Photo Credit: John Peterson

How the Huskers Freed TE Austin Allen for a Career Day

October 30, 2021

Nebraska tight ends coach Sean Beckton sang Austin Allen’s praises during an appearance on Sports Nightly’s Nebraska Football Show on Thursday night.

Beckton spoke highly of Allen’s leadership, but the veteran tight end is also coming off the best game of his career against Minnesota. Allen caught five passes (one shy of his career high) for 121 yards (nearly twice his previous best) and his third career touchdown.

Allen is the fourth Huskers to surpass 100 receiving yards in a single game, joining Oliver Martin, Samori Touré and Rahmir Johnson.

“I attribute that to the coaches finding ways to get playmakers the ball,” Allen said about his big day. “We have playmakers all across the board. Samori had his fair share, we found Omar [Manning], we were distributing the ball pretty well. Last game just kind of worked in my favor, I guess, of getting the ball in space and whatnot. There’s not really one thing that I can point to other than the play call sheet that week happened to be in my favor.”

If that’s the case, I hope we get more game plans featuring Allen in the last four games. Nebraska ran some pretty cool stuff to get Allen open, and Adrian Martinez looked his way often.

Allen’s first reception came one Nebraska’s second possession. The Huskers went three-and-out on the game’s opening drive but got off to a much better start the next time they had the ball.

Nebraska used 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers) with Travis Vokolek and Allen in-line on the right. Nebraska used Oliver Martin on an orbit motion to suck in the linebackers and outside corner while Touré ran a go route up the hash marks to occupy the safety.

That cleared the way for Allen to work his way across the middle of the field, attacking the soft middle of the defense, and Martinez put the ball on him.

After catching the ball, Allen shrugged off the first tackle attempt from the safety coming forward and picked up an extra 5 yards, making it a 22-yard gain. Great design from the Huskers.

The Huskers didn’t throw Allen’s way again until the second quarter, but when they did he made a big play. Nebraska faced a third-and-10 just outside the red zone and went back to 12 personnel with Vokolek in-line off right tackle and Allen right behind him. The two receivers lined up to the left with the slot man, Martin, running a deep corner route and the outside receiver, Wyatt Liewer, running a 7-yard curl.

On the short side of the field, the running back, Johnson, ran into the flat while Martinez started to roll out. Vokolek ran a 15-yard out route while Allen followed him up the seam and ran a dig.

The stacked tight ends created some confusion for the defense.

Here’s what Martinez saw — the inside linebacker covering Allen trailing him while the other one sat in the middle of the field. Martinez threw back across the field, over Jack Gibbens (No. 47), and hit Allen on the move.

Martinez had a pretty tight window and he hit it as Allen’s used his 6-foot-9 frame to go up and snatch the ball out of the air.

He took a hit from the safety after making the catch but held onto it as he went to the turf, gaining 20 yards and setting the Huskers up at the 7-yard line.

Nebraska went back to Allen with another good combination of route concepts early in the third quarter. The Huskers had the ball at the Minnesota 45 on first-and-10 and lined up in 12 personnel again. Vokolek was in-line to the left while Allen lined up behind the right tackle.

First, Touré motioned to the right slot. On the snap, Touré ran a deep post to draw the defensive back in that area. You can’t see it here, but Alante Brown is lined up at the bottom of the screen and ran a go route up the right sideline. Vokolek ran a shallow crossing route. Johnson ran out into the right flat, which drew in the outside linebacker on that side. The inside linebackers both have their eyes in the backfield as Allen runs a 15-yard out route.

The result, as Touré draws both safeties, is Allen getting as wide open as you’re ever going to see. Jordan Howden realized what was happening and peeled off Touré late, but Martinez had already hit Allen with the ball.

Allen caught it at the 27 and ran another 12 yards down to the 15 before Howden tackled him, making it a gain of 30 yards and setting the Huskers up in the red zone once again.

Nebraska called Allen’s number again late in the third quarter. This time, Nebraska started its drive at its own 45 in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers). Allen lined up in-line next to the right tackle. Touré started in the backfield but motioned to the slot pre-snap. The other two receivers were split wide to either side.

Touré ran a go route up the hash marks, drawing the attention of both the corner and the safety on the right side of the field. Both inside linebackers and the other safety had their eyes in the backfield as Martinez faked the handoff to Jaquez Yant, so Allen ran a go route straight up the middle of the field.

The safety that got caught peaking in the backfield quickly realized his mistake and tried to catch up to Allen, but Martinez hit him 20 yards downfield.

Allen ran another 20 yards before the two safeties dragged him down after a 40-yard gain. Once again, Allen set Nebraska up inside the red zone.

Allen put an exclamation point on his performance with a touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter. The Huskers sent out 12 personnel on first-and-goal and looked to get their tight end a one-on-one opportunity with a slick route combination.

Vokolek lined up on his own to the right and ran straight for the back pylon. The rest of the receivers lined up in trips to the left with Allen up front and Touré and Levi Falck behind him to either side. Touré, the inside receiver, ran a post, as did Falck on the outside. Allen ran to the 5 and sat down to lull the defense to sleep, then spun and ran towards the corner of the end zone.

Martinez threw the ball almost as soon as Allen turned around and started to run again, trusting his tight end to make the play with all that vacated space.

Because of the nature of the route and the timing of the throw, Allen didn’t necessarily get a chance to post up his defender and use his height to win a jump ball. However, he’s not just tall — he has great hands as well.

Allen caught that ball, despite the defensive back tugging on his arm as it arrived. That was a true 50-50 ball and Allen took advantage of a rare red zone pass attempt for Nebraska for his second touchdown in as many weeks.

“A lot of times in practice Adrian’s been throwing up the ball and trusting us to go make a play,” Allen said. “It’s cool that it finally came out. We’ve proven to him in a game now that we can do that, so hopefully that gives Adrian a little more trust to air it out a little bit and let us go make some plays.”

Allen is Nebraska’s second-leading receivers by catches (24), yards (343) and touchdowns (two). Scott Frost and Matt Lubick did a great job of scheming him open and Allen took advantage of those opportunities to have a career game, showing why he very well might have an NFL future after this season.

With four games remaining and inconsistent play by the wide receivers, continuing to feature Allen might be the best path toward finding success in the final stretch of the season.

  • Never miss the latest news from Hail Varsity!

    Join our free email list by signing up below.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap