My fear going into Saturday’s game was that South Carolina’s offensive line would control the line of scrimmage, gouging the Tiger defensive front time and again. This was, after all, a rushing attack that averaged 4.7 yards per carry against mighty Alabama. The reality, of course, was to the contrary: Mizzou held the Gamecocks to 0.7 yards per rush and Carolina’s RB duo of Rico Dowdle and Tavien Feaster to 2.1 ypc. Impressive to say the least.
Today in Film Room, we’ll take a close look at the Missouri run defense against the USCe rushing attack, focusing on Carolina’s use of misdirection plays, the type that gave the Tigers fits earlier in the season.
It is no secret that the Tiger defense had trouble against the Wyoming run game, especially handling misdirection. Both the long Cowboy TD runs featured Jet Sweep fakes.
First was this long touchdown run by Xazavian Valladay.
On this play defensive Jordan Elliott (#1) gets bumped out of his gap and the Jet motion holds Nick Bolton (#32), keeping him from trading gaps with Elliott and making the play.
Then this backbreaker by quarterback Sean Chambers.
There are two missed tackles on this play, but once again Bolton chases the Jet, taking him out of the play completely.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Gamecocks ran the following series of three consecutive plays, all incorporating Jet motion.
Carolina wide receiver/man-child Bryan Edwards had success on the Jet Sweep against Alabama. This was the first snap of that game.
Check out Edwards viciously throwing a Crimson Tide defender to the ground. To invoke Mike Gundy: He’s a man!
Unsurprisingly the Gamecocks gave the play another whirl against the Tigers, but with less success.
Carolina leaves the playside defensive end, Tre Williams (#93), unblocked.
The Gamecocks are betting that, being unblocked, Williams will squeeze his gap to the inside, becoming a non-factor in defending the sweep. Instead, Williams expands with the tight end’s arc block, and forces Edwards (#89) wide, allowing Nick Bolton (#32), who is scraping to the outside, to make the tackle.
Inside Zone off Jet Motion, Part One
The Gamecocks proceed to run two more plays from the same formation and off the same motion. The next play is Inside Zone Wham to running back Rico Dowdle. Both the Jet and the Zone go in the same direction.
Notice that this is essentially the same play as Valladay’s long touchdown we saw above.
Here’s a diagram of the Valladay run.
And a diagram of USCe back Dowdle’s run.
In both cases, the H back crosses against the grain of the play to perform a Wham block, kicking out the backside defensive end.
The play is well-blocked. The Carolina O line gets some movement on the backside, but the defensive line is able to keep the O linemen from climbing to the linebackers, Cale Garrett (#47) and Bolton (#32). Nevertheless, Garrett and Bolton get hung up inside, allowing the cutback to get to the third level.
To me the key to the gain is the technique of the backside defensive end, Jatorian Hansford (#28). Hansford is initially unblocked. Rather than coming upfield, he should be squeezing his gap, using a wrong-arm technique to attack the left shoulder of the H-back, preventing a kick-out. This would spill the run to the outside, right into the arms of safety Joshuah Beldsoe (#18) who is flying into the alley just outside the end. Instead Hansford gets kicked out and the ball goes inside Bledsoe.
This is how the play would have looked had Hansford played it properly.
This eleven-yard gain was the Gamecock’s longest run. Nevertheless, compared to Valladay’s TD, it shows better gap-discipline from the defense. Bolton, who was enticed out of his gap twice against the Cowboys, keeps his position. The breakdown is one of technique on the backside, not the Jet motion influencing defenders to vacate their run fits.
Let’s watch one last time.
Inside Zone with Jet Motion, Part Two
On the third play of the series Carolina runs Inside Zone again, this time in the opposite direction, away from the Jet fake.
On paper the play would look like this.
The Tigers blitz both Garrett and strong safety Khalil Oliver (#20) to the playside. To say this blitz screws up the Gamecock scheme is an understatement. Garrett slides underneath the block of a flummoxed playside tackle and Elliott (#1) is left entirely unblocked.
If the Gamecocks offensive front had followed zone rules properly, the blocking would have looked like this.
But Walters’ scheme confuses the offensive front and the Gamecocks come away with a very modest gain.
Let’s look again.
I would be remiss if I didn’t address one other Jet motion play, the run on which Akial Byers had a defensive trifecta: tackle, forced fumble, and fumble recovery. In fact, the play was the same as the second in the above series: Inside Zone to the same side as a the Jet fake.
This time the Tigers were in an even front.
The play is blocked well. Williams (#93) comes upfield and is kicked out. The backside tackle latches onto Garrett (#47) and drives him.
Enter Byers (#97) to save the day. The Tigers have an N/T stunt on. The nose, Kobie Whiteside (#78), attacks the far A gap, and Byers loops around him.
The stunt screws up the the Gamecock’s zone blocking and Byers finds himself right in the gap Dowdle is attacking.
In the tight shot, we get a sense of how the play’s development looked to Dowdle (#5). The hole looks wide open until Byers materializes.
Carolina might not be a great offensive team, but I believe they have a strong rushing attack. The Tigers dramatically shut that attack down using scheme, technique, and improved gap discipline. It will be interesting to see whether Mizzou can continue their defensive dominance on the line of scrimmage against offenses that are more two-dimensional, like Georgia and Florida. We will have to wait a few weeks to find out. Until then I feel good about the advantage the Tigers have in the trenches.