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Bend Don’t Break: A Defensive Series, Part Two

We resume our look at a series from Ryan Walters’ defense.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back! Let’s continue our close look at a defensive series from last year’s game against South Carolina. As a refresher, let’s look at the Drive Summary in Part One.

So far we’ve looked at the series’ first four plays, and now pick up on play five, a second-and-eight from the Carolina 45.

Play Five

With the ball spotted in the middle of the field, the Gamecocks deploy a tight trips formation. Missouri is back in its Over front with the strong safety to the trips side.


The play is a rollout to the right. The Tigers do a fine job keeping the quarterback Hilinski from getting the edge, and the coverage forces a throwaway.

Walters opts for Cover 1—man coverage with a safety in the deep middle.

The pass rush is a conventional four-man charge. Both Gamecock backs stay in protection. This triggers Mike LB Cale Garrett (#47), who is responsible for the tailback, to add himself to the rush.

Let’s look at the tight shot.

As the telestrator highlights, backside defensive end Jatorian Hansford (#28) is the victim of an egregious hold. The penalty moves Carolina back eleven yards, setting up play six as a second-and-nineteen.

Play Six

The Gamecocks line up in a 2x2 formation with an H back in the backfield. Missouri is back in the Tite front.

Manning the strong edge in a cameo appearance is defensive end Franklin Agbasimere (#45), with Mike linebacker Cale Garrett (#47) across from him on the weak side. Garrett’s shift to the defense’s first level leaves Will LB Nick Bolton (#32) alone backing the line.

By alignment the defense looks is Cover 1, the coverage Walters has called on the previous X snaps. But this is a disguise. At the snap the Tiger defense drops to Cover 2 Robber.

DeMarcus Acy (#2) engages #1 receiver Shi Smith, allowing strong safety Khalil Oliver (#20), who had lined up close to the LOS, to drop deep over top of the Go route.

This brings up a difficult third-and-nineteen for the Gamecocks. The drive’s end is imminent, no?


Play Seven

Another third-and-long, another exotic front. Carolina employs an empty set. The Tigers put six players across from the Gamecocks’ five linemen, all standing up.

This is what I call a Radar front—just a bunch of dudes standing around on the line of scrimmage. Who is going to rush? Who is going to drop? It can be difficult for the OL to sort out.

The impression this look gives is a six-man rush with Cover 0 behind it. But Mizzou drops out into a conventional Cover 3.

In the tight shot we can see free safety Tyree Gillespie (#9) move from the hash to the deep middle as Garrett and Bolton drop to their short zones.

The route is backyard-style: run to the first down marker and turn around. Oliver gets himself underneath the route, but a nice throw by Hilinski and great catch by St. Louis product Kyle Markway makes for an eighteen-yard pick up.

This brings up a fourth-and-one. Down ten in the third quarter with the ball at midfield, Gamecock coach Will Muschamp decides to roll the dice.

Play Eight

Carolina aligns in a three-tight end unbalanced power formation. Missouri keeps its base personnel on the field.

The Tigers come out in a even front, shifted toward the unbalanced strength. The nose tackle, therefore, is lined up over the right guard.


Surprise! It’s a playaction pass. Safety Joshuah Bledsoe (#18) is responsible for tight end Markway, who catches the pass for a first down.

In the tight shot we can see that Bledsoe is tricked by the run fake for just a moment. His recovery is not quick enough to prevent a big Carolina conversion.

Gamecock first-and-ten.

Play Nine

On play three of this drive Carolina isolated their best receiver, Bryan Edwards, to the wide side of the field and converted a third-and-ten on a deep Curl. Out of the same formation they run the same play here, and with similar success.

As on the third play, Walters sends his strong safety, here it’s Oliver, to the trips side even though it is into the boundary. As on the third play, there is no flat player to help out under the Curl.

Oliver blitzes off the left edge as Mizzou pressures with five rushers.

Boundary safety Bledsoe slides over the cover for Oliver. Gillespie drops to the deep middle. The coverage is Cover 1 Will Low.

This is a nice easy rhythm throw that garners another Carolina first down.

Play Ten

Carolina sets up in an unbalanced set: the slot receiver is ineligible because he is covered by the #1 receiver. Edwards goes in motion toward the QB.

I’m smelling a run, and so are the Tigers. They have two defenders—Garrett and Oliver on the edge, waiting for the Jet Sweep.

A Jet Sweep it is. Not a run officially, since Hilinski tosses the ball to Edwards, but in every unofficial sense, this is a run.

Here’s the play.

Because the Jet Sweep employs a block from the running back, it adds an extra gap that the defensive front can’t account for.

In this case the back helps out the Tigers by blocking no one. The real problem is that, while Oliver and Garrett do a decent job keeping leverage and forcing the ball inside, Hansford gets reached by the right guard and ends up in the A gap.

Jarvis Ware (#8), covering Edwards man-to-man, chases across the formation and makes the tackle after a three-yard gain.

Scheduled Break

That’s it for today. Next time we’ll look at the last five plays of the drive. Tune it: there’s a surprise ending!