Expert Analysis: Defensive Backs vs. USC

In his debut effort as a contributing Expert Analyst for, former Card safety Eliel Swinton (1993-96), aka "Coach E" takes a close look at the Clayton White-coached Stanford secondary's outstanding, pick-producing effort against the Trojans, explaining why QB John David Booty and the USC passing game had so much trouble against the inspired Cardinal last Saturday.

Can we say "PASSION"? That was exactly what the Card defensive backs played with against the "Men of Troy" last week! The DBs played a very physical game against USC's huge receivers, never giving up and fighting to the end. You had to love the goal-line stand in the second quarter when on fourth down, #22 Bo McNally and #2 Nick Sanchez stuffed Trojan RB Chancey Washington before he could cross the goal line. McNally (and his hair) led the defensive backs with 10 tackles including six solos. 

"Oskie" is back! (An "Oskie" = an interception for all you "Thunder Chickens" out there!). All day, QB John David Booty had trouble adjusting to the secondary due to Defensive Coordinator Scott Shafer's Base 4-3 defense and its shifts. This defense is designed to disguise the formation and coverages by showing the opposing QB the same alignment every play, and then moving to another before the snap of the ball. This allows the formation to move from a 4-3 to a 5-2 and the coverages to shift from "zone" to "man", making it hard for a QB to read the "D" before the snap. The Cardinal DBs confused Booty, who threw four interceptions in the second half, one to each Stanford starter. We were sparked by SS #23 Austin Yancy's third quarter oskie, taking Booty's pass 31 yards to the house. This play shifted the momentum and was the psychological lift the Cardinal desperately needed. Later in the third quarter, Sanchez's interception came from the defense aligning in Cover 2 and then playing Cover 3. This tricked Booty as he threw the deep ball right to Sanchez. In the fourth, with 3:00 minutes left, Booty threw an errant pass right to #6, cornerback Wopamo Osaisai. Booty thought we were playing zone but we were in man coverage and Osaisai took the ball 18 yards to set up the game-winning drive. 

And the grand finale of the day? McNally grabbing the ball out of the sky to secure the Cardinal win. I guess Booty finally lived up to his name on Saturday, "BOO-DIE"! Sure, we did have some mental mistakes this week. But don't worry because these can definitely be worked out. Every big play that USC had was on a blown coverage due to a mental error. On one play, the DB (#6) decided to play man coverage while the rest of the defense played zone, leaving his part of the field uncovered. This play produced 30+ yards and placed the Trojans on our one-yard-line. Opps! In the fourth quarter, two DBs (#22 & #2) accidentally collided into one another while in man coverage. This play generated a 47-yard touchdown pass. Even when McNally intercepted the ball to seal the win he should have just knocked the ball down and ended the drive because it was fourth down. Maybe he didn't want to be the only DB without an oskie! All in all, it was a great game for the Cardinal secondary, but there is always room for improvement! The only question now is which DBs will show up this week against TCU? 


About the Author: Eliel Swinton (LSJU '97), aka "Coach E", is the founder of Carpe Diem Sports Academy (, a CA-based program designed to change our communities by empowering our youth and families with leadership and life skills, nutrition, and athletic training. The Cardinal's "Most Outstanding Freshman" in 1993, Swinton started at all four secondary positions that year and went on to start a total of 30 games for the Cardinal from 1993-96 including the 1995 Liberty Bowl and the 1996 Sun Bowl at strong safety. This earned him the All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention honor as a senior in 1996, when he served as one of the team's tri-captains along with Josh Madsen and Brad "Bad Boy" Badger. Swinton later went on to co-star in MTV's hit 1999 football movie Varsity Blues as RB Wendell Brown. Questions or suggestions? Email him at 

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