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Boston College Film Review: First Quarter

NCAA Football: Boston College at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville got their first conference win in almost two years on Saturday and there were a lot of positives to take away from the game. The first quarter saw some of the same issues that plagued the defense against Florida State but they did some good things against the run. The offense was, quite literally, unstoppable with Micale Cunningham looking like a guy that is starting to put it all together. The receivers got off to a great start and the running backs and offensive line dominated in the run game.


Louisville set the tone early for how they were going to defend Boston College’s run game. Russ Yeast comes up like an additional linebacker here and meets AJ Dillon in the hole. Yeast finished the game with 8 solo tackles and he got started early. He was all over the run game early and helped force a couple of third downs with his run support.


This was the first pass of the game for BC and UofL blew the coverage. C.J. Avery ends up playing man coverage while everyone else is in zone. So when Chandler Jones passes off the outside receiver, he ends up running free through the zone Avery should be in. You can see that Jones points this out to him and Avery looks to the sideline signaling something. I actually wonder if guys get confused by the three coaches calling in plays.


I think this play really showed how the defense could dictate the line of scrimmage even though BC got the first down. Louisville creates a new line of scrimmage on a short yardage run and it takes one of BC’s big backs to barely get the first down. A couple of the second level players can’t get to the ball quick enough because of all of the guys at their feet. These guys are winning up front with effort and quickness. It’s great to see them take that aspect of the scheme to heart.


One of the most important plays of this game happened on the first drive. Monty Montgomery makes a great heads up play to go for the strip on Dillon as he’s being held up by a few other guys. BC was moving the ball with ease up until this point so keeping them off the scoreboard was big. It’s also great to get a momentum play to get the crowd and the team amped up.


This was Micale’s first throw of the game and you can really tell that he anticipates things much better now. He knows that the play action will suck up the linebackers and he just has to be on time with his first read. His footwork looks like this on almost every throw he made on Saturday. Just fluid and confident. The game reps are really starting to pay off and it’s great to see.


Javian Hawkins gets an absolutely massive hole to run through on his first long run of the game. Mekhi Becton seals the edge right off the snap and cuts off any chance of someone chasing the play down. Hawkins angles his run to use his speed to get outside of the pursuing linebackers. Jordan Davis and Seth Dawkins completely dominate their blocks with Davis pushing a guy from inside the hashes all the way to the numbers. Then it’s just Hawkins using his speed. BC is bad on defense but I don’t think it’s out of the question to see this type of run against a few other teams left on the schedule.


After the Western Kentucky game I pointed out on Twitter that this offense doesn’t work with the quarterback running the ball 16 times like Micale did in that game. It was great to see him with only 6 carries on Saturday but you also love to have plays like this as a possibility. This is a RPO that gets defended perfectly by BC. The dive isn’t an option with two guys flashing up the middle. Jordan Davis is also covered out wide. They even account for Micale keeping it. But there's nothing you can do about a guy being this good with the ball in his hands.


Here’s another third down throw where UofL is too loose on their coverage and they allow an easy completion. To me, the issue is that Khane Pass is still conveying the coverage to Monty Montgomery when the ball is snapped. Pass is then caught off guard and he gets a late start on the play. You can see that he immediately goes to Monty about the coverage call. It didn’t really fit in the gif but Montgomery got the call and then turned around a few seconds later. That’s when the gif starts.


The big blown coverage that left BC’s tight end running free down the middle of the field is a little hard to figure out. To me, it looks like UofL is in “cover zero” where everyone is in man coverage and no safety plays deep. Khane Pass is lined up on the tight end that ends up going in motion. That motion appears to be what causes the confusion.

I think that Rodjay Burns should be in coverage with the motion and it looks like he kind of ends up in no man’s land. He would be responsible for the second guy in with the corner taking the outside guy. Somehow Russ Yeast takes the second guy and no one takes the inside guy. This is all theory and T.J. Holl also ends up kind of not blitzing but not covering either. Hard to know for sure what happened but I will say that this one seemed to be much more about BC creating confusion.


Scott Satterfield came back on the next drive after Javian’s long run and hit the same run action with a bootleg. Micale makes a very nice throw here with good timing. Tutu and Dez made catches in this game where they worked back away from coverage. It doesn’t always seem to be a big thing when the pass is completed but when throws like this get broken up, it’s usually because the receiver didn’t work to separate after their break.


Two weeks ago, Micale tucks the ball and runs here. His first read isn’t there as the corner sits on the flat route but he pumps and then takes his second option because the corner sits and the safety is out of position. It’s also great to see him make a throw like this when he can’t step into the throw. Pretty cool to see him grow as the season goes on. Also very, very cool to see Seth Dawkins get in on the action.


Contain is still a bit of an issue for the defense. The alignment here doesn’t really add up to me with three receivers to the top of the screen. Quen Head is still lined up heads up with the inside guy. You also have Yeast playing as deep as he would if he was playing deep zone. Then you just have guys not getting across their blockers quickly enough and the back gets to the lane set up by his blocks. I’m not sure why they’re playing so tight against these spread formations but it hasn’t really worked so far.


I think this play demonstrates the ongoing issue of the secondary not playing tight enough coverage. Chandler Jones isn’t ready for the play because the call comes in late, but he recovers to close on the tight end in the flat. Then he just flattens out and runs behind him. He has to keep coming and put himself in a position to make a play on this ball. Bryan Brown specifically talked about guys looking to make plays when they know they have help. This is a two yard route. Take the risk.


I spent all spring, summer, and second summer talking about how Bryan Brown’s scheme was built on the defensive line dictating things up front. I also said that the goal was to blow up blocking schemes so that second level players can fill gaps and take on running backs. Well, here’s the best example possible to show what I was talking about.

I can’t tell who the end on the left side is but watch him slant all the way to the other side of the play and take his blocker with him. Jared Goldwire takes his blocker with him also. That gives Gary McRae a clean path to the runner with Khane Pass coming up in support. They still have some work to do for this stuff to look more clean but it’s working as planned the vast majority of the time.


I’m finding it hard to not post all of Micale’s throws because he looked so good on Saturday. He also got great protection from the line and my hope is that he gains confidence from that protection. He didn’t have to make a bunch of decisions in this game but he shouldn’t have to any most of the games going forward. The offense is simple and it seems like he’s finally understanding that. He sees this zone pre-snap and you can see him looking at the safety to make sure he’ll have the space to get the ball to Tutu. It’s nice to see him look there instead of looking at the backer that Tutu has to get around. He identified the threat and trusted his receiver to get open. That was a theme we saw all game.