Well that was the ugliest 56-35 win I think we’ve ever had here, lucky me for being at the game to see it in person. There are a lot of very fundamental reasons why we looked like complete shit on defense tonight. I commented on them during the game via twitter, but Venables acknowledged them in his quick postgame commentary. In any case, we’re 12-0 and it was the 5th in a row. They don’t have to look great so long as we come out ahead in all of them.
We’ll start with the offense, which was absolutely unstoppable all night. Muschump had no clue how to stop anything we did all night long. The only times we punted were when we stopped ourselves. About the only thing they did right was keep Etienne from busting a 60 yarder on them. Sunshine was dealing the ball out quickly and they couldn’t stop anyone, even though their DBs had better fundamentals than ours did tonight. There’s really nothing but praise for the whole offensive group. The line did well protecting TL and blocked pretty well for the backs, who did well to be patient and follow their blockers when the big holes weren’t there.
Unfortunately, the defense didn’t play anywhere in the same ballpark as the offense did tonight. That game was about as atrocious on defense as Steele’s last year and BV’s first year here, and probably worse if you just looked at fundamentals.
1) The pass rush was poor overall from everyone. Kudos to SC for blocking us well, and Bentley did do well to get it out quickly, but there was a lack of technique that allowed them to do so at times. Not getting off the ball, not getting proper punches, not a good use of hands in general.
2) We know that pass rush and pass defense go together, and it showed, but our secondary fundamentals were just embarrassing tonight. It wasn’t everybody, but when your safeties cannot follow the call and don’t stay on top of the deepest receiver because they are looking at the wrong thing, it should not shock you that he gets a big play. I’m looking at you, Tanner Muse. Muse loves to make a big play or a big hit instead of doing his damn job, and is responsible for a share of the shitshow tonight.
3) Our LBs were complete shit underneath all night. Lamar was out due to an ankle injury and he was needed. Davis was mostly awful in his stead. Simmons got beat deep once, but I shouldn’t see an OLB/SS downfield on Shi Smith without any safety help, so that’s not totally on him. Many times we’d be in some kind of Fire Zone/C3 coverage and the LB would not be anywhere near the flats while the back was already out there wide open. They also allowed the slants to cut inside without challenge, and then let guys get between themselves and the Safety without being chucked off their route at all.
4) Which brings me to the biggest issue of the night: leverage. Some of you may not realize what we mean when we talk about leverage, but really its based on the call. If you play C1, you line up outside the WR at the line, and you don’t let him get a release outside of you down the sideline. To do that, you chuck him at the line, or chuck him to disrupt his route if you’re playing off, doing it from the outside-in. Your help is the FS in C1 and you want to funnel your opponent in his direction so you have help. We play a lot of Man, whether its true Man Free (C1) or C4 or whatever, but the principle is the same, you don’t let guys get free releases, ever.
Sakerlina got a free release on basically every single play tonight at some position, and many times it was Deebo. On one play, Deebo was granted a totally free release on the inside on a Post route, and he just outran the defender, while the safety was sleeping. So #1, he shouldn’t ever get a totally free release untouched, and #2 the safety should’ve been all over a damn Post route because that’s the number one rule of playing Safety.
5) We didn’t get lined up correctly for quite a bit of this game. Sakerlina brought out a funky formation with 4 guys bunched to the field side, and I don’t think we ever got properly adjusted to that wrinkle. It was a smart wrinkle from them to be sure, because it basically forces the defense to play Man and it offers opportunities to get Deebo 1 on 1 on a deep route, or a WR Screen, or, if you don’t match numbers, it gives them big play opportunity for someone else. Besides that, our guys were looking at the sideline and BV instead of being properly set, while SC was already lined up and ready to snap it. This one is entirely on the defensive staff.
6) At one point in the 4th, Dabo put in the 2nd/3rd string D, which baffled me since the 1st team really hadn’t quite figured out how to play defense yet. SC got 2 quick scores on mostly 2nd team players who shouldn’t have been in there yet. We finally get up comfortably and there go the 2nd stringers to let them try to get back into it. We do play backups all the time, which you have to do on defense, but there’s no way I’d have subbed out everyone with the way we were playing defense.
Tackling was a disappointment at times, but I wouldn’t call it a huge issue in this game, not nearly as massive as the lack of focus from the back 7 that regressed completely to the point they were at in College Station.
Most teams wouldn’t scheme us the way SC did, but SC has only one real playmaker on offense and they had a good plan to get him the ball on every play if they had to. Clemson had a terrible plan to defend him.
But, its the 5th in a row, so you should flash the full 5 fingered salute to every Cockfan you meet for the next year, and our 70th W in the series. Its still a 20+ point win, and I never felt we were in danger, but it should’ve been a 50+ point win.
Our secondary just gave Pitt and our playoff opponents a lot of good film to show our holes, that is what concerns me most.