Skylar Thompson had a good night vs South Dakota. He didn’t throw for big yards (8/14, 61YDS, 1TD, 1INT) or run for big yards (58YDS on 11 carries) but he came up big in the clutch and helped the Wildcats avoid a crushing upset to start the season.
In my opinion, he was the better of the two quarterbacks last week.
I thought it would be interesting to look at two good plays from Thompson and one not so good play. I tried to pick plays that define his strengths and weaknesses. That’s obviously hard to do in only three plays, but such is life.
Good Play #1 - QB Power
If you’re going to play quarterback in this offense, you’re going to need to be proficient at running quarterback power. While Thompson is considered the better passer of the two quarterbacks, he is a capable runner. This is a textbook example of how to run quarterback power.
I love Thompson’s patience on this run. He stays behind his blocks and waits for the pulling guard to pick up the linebacker before cutting back into the crease for a long gain.
Once he’s in the open field, you get an appreciation for his athletic ability. He is able to make the safety miss with a quick burst of speed and then picks up another 10 yards by cutting it back on a defensive back that thought he had an angle.
Finally, he recognizes that his trip down the field has reached its conclusion and gets down instead of taking a big hit or opening himself up to a fumble.
This still shows his vision and patience as a runner
It’s a little hard to see, but if you look closely you can see that I’ve put yellow dots on the backside linebacker and the pulling guard. You can see the crease in the defense open as soon as the backside linebacker is cleaned up. This is the key block on the run, and Thompson’s willingness to wait and trust his teammate instead of slamming into the pile and hoping to pick up a yard for the first down is textbook execution.
Good Play #2 - Dig Route - TD
This is a clutch throw. It’s 3rd and 8 and if this isn’t a 1st down or a touchdown the drive is going to end in yet another field goal. Thompson shows his skill as pocket passer on this perfectly thrown touchdown.
I love his cool in the pocket. It would be easy to dump this off to the fullback in the flat, but the linebacker is in good position to make the tackle. Instead, Thompson stands tall in the pocket and waits for a window on the dig route. As soon as the window opens, Thompson delivers a strike, beating the safety with a well placed ball.
This shows the safety Thompson has to beat with the pass.
Zuber has the corner easily beaten on the dig route. It’s Thompson’s job to find the window and deliver the pass. In order to do that, he has to beat the dropping safety.
He delivers the ball high, preventing the safety from making a play on the ball. He puts it where Zuber can go up and get it without risking an interception.
This pass required patience, timing, and arm talent. It’s an excellent example of skill set Skylar Thompson brings to the Wildcat offense.
Bad Play - Zone Read Mistake
As I mentioned above, I think Thompson does a great job running quarterback power, but he struggles with the zone read.
Thompson is supposed to read the unblocked back side defensive end on this play. If the end stays at home, he hands the ball to Barnes. If the end crashes down, he pulls it and takes the run to the back side. This is a staple of the K-State offense.
The end crashes down immediately, this is an easy read. There is no gray area, he has to pull this ball 100% of the time. Instead of making the read, he hands to Barnes, who has no chance on the play. He’s got the defensive end on his back immediately. Subsequently, Barnes tries to make something out of nothing and fumbles the ball.
This clearly shows the missed read.
The defensive end is crashing straight down the line. This was probably part of the South Dakota game plan, because Thompson has shown a reluctance to pull the ball in games last year.
If Thompson can’t consistently make a read as simple as this, it makes it hard for the coaches to use the zone read with him in the game. I guarantee that Mississippi State watched this exact play, and will make Thompson prove he’s willing to pull the ball.
Let’s hope he learns from this mistake.