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Where Did All That Pass Rush Come From?

This is normally where I would do a Film Study post and show some clips of the game to highlight something important that happened. But you can't really clip ESPN3 broadcasts, so instead I went back and rewatched the game for one reason -- to see how USF got all that pressure on Jeff Van Camp last Saturday night.

I was expecting there to be a large number of blitzes, but the Bulls only blitzed 10 times, and only a couple of times did they send more than five to rush the passer. (Side note: there were some plays where USF ended up having more than four rushing, but they weren't technically blitzes. I'll explain why later.) Those 10 blitzes were pretty successful, though. They got one sack, knocked Van Camp out of the game when he dropped a snap and got steamrolled by Sam Barrington as he tried to pick up the ball (the Bulls recovered the fumble), and forced an interception out of his backup, Graham Wilbert. When the two quarterbacks did get off a pass, they completed 5 of 8 for only 46 yards, often to safety valves.

But USF generated a lot of pressure with just their front four. I'm guessing defensive coordinator Mark Snyder saw a weakness in the Owls' interior line, because they beat the guards and center over and over again to get to Van Camp. Terrell McClain disrupted plays all night, and he and either Cory Grissom or Keith McCaskill were forcing Van Camp to run for his life. Almost all of USF's blitzes came up the middle too -- there was very little rushing off the edges. There was nothing exotic about how the Bulls got to Van Camp and Wilbert. They just whipped the Owls up front.

Before we even got to halftime, FAU had started reeling in their passing game to try and get the Bulls' defenders blocked. The running backs were staying in to help protect Van Camp (which in turn freed the linebackers covering them to go ahead and rush the quarterback), but even that wasn't getting the job done. And it's not like Van Camp was holding on to the ball too long and causing his own problems. It was as if USF had turned into the 1999 Bucs out there. They got seven sacks in all, tying a school record, and I counted four more near-sacks that Van Camp either scrambled out of or dumped off to one of his blocking backs at the last second.

It was a dominant performance, more than doubling USF's season sack total. While it's not something you can expect every week, it's a welcome sight for everyone who had been concerned about how little pass rush USF had been generating on the year.