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App State Film Review: Penn State Third Quarter

Things started to get away from App State, so we got a few not so great plays to break down.

NCAA Football: Appalachian State at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State pulled ahead by two scores in the third by getting timely stops against App State and moving the ball with balance. App State gave up some scores close to the end zone that were way too easy for PSU and some of that was due to getting away from what they had normally done.

App State Ball, 2nd and 20

This play looks pretty familiar to UofL fans. The right tackle gets beat off the snap and starts a chain reaction. He doesn’t get outside and that means that the right guard can’t get outside of his guy and it also means that the center is now out of position to block the guy that the right guard can’t get outside of. Got all that?

The right tackle getting blown into the path of the runner is the only real issue here because the play is pretty much dead at that point. Zone blocking schemes can have a boom or bust factor because of plays like this. If anyone on the front side of the play doesn’t get their job done, it’s hard for the back to find that seam they need.

PSU Ball, 1st and 10

A concern a lot of folks have had over the last few years is “soft” coverage. App State’s defensive alignment tended to show corners playing off receivers but this play gives a good look at how their play after the snap mattered the most. The coverage at the top of the screen shows that the corner is 7 yards off the ball. By the time the receiver makes his cut at about 4 yards the corner is right there with him.

Next, take a look at the two linebackers that drop into coverage in the middle of the screen. Right before they go out of the picture, you can see them pointing and passing off their coverage on the routes that cross each other. To me, that’s coaching continuity showing up in real time. Those two guys know exactly what to do on this call and they’ve been doing it over and over again in practice since they got there.

On the bottom of the screen you see the other corner backpedal out but not turn his hips to run. That’s something I’ve seen a lot and it makes sense when you think about Coach Satt’s comment that his defense creates turnovers but doesn’t give up big plays. The reason he’s not turning to run even though the receiver has eaten up his cushion is that there’s a safety right there with him that is turning his hips to run. “The other 10” mantra shows up on defense a lot and it’s ingrained in the scheme.

PSU Ball, 1st and 10

I’m going to end up posting every single open field tackle by this secondary and it won’t ever get old. Josh Thomas (#7) had the same running back run out of a tackle on the previous play but he gets the job done here. The effort from the outside linebacker here forces the receiver to take him on instead of being able to go up the field to Thomas. If the OLB just loafs out there, the receiver takes on the greater threat to the runner which is Thomas and the back has an alley to the sideline.

Also, three guys end up in on this tackle and two of them beat a block to get there.

PSU Ball, 2nd and Goal

I really didn’t like this call and that’s partly because it seems out of the ordinary for Bryan Brown’s defense. Trace McSorley is a more than capable runner, so you have to account for him more and more as they get closer to the goal line. Playing man coverage is necessary, so you’re leaving yourself open to him running while your back’s turned.

My issue on this play is that they also keep a safety back at the top of the screen. What exactly is he going to be able to do? The ball isn’t going to go deep here, so why not bring that safety up in a short zone or as a spy. If they do that here, you have a much better chance of stopping the play. This is just too easy for PSU.

App State Ball, 3rd and 8

This third down conversion was really nice and I think it gives a good look to what the quarterback sees. This is a “levels” call because it gives the quarterback different yardage options to throw the ball.

The inside receiver runs a curl route right at the sticks while the outside receiver runs the same route about five yards past the sticks. The middle receiver runs a route short of the sticks as an option if the pressure gets to the quarterback before the other routes develop. This is designed to go to the right side of the field but it still gives the quarterback options. That simplifies things for the quarterback without simplying the actual play, itself.

Another reason I like this play is that it works against man coverage or zone. The backside receiver is a good option if this was an all out blitz.

App State Ball, 3rd and 3

If you ever want to see my head explode, just run the option to the short side. This play is doomed from the snap because the play is run just as it’s designed. Option plays are always wide plays and that puts the running back nearly to the initial alignment of an outside receiver when they catch a pitch.

Hopefully that gives a good visual because if Zac Thomas pitches this ball it’s not going to end up being caught where the running back is. It will be caught well outside the numbers and likely about halfway between the numbers and the sideline. Quarterbacks know that and they rarely ever make the pitch here. It’s exactly why I hate the play. Defenders always pinch here because they’re utilizing the sideline as an extra defender. So you usually end up with this result or you get a running back catching a pitch and running directly out of bounds.

App State ended up punting after this and PSU gained more steam with the home crowd behind them.

PSU Ball, 3rd and 3

Wanted to throw this in there to give a close up look at how Bryan Brown coached his corners to play the ball. You can see Clifton Duck get beat here on a deep comeback but the replay shows how he plays the ball and I really liked this. He focuses his eyes on the receivers hands and then plays the receivers hands instead of the ball.

He also doesn’t just go for the tackle to try to jar the ball loose or whatever that technique aims to do. Playing the receivers hands is the proper way to defend as a corner and that’s how they always played the ball down there. As I’m writing this, it’s been reported that Brown will be joining the staff here. In my opinion, he’s the most important staff member because his position group plays at the highest level outside of maybe the running backs.

PSU Ball, 1st and 10

This play is all about disruption and diagnosis. NyQuan Stout is a key to this defense at his nose tackle spot. You can see him get so deep into the backfield that he is right next to the hand off when it’s made. Then you see everyone else get to their “fits”. Jake Smith pointed out to the CJ in his interview this season how bad Louisville’s run fits were and we all saw that with the numbers teams put up against the defense.

On this play you can see how great the run fits are as the two middle linebackers step right into the hole that is created by Stout blowing up the blocking scheme. That’s when the outside linebacker diagnosing the play is so big. He reads this and shuffles to his right and then flies into the seam to make the tackle. This is just great defense and it’s exactly what you need when you’re playing a more talented team.

App State Ball, 3rd and 2

I liked this play call on third and short. App State spreads things out and then they run a play that they hadn’t run since earlier in the game. Coach Satt didn’t use quarterback runs in this game like he did in others and the jet sweeps earlier in this game had been handoffs. So, when he needed a big play he just ran the option off of the jet sweep motion and Thomas has all the room he could need to get the first down.

You know you’re going to get man coverage here and you also know that PSU pretty much refused to bring a safety down into the box. That means you should at least be able to get the two yards you need. I just really like how simple this one was. Didn’t try to do to much but made sure they did enough.