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Film room: let’s go, rushing defense!

The Mountaineers couldn’t run the ball, and there’s a specific reason

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Texas Christian Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

After a loss, I’ve always a doubt. I never know if I should write about the good things to save, or about the worst plays that led Texas Tech to lose. If I had written this analysis on Saturday night, I would have focused on the bad things, but after two reflection days and watching again the game, I decided to talk about the rushing defense.

The West Virginia passing game humiliated the Red Raiders, in some moments Will Grier looked like Brett Favre and David Simms a mix between Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens, but the Mountaineers couldn’t run. Superstar running back Justin Crawford averaged 3.4 yards per carry in 14 touches, and his backup Kennedy McKoy gained 35 yards on seven carries.

In the first five games of the season, West Virginia averaged 216.8 rushing yards per game, but only 44 -sacks count in this number- against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders themselves shoved huge improvements all over the season.

Nose tackle Mychealon Thomas and defensive tackle Broderick Washington are having a strong season, forcing internal pressure and giving spaces to defensive ends Kolin Hill and Eli Howard, who already have 11.5 tackles for loss in the season. Let’s see how it works.

On a 2nd & 2, West Virginia lined up with Grier in the shotgun alongside Crawford (pink), with two receivers per side. Texas Tech answered with a 3 man-pressure with Thomas (red) in the A-gap, Eli Howard on his right, and Washington on his left.

At the snap, Hill and linebacker Jordyn Brooks (respectively on the left and on the right side, yellow) faked to bring additional pressure but both dropped in zone coverage to avoid off-tackle runs, while linebacker Dakota Allen (#40, blue) attacked the line of scrimmage after he understood the nature of the play. Thomas easily overcame the center and tackled Crawford, who was trying to go to the outside, for a rush without gain.

This kind of pressure is useful also for another reason, as defensive linemen attract double-ups, opening spaces for other solutions, like defensive back blitzes.

The Red Raiders lined up with a 3-man front plus a weak-side defensive end, while the Mountaineers ran a pistol formation, with a fullback and a running back. Left-side defensive end Zach Barnes (#52, yellow) took charge of the right side of the offensive line, while defensive tackles Nick McCann and Quentin Yontz (#98 and #52, blue) cared about the center and the left tackle.

The left guard (white) tried to run a pull to the right, but he was too slow and his movement was useless. Wide receiver #2 blissfully slept and completely missed his assignment, allowing defensive back Jah’Shawn Johnson (#7, red) to break untouched into the backfield, and tackle Crawford, who was trying another off-tackle run. West Virginia lost four yards on the play.

When the Mountaineers tried in-guard runs had many problems, as the Red Raiders brought enough pressure to fill every gap.

In order to convert a 3rd & 2, West Virginia tried something like a trick play, with Grier (white) motioning to the left, leaving the backfield to Crawford (pink) and to the two fullbacks. Texas Tech answered with a cover-1 formation and a loaded defensive front (4 players in black plus Yontz, red).

At the snap, fullbacks tried to block C-gaps -outside the tackles- while Crawford took a bad snap and ran behind the center. Yontz was awesome to avoid right guard’s block (red) and put his hands on the running back, pushing him again after the line of scrimmage. Maybe we could discuss the eccentric offensive call, but the Red Raiders obtained a huge victory on the play.

And now, let’s go to our final play. It had success also because of a nice work (rare in that second half) of the secondary.

West Virginia lined up with three receivers on the left side, one on the right, and a running back. Texas Tech showed a cover-1 defense with man-to-man assignments on the receivers and a hyper-aggressive 5-man defensive line.

The offensive line couldn’t handle the pressure, so Grier had any time to find a receiver. No one could find some space, as the cornerbacks efficiently covered their men (orange and yellow). The most effective work was made by Yontz (red) again, as he overcame the right guard -the weakest link of the line, by far- and tackled the quarterback.

As we could see, not everything was to be thrown out of the window in this loss. Texas Tech managed well a threatening running back like Crawford and can be ready for another risk, Cyclones’ David Montgomery.