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Film Room: Examining Mizzou's Boom or Bust defense vs Indiana

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Today's Film Room suffered from just about as much lack of focus and follow through as Mizzou did last Saturday, but we struggled through because South Carolina is around the corner

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Mizzou lost to Indiana last week. As the saying goes, "you can't let Indiana beat you twice" and in order to do that I decided to look at how Mizzou defended the screen since I'm fairly confident South Carolina will make use of it on Saturday.

Indiana did some pretty incredible things against Mizzou

Last week I was busy lauding Mizzou's defensive line for the amount of havoc it was able to cause against UCF via a combination of Markus Golden's high-end motor, Shane Ray's athleticism and a heavy rotation of lineman manning the middle who had the strength and speed to be matchup problems where ever they lined up. Markus Golden was a late scratch vs Indiana, which forced some adjustments in personnel, specifically more time for Marcus Loud and Charles Harris at the LDE and spot duty from Harold Brantley. Inside Matt Hoch returned from a pectoral injury

When Indiana wasn't rushing for 6 yards on first down (you didn't want those flashbacks) they were using screens to the running backs, outside pitches and quick passes into the flats to negate Mizzou's strongest advantage: the defensive line.

I went back and re-watched the game to examine some of these plays to see how they were executed, and how well they were defended. Apologies in advance for the quality of the GIFs.

Hooks, Screens and Tevin Coleman

1st Q - 2nd and 10

Here we see Indiana throwing a screen on second and 10 but Duron Singleton accelerates from his nickel position to make the tackle at the line of scrimmage. This is the kind of play I'd been expecting from Singleton and to a lesser extent Braylon Webb and Ian Simon when I wrote about them making plays in space. Additionally, you can see Lucas Vincent diagnose the play at the beginning and move down the line of scrimmage cutting off the cutback lanes.

1st Q - 1st and 10

On first and ten yards, Nate Sudfeld throws a short hook and we see our first glimpse of rookie Thomas Wilson playing as a nickleback. Perhaps it's lack of experience or coaching but instead of exploding into the tackle he slows up and thus allows a conversion for a first down. I realize a player can't make assumptions, but I'd like to see the defender in this position meet the receiver as he turns up field with the knowledge that Braylon Webb is coming from his left and Kenya Dennis is coming from his right to clean up if the wide receiver eludes the tackle.

First off, you should notice that Marcus Loud is getting held by the right tackle. That's pretty freaking blatant and probably prevents Loud from recording a sack on this play.

1st Q - 2nd and 5

On the left side of the line we see Vincent and Loud apply outside pressure while on the right side we see a twist stunt from Matt Hoch and Shane Ray that brings Hoch outside. Both Vincent and ray collapse back inside the pocket when Sudfeld steps up, and we see Michael Scherer come into the screen then peel left to chase down the running back when the ball is dumped off. I can't tell which Mizzou defender whiffs on the open field tackle but Scherer comes in and cleans up the play by forcing the running back out of bounds.

Here's where I'd like to mention that I see a lot of Michael Scherer 'cleaning up' on tackles which isn't necessarily a bad thing given what's asked of him. Whereas most people's impression of a middle linebacker is probably a bruising "thumper" Scherer doesn't fit that mold. Scherer, right now, isn't a point of attack linebacker, he can't take on blocking lineman or shed them and stop the linebacker on a spot.

2nd Q - 1st and 10

Indiana's next screen is actually diagnosed pretty quickly by Shane Ray, who also chases it down. Duron Singleton fins himself up against a down field lineman and the tackle is ultimately made by Eric Biesel and Braylon Webb after a gain of ten yards. This is an example of Indiana scheming Mizzou's defensive line out of the game, throwing a screen on first and ten mixes things up while also wearing them down because they're forced to pursue sideline to sideline. You want your linebackers and safeties coming in to make the play here but ideally you want it to be for less of a gain.

3rd Q - 3rd and 16

For starters, this play is a listed as a "pass for 7 yards to Tevin Coleman" in the stat book, just another in a list of inconsistencies I'm picking up when reviewing film. That's Michael Scherer one on one with Tevin Coleman and while I can't blame him for missing the tackle, I can't say I'm impressed either. Ian Simon comes from out of nowhere to take Coleman's legs while Harold Brantley finishes his pursuit and brings him down. An observation here is while Scherer gets a good angle, Kentrell Brothers drops back to cover the tight end and can't fight back through the block. It's hard than it sounds but with only two real linebackers on the field Mizzou needs them to be better at shedding or getting around blocks.

3rd Q - 1st and 10

Here we have Tevin Coleman's huge run in the third quarter. He sat out a bunch in the first half so I'm sure he was eager to make a big play, closer examination tells us that Mizzou brought Scherer up to the left side of the line, leaving Kentrell Brothers as the sole linebacker in the middle. When the defensive tackles twist inside they inadvertently expose a hole right down the middle but the real problem is Ian Simon is covering air eight yards off the line of scrimmage while the tight end is lined up in the back field to downblock on the blitzing Scherer. The right side of the defense is empty, which gives Coleman the space to pick up speed once he's through the hole and accelerate for 49 yards and set up the next play.

3rd Q - 1st and 10 - Touchdown

That's Ian Simon getting beat for the touchdown but the problem starts at the beginning of the play and demonstrates why sometimes you can't recover from early miscues. Indiana's Harris lines up in the slot, again with no one lined up near him, Sudfeld play actions to Tevin Coleman who had just gashed Mizzou then bombs over top. Either Brothers has to move out wider to force a route adjustment, or Simon can't bail so far back in coverage, especially since the X-receiver is covered. I can't help but think this was a product of Indiana rushing a play after a big gain, something we know is difficult to defend against.

4th Q - 1st and 10 - Gamebreaker

You know it was coming - that fateful screen after the 4th down defensive pass interference penalty.

The Z-receiver runs off to open up space for the screen to Tevin Coleman, a play that's once again run to the side Markus Golden normally mans but I'm unsure his presence would have mattered except for perhaps a slight increase in the chance he bats the ball down at the line of scrimmage. Indiana schemed this play well because the the receiver on the left side is also available for a screen pass in case the linebackers try to cheat.

Where this play really broke down, in my eyes, is tackling. Matt Hoch tries to pursue to the the ball but can't make the tackle, in part because he's submarined by Kentrell Brothers. Arm tackles aren't bring Coleman down, and neither is Ian Simon coming from his safety position when he over-pursues outside and has to stop and turn when Coleman cuts back inside through Hoch and Brothers' tackles. Braylon Webb ends up preventing the touchdown but facemasks the runner, giving them free yards and from that point it's all over but the crying.

No Gains and Tackles for a Loss

Despite the loss, there were some good and interesting things that happened on defense. For example, Shane Ray got mad and smoked a guy off the snap, as you can see above. Ray was upset from the previous play where he was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty that was never shown on TV so I'll let whoever saw it live fill me in below in the comments.

The point of this was demonstrating that Shane Ray is holding true to his comments earlier this week where he stated he wanted to be more than a one trick pony. He flashed great inside rip move that allowed him to Coleman for a loss, displaying the speed and strength to blow up running plays to his side.

The other good thing about this play is the linebacker, Brothers, is covering the outside in case the running back bounces outside and evades Ray. This is significant because on several of the longer runs Mizzou gave up later in the game, there was no one behind Ray or the LDE (Harris, Loud, etc) to protect against the cutback and when the tackle sealed the edge. That's a product of the 4-2-5 having both linebackers shade to the strongside (something that was also taken advantage of on the long Tevin Coleman screen above).

1st Q - 1st and 10 Shane Ray

Another tackle for a loss trying to go to Shane Ray's side, but this time Coleman was able to dance out of it a little more, evading Ray and Augusta and even Duron Singleton, although all of them forced the play backward where... cornerback Aarion Penton makes the tackle? or is it Michael Scherer? Looking at the play above it certainly looks like Penton makes the tackle that brings Coleman down then Scherer "cleans up".

Scherer is initially in the right position to make the play if Coleman runs toward the whole off the right guard, which is what causes Coleman to bounce it back left into the crowd so maybe I'll let this one slide. Penton has been accused of playing soft against the run because he gets blocked by wide receivers, but that was not the case early against Indiana as he was actively pursuing downfield toward the ball.

1st Q - 1st and 10 Shane Ray Again

Here we see Shane Ray attempting to "rip" inside, get held slightly, but break the block and make contact on Indiana's running back so that Kentrell Brothers could clean up the tackle. Another note Penton immediately diagnosing the run and being there with Brothers to make the tackle. If Penton can manage to display that kind of downfield aggressiveness against receivers I think he'll have demonstrated improved confidence in the scheme and make strides in preventing outside sweeps and pitches.

If if if.

2nd Q - 1st and 10 Harold Brantley

Four down lineman, Eric "Zeus" Biesel at linebacker and Braylon Webb on a safety blitz? I'm as surprised as you. And it worked, on first down!

But really it's mostly because Harold Brantley is a really really good, breaks through the offensive line and sits there clogging up the hole that not-Coleman has to run through. Zeus Biesel is also right behind him for the clean up. Also notable is that Kentrell Brothers and Duron Singleton are lined up wide to cover the slot receivers on either side of the play

V 1-10 V25   INDIANA drive start at 02:42. Seventh Drive 2nd Quarter

V 2-G  H06   Redding, Devine rush for no gain to the MU6 (Scherer, Michae;Brothers, Kentr).
V 1-10 H25   INDIANA drive start at 14:53. First Drive of 3rd Quarter

V 1-10 V17   INDIANA drive start at 08:37. Third Drive of 3rd Quarter

V 2-10 V41   Coleman, Tevin rush for no gain to the IND41 (Scherer, Michae;Augusta, Josh).
V 1-10 V25   INDIANA drive start at 13:20. First drive of 4th Quarter

V 2-11 V24   Sudfeld, Nate sacked for loss of 4 yards to the IND20 (Harris, Charles).

There were more good plays from the Indiana game, more tackles for a loss or no gain but unfortunately my computer began acting pretty wonky which is why this post is late and why the GIFs you see are so janky (you'll notice they skip quite a bit). I apologize for that and hope to get it resolved by next week. If you want to help, please crowd fund me a new computer in the comments below.

On to South Carolina

I always have to reference Dave Morrison's Snap decision's articles because they're so insightful and key me into odd little quirks like this:

Also: something kind of interesting the defense did. On two occasions -- both second downs, oddly enough -- Scherer came down to the line and Harris bumped out wide and stood up, showing almost a 3-4 over look. That look yielded a 1-yard run and Ray's 9-yard sack. Could be something worth looking out for in the future.

One such instance I've highlighted below:
3rd Q - 2nd and 7 Shane Ray Sack!

Rewatching the Vanderbilt vs South Carolina game, I noticed that Vanderbilt was doing some very similar to the above play. Combined with the success they had applying pressure up the middle against with NT Adam Butler they forced some bad throws and wasted drives from South Carolina. I think Butler's pretty good but I also think Mizzou has better tackles and more depth to throw in Thompson's face while applying pressure from the edges as well.

Recently we've saw Andrew Wilson play in that style but I think Mizzou adapted its defense a bit to fit his strengths. While I pine for Andrew Wilson allow me to say that I think a linebacking corp of Brothers-Wilson-Scherer for this year would go a long way toward fixing the inside rush defense. Since we don't have that, the next best thing might be Eric Biesel and Mike Scherer or fielding a 4-3-4 with Mike Scherer and Kentrell Brothers in the middle and Clarence Green or Donavin Newsom on first and second downs, then shifting back to the 4-2-5 on passing downs as long as South Carolina doesn't run hurry up no huddle. I think the use of a 4-3-4 would help the run defense, as it did vs UCF and even though all the linebackers are fairly inexperienced they have been consistently lauded as the most athletic Pinkel's seen so I'd like to see them out there making plays.

Of course the big concern everyone has going into Saturday is being exposed on the screens and the secondary giving up passes to Pharoh Cooper, Shaq Roland or Damiere Byrd. Yet I still think it goes back to improving the rush defense - a wild opinion I know - but I feel comfortable that Mizzou's style of defense matches up well against Dylan Thompson if he's the one forced to make plays. Limit Mike Davis AND Eric Wilds (who's a bit of a bigger, more elusive running back) and force Thompson to dink and dunk down the field feels like the gameplan that had South Carolina beat last year were it not for the accursed Connor Shaw and Bruce Ellington.