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Defensively Speaking: BYU 2019

So, just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water…not so much. What a train wreck of a game yesterday against a tough, well-disciplined and well coached BYU team. I’d like to say they punched above their weight class, but I don’t think so. I think the better team won and it was surprising that the game went into OT (which was predicted by our own Greg Katz back in July, btw).

I have to start this defensive report out with a departure from the norm, by focusing on BYU’s defense against our “Air Raid” offense. Yesterday’s performance demands some type of explanation and I’ll ignore whatever comments come out of the USC coaching staff for now. Here comes the unvarnished truth…Offense first.

What we saw on offense:

  • Coach Graham Harrell (OC), welcome to the big leagues my friend. Your USC offense was not ready to play. Your adjustments were largely wrong as well.
  • Coach Drevno, your guys up front got beat every which way possible, especially as the game wore on. And your O-line group was in better condition and readiness to play than the D-line (stay tuned). Our center Neilon got manhandled and rag-dolled by BYU’s 0-tech nose tackle, Tonga. Snaps were on target so credit there at least.
  • Slovis, I love ya’ man, but your reads were wrong a lot after the first possession and after BYU’s first defensive adjustment. But so was Harrell’s reads and his is without excuse.
  • BYU used UW’s defense that they use against Washington State with great success. I understand that Harrell doesn’t know what UW does to WSU but somebody on USC’s staff should. Helton maybe?
  • BYU’s defense used 3 DLs; one 0-Tech NT and two 3-tech DTs who move into 5-Tech in certain situations.
  • BYU lulled USC into to reading soft 3-man fronts to force a run RPO or the short 7 to 15-yard pass game.
  • BYU used a zone underneath coverage with LBs and nickel/safeties playing short pass game first then run. So, you have strong push up the A and B gaps with 3 DLs and various forms of Cover 8, Covers 7 (with a blitz or edge pressure added). Linebackers played pass and then reacted to our run threat. Man-cover on the perimeter WRs with a safety high. They were willing to give up the long pass.
  • TE Krommenhoek caught one pass for 60 yards. Problem, he was thrown to once.
  • BYU’s D-line takes a center rush and after three seconds hands are up. They know we get the ball out fast so hands up quickly as well.
  • BYU said we are taking away your short and intermediate pass game and we are taking away your stretch run game. We are going to force your freshman QB to beat us with deep balls.
  • We ran one shovel pass and no slip screens. I think some screen passes would have been successful.
  • Where was our up-tempo offense??
  • Three interceptions and two forced fumbles (none lost)…Yikes! Yet the score was still close and the game was winnable, until the last pick.
  • Carr got worn down or hurt…not the same.
  • I don’t know if we get better but our opponents sure do. Get ready for Utah and they can watch film and game plan just like BYU did and scheme accordingly.

What we saw on Defense:

  • Our pass rush was just plain embarrassing. Watching our interior guys chase a 19-year old QB around and flop on the ground repeatably was, well, embarrassing. We left a lot of sacks on the field and likely a win too.
  • We have no clue how to protect our edge. Our DEs are stiff and blockable. Linebackers are nowhere to be found when you need inside out pursuit help.
  • We have to rush 5 to get pressure so we better change the personnel to faster guys in the box situationally. We are too slow up front and that is consistent since the Fresno State game.
  • The quick-change field position (interceptions) put a lot of pressure on the defense. So what? It happens. Dig in and take charge.
  • Clancy Pendergast did adjust the defense in the second half with some zone coverage and brought Echols off the edge. Helped, but Mauga (#26) gets caught in a crucial 3rd down with his eyes inside on the QB versus on the running back who is moving into his zone (we were in quarters – zone). Result was a big play and 1st down conversion. Why is this so difficult to teach?

Next up: Utah, which demolished this BYU team. We have so much to fix it is daunting to look at the deficiencies. For me, looking at our defense, I start with putting more speed on the field especially at DE/OLB. Be smart and situational but apparently this is the only way we can get to the QB and tackle him. EA continues to be a net detriment to the defense in his current Will linebacker role. Move him to OLB or even DE. Do it now. Make some changes and give ourselves a chance to win this Friday.

Kevin Bruce

Kevin earned his MBA and BS in Business Administration/Finance & Econometrics from the University of Southern California, where he also played four years of varsity football, serving as co-captain and playing in three Rose Bowls. Kevin’s college honors included All-American (AP-Honorable Mention), All Pac-8 Conference - Linebacker (1st) and Academic All-American, two NCAA National Championships (football), NCAA Post Graduate Scholarship recipient and Trojan Diamond Award-outstanding graduating senior. He is a member of Football Writers Association of America and is a contributor to WeAreSC.com.

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