouched into the end zone.

 Why it mattered: Well, touchdowns are good. It made this segment because of the nuances behind the success of the play. The play was well designed, it was read perfectly by Nelson, the route run well by Worth, and the pancake by Gumina.

 

Touchback punt secured in the end zone by Nick Patterson.

 The Morningside punter launched up one in the jet stream at his back and it carried over Patterson.  It bounced off of Pattersons hands as he attempted to make a twisting catch with his back to the line of scrimmage. The ball glanced off of his hands.  Fortunately, he stayed with the ball and gathered it in after it bounced twice on the turf. He then slid to the ground making no effort to advance.  Because the ball was never controlled in the field of play, it resulted in a touchback and disaster was averted.

 Why it mattered:  In a game won by three points, any number of plays going differently could have switched the outcome.  This was one of them.

 

Jordan Ratliffe’s 54 yard first quarter run. 

 The Warhawks still led 7-0 when they took over at their own 20 with 5:47 remaining in the first quarter.  The other four plays of the drive averaged one yard per play and the drive ended with a missed field goal. On the play, the Hawks lined up in a power I with a fullback, two tight ends and a receiver split left. If it is possible to block a play perfectly, this one was to the point that a handoff up the middle resulted in Ratliffe hitting the hole at top speed and being untouched until he was 10 yards up field.  He then helicoptered Morningside’s cornerback who left his feet to hit him high. When the cornerback finally hit the ground, Ratliffe was already 6 yards further downfield and not even slowed. He then sprinted away from the angling Morningside defense and was not touched again until the 30, 46 yards downfield.  He rode him eight yards to the 22.

 Why it mattered:  It flipped field position and allowed me to invent the term "helicoptered".

 

Marcus Hudson 20 yard catch and run from Chris Nelson

Morningside threatened to seize momentum as they had closed to within 20-14. UW-W took possession at their own 33 with 4:34 remaining in the half.  After a Nick Patterson one yard run, the Hawks faced a 2nd and 9.  You could sense Morningside’s determination to gain a 3 and out so the could get reasonable field position and a shot at a halftime lead.

UW-W had the ball on the left hash.  The Warhawks came out with Nelson in the shotgun and Patterson offset to his right.  Brent Campbell lined up as an H-back on the right side (An H-back is in a tight end position just outside the tackle, but it is set back a yard or so from the line of scrimmage). They sent Joe Worth wide right and put Marcus Hudson in the slot.  At the snap, Hudson shuffled to his right looking for the ball. Nelson swung it out to him and Joe Worth set himself to block. A safety came downhill hard looking to take down Hudson and Worth destroyed him. Both feet-off-the-ground pancake.  Hudson caught the pass, cut inside the cornerback and made him whiff. He was off to the races for a 20 yard gain down the sidelines.

 Why it mattered: While UW-W eventually punted on this drive, Lake Bachar dropped it down inside the 10 where it was downed at the 7.  Morningside was unable to threaten the rest of the half.