We just won our 5th straight game over our archrival by 3 Touchdowns, but the emotions are a little complex after this one. There’s just something about having Jake Bentley orchestrate his best performance of the season against our vaunted defense that is dissatisfying. I don’t think the dissatisfaction lies with watching CockFan take their moral victory lap. We’ve seen that for years and, really, that’s all they’ve got.
I think the dissatisfaction lies in the fact that we took a cold slap of reality about how good we are. When Dabo said Alabama was in a class of their own and that Clemson was on the “Rest of Ya’ll Bus,” that sounded like humble coachspeak. After last night, it sounds pretty accurate. Sure, all of our hopes and dreams of a National Championship are still intact. However, the fact that our secondary was shredded by both of the SEC teams we faced this year doesn’t inspire confidence that we can get past Alabama. The logic being that if we thought Jake Bentley and Kellen Mond were good, wait until we see Tua Tagavailoa.
When you look at the top of the Total QBR rankings, you don’t see Kellen Mond (#30) and Jake Bentley (#23). You do see potential playoff opponents Kyler Murray from Oklahoma (#1), Tua (#2), Jake Fromm (#3), Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State (#4) and Ian Book from Notre Dame (#7). All of our potential opponents in the playoffs are going to be bringing great QB play to the table.
What happened last night though, Kraken? That was crazy.
Most of their big plays came on a variation of the same play: a post route from the slot WR. Attacking our defensive scheme in this way is not new. The first time I remember a team having success with this was Louisville in 2014. They pulled their running QB, put in the passing QB, converted a 3rd and 15 with the play, and then ran it again for a TD a couple plays later.
Since then, every team we play tries it at some point. Few are successful because 1. It takes time to get a WR either behind or in the middle of a deep safety and 2. It takes a QB with good downfield accuracy that is also tough. Since we have been one of the best pass rushing teams in the nation since 2014, QBs have not had the 4-5 seconds to wait for the WR to run his route. Here’s what happened last night in kind of a mini-film review.
We have two deep safeties and appear to be running Tampa 2 coverage (except for Isaiah Simmons, as you’ll see here later). Muse (off screen, but you can see his shadow) has the deep half on the near side and Denzel (on screen with his back turned above) has the deep half on the far side. SC comes out in twin WRs on both sides. Contrary to what Dabo said in the presser, we got beat with this play in normal everyday formations too.
On the other side, SC runs what amounts to a smash concept where they have hi-lo outside breaking routes. Notice Denzel is all over the deeper outside route and has that covered up. IS looks to be freelancing or confused about his assignment.
As the slot WR runs away from Muse across the field, he exits Muse’s zone and enters Denzel’s zone. As you can see, Denzel is occupied over there on the hi-lo action and isn’t going to get there to defend this.
In Tampa 2, JD is supposed to be helping out in the middle of the field and forcing the QB to throw over his head. He is a little late getting back there, but if he were closer to the middle of the field, he would be more in the way of the throw. Ideally, he is supposed to be trailing underneath this post route to give Denzel time to break on the ball and recover. So we have multiple players out of position.
The chain reaction that sets all the busts in motion is IS. This is zone coverage where IS has underneath responsibility. If he is standing where he is supposed to, where the yellow circle is to the left, Bentley has to throw over his head to complete the pass to that curl.
This would allow Denzel to play the middle of his zone and not tight on the man. Then Denzel would have more depth and could break on the ball or force a throw further inside that Muse gets a hand on.
That would also allow JD to be in the middle of the field instead of taking a shallow pursuit angle into Denzel’s zone. If JD were in the middle, it would force Bentley to wait for the post route to clear JD.
If Bentley had to wait, it would force him to stay in the pocket just a hair longer where he probably gets hit while he throws or sacked.
And that’s what happened. It’s a chain reaction of over-compensation by defensive backs because a guy did not do his job. If everybody does their job, this is probably a sack and we probably pick one or two of these off at some point. It’s a game of inches, and every step you take outside your responsibility forces someone else to try and do more than their assignment to over-compensate. That’s how the whole house of cards comes crashing down at once and you make Jake Bentley look like Peyton Manning.
Note: The slot post they ran out of the crazy formation pulled our safeties down tight to the line of scrimmage which allowed the WR to run away from the safety quicker than normal. There was confusion, but there was also K’Von Wallace getting his butt whooped by a better player named Deebo Samuel.
Here are where the statistical rankings stand after last night’s points party.
Team National Rankings by Year, Player Leaders by Season, Player Career Leaders