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Film room analysis: Hello defense, my old friend

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A deeper look to this brilliant defensive unit

NCAA Football: Eastern Washington at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

On September 21, 2013, Texas Tech defeated Texas State, 33-7.

We had to wait almost four years to see a Texas Tech defense allowing 10 points or fewer again.

Analyzing what happened in Week 1 there’s a lot to be satisfied, as the Red Raiders limited the lively Eastern Washington offense to 301 yards - of which 88 rushing -, had a pick-six out of two interceptions, a forced fumble, and seven tackles for loss.

On the other hand, quarterback Gage Gubrud was sacked only one time despite the constant pressure and the Eagles wide receivers dropped several passes, particularly in the first half. Defensive coordinator David Gibbs was legitimately very happy on the sideline, and now he has two weeks to prepare for Arizona State, who absolutely didn’t shine in the opener against New Mexico State.

Let’s see some of the most significant defensive plays.

The first game changer was the fumble forced by defensive back Jah’shawn Johnson and recovered by Douglas Coleman.

On his very first play, EW is lined up in a trips formation on the right side, with Johnson (black) covering the slot receiver Nic Sblendorio and Coleman (red) working on the out route of the receiver in the middle.

Sblendorio receives the ball but he fails to secure it, and Johnson is brilliant to turn the opponent away, so he can’t regain control of the ball. Coleman quickly understands what’s happening, leaves his assignment and covers the ball. This play was important, as it erased the previous three and out of the offense and the awkward 21-yard punt of Dominic Panazzolo.

The pressure on the ball carrier was important too, as the defensive tackles did an outstanding job inside, opening spaces for the ends.

This is the standard Gibbs’ defense, with four defensive linemen, two linebackers – Dakota Allen and Jordin Brooks – and five defensive backs.

At the snap, left defensive tackle Broderick Washington takes on the double block to the right side of the line (red), while the Eagles’ fullback goes in motion to his left blocking to the outside shoulder of the left tackle.

Consequently, defensive end Lonzell Gilmore (blue), lined up in the C- gap, can break free into the backfield and tackle the ball carrier.

A similar situation happens later in the second quarter, as Eastern Washington tries to convert a 4&1 at the Texas Tech 31-yard line.

Eastern Washington brings in an extra lineman on the left side, in order to face the 7-man pressure of Texas Tech, of which five lined up at the line of scrimmage. The tackle (red) takes the double block, so Christian Taylor (#18, yellow) can overcome the fullback and stop the runner.

The only sack of the Red Raiders came early in the third quarter, on 3rd-and-7 at Texas Tech’s 47-yard line.

With a standard 4-man pressure, Tony Jones (#9, red) lines up on the outside of the left tackle (C-gap) and crosses his rush with Quentin Yontz (#90, blue) in a defensive stunt, as the same is done on the other side (yellow and black). The left tackle is surprised by the inside cut of Jones and is slowed down by Yontz going to the outside. With the running back who comes out of the backfield to run his route (orange), Jones has a free lane to the quarterback.

The seal on the game came late in the third quarter, as cornerback Willie Sykes intercepted Gubrud and returned the ball to the endzone.

Eastern Washington lines up in a trips formation on the left side, and Sykes (orange) is in press coverage on the middle receiver (red). At the snap, Sykes doesn’t follow his man, who runs an out and up route, but stays underneath.

Gubrud intends to throw to the outside receiver, who makes a curl route, but Sykes, who in fact stays in zone coverage, is between the two, intercepts the ball, and runs towards the endzone helped by his teammates’ blocks.

We saw many positive things in this first game, and the defense did well handling an offense that was supposed to be extremely dangerous. In two weeks we’ll have some more answers, as Arizona State is supposed to be a tougher challenge.

In addition, the Sun Devils are different from the Eagles, as they privilege the running game and can rely on two outstanding ball carriers in dual-threat quarterback Manny Wilkins and running back Kalen Ballage.