BSD Film Room: Passing Defense

BSD Film Room breaks down each of UCF's 28 pass attempts from Saturday night.

Because I'm not very bright, I asked our guy Bill DiFilippo for a topic for this week's Film Room. Bill replied with the following:

"Trevor Williams and Jordan Lucas. Was it bad play from them, or was it just Blake Bortles making otherworldly throws? Also: Adrian Amos moving back to QB, smart or dumb?"

Well Bill, benching Hackenberg to start Amos at quarterback would be dumb. I don't even need to research that.

But, smart assed replies to type-o's aside, Amos did line up at CB for a few snaps in the fourth quarter. To answer Bill's questions in full, or at least, to attempt to answer them, Film Room took a look at each of the 28 pass attempts UCF and the living God Blake Bortles made last Saturday night.

The challenging part to looking at defensive back play is that BSD Film Room doesn't get any end zone views. Our legion of video assistants and interns only have access to the stupid TV broadcast, which follows the bouncing ball wherever it may go. Snap the ball to the QB in the shotgun? By all means, zoom in on the QB so I can barely see 5 other players on the field. The QB throws the ball? Terrific. Why not make the camera follow the ball through the air, so I can only see the DB and WR in the moment before a catch is made? The suspense enhances the entertainment value! The WR magically appears out of nowhere - incredible!

With the requisite sarcasm out of the way, here come the snaps.

Kill The Lights

Attempt 1 - Quick Hitch

Trevor Williams is at the bottom of the shot below, locked up in man coverage. Jordan Lucas is at the top of the screen, in zone coverage, likely responsible for the deep 1/3rd. SAM backer Obeng likely has responsibility for the flat. Bortles sees the 8-yard cushion to his right, and throws a quick hitch, netting +6 yards after a solid tackle by Lucas and Obeng. Fun fact: UCF kept both tight ends and RB Johnson in to pass protect - 8 protectors vs. 4 rushers, for a 3-step drop, quick hitch (which was probably an at-the-line check by Bortles). UCF would keep more than the 5 OL in to protect the entire game.

[Quick note before we get too far: rather than waste sentences describing every WR route, here's a basic route tree, if you need it.]

Ucf_pass1_medium

Attempt 2 - Quick Slant

It's 3rd and 2, and PSU is in man coverage across the board, with Amos as a single high safety-man ($100 BSD bucks to anyone who can find a YouTube of Frank Broyles saying, "Where-ah is tha safety-man, Keith?"). Williams is at the bottom of the screen. That's where Bortles goes, firing a a quick slant for a pickup of 9 yards. It was a little too easy, and I'd have expected Williams to hold inside leverage a little longer. Trevor would probably like to have that one back.

Ucf_pass2_medium

Attempt 3 - Quick Hitch

Notice a trend? In this first series, UCF started cautiously, using quick, easy throws AND max protecting. A solid game plan when you're playing in front of 75,000 more fans than you're used to seeing.

Williams is at the top of the screen, and he'll have a hitch completed on him for a gain of 9 on 1st down. Not his best tackle, but whatever - at least he made it. Lucas is at the bottom of the screen, and comes free on a corner blitz which Bortles doesn't appear to recognize. But with just a 3-step drop, the ball's out before Lucas gets home. Maybe Bortles saw it and didn't care (he didn't see it).

Ucf_pass3_medium

Attempt 4 - Curl

John Butler multiplies his multiply aggressive tendencies. This is man/zone hybrid from a "34" defense, with another corner blitz from Jordan Lucas. Two-deep safeties, in Amos and Willis. Rush outside linebacker Obeng - showing rush pre-snap - is actually going to drop off and run with the slot receiver. It's a pretty cool use of a DB turned LB, in my opinion, and I hope we see it again. Unfortunately, Bortles is still dinking and dunking with quick passes (or, maybe he's dinking because of the blitz? We may never know THE WHOLE STORY).

Bortles picks on Trevor Williams again, and completes a curl against Trevor's man coverage for 10 yards and another 1st down. Completions happen. Chin up, Trevor.

Ucf_pass4_medium


Attempt 5 - Corner

Who said we don't zone blitz? Butler's giving Bortles every look under the sun. Penn State's locked up in man coverage on the outside, with zero deep safeties, and 7 helmets on the line of scrimmage. Butler sends 5, dropping 2 into the slant lanes. Bortles bails out of the pocket to his left to escape Carson, and throws a corner route against Amos (on the bottom hash below) which falls just out of bounds. Incomplete.

Ucf_pass5_medium

Attempt 6 - Corner

UCF's backed up with a 3rd and 9, and PSU could really use a stop. The last blitz worked - let's try something similar again. Butler gives us man coverage with a single high safety, and sends MLB Glenn Carson up the A gap on a blitz stunt with DT DaQuan Jones. CB Lucas is at the bottom of the screen; Williams is at the top.

Ucf_pass6-1_medium

Same snap, showing that Carson just misses Bortles as he steps up in the pocket. Ucf_pass6-2_medium

Still the same snap below. With his back to the ball, Lucas doesn't quite get turned around to see the underthrown corner route (below). The WR stops, leaps, and just barely gets one foot down in bounds. First down at the PSU 5. This close to forcing a punt with a sack. Credit Bortles for pocket awareness and movement.

Ucf_pass6-3_medium

Attempt 7 - RB Flat

It's 3rd down again, and Goal to go this time, from the PSU 4 yard line - still the first drive of the game for UCF. It looks like man coverage with a blitz pre-snap, but Butler actually dials up zone coverage across the board, with no blitz. I'd guess that either Williams and/or Obeng are responsible for the flat (in the top half of the shot). Both of them "take the cheese", of the slot receiver running a hitch to their inside. Neither notices RB Johnson peeling out to the right flat (top) until it's too late. Bortles hits Johnson for the first points of the game. Touchdown.

Guh - stomach punch. Bortles no doubt influenced Williams and Obeng with his eyes, but to Bortles' credit, he came off the slot receiver and checked it to Johnson for six. Smart football.

Ucf_pass7_medium

Attempt 8 - TE Flat

It's the second drive of the game, with the score tied at 7. UCF has a 1st and 10 at their own 26. Butler's back with the man/zone hybrid that is kinda/sorta the defense's base coverage thru the first 3 games. CB Williams is at the top of the screen, again in man coverage. CB Lucas is at the bottom of the screen, again in zone coverage. I'm guessing here, but I believe Lucas has deep 1/3rd responsibilities, and that OLB Wartman is responsible for the flat (bottom half of the screen).

UCF uses a "read-option" play fake, and that gets Wartman to take a step or two in the wrong direction. And in that split second, the TE leaks out to the flat. Bortles rolls left and checks down, because Lucas kept his depth and had the WR covered. Lucas comes up quickly, though, and he and Wartman dogpile the TE, keeping him to a gain of 6. Lucas is aggressive, and tackles like a young safety. (Tommy likey - Tommy want wingy).

Ucf_pass8-1_medium

Ucf_pass8-2_medium

Attempt 9 - Comeback

The 1st quarter is over, tied at 7. Pass attempt #9 comes on UCF's 3rd possession (they went 3-and-out on their 2nd possession). They have a 1st and 10 at their own 36. We roll out the man/zone hybrid, with Williams at the top of the shot in man coverage. There's a deep safety over the top, not pictured in the shot below (or, we're only playing with 10 guys. Thanks, televisions.)

UCF, much like BOB, goes with a play action fake. Bortles whips his head back around, and fires a 12-yard comeback from the opposite hash, complete, against Williams' man coverage. The WR has to comeback a ways, though, as Bortles played it safe, putting the ball low and outside (and a little short). Williams made the tackle, just half a step behind, limiting the play to just 6 yards.

Ucf_pass9_medium

Attempt 10 - Play Action, Post

And here it came, finally. Dinking and dunking is fine. Running play action and checking down to the TE for 6 yards gets you first downs, eventually. It also draws up the defense, and then BOB/O'Leary strikes with a deep shot.

This is UCF's fourth drive, by the way, and they now have a 14-7 lead, after Johnson cruised 56 yards for a rushing TD in the 3rd series. PSU's back in it's base defense, with the man/zone hybrid coverage. Williams, again, is the corner locked up in man, at the bottom of the screen. Williams initially gets turned on the WR's first move, but uses his recovery speed to undercut the WR's post route. Bortles marginally underthrows the pass, and Williams knocks the ball away. Incomplete. Awesome recovery by Williams.

Ucf_pass10_medium

Attempt 11 - WR Screen

Penn State's locked up in man coverage, facing 2nd and 6 at the PSU 15. This is still the 4th drive - UCF reached the PSU 15 from it's own 11 via nothing but runs.

Four of UCF's 5 eligible receivers are on the right (bottom) half of their formation. Williams is in man at the very bottom of the shot. Lucas is in man, directly above Williams. And Amos is in man, against the slot receiver inside.

Williams is run off deep by the outside WR's route. Lucas' responsibility blocks down on Amos, and the slot WR takes the screen pass for 10 yards. First and Goal to go at the PSU 5 yard line. Not the best job by our two most physical guys in the secondary, Amos and Lucas. Gotta get off WR blocks.

Ucf_pass11_medium

Attempt 12 - Back of the End Zone In

Yup, 2nd and Goal at the PSU 4, after a stuffed dive. I've done the worst drawing job possible, trying to illustrate the man/zone hybrid that Butler's called. It's called free-hand mouse, so back off.

Obeng is faking blitz, but will drop into the slant area, and hold responsibility for the weakside flat. Williams and Amos are locked in man at the top of the screen. Everyone else is playing zone, as marginally depicted by the infant-like scribbles.

Penn State rushes 4, and UCF keeps 6 in to block. Bortles waits, drinks Gatorade, looks, and fires a freaking dart at Williams' WR, who is crossing the goalposts in the back center of the end zone. Williams has run with him step for step, thru the traffic. Trevor reaches out with his correct hand and knocks the pass down. Incomplete. Awesome job in the red area by Williams here - you try covering a guy for 3 seconds like that. It ain't easy.

Ucf_pass12_medium

Attempt 13 - the "Spurrier" Corner

This is the very next snap, now 3rd and Goal from the PSU 4. Coach Glen Mason, who I happen to like, diagrammed this one on the televisions for us, and attributed it to the head ball coach, Steve Spurrier. PSU's locked in man coverage at the top of the shot. Amos, the inside defender, gets picked in the traffic. Bortles throws a very pretty pass. Great playcall vs. man, an even better throw, and a terrific over the shoulder catch just inside the back pylon. Sometimes the other guys win.

Ucf_pass13_medium

Attempt 14 - Comeback

It's 21-10 UCF now, with just under 3 minutes remaining in the half. Bortles has a 2nd and 6. Penn State's employing a 3-deep zone - no one is in man coverage. Bortles sees Williams at the top of the screen, and completes a 12-yard comeback for 10 yards. From the far hash. Over top of Wartman. In front of Williams, the CB. That's not a Steve Spurrier play, because Danny Wuerffel ain't making that throw 1 out of 100 tries.

Ucf_pass14_medium

Attempt 15 - Square In/Dig

It's 2nd and 6 again, after yet another 4-yard run on 1st down. Butler calls another 3-deep, all zone coverage, but sends Obeng on a blitz, in an attempt to get some kind of pressure. Bortles hangs in the pocket, and completes a deep square In to the WR at the top of the screen (below). He threads it between MLB Carson, SS Amos, deep CB Williams, and centerfielder Willis - the exact hole in this zone - for 20 yards.

You may remember this exact throw, from the 100 times you saw it in the first half of the 2009 Rose Bowl. It's also called a "dig" route. It find it strange that, the very first time PSU runs your standard fare Cover 3, UCF runs the exact route which exploits the Cover 3's weakness. I mean, I get why USC ran it in the Rose Bowl - we ran almost exclusively Cover 3 back then. But UCF vs. the 2013 defense? It's the first time we've run it in this game, and we're at pass attempt 15. Isn't that a little weird? So - and I could be completely full of shit with this theory - but UCF's WRs and QBs must have been given some flexibility in some of their routes based on the coverage that they saw at the snap of the ball. On the other hand, the reason I also kind of doubt that, though, is that Bortles completed 74% of his passes. Come on. Both WR and QB are on the same page that often, in college? So...whatever. But it's a strange coincidence, and must have had Butler ready to shoot someone. It has me shaking my head.

Ucf_pass15_medium

Attempt 16 - Corner

Yet another new coverage from DC John Butler. This is your standard fare, 2-deep, 5-under, all zone coverage. CB Lucas is at the top of the screen; Willis is the safety-man on the hash to his side. Lucas has short zone coverage, with Willis responsible for the deep half of the field to that side. Where's the hole in a Cover 2? It's between the short corner and the safety over the top, accessed by a "Go" or a "Corner" or a big-boy-pants, 18-yard "Comeback". It's known as "the honey hole". (And, it's also the deep seams - but hold that thought for now).

Bortles takes the shotgun snap. The WR at the top of the screen starts inside on a post, before bending his route back outside on a corner route (go figure). Willis has the deep coverage; Lucas has shrunk the "honey hole" between himself and Willis, making Bortles' throw a little harder. Bortles is late delivering the ball, and Willis comes down with the pick on the sidelines.

Nice work, everyone. You made the first interception of Bortles in 232 consecutive passes. And that finished the first half. Bortles' stats at the half: 12 of 16 for 120 yards, 2 TD's (of 4 and 5 yards), and 1 INT. But UCF went to the locker room up 11, thanks to some gawd awful run defense.

Ucf_pass16_medium

Second Verse, Worse Than the First

Before we start the 2nd half, one of the common comments at BSD centers on "halftime adjustments". Someone made great adjustments; someone else didn't make any adjustments. So, at this point, with UCF running all over the place, and given each of the 16 passes detailed above...what "adjustments" would you have made in the 10 minutes of halftime?

If you're John Butler, you'd probably believe that the "Cover 2" defense you ran on pass attempt #16 was most successful - at least against the pass, right? It resulted in an interception, which was nice. Or - was it the man/zone hybrid that, in part, gave you your only forced punt of the first half, on UCF's second possession, and kept the completions generally under 10 yards? If you say, "both", then you might have captured what Butler was thinking, as five of the next six pass attempts was one or the other of those two coverages. Unfortunately, it didn't work out so well.

Attempt 17 - WR Screen

It's 1st and 10 for pass #17, below. Penn State is back in the all-zone, 2-deep safety look. Williams is at the top of the screen. Amos is the safety to that side, and Obeng is the LB. It's another WR screen, where only Williams is blocked. Obeng and Amos appear to stop the slot WR for almost no gain. Williams joins the pile, and the WR twists free from all 3 of them, and falls forward for a gain of 6 yards. The angry BOB face is building.

Ucf_pass17_medium

Attempt 18 - Deep Post

Same drive, with another 1st and 10. Penn State's in the all zone, 2-deep safety look. Lucas is at the top of the screen. Willis is the safety-man to his side. This is the same defense, and same pairing that produced the INT just 2 passes ago.

But this time, instead of the "honey hole" route, UCF attacks Willis in the deep seam with the slot receiver in the bottom half of the screen, while protecting Bortles with 7 blockers against just a 4-man rush, and using play action.

Those damn WR's coming from one zone (Amos') into another (Willis') are a real pain in the ass, no matter the coverage, but particularly with play action. Two passes ago Willis was the hero. This time he's the goat, letting the WR behind him. Bortles hits the WR, not quite in stride but close enough. Willis manages to tackle the WR from behind. Gain of 44 yards.

Ucf_pass18_medium

Attempt 19 - WR Screen

So we're back to the man/zone hybrid. It's a(nother) critical 3rd down and 6 to go, from the PSU 25. CB Williams is in man coverage at the top of the screen. The bottom half of the screen is zone. LB Wartman is (probably) your flat defender, and CB Lucas is your deep defender to that side of the field. Willis is the safety to that side, though he more than likely has responsibility for centerfield, and is stepping that way off the snap (and, in the shot below, Bortles' eyes are pointing him in that direction).

But it's another bleeping WR screen, to Lucas' side (bottom). The TE and LT run out to get blocks, with one or both knocking out Wartman. Lucas sheds a block, Willis appears to trip. Those two sort of fall into each other, and the WR sprints into the end zone for 6 points. Que angry BOB face.

Ucf_pass19_medium

Attempt 20 - Comeback

Back to the 2-deep, all zone. Bortles sees CB Williams at the top of the screen, and completes another short comeback on him for a gain of 7, on 2nd and 9 to go. Again, from the far hash. Again, with 7 blocking 4.

If this was all zone (as I claim above), I'd have thought Williams would be sitting right on top of that comeback route. So maybe I fouled up diagnosing the coverage (probably). As it stands, Williams didn't get a clean break on the ball out of his back pedal, the cushion was a little too soft if he has help over the top, and the completion was relatively easy, despite the distance the ball traveled. Not our best play.

Ucf_pass20_medium

Attempt 21 - Slant and Go (Slugo)

Alright then - you're toasting our zone? Then we'll come back with man under, single high safety-man. That's CB Jordan Lucas at the top of the screen, locked up in man. Williams is at the very bottom of the shot, in man. And S Amos is manned up with the slot receiver. This is another 3-man route from UCF, with 7 blocking 4 pass rushers. Bortles play action fakes to some RB who has run for 6,000 yards on 4 carries, and then chucks it deep against Williams. It's completed on the sideline, for a gain of 36 yards.

Ucf_pass21_medium

Attempt 22 - Square In

Alright then - you're toasting our man? Back to zone. We're in all zone, 2-deep again, facing 2nd and 9 (hooray, run stop). UCF brazenly runs another 3-man route, with 7 blocking 4. It's another square in / dig, which safety-man Ryan Keiser breaks up. Incompletion - Bortles' first incompletion since pass attempt #12 (unless, you count Willis' INT on #16). That's like 10 beers ago.

Ucf_pass22_medium

Attempt 23 - Square In

It's 3rd and 9, the very next snap, and it's another critical 3rd down. Penn State is in man coverage, with a single high safety. CB Lucas is your slot corner. Again it's a 3-man route, with 7 pass blocking from UCF. Lucas breaks up the throw but gets dinged for defensive pass interference. Automatic first down. BOB explodes on referees.

Ucf_pass23_medium

Attempt 24 - Corner-Post-Corner

What's a "Corner-Post-Corner"? It's a corner route, changed to a post route, changed back to a corner route. It's a triple move - hard to stick with. And it's executed, again, with max protection, without serious pressure, against a corner with 2 games and, at this point, just over 3 quarters of experience - in this instance, Jordan Lucas. It's completed for 26 yards.

Side note - this is the first play where CB Williams is off the field, and S Amos is playing corner, manned up at the bottom of your screen.

Ucf_pass24_medium

Attempt 25 - RB Flat

Hey, how about that? Your RB's aren't used exclusively for pass protection. You thought you'd sneak him out to the flat on us, after 50 minutes of making him pass block (since the first drive of the game), I suppose? Not with Ryan Keiser at safety, you bastards.

It's another man/zone hybrid from Butler. Amos is locked up in man at the top of the screen. Mike Hull comes on a blitz. Carson drops into a zone. Lucas back pedals into a deep zone. And the RB, Storm Johnson, ignores Hull, flares to the flat, and promptly drops the ball. He then points to the stadium lights, blaming light, though light is what allows him to see the ball at night. The real reason for the drop? Fear of Herr Keiser. Incompletion.

Ucf_pass25_medium

Attempt 26 - Comeback

CB Williams is back in (top of the screen, out for just 2 passes), and Amos is back at safety (centerfield). Your 3rd corner on the field for this 3rd down and 9, 4-2-5 Nickle defense, is Daquan Davis. Carson blitzes, giving PSU 5 rushers vs. 7 blockers. Bortles completes another 12-yard comeback, from the far hash, this time in front of Davis. This wasn't Davis' best coverage, and I'm sure he'd agree.

Ucf_pass26_medium

Attempt 27 - Toss Into The Stands

Man under, 2-deep safeties in this crucial 3rd and 9 play from the UCF 42, with about 3:30 remaining in the game. Davis is at the top, Williams at the bottom, and Lucas in the slot. Willis is your centerfielder, and Amos is shaded to Williams' side. Got. To. Have. The. Stop. Bortles, for some reason - and maybe it was the play design - bails out to his left, directly into the oncoming DE Olaniyan. He slips CJ, but gets chased to the sideline by DE Deion Barnes from the backside. He dumps the ball out of bounds. Incomplete. Punt (which gets snapped over the punter's head). And PSU is still alive. Lots 'o cheering.

Ucf_pass27_medium

Attempt 28 - WR Screen

It's 2nd and 8 with 2:47 remaining. Mike Hull, Jordan Lucas, and Ryan Keiser are at the top of the screen, which is where UCF's 800th WR screen is headed. Lucas and Hull both get blocked well by wide receivers, can't shed, and Keiser forces the runner out after a gain of 13. First down. The clock runs. Game over.

Ucf_pass28_medium

Your Passing Summary

Att Qtr Poss Down ToGo Field Result Coverage vs. PSU DB Route
1 1 1 1 10 UCF 11 5 Man/Zone Lucas Hitch
2 1 1 3 1 UCF 20 9 Single High Williams Slant
3 1 1 1 10 UCF 29 9 Man Williams Hitch
4 1 1 2 8 PSU 46 10 Man/Zone Williams Curl
5 1 1 2 9 PSU 35 0 Man/Zone Amos Corner
6 1 1 3 9 PSU 35 28 Single High Lucas Corner
7 1 1 3 Goal PSU 4 4 - TD Zone Obeng/Williams RB Flat
8 1 2 1 10 UCF 27 3 Man/Zone Wartman TE Flat
9 2 3 1 10 UCF 36 6 Man/Zone Williams Comeback
10 2 4 1 10 UCF 11 0 Man/Zone Williams Post
11 2 4 2 6 PSU 15 10 Man Williams WR Screen
12 2 4 2 Goal PSU 5 0 Man/Zone Williams In
13 2 4 3 Goal PSU 5 5 - TD Man Amos Corner
14 2 5 2 6 UCF 23 11 Cover 3 Williams Comeback
15 2 5 2 6 UCF 38 20 Cover 3 Williams In
16 2 5 1 10 PSU 42 INT Cover 2 Willis Corner
17 3 6 1 10 UCF 18 6 Cover 2 Amos/Obeng WR Screen
18 3 6 1 10 UCF 31 44 Cover 2 Willis Post
19 3 6 2 10 PSU 25 25 - TD Man/Zone Willis/Lucas WR Screen
20 3 7 2 9 UCF 30 7 Cover 2 Williams Comeback
21 3 7 1 10 PSU 41 36 Single High Williams Slugo
22 4 8 2 9 UCF 29 0 Cover 2 Keiser In
23 4 8 3 9 UCF 29 9 - Def PI Single High Lucas In
24 4 8 1 10 UCF 47 26 Single High Lucas Corner
25 4 9 2 7 UCF 31 0 Man/Zone Keiser RB Flat
26 4 9 3 7 UCF 31 11 Cover 2 - Man Davis Comeback
27 4 9 3 9 UCF 43 0 Cover 2 - Man Thrown Away
28 4 10 2 9 UCF 26 13 Cover 2 Lucas/Hull WR Screen

Hit The Lights

So - back to the original questions: did Williams and/or Lucas have bad games, or was Bortles awesome sauce? And what's Amos doing back at corner?

Bortles is good. The dude's got a big league arm, and he's smart with the football - two nice things to have, if someone's just handing them out. He had a very good game, was accurate throughout, and his receivers dropped exactly 1 pass all night long (and that was because of light). He made zero dumb throws, and his only bad throw was being late on the Willis INT. So, credit Bortles and UCF - well done.

Having said that, he was picking on two young corners with almost zero experience. He also received 6- or 7-man protection on almost every pass - so he could stand back there, usually, and make accurate throws on those young corners. That's a tall order for Williams and Lucas. Borrowing a phrase from Bo Pelini, taped without his knowledge 2 years ago but shamefully released earlier this week: "we're playing a ****ing wide receiver at ****ing corner for ****s sake!". Williams might still have more career pass receptions at PSU than career passes defensed.

BOB, of course, was asked about his young corners at the Tuesday presser. Here's what he had to say:

"They learned a lot last week. They had their share of good plays, and they had their share of not so good plays."

That seems fair to me, too. I like them both a lot. Williams has turn-and-run talent, which is why he likely gets sent over to the island on the weakside of the formation, in Butler's man/zone hybrids. And Lucas fights like a safety, which is probably why he gets the opposite role - and, probably, having those two different skill sets is part of the reason Butler runs the man/zone hybrid, since it fits the defense to his players' talents. They're just young at this point (including Davis, who I also like), and corner is a tough enough job when you're a veteran.

As to the last question, about Amos back at corner: Williams was only out for 2 pass attempts, and then right back in. Williams probably just got dinged, rather than it being a permanent position switch for Amos.

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