Against Iowa last week, Mertz did a good job of using his eyes to capture Safari and allowing the dig to be open. Against Rutgers, his ability to quickly find and throw dug passages from play-action fakes put the Scarlet Knights defense in a bind.
They were falling into play and needed the help of linebackers to stop the run, so the play-action mockup brings those players to the line of scuffle. UW almost always have a deep route combined with a dig route to keep Safari in possession and unable to break play in the box. If a defense tries to keep its linebackers apart against the play-action, the badgers must take advantage to run with an easy front-seven.
Most importantly, these are easy, high-percentage throws for Mertz that translate to first downs.
3. Tough Days for Scott Nelson
Rutgers’ offense didn’t do much against the Badgers, ending with an offense of 207 yards on 57 plays.
Its only scoring drive was set up by a 35-yard pass to Bo Melton, which matched in man coverage against UW senior safety Scott Nelson. Melton entered the game as Rutgers’ lead receiver and the Scarlet Knights used a unique formation and no-huddle tempo in an attempt to isolate Nelson.
Rutgers lined up with seven men, two receivers to the left and a running back next to the quarterback in the backfield. Against this alignment, which posed no threat to the right side of the offense, the UW cornerback who would normally cover a receiver fell back and played a semi-safety role. This left Nelson in the man coverage with Melton in the slot on more than one occasion. Melton then faded out of the slot, giving him plenty of room to work in singles coverage.