Welcome Back to another installment of the Still Life where we take strategy to new levels for the average BSD reader. This week we are going to examine the biggest blunder of Temple game, where defensively the Lions allowed a 36 yard completion just after the half.
Pre Snap Read: Here we can see the Lions in a pretty standard Nickel (4-2) alignment. The only twist to this is that the linebacker Sean Lee (circled) has to kick out into the slot to guard against being out numbered at a possible point of attack. Otherwise this is standard Nickel alignment.
Now looking at Temple’s formation we have a rather normal situation. Temple has lined up in an ace formation with 3 receivers wide to the defenses right, and a TE to the opposite side. This is a pretty mundane formation in college football. Now if I am the Temple QB I am reading zone coverage all the way, look at the feet of D’Anton Lynn and Knowledge Timmons. They are "sitting" at a 45° angle; this is usually a good indicator that the defense is running zone coverage.
Hull is blitzing up the middle meaning there are 6 players dropping into coverage. Already we can see the Cover 3 defense taking shape. Look at how D’Anton Lynn bails deep on the play to cover his deep 3rd.
Now we actually see what is happening with the play. Penn State is clearly in a Cover 3 defense. The safety Nick Sukay comes into the picture. Here we can see the PSU defense in the concepts of the cover three. The free safety and two corner backs are going to divide up the field into three parts; the underneath will be covered by the strong safety, and the two linebackers. This defense will help prevent any deep balls or one on one matchups.
From Temples point of view the way to defeat this cover three is to "stretch" the zones of the defense, or in layman’s terms, get the defense spread out to the point that there are small areas in that zone that are wide open for the completion. Here we can see that these routes do just that. The Split End (the widest man out) runs a 10 yard post pattern. This will occupy both deep third defenders on his side. The next receiver in runs a slant pattern to suck Andrew Dailey and Sean Lee into the middle of the field. The slot back, Joe Adams runs a wheel route along the sidelines hoping to either be open, or suck a deep third defender down thus leaving the post open.
Now we know what each team is looking to do so lets see why Temple is successful here and PSU fails miserably. The three deep third defenders Lynn, Sukay, and Timmons all cover their respective areas. If Lynn jumps the wheel route the ball is thrown immediately to the post. Sukay is playing center field just like he is supposed to do, and Lee and Timmons are occupied by the slant route. This leaves Andrew Dailey to cover the underneath pattern along the sideline which is the wheel route. He does not get there in time.
In this illustration we can see just how far Dailey gets himself out of position. Look at the size of the bubble in the zone the QB has to throw the ball. A high school QB can make that throw.
Final Analysis: Bottom line here is the defense was caught in what RUTS calls the "bend but don’t suck defense. They recover to make the tackle and prevent a touchdown but they have just given up big chunk of yardage in the process. The only way this play is defended properly is if Dailey reads the wheel route and bails accordingly. However, in this particular instance loses his man by looking at the slant route too long and leaves a gaping hole in the zone that just about any D1 quarterback can throw to properly. This was not really an issue versus Temple because they did not have the skill to takes this to the endzone. But when playing against some of the better teams in the Big Ten this bend but don’t suck defense could be a TD and a back breaker.