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Western Kentucky Defensive Film Review: Second Half

The defense still has a lot more to work on than it looked like watching this game live.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

I got some good feedback on the first half film reviews so I decided to find a way to get the second half done as well. I spent a lot of time on the defense because they still have some things going on that don’t always jump out when you’re watching the game live. I found myself seeing things that I missed myself.

This is the first play out of halftime and it really stood out to me that P.J. Mbanasor doesn’t come up here and use the sideline as another defender. I guess I just expected him to drop his shoulder into the receiver here and drive him out of bounds. Instead, he breakds down and “catches” the runner. That ends up giving him a first down.

The motion on this play gets picked up pretty well by the defense. Rodjay Burns identifies the route and takes the guy he’s supposed to and Dee Smith picks up the inside guy. Western looked to find a way to get their fastest receiver in space with some natural picks and it worked out for them. This play goes for a touchdown if it’s on target out in front of the receiver (and he catches it of course).

Textbook run defense here. They couldn’t play this any better. Henry Famurewa holds his ground against the right guard who is down blocking. Mike Boykin gets under the center’s pads and pushes him back. Jarrett Jackson gets up field but splits the difference and then he gets down the line and makes the play on the back who is forced into him.

Look at Amonte Caban, though. He pushes the left tackle all the way back into the ball carrier. Just pure effort and strength makes this play. This is what this defense needs on each play.

This is the type of play that UofL can’t have happen going into the Virginia game. They get WKU into third and long and they call the right play on defense. However, Boosie Whitlow goes the wrong way on his drop and leaves the slot receiver open for a first down.

The call is really good against this play. It’s cover three with Dee Smith dropping in the middle of the field and the corners dropping into deep zones. Khane Pass sits in a zone at the first down line with Burns essentially doing the same. They rush three and the linebackers all drop into a zone. The only available play here is to throw it under that zone and hope your guy can make a man miss.

When Whitlow goes the wrong way, he opens up the out route and the quarterback has an option open up. With the running back staying in, this would have likely led to him scrambling and the defense would have gotten a stop.

WKU set the first play up nicely with a fake screen to the wide side. The tight end is split out wide and sells the block and gets up field. Davis Shanley just misses the open man.

The second play is a really nice catch and throw into a tight area. Louisville is in man coverage but Robert Hicks is trailing behind Western’s fastest receiver.

I posted these plays not because of the result of the play but because of the UofL’s player’s reactions. On the first one, you can see Khane Pass and P.J. Mbanasor signal each other because of the motion. Once the play is over you can see them do the signal again and they’re trying to figure out what went wrong.

On the second play, everyone looks to be in zone coverage but Mbanasor. I can’t totally tell if that’s the case but when the play ends, Robert Hicks has his hands out like something wasn’t right and Dee Smith is in his ear. All signs that someone messed something up here.

Louisville has to get these things straightened out. I know backups are playing more but it’s not like all of these guys aren’t practicing together and going through position meetings together.

This is the last play that I’m going to put up showing the defensive line having trouble stopping the run. I’m beating a dead horse at this point. But, you should scroll up to the play that I put up that they defended perfectly. This is the exact same play call but flipped by WKU. The same personnel is out there for UofL. The results couldn’t be more different.

Famurewa and Boykin get washed out by the offensive line and it doesn’t matter that Jackson splits the difference because the gaping hole in the middle makes it impossible for him to get to the runner. Robert Hicks overplays it (I’m pretty much going to give him a pass because he probably can’t see anything with his own linemen being pushed back into him). The next thing you know, the running back is into the third level for nine yards.

I really liked the coverage down the field on this play by both corners. You can see Mbanasor get a good jam on the route up top and he gets in really good trail position without a lot of room to the sideline. The quarterback would have to throw a perfect ball to make that play.

Cornelius Sturghill uses a bail technique at the bottom of the screen which I really liked seeing because Sloan is the fastest receiver WKU has. As fast as Sturghill is, if he misses his jam or missteps, Sloan is way behind him. Instead, he’s in a good trail position and he plays the ball out of the quarterback’s hand. That’s why he’s able to “run the route” and make a play on the ball. He’s just got a find a way to come down with this one.

The last handful of plays are from the same drive and this is the third time that Mbanasor possibly blew a coverage. He definitely blew this one, but the others could be on someone else. This is the stuff that ends up getting you beat against better competition.

This is a terrible play call by Mike Sanford but UofL took advantage of the opportunity just like C.J. Avery’s pick. The line holds their ground and Robert Hicks gets through and would have been there to make the play if they handed it off. Tabarius Peterson makes the play by splitting the difference to bait the quarterback and then using his length to not let him get outside. It’s the second time he was able to pull this off in the game. This puts WKU in third and medium and they get a coverage sack to force the field goal that ended up getting blocked.

This was a play that I was interested to look at myself when it happened in the game. It’s really similar to the first touchdown pass and I couldn’t figure out why the receiver was so open. It looks like P.J. Blue freelances here and decides to blitz instead of dropping into a zone. I don’t know that for sure, but there is no one in an underneath zone on that side of the field and that would be pretty odd, in my opinion.

On the other hand, you can see Dee Smith and TreSean Smith trying to figure out what they’re supposed to be doing right up until the snap and Smith is pointing at the guy who caught the pass. There’s a strong possibility that this is just another play where no one knows the coverage.

This is a really good play by both Chandler Jones and Robert Hicks. Jones gets up field to set the edge. Hicks reads the pulling blockers and gets to the second linemen at the line of scrimmage. That squeezes the hole and both guys get off of their blocks to make the tackle. Hicks also does well to get onto the runners legs to stop his momentum. Really nice to see two freshmen make a play like this where they do all of the little things right.

It took me about five times watching this play to figure out what (I think?) went wrong. First I thought it was Marlon Character getting too deep in his drop as he’s already lined up at 8 yards. That’s not it. Then I thought it was P.J. Blue not getting out to his zone because he’s lined up too far inside at the snap. Not it either. Finally, I noticed that TreSean Smith is the only person playing man coverage. Based on what everyone else is doing, he should be doing what Chandler Jones does at the top of the screen. These are “mirrored” routes by the offense, so the coverage should pretty much look the same.

It might be that he got set late and he should be further up the field. That would have maybe changed how deep he got and he would have been underneath this play like Jones is.

Here is a really good individual play by G.G. Robinson. He beats the center with a really nice swim move and forces the quarterback to throw it away. My favorite thing about the move that he makes is how he sets it up with a slight hesitation after the snap.

This was the play of the game. If WKU gets this touchdown, I think they go on to win the game. This play is why I really love TreSean at safety. He covers ground really well and his length and ball skills are great. The Cards get the stop on the next play and force a field goal.

This play was made by Tabarius Peterson even though I don’t think he got credit for a half sack here. He gets the pressure that forces Shanley to move to his left. The coverage does their job and Jarrett Jackson gets a gift wrapped sack. This was a huge play that almost sealed it for the Cards.