In the opening night of bowl action, UNC-Charlotte kicked off the weekend as it battled in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. The Bulls marched to a 31-9 victory over Charlotte, but that game was a holdover appetizer the nightcap of Utah State against Kent State.
All eyes were on quarterback Jordan Love in his final game orchestrating the Aggies offense, a group that's had its fair share of mishaps including Love.
The expectations entering his third season were monumental. Entering the contest having thrown 17 touchdowns to 16 interceptions, his valley of highs and lows are intriguing, but the decision making in spurts has been questionable, to say the least.
In his last hoorah, scouts wanted to see how he would leave his mark during the final game of his career. He went on to finish the game going 30-of-39 passing for 317 yards and three touchdowns. A lone interception that came off of a dropped pass following a big hit, this is the performance that evaluators wanted to see from Love. He remained poised, making smart decisions all while keeping his accuracy intact. Love was able to pass this test with flying colors will only boost his stock going forward because he proved that he could be competent when needed while also containing his recklessness with the ball.
In back and forth battle, Love and the Aggies came out on the losing end in a 51-41 defeat, but there were 3 plays that stuck out the most in his curtain call.
Play No. 1
Love's first touchdown pass of the night came on a decisive first-and-10 play to tie the game at 17-17. In what may seem like a routine jump ball to the perimeter, what makes this play so encouraging is Love's process prior to the pass being thrown — notice the direction of his feet and eyes. In what's a bit difficult to see from the broadcast camera angle, the Aggies offense is in a twin set where there are two options on each side of the formation. Running all vertical patterns to his right, Love notices that the Kent State defense is aligned in a single high defense, meaning that there's only one safety on the roof of the defense.
Knowing this, he understands that the vertical pattern in the slot will immediately carry him away from the intended receiver that he wants to go to, which is the outer most option. As a result, he stares down his receiver running over the middle of the field to persuade him to stay directly in the middle of the field. A common mistake that QBs make is to directly snap their eyes and feet directly to their intended targets in the red zone. Love prevents this by keeping his body directly down the center of the field before snapping his hips outside and throwing a 50-50 ball to his receiver, trusting that he will haul it in.
Play No. 2
The second most impressive throw of the night, Love delivers on one of the most difficult throws to make. There are few signal-callers that possess the arm talent in order to throw patterns from the opposite hash to the field side. Delivering on a comeback route here, the ball placement and anticipation are what make this play stand out. Are throws back downhill, you always want to place them on the furthest shoulder away from the defender.
Placing it ideally here, gave his target not only an easily catchable pass, but it also created an easy opportunity for yards after the catch. Resulting in a touchdown, these are the small components where Love has been highly inconsistent throughout the season. Sporadic and inaccurate ball placement have been common themes, but he was able to piece it all together and show signs of consistency on many out-breaking routes in his final collegiate contest.
Play No. 3
There are some factors about quarterbacks that will make you sit up in your chair and pay attention closer, this was that type of throw from Love. An easy throwing motion combined with effective off-script creation was a common theme for his game in 2018, but he hasn't been able to show it off as much this season. When he has shown it, it has mostly resulted in a puzzling or devastating interception.
Athleticism and being capable of creating off the grid has become a requirement in today's NFL game. With the talent gap between offensive and defensive line talent still at a large disparity, mobile quarterbacks have become a bit of a requirement. Love has shown to be that type, but he also has the wizardry to go along with it. Receiving a small glimpse of it here, he becomes a bit antsy in the pocket and happy feet begin to form.
While holding the ball low and away from his body with one hand isn't ideal for ball security purposes, he quickly gives it a quick pat and delivers a strike over the middle of the field. Those types of extra opportunities are what keeps defensive coordinators on their heels because it's outside factors that aren't coachable due to the unpredictable factors that are associated with it.
There are many other promising throws that Jordan Love showed in his final game at Utah State and even though his team suffered the defeat, this was the type of outcome that he needed heading into the week of practices at the Senior Bowl. He still remains an ultimate wild card and his landing spot could make or break his career, but there's no doubting the traits that he contains, which will help him receive mixed reviews from many QB needy teams.