Expert Analysis: Defensive Backs vs. OSU
Well, here we go again on this continuing roller coaster ride of a season. Hey, at least we already won more games this season than last year. At least we are competitive. But do you know what the most frustrating thing about our team this year is? It's that we are actually a better team than what our record shows! I just don't know which team I am going to see week in and week out. I admit the defense is playing well, but once again - this is a TEAM. Collectively, the men need to be able to put it together mentally and physically every week! This preparation does not start on game day over pancakes and bacon. Or the night before a game in a meeting room in a hotel. It starts in practice and you can't "cram" for it like a test. Coach Willingham once asked "Men...Does practice make perfect?". Of course we answered "Yes". Coach answered "Wrong! Perfect practice makes perfect." We need to have the same tenaciousness for practice that they have for the game. Each drill in which the players participate, they need to think that this is the last drill they will ever do, because who knows it might be. True, as game-time gets closer, the passion does intensify. If we are not already used to getting to this place of emotion in our minds before we step on the field on Saturday, then it will be fake. And a player should never have to "get up for a game". He should already be "up".
Let's take a look at last week's game against Oregon State and review the High- & Low-lights of our beloved DB's
First Series: The first drive of the game…they came out…we stopped them. So far so good.
Second Series: Sean Canfield was able to connect with his TE on a deep in route when Austin Yancy made a late break on the ball. Now, in Yancy's defense, he did have the deep half of the field and the LB should have helped him by dropping deeper in his respective zone. Nevertheless, he could have read the play better because he was the only receiver in Yancy's zone, and at that point it almost becomes like man defense.
Next Play-Then there was the reverse! The longest play of the game and the play that setup their first touchdown. For some unknown reason - all of a sudden on this one play- the Cardinal DBs went to sleep (or just slipped into "The Matrix", I don't know). On this play James Rodgers, who was being covered by cornerback #6 Wopamo Osaisai, takes a reverse 51 yards, blowing past a Bo McNally, Nick Sanchez, and Yancy all on the same play, until finally being tackled on the two yard-line.
This game-impacting play needs extra analysis, so here I go:
1) For starters, Rodgers went in motion being followed by Osaisai across the field. As the ball is being snapped, Osaisai collided into LB #50 Nick Macaluso and fell to the ground. Then one of Oregon State's hogs upfront literally "lays" on Osaisai for the remainder of the play and wouldn't let him up to get to his man Rodgers. It was pretty funny!
2) Sanchez was playing man coverage and he gets blocked by the Beaver receiver. Now Sanchez has been doing a much better job getting off of blocks and being physical. It is imperative that a defensive player always plays the man blocking him first before he even worries about the ball carrier. In Sanchez defense, when the WR pushes you in the back right in front of the referee, hey I need to see a flag! It's rough playing in Corvallis!
3) Then there was Bo. I had a strange "sixth sense"-type feeling when I saw Rodgers facing off on McNally. I knew, just knew Bo was going to attempt a diving leg tackle. McNally loves to dive at your feet to make a tackle and it often works. Unfortunately for McNally, Rodgers was shifty and quick enough to divert him. Bo wears #22 and has been doing a great job all season! But I want him to tackle like the old #22 I know - my boy Coy Wire! And if you can remember that big-time baller when he was back on the Farm, then you know where I envision McNally becoming really soon!
4) Yancy has to make this play. There is no question he could have prevented this huge gain. Dude is an athlete, but he simply has to become a better tackler. Same thing every week for Mr. Yancy. He needs to work harder in practice on his tackling skills.
So, on the ensuing play- Canfield hit a wide open Howard Croom on a play-action pass for a two-yard touchdown. Once again the Beavers were able to get into our flats for an easy score. This time though it wasn't Sanchez fault. Sanchez played tight man coverage on the wingback, who ran a corner, but no one picked up the TE running an out. Can we say blown coverage? Remember mental mistakes can be fixed!
· Later in the 1st Quarter: Ball on our 42 yard-line. The Beavers tried to run a double-reverse, but Sanchez flew in on a corner blitz to blow-up Rodgers and disrupt the play. Rodgers was able to get the handoff to the WR who was quickly engulfed by the Cardinal "D" for a 12-yard loss. Great heads-up play by Sanchez to break his feet down and tackle the ball carrier. This play put the Beavers out of field-goal range and led to a punt two plays later.
· Start of the 2nd Quarter- The Cardinal defense found themselves with the ball in our their territory, on the 39 yard line. On the fourth play of the drive RB Yvenson Bernard took the ball off tackle and for a 19-yard scamper to the two yard-line. Sanchez was on the blitz again on this play, this time he wasn't able to slow down, chop his feet, and make the play. The drive then resulted in a two-yard touchdown run by Bernard and the last touchdown the Beavers would score.
3rd Quarter: McNally made a play on the Canfield pass, but hit the WR early for a pass interference. Nice positioning and read by Bo, he just arrived a little early. Happens. Sanchez also made a great play on a deep ball on this drive.
· 3rd Quarter- Canfield scrambled and completed a 31-yard pass to Anthony Brown who left #6 Wopamo Osaisai, who was in man coverage, behind him . Osaisai merely lost Brown as he changed his route and just ran for open space away from the cornerback. When a QB scrambles and the WR runs for open field, it makes it extremely hard to cover them. Osaisai came in and out in the first half and was replaced by #24 Kris Evans who ended up finishing the game. Evans did a great job filling in.
· Later in the 3rd Quarter-The Beavers were on our six-yard line when the secondary was able to come up with a cover sack for the Cardinal defense. On this play Canfield dropped back to pass and saw that all his WRs were covered as #80 Erik Lorig slammed him to the turf. This is what a "cover sack" is, a sack due to the fact all the WRs were "draped" or covered. Great goal-line stand as the Beavers walked away from that drive with 3 points.
· 4th Quarter- Evans made some good plays for an injured/pulled Osaisai including a read on a WR screen where he tackled the opponent at the line of scrimmage.
· 4th Quarter, under 12 minutes: The defense finds themselves in yet another sudden change situation after a Stanford fumble. With the ball on our own 22 yard-line, our defense was able to prevent them from putting "Big 6" on the board" on holding them to just a field goal.
Later in the 4th Quarter- McNally makes a great play on the bootleg that you don't see a lot of players make. As the QB was rolling to McNally's side, Bo saw the TE running underneath him and didn't get baited into running after him. The one rule most people know about the bootleg play is that when ever there is someone in front of you, there is someone behind you. There was a deeper player running behind Bo on this play. McNally did an excellent job of being cognitive of the deeper player and floating back to split the gap between the two players before breaking to the WR underneath to make the play. That is mental growth - got to love it!
· Final Drive in the 4th for the Beavers- Once again after another Stanford turnover, the defense found themselves with their backs against the wall. The Cardinal defense was able to hold the Beavers to another goal-line stand and another field-goal. The "bend but don't break" principle held true!
It was obvious to all this game that the offense placed us in poor field position quite often. I am very proud of the defense and how they played and adjusted to the sudden change situations. Too often you will witness a defense come out flat and immediately give up a touchdown after their offense commits a turnover in the red-zone. In this case, however, the Cardinal D stepped up to the challenge! We still had too many missed tackles against OSU, but that is what practice is for. Coach Shafer and the rest of the staff really are doing a nice job with this group of men, and the men are doing a better job week in and week out of understanding this new defense strategy. The secondary played solid defense all day. Can't complain. We didn't give up any deep balls and we were able to avoid giving up a touchdown the entire second half. Sure, Yancy still needs to work on his mental aggression and physical tackling in order for our DB's to be great, but there are some positive signs of improvement. Kris Evans did a tremendous job filling in for Osaisai and actually led the DBs with seven tackles for the game. McNally and Yancy followed with six tackles a piece while Sanchez had a pass breakup.
Now let's see what we can do against Coach Willingham & Baer and those Huskies. I hate it when we have to play "Coach"! GO C-HOUSE!
About the Author: Eliel Swinton [LSJU '97], aka "Coach E", is the founder of Carpe Diem Sports Academy (www.cpdsportsacademy.com), 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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