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Five Plays: Boston College Third Quarter

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

The third quarter against Boston College included another two touchdowns for the offense while the defense continued to show some flaws that need to be addressed.

I do want to stress that I didn’t intend for these posts to seemingly only highlight negatives from the defense but I do think that there is only one glaring issue for the team so far and it’s chunk plays given up by the defense. The defense needs to create more havoc plays because we all know it can change the outcome of a close game.

This is a beautiful play design. The motion with the fake jet sweep may not seem like much but it’s the biggest key to the play. Jet sweeps are meant to spread the defense and even faking it forces defenders to respect it and widen out at the snap. The two linebackers to the wide side of the field end up outside the hash before Jack Plummer even turns around to throw the ball. Look at Kam Arnold (#5) at the snap and then when he enters back into the screen chasing Jawhar Jordan. It just takes a false step or two.

The design also makes it very hard to cover the ground to disrupt the offensive linemen. This leaves three blockers in front of Jordan to take on just about anyone who has a chance to make a play. It plays out perfectly and Jordan is in the clear.

This is another play where Louisville’s second-level defenders don’t seem to have a plan. They end up just floating in space and Boston College exploits it with the play call. This looks like cover three where the corners are responsible for the outside 2/3rds of the field and the safety is responsible for the deep middle. The other safety has the flat to the top of the screen. The linebackers are responsible for the intermediate middle of the field.

While they all bite on the play action, which is somewhat understandable, they don’t recover to cover their zones. We get a mix of running to recover, backpedaling to recover, and just shuffling in the same spot. Some of this may be inexperience, but second and nine for a team that can’t run the ball well is a passing situation. These guys have to avoid falling for the play-action.

Jeff Brohm has been putting safeties in hell all season and this is a pretty good example of him seeing a weakness and exploiting it. BC’s safety is just not a very good player. I noticed it watching their game against Holy Cross where he couldn’t make a simple tackle on the sideline against a fairly average FCS player. Well, on this play he shows that he just doesn’t have the foot speed or quickness to play as a single-high safety.

Ahmari Huggins-Bruce lines up in the slot on this play and takes a path directly at the safety. He bends outside a bit to get the safety to turn his hips. While I can’t see if he actually turns, he definitely gets beaten across his face. He then allows AHB to get behind him which is essentially the only thing you can’t do as a deep safety.

If you watch the safety at the beginning of the play, you can see where he went wrong. He’s essentially flat-footed with AHB running full speed at him. He was toast less than two seconds into the play.

A part of playing a style of defense that is less aggressive and more about containment is very good tackling. You can see on this play that Louisville plays man coverage on the outside with a couple of players in an intermediate zone in the middle of the field. The call works well as BC calls a middle screen and Louisville’s defenders beat the blocks to get three guys to the ball. However, they just don’t do a good job of getting the runner down.

I fielded a lot of complaints about Bryan Brown rushing three over the past handful of years and I defended it a lot. “Drop Eight” is a popular call for defensive coordinators in long-yardage situations and we see Ron English call it on this play.

I have no issue with calling a defense like this in this situation because you want to keep things in front of you and hopefully force the quarterback to either make a poor decision or run. if he runs, you have everyone looking at him, which should lead to an easier tackle at the very least.

What I didn’t really understand was Cam’Ron Kelly sliding up and putting himself in an intermediate position while there was another player so close to him. He vacates the exact zone where this pass is completed. The corner is run off by the outside receiver and the inside receiver runs a short comeback route. Kelly ends up covering air while the backside receiver runs behind him into space.

This is not an attempt to beat a dead horse but the four-man rush for Louisville can’t live on just getting pressure. We’ve seen four quarterbacks look very comfortable in the pocket even when edge rushers have won their matchup. The defensive ends haven’t gotten home often enough to rely on them alone.

I also wonder if more teams will use bunch and stack formations like we see here where the receivers are stacked which makes it hard to run press man coverage. Quincy Riley has to back off here and give space in case of a switch and he’s not able to stick close to the receiver which leads to a window to deliver the ball.

It hasn’t hurt them enough to lead to a loss, but offenses are adjusting pretty quickly to what they are seeing and we’re seeing a lot of receivers running open in the middle of the field. As the schedule gets tougher, this will likely become more frequent. Ron English needs to consider more pressure to help stop the big plays and chunk plays.