Merry Christmas, friends. Our Penn State Nittany Lions will face ancient Egyptian charioteers led by Osiris and his son Horus, this Saturday at Noon ET in Dallas, Texas.
//looks at notes
That’s incorrect. It will be in Arlington, Texas. We apologize for the error.
Film Room boldly predicts that one of the keys to a PSU victory will be scoring offensive points. As a consequence of this keen hunch, we’re taking a look at the Memphis defense. Let’s see how they stack up.
Kill The Lights
Memphis, the Egyptian city, is at least 4,000 years old. But their defense is every bit of 2019 modernized anti-spread weaponry. They’re a hybrid of sorts. They’ll play “3-4” but stem one OLB as a sometimes standup DE (and he’s DE sized (#94 Joseph Dorceus) at 260lbs). The net result - on most snaps - is basically an “over” from a conventional 43 (though it certainly looks capable of more). The rest of the DL on the snap below is as follows: #38 Jonathan Wilson (Sr, 264lb, playing 3-tech), #1 O’Bryan Goodson (Jr, 283lb, 1-tech NT), and #55 Bryce Huff (Sr, 255lb, DE).
The unconventional part - and it’s impossible to know if this is by design, or mistake - is that’s there’s precious little gap integrity. As shown in the gif below, Temple attempts an outside zone rush to their left. Memphis is definitely not “playing to spill”. #55 Huff gets outside of the left tackle, and stays there like a block of granite, setting the edge and forcing the play back inside. The rest of the DL slant into the play, attempt to hit gaps and get penetration, but generally fail to achieve the desired effect on this snap. The Nose, 3-tech, and that standup DE over-pursue (charitably speaking) the outside zone run, leaving a gigantic cutback lane for the Temple RB.
Memphis’ MLB #23 (Sr, JJ Russell) and WLB #25 (Sr, Austin Hall) get duped. And what should have been a successful defensive play results in a 9 yard gain on first down.
Here’s another snap. Memphis’ NT #1 gets off the ball quickly and shoots his gap on the Temple center’s left, running himself 6 full yards up field. That penetration is for naught, as his 3-tech DT linemate #10 (Jr, Morris Joseph) gets successfully doubled by Temple’s RG and RT, who execute a very fine combo block on #10, and the aforementioned MLB #23. This nearly pops.
Temple ran the ball right at Memphis four times from the 12 yard line, and scored 6 points. Nothing fancy, no trickeration, just simple cave man bootball deep in the red zone, and it worked, because Temple was better.
Here’s a third gif. Conspicuously absent from this gif is #23. In his stead is new MLB #35. Unfortunately, #35 is no more confident in his responsibilities than was #23. Our favorite DE #55 displays his plus quickness, jumping inside Temple’s outside-zone-stepping ROT and TE to get instant penetration and blow up this play. It’s not often that you see an OT and TE block outside zone, while the rest of their teammates block power and pull. Seems like it might be a bust by Temple. Even if it is not, we’re not too keen on the design. Our favorite kinds of plays have offensive linemen blocking defensive linemen.
In this final shot below, Memphis shows man coverage across the board. When Temple checks from their meerkat, Memphis counter-checks to zone coverage. Note that stud spacebacker #40 (rJr, Thomas Pickens) swaps roles with MLB #35, lest the RB release. Apparently LB #35 may not possess the fleetest of feet, the most acute awareness, or both.
Hit The Lights
The nightmare match up for Memphis’ defense would be Wisconsin. Paul Chryst would trot out 7 mature beef cattle to stampede a hole in their light-in-the-pants DL, whilst motioning and trapping and pulling and misdirection-ing the linebackers into oblivion. Jonathan Taylor would then skip untouched for approximately 8,000 yards rushing.
That’s not Penn State’s game, of course. But with Pat Freiermuth, KJ Hamler, Journey Brown, and a (hopefully) mobile QB in Sean Clifford, our Nittany Lions have all the tools they need to make those Memphis linebackers miserable. Our boys should score some points on Saturday.