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Defensively Speaking: Colorado

So, what did ya’ll (I’m in Texas right now) think of that game Friday night in Boulder against the University of Colorado Buffs? If you had told me that defensively we would give up 520 yards of offense, be -1 in turnover margin, giving up 7 points as a result of that turnover, generate one sack and just two additional TFLs vs. Colorado’s two sacks and 4 more TFLs, a missed chip-shot field goal by a 100% no-miss kicker and add 84 yards of quarterback rushing yards and then tell me that we won I would say…”no way” But, it’s explainable, but not sure if it is duplicatable.

The Scheme:

Same as last week…literally the same. But with different personnel that created a huge impact on the team overall, but primarily on the defense. Without Drake Jackson we lost our best DE and high energy player. I do have to give a shout out to Caleb Tremblay, who is getting better each week while playing fundamentally sound gap defense and using proper pursuit angles. Frankly, Marlon Tuipulotu, Jay Tufele, Brandon Pili and Tremblay should make for a formidable front four. But, more on this later. The secondary was a lot of single high safety, man coverage with CBs (with some technique variations including some odd ones to be sure), blitz safety off the edge to put pressure in the backfield with an occasional corner blitz. The concept is to use four DLs as base set in 3 and 5 techniques, two ILBs and either an extra linebacker or usually a nickel back. Very predictable and sometimes effective…but not all the time.

What Worked:

  • The defense in the fourth quarter rose to the challenge and played with a greater sense of urgency than the entire prior three quarters.
  • Conditioning and rotation of players allowed Pendergast to exploit a weakness of Colorado…a lack of personnel depth. My guess this is a diminishing advantage as Colorado will recruit well with Tucker as head coach.
  • The young and inexperienced secondary hung in there. Good mental toughness. They were overmatched on Friday. The secondary was the principal group that Colorado went after with a great deal of success until Q4.
  • Recovering Slovis’s fumbles on offense…game changer.
  • Frankly, Colorado’s game plan was working pretty darn well…must give credit here. The Buff’s attacked our secondary, used quick release passing with an occasional deep shot combined with RPO run game and isolate their playmakers on the secondary in man coverage.

What Didn’t Work:

  • The defensive front four of Tremblay, Tuipulotu, Tufele, Pili and Echols or Winston did not generate much pocket pressure and had a difficult time stopping the inside zone run plays. These guys are better than this effort. The fourth quarter was more in line with their skill sets. In the box, energy and second effort are essential to success.
  • Friday or Thursday night Pac-12 games should be banned…period. Absolutely unfair to both teams, especially the visiting team.
  • Inside linebacker play was just plain atrocious. I have a theory which may sound cruel, but it is accurate; If John Houston is in the top two tacklers, then we have given up big rushing yardage.
  • The secondary gave up big explosive plays, couldn’t stop RPO and running QBs, again (Btw, this was a team deficiency to be fair).
  • Man-coverage inside the 10 yard line Red Zone was just awful. Crossing patterns weren’t covered thru and communication was unsuccessful, so coverages were blown using essentially the same basic crossing pattern play (different formations). Didn’t help not pressuring Montez either.
  • Secondary hips and shoulders were giving away man coverage (inside or outside). Meaning that in man coverage there is a required coverage e.g. take away the outside release or take away the inside release and slant etc. Our guys because of inexperience gave away their coverage set way too soon. Fixable but not quickly.

So, hats off to this team for winning on the road for the first time this season, on a Friday not and banged-up doesn’t begin to describe the depth of injuries and inexperience on the field. Now comes Orygun (Arledge’s favorite opponent!). On paper this is a walk-over…of us. But, we will show up, we will bring our guys, we will play with much greater urgency and we will keep score. Beat Oregon and Fight on!

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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