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Film Study - USF vs. Western Kentucky

I'm mostly eschewing the actual film clips this time around because they're not totally necessary to cover the things I wanted to touch on after watching the game again. Also the less of the broadcast I show, the better I think we'll all be, because that team made me long for the halcyon days of J.B. Long and Shaun King. It was brutal.

-- There were a few opportunities to improve on the paltry 57 passing yards on the night. On the play in the first quarter in the Hilltopper red zone where Daniels slipped and fell in the backfield, Kevin Gidrey was lined up as a tight end on the left side, and was coming across the middle open. If not for the slip, he probably gets the pass and he might have been able to score. Also remember WKU had to commit pass interference to prevent about a 25-yard pass to Landi over the middle early in the third quarter. I don't know why it is, but for some reason finishing up around 100 yards passing would have felt so much better than 57. Any two-digit number in the Yards Passing row and it seems like the narrative moves from "They were so good running the ball, they didn't need to throw it!" to "What the hell is wrong with the passing game?"

-- Eric Schwartz didn't miss that first 26-yard field goal because of line penetration like Doug Graber tried to sell us on. WKU was in a field goal safe alignment (five of them didn't even try to block the kick) and the push came from the right of the center, away from the side where Schwartz would need to aim the ball to kick it through from the right hashmark. Slicing the kick wide right actually gave them a better chance of blocking it.

-- The interception right before halftime. I wonder if Stephen Bravo-Brown might have been who the play was really designed for. USF was in a trips right shotgun formation, with T.J. Knowles, Andreas Shields, and Joel Miller right, Bravo-Brown left, and Mo Plancher at running back. All three trips receivers ran straight downfield and Bravo-Brown worked across the middle to the vacated area. Plancher ran a wheel route past the outside linebacker trying to cover him. But the design of the play meant the free safety had no one to cover, and he was free to jump the pass to Plancher. Doug Graber made the argument that a throw further to the outside would have fit in there, but the safety was still in position to make a play.

If Daniels hits Bravo-Brown on the cross, he probably has the angle on the right corner, who got caught for a brief moment in a switch with the OLB. He can get a first down to momentarily stop the clock, plus he has three good blocking receivers in front of him to help him gain more yards. And USF had all three timeouts if they needed them, so Bravo-Brown wouldn't have had to get down or head to the sidelines right away -- he would have been free to gain as many yards as he could.

-- I think the "problem" with the USF pass defense, if you want to call it that, might have been as much scheme as execution. They spent a lot of the game in a Cover 3 zone on passes, which lets them bring one of the safeties down into the box in case it's a run while also trying to not give up the big pass play. But they might have overestimated Kawaun Jakes's passing ability, because there was no way that he was going to hit a big one. Jakes looked like someone who was recruited as an athlete and then asked to play quarterback. He was not natural back there at all, and he has a weird throwing motion. (Hmmm, do you think that Brion Carnes guy came up when Skip Holtz and Willie Taggart talked before the game?) I think the Bulls might have been able to work in some more man coverage. Not only would it have helped keep Jakes out of rhythm, but the Hilltoppers adjusted and started running passes into the dead spots of the zone. I think that's why their tight end, Jack Doyle, had such a big game -- he was really good at getting into the defensive seams.

I also wonder if the linebackers are having trouble picking up on when there's a play-action fake coming, or if this is something they're taught as part of the scheme. It happened during the spring game a lot, and it happened again on Saturday night on the very first play when I guess they figured the Hilltoppers were going to run. All three linebackers took 2-3 steps in towards the line before recognizing the fake and then scrambling back to their spots. Skip Holtz mentioned the linebackers' coverage as something to work in during his press conference on Tuesday, and I'm a little concerned that, especially in the pro-style offenses in Big East play, someone will exploit it.