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A Season on the Brink: Joey Elliott Directs the Bombers to the Win Column

Posted by Richard Hechter in A Season on the Brink on August 20, 2012 — No Comments

“We’re 1-5 at this point. What worse could he do?” That was Jovon Johnson’s response to Joey Elliot starting under center (actually, he starts in the shotgun almost 100% of the time – but that is for another article) for the Blue and Gold against Hamilton. We all know the result, and Bomber fans clearly have something to celebrate this Monday morning. 400+ yards, awesome. +6 in the turnover ratio, tremendous. 3-easy interceptions dropped by overzealous Ti-cat defenders, we’ll take it.

Jovon insinuates that the Bombers have only one direction to go, as the other path has already been realized given the 1-5 record at that time. Look again at Jovon’s comment, and think about it from a greater context. Given this interpretation, let’s talk about direction.

In physics, direction is the difference between a scalar and a vector. A scalar is a quantity, like speed, that has only magnitude – as in, “I was driving 50 km/h”. Conversely, a vector is a quantity that has both magnitude and direction, as in, “I was driving 50 km/h north on Milt Stegall Drive.”

In football, direction becomes a significant factor in determining the outcome, and success, of plays on both sides of the ball. Here are three direction-based examples from the game against Hamilton that significantly impacted the outcome of the game.

With the Bombers trailing 17-10 deep in the 3rd quarter, and Henoc Muamba just having forced a turnover on a punt return, Joey Elliot orchestrated a well designed, and well executed drive that found the Bombers 1st and goal on the Ti-cat 5. With only Chad Simpson in the backfield and standing on the left side of our quarterback, Elliot handed-off the shotgun snap and seconds later, and untouched, Simpson was across the goal line. This play, for all intents and purposes, is designed on the basis of direction – more specifically, intentional misdirection.

After breaking the huddle, an overload of receivers flanked the left side of the offensive line, with only Kito Poblah and Terrence Edwards on the right in 1-1 man coverage. With the snap of the ball, the entire offensive line shifted to the left, with the Edwards and Poblah moving right. With the offensive line pulling left, it moves the defenders that way as well. With this shift, Simpson went right, and through the very open gap on the right, and strolled into the end zone (See below, Simpson is blue dot, offensive line is in yellow).  Again, the direction was a misdirection, and the home side put 6 points on the board.

The second Bomber touchdown, and second example here, found Chris Matthews alone on the left side, with seemingly no one there to cover him. The truth however is that the Ti-cat defender chose the wrong direction, in this case, the angle of pursuit, to try and intercept the pass. Bad direction for the defender meant bad execution, which resulted in another 6 points for the Blue and Gold. The truth of this example is that had Hinds chosen the right path and right direction, it was 6 points as well – however this time on the Ti-cat side of the scoreboard.

Remember junior high when you learned SOH CAH TOA? It really is the code for basic trigonometry of right-angle triangles. Depending on the angle, the hypotenuse (the diagonal side) will change its length. Ryan Hinds, the Ti-cat defender, jumped the route and tried to cut inside and intercept the pass. In doing so, he (as shown below as the red dot) chose an angle that misjudged the trajectory of the ball. The ball travelled over his head, safely landed in Chris Matthews hands (the blue dot), and an easy touchdown was scored.  A more acute angle and he would have had the ball land in his hands, not Matthews. Direction, in this case, was significant in terms of angle of pursuit.

The third example for today is the 3 and 1 gamble Hamilton made in the waning moments of the game. On first blush, this pass seemed ridiculous in terms of play selection, and poorly executed. On further deconstruction however, a small, but significant, change of direction occurred causing the ball to land incomplete. Putting your hands up as the quarterback throws your way is a skill most lineman work on over the course of their careers. It requires precise timing and athleticism to coordinate the attempted pass block in concert with the quarterbacks’ throwing motion and the distance between the lineman and the point of release. While the election to pass, on a typical run play is something Hamilton coaches, fans, and media will reflect on for quite some time, it is here that I note that defensive lineman Kenny Mainor raised his left arm and jumped into the flight path of the ball only to have it deflect of his helmet. This deflection caused a change of less than 30 cm, but was enough to render the play incomplete. Again, direction rears its head, and makes an enormous impact on the game.

Jovon Johnson said that there was only one direction to go in this game in terms of the play of the quarterback. For me, the notion of direction is much more global. This article focused on the vector nature of the game of football from different contextual situations. Hopefully next week I can continue this physics lesson and talk about the effects of positive momentum.

Editor’s note: The author of this article is Dr. Richard Hechter, an Assistant Professor of Science and Mathematics Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. Following each Winnipeg Blue Bombers game, win or lose, Dr. Hechter will examine and provide analysis of some of the key moments and decisions of the previous game.