In the days since picking off Texas quarterback Casey Thompson en route to a big win, Jason Taylor and Tanner McCalister have used similar verbiage to describe their interceptions: bait.
In Oklahoma State’s 32-24 victory in Austin this past weekend, Taylor’s INT swung the momentum and put some points on the board in the process. Tanner McCalister’s INT iced the game.
Starting with Taylor’s pick in the second quarter, he started the play about 8 yards off the line of scrimmage. At the snap he waited a half-beat before reading Thompson’s eyes and flying in front of receiver Joshua Moore and running the ball back 85 yards for a touchdown.
“I kind of saw him eyeing it, my zone,” Taylor said after the game. “On the snap, I waited, baited him to throw it, and I jumped it.”
With about two minutes to play, it was McCalister’s turn. The Longhorns lined up with a bunch set to Thompson’s left. McCalister’s assignment was to cover the shallow stuff, but knowing the situation, McCalister dropped back to undercut the pass to seal the Pokes’ win.
“They threw what we like to call eye candy in the flat, I think it was a tight end,” McCalister said Tuesday. “Really, what they want to do with that is, they want the safety, who is me, to bite on the flat so they can throw it over my head. Knowing that, I just kind of played the route, tried to bait him into it and hope that he didn’t see me, which I don’t think he did which is why he threw it.”
Both interceptors credited defensive coordinator Jim Knowles with the play call, but the high-level understanding each had of the situation also needs to be credited.
McCalister and Taylor were each members of OSU’s 2018 recruiting class, a class that also included Kolby Harvell-Peel and Jarrick Bernard-Converse. McCalister, Harvell-Peel and Bernard-Converse are seniors and Taylor is a redshirt junior. That’s a lot of experience in Knowles’ system.
McCalister said that wouldn’t have been something he could do as a freshman. He said when guys first come in, they stick to their man in man coverage and stick to their zone in zone. The intricacies come with time.
“As you start playing more games and start learning football and start learning concepts and situational awareness with where they’re going to go with the football, like it was late in the game,” McCalister said. “They had to score. They were trying to push the ball down the field. Just having that experience and knowing that they weren’t going to throw a 3-yard out-route to a tight end in that situation. Playing for my fourth year, that played into that well. I think every young guy that comes in is going to have that learning process. That’s why you see guys come in playing good but they leave great players, possible NFL guys. Experience can take you to that next level and allow you to make plays to get you to the next level.”
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