Virginia Tech Offense vs. Wake Forest Defense Film Assessment

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Wake Forest obviously had a ton of problems with Virginia Tech's offense on Saturday. In an attempt to make myself feel better about how things went and find some bright spots in it, I have re-watched the first half of the game on ESPN3, and added notes to each of VT's plays on offense.

With my limited football knowledge, I have attempted to breakdown the coverage and point out some things that may have gone unnoticed while watching the game live.

I hope you enjoy this breakdown and it brings at least a modicum of either hope for the future, or something you may not have known.

The non-bold font is the play-by-play, the font that is bold are my comments about each play as I watched the replay several times.

Click through for an idiot's breakdown of a less than stellar defense.

1ST POSSESSION

W 4-1 W29 Popham, S punt 38 yards to the VT33, Hosley, J return 58 yards to the WF9, out-of-bounds (Quarles, C).

Pretty good coverage on the kick. Missed tackle by Bechtel, two huge blocks for VT.

 T 1-G W09 VIRGINIA TECH drive start at 14:29.

 T 1-G W09 Evans, D rush up middle for loss of 1 yard to the WF10 (Wilber, K).

Fantastic penetration by Wilber, great individual effort to get into the backfield and make the play.

 T 2-G W10 Evans, D rush over right end for 8 yards to the WF2, out-of-bounds (Frye, A;Marshall, AJ).

Missed tackle by Marshall on a dive to take out Evans knees. Needs to try to tackle higher.

 T 3-G W02 Taylor, T flag pass complete to Thomas, L for 2 yards to the WF0, TOUCHDOWN, clock 13:29.

Fantastic throw and catch by Thomas. Pretty good coverage by Marshall, jammed at the line but got overpowered and didn’t look for the ball.

 3 Plays, 9 yards VT 7- WF 0

 

2ND POSSESSION

T 1-10 T23 VIRGINIA TECH drive start at 11:49.

 T 1-10 T23 Taylor, T rush over left tackle for 3 yards to the VT26 (Wilber, K;Booi, R).

Zone read, Taylor keeps it. Good job staying at home by a host of Deacs.

 T 2-7 T26 Taylor, T pass incomplete to Boykin, J (Dorty, T).

Corners are 7-9 yards off. Taylor tries to exploit that with a quick curl route. Dorty jumps up and makes a great deflection. If he doesn’t make this play, there is nobody within 5 yards of Hosley.

 T 3-7 T26 Taylor, T sideline pass complete to Roberts, D for 9 yards to the VT35, 1ST DOWN VT, out-of-bounds(Marshall, AJ).

4 on the line, 2 linebackers, looks like man coverage with a Cover 1. Corners are 8 yards off a piece. Good pressure by Wilber, nice pocket. Simple out route complete to Roberts, Marshall is 4 yards away, never had a chance to make a play.

 T 1-10 T35 Wilson, D rush right for 2 yards to the VT37 (Frye, A).

Option to the right. Good coverage and a really good tackle by Frye.

 T 2-8 T37 Taylor, T pass incomplete to Wilson, D, dropped pass.

Wide open on a screen pass to Wilson, just dropped it. Would have been a decent gain. 4 linemen, 2 lbs, a lot of secondary.

 T 3-8 T37 Taylor, T post pass complete to Roberts, D for 23 yards to the WF40, 1ST DOWN VT (Marshall, AJ).

Another 3rd down, corners are 8 yards off. Exact same defense as the previous 3rd down. 2 LB’s on the right ide (one to spy, one to drop back/blitz). 3 man rush, no pressure, Taylor steps up makes a good throw to Roberts who is in front of Bush and Marshall.

 T 1-10 W40 Evans, D rush over right end for 17 yards to the WF23, 1ST DOWN VT, out-of-bounds (Bush, J).

Great blocking by Christopher, Betros too slow to get there in time. Forced out about 15 yards later.

T 1-10 W23 Oglesby, J rush over left tackle for 12 yards to the WF11, 1ST DOWN VT (Quarles, C;Betros, S).

4 DL, Oglesby runs straight through the line, Souza read the play correctly but was too slow to get there in time.

 T 1-10 W11 Taylor, T screen pass complete to Boykin, J for 6 yards to the WF5 (Whitlock, N).

Corners still playing really far off. Bubble screen to the out receiver Boykin, good blocking by the receivers, corners have trouble getting off the blocks.

T 2-4 W05 Evans, D rush over right tackle for the WF0, 1ST DOWN VT, TOUCHDOWN, clock 07:36.

Evans runs through the line again and plows over 2 defenders at the line. No penetration, nobody even close to making a tackle until the 2nd level.

10 Plays, 77 yards VT 14- WFU 0

 

3RD POSSESSION

T 1-10 T19 Taylor, T pass incomplete (Wilber, K).

­­4 linemen, looked like a false start by the right guard. Had a guy wide open but Wilber jumps up and makes the deflection. Great play.

T 2-10 T19 Taylor, T sacked for loss of 8 yards to the VT11 (Haynes, H).

Great coverage by the rush defense on this one. Taylor runs a zone read/pass play and he elects to keep it (maybe a screen play), but Wake sniffs it out and Betros explodes to make the play.

 T 3-18 T11 Taylor, T post pass complete to Coale, D for 37 yards to the VT48, 1ST DOWN VT (Quarles, C).

Huge play here. A stop here could have completely changed the course of the game in my opinion. 2 big plays by the defense in a row and then on 3rd down they allow the big play to happen. 4 linemen, 2 LBs dropped 5 yards back, corners are 8 yards off. Safeties are about 15 yards off. Early pressure from the middle is sniffed out. Taylor has all day to throw and he finds Coale wide open in front of the defense.

 T 1-10 T48 Taylor, T pass incomplete to Boykin, J.

Same defensive look, corners 10 yards off. Screen play to the left, Boykin wide open and drops the ball on a pretty bad throw by Taylor.

 T 2-10 T48 Roberts, D rush OL for 9 yards to the WF43 (Johnson, K).

Linebackers shift to coverage. Option to the left, great pitch by Taylor and the defense is just too slow to get out there to stop it after Roberts gets it.

 T 3-1 W43 Evans, D rush up middle for 4 yards to the WF39, 1ST DOWN VT (Dorty, T).

Another 3rd down, I-form. We stack the box and Evans finds a spot behind the right tackle to get another first down. Not bad defense by Wake, but the Hokies are doing what they want up front.

 T 1-10 W39 Taylor, T pass incomplete to Davis, M, PENALTY WF roughing passer (Souza, F) 15 yards to the WF24, 1ST DOWN

Same defensive look, a lot of pressure up front this time. Good play on the pass. Taylor gets speared up top by Souza on a pretty dirty play honestly. Roughing the passer penalty. Taylor is hurt but he walks off alright

 T 1-10 W24 1st and 10.

T 1-10 W24 Thomas, L at QB for Virginia Tech.

Tyrod Taylor injured on the play.

T 1-10 W24 Evans, D rush over right guard for loss of 1 yard to the WF25 (Betros, S).

Toss to the right, good penetration by Betros to sniff out the run.

T 2-11 W25 Taylor, T flag pass complete to Coale, D for 25 yards to the WF0, 1ST DOWN VT, TOUCHDOWN, clock 03:02.

This is another play that changed the game. 4 linemen, 2 LBs and a lot of secondary. No pressure initially, Dorty comes on a delayed blitz but misses Taylor, he steps back up into the pocket and finds a WIDE OPEN Coale two steps short of the end zone. The O-line just manhandles us up front for at least 5-7 seconds and Coale gets lost back there. Great play by Taylor, but Dorty should have made the play. Hard to blame this one on the secondary.

8 Plays, 81 yards VT 21- WFU 7

 

4TH POSSESSION

T 1-10 W46 Taylor, T pass incomplete to Boykin, J.

VT takes a shot down field to the left on 1st and goes right after Johnson a fly route (PA). Pretty good coverage, a little contact but the ball was overthrown and not really catchable.

 T 2-10 W46 Wilson, D rush up middle for 6 yards to the WF40 (Frye, A;Betros, S).

Alex Frye injured on the play for Wake Forest.

A bit of a delayed run to the right, Alex Frye bursts up to make the play and does so in a pretty hard helmet-to-helmet hit. Shaken up for a couple of minutes. Pretty good play by Frye.

 T 3-4 W40 Clock 01:45.

T 3-4 W40 Taylor, T slant pass complete to Boykin, J for 3 yards to the WF37 (Okoro, K).

On 3rd and 4, the corners are still 7 yards off. VT runs a curl route to Boykin, Bush is sitting behind him and is late to the play. Makes the tackle right at the line.

 T 4-1 W37 Wilson, D rush over right guard for no gain to the WF37 (Ehrmann, J;Okoro, K).

Run to the left side, Okoro and Ehrmann are right there to make the stop. Good penetration by Ehrmann to close the hole and allow Okoro to make a diving play just short. Really good energy by the defense, led by Woodlief when they make the stop. Mack talks some trash and they are reenergized.

 

5TH POSSESSION

 T 1-10 T28 Start of 2nd quarter, clock 15:00.

T 1-10 T28 Taylor, T screen pass complete to Boykin, J for 6 yards to the VT34 (Dorty, T;Mack, D).

Corners playing 9 yards off on the outside receivers, allows Boykin to catch a bubble screen on the play. Dorty and Mack combine on the tackle, nice play by Dorty to get downfield.

 T 2-4 T34 Taylor, T rush OL for 5 yards to the VT39, 1ST DOWN VT, out-of-bounds.

Zone read to the left, Taylor keeps it and fumbles it, picks it up and runs for a first down. Good job by the defense forcing Taylor to the outside, but nobody was there to make a tackle.

 T 1-10 T39 Taylor, T deep pass complete to Roberts, D for 42 yards to the WF19, 1ST DOWN VT (Marshall, AJ).

PA bootleg to the right, actually really good defense by Marshall, a step short, but Roberts just jumps over him. I was really excited to see Marshall look for the ball.

 T 1-10 W19 Roberts, D rush reverse for loss of 4 yards to the WF23 (Dorty, T).

Great defense by the linemen to stay at home and not bite on the fake. Really good tackle behind the line.

T 2-14 W23 Taylor, T pass incomplete to Coale, D.

3 wr’s outside corners are playing well off, slot receiver is covered right at the line. Danny Coale is wide open in the middle of the screen. No idea where the safety was there. Marshall was trailing behind him by about 5 steps. Looks like the TE and Coale ran a crossing route and Marshall picked up the TE but nobody picked up Coale. That is the problem with having slower LB’s, they can’t cover downfield, absolutely no idea where the zone safety was, looks like he may have been in man coverage on somebody else.

T 3-14 W23 Taylor, T pass incomplete to Boykin, J, PENALTY WF pass interference (Marshall, AJ) 15 yards to the WF8, 1ST

DOWN VT, NO PLAY.       

Same defensive set as always. It seems like we could throw some more looks at the offense because we have had the same coverage every single play. Marshall was with Boykin most of the way, he just never turned around and got flagged for face guarding/pass interference.

 T 1-G W08 Evans, D rush over left guard for 8 yards to the WF0, TOUCHDOWN, clock 12:34.

Run straight up the middle for Evans, the defense is there but nobody lays a hand on him. Okoro cuts too late and completely missed the tackle. Wilber was sealed off on the end and the dt’s were nowhere to be found. Hard to make stops when the first chance at a tackle comes 5 yards past the line of scrimmage.

6 Plays, 72 yards VT 28- WFU 7

 

6TH POSSESSION

T 1-10 T16 VIRGINIA TECH drive start at 12:06.

T 1-10 T16 Wilson, D rush over right guard for 10 yards to the VT26, 1ST DOWN VT (Betros, S), PENALTY WF face mask

Same defensive look, Wilson runs right by Kevin Johnson who then picks up a facemask penalty. Johnson was the first tackler to even have a chance at the Wilson, 5 yards past the line. He came from about 8 yards off the LOS despite there being no receiver in front of him.

 T 1-10 T41 Taylor, T slant pass complete to Boykin, J for 5 yards to the VT46 (Okoro, K).

Corner is up on the left WR, blitzes but it is a screen to the right side, nearly jumped by Okoro, but he was on the out receiver and the Boykin (the recipient of the catch) was in the slot, so Okoro was too late.

 T 2-5 T46 Wilson, D rush over right tackle for 33 yards to the WF21, 1ST DOWN VT, out-of-bounds (Frye, A).

Wilson runs to the right side, nobody within 10 yards of him. Okoro squares him up and Wilson just runs by him to the sideline. Great cutback to the right on a designed run to the left.

 T 1-10 W21 Wilson, D rush over left tackle for 3 yards to the WF18 (Johnson, K).

Run to the left, good tackle by Johnson. Wake is just getting nothing from the line/linebackers. It’s ridiculous how much they are being pushed around.

 T 2-7 W18 Taylor, T screen pass complete to Boykin, J for 6 yards to the WF12 (Jarrett, K).

Screen to Boykin, receivers are 8-9 yards off and he has 5 yards to run before he even confronts a defender. Good tackle by Jarrett.

T 3-1 W12 Wilson, D rush up middle for 11 yards to the WF1, 1ST DOWN VT (Frye, A;Quarles, C).

Straight up the middle to the 1 yard line. Wasn’t touched until the 3 by Quarles and Frye. Great block by the FB springs the run. Taylor plunges it in on the next run.

7 Plays, 84 yards, VT 35- WFU 14

 

7TH POSSESSION

T 1-10 T17 Taylor, T post pass complete to Coale, D for 27 yards to the VT44, 1ST DOWN VT (Johnson, K).

Same defensive scheme, 4 linemen, 2 lbs, safeties move up. Coale wide open down the middle of the field. Single coverage on the left side, Johnson is the guy covering him but he is giving him a 5 yard cushion and Taylor exploits it.

T 1-10 T44 Oglesby, J rush over left tackle for 16 yards to the WF40, 1ST DOWN VT (Frye, A;Dorty, T).

Run up the middle, should have been stopped after 5 yards but he breaks 3-4 tackles and extends it to 16 yards.

T 1-10 W40 Taylor, T deep pass complete to Roberts, D for 36 yards to the WF4, 1ST DOWN VT (Marshall, AJ).

Same defense, no pressure, Roberts is wide open in the middle of the field. Marshall is in coverage on the double post route, but is content to stay 5 yards behind him and just make the tackle. It seems like most of the passes our guys are there, they just seem scared to make plays.

 T 1-G W04 Taylor, T pass incomplete to Boykin, J (Johnson, K).

Great coverage by Johnson, Taylor tried to exploit him right away with a bullet throw but there is no room to complete the pass.

 T 2-G W04 Evans, D rush over left end for 3 yards to the WF1 (Quarles, C;Souza, F).

Run to the left, pretty good defense actually, field is stretched very wide and Souza makes a great TD saving tackle. Good fundamental tackle.

T 3-G W01 Evans, D rush right for 1 yard to the WF0, TOUCHDOWN, clock 03:36.

Evans bounces the run to the right outside, Joey Ehrmann makes the penetration, has his arms around his legs, but is just unable to make the play. That is one that he will make next year I am guessing.

6 Plays, 83 yards, VT 42-WFU 14

 

8TH POSSESSION

T 1-10 T35 VT ball on VT36.

 T 1-10 T36 Taylor, T rush SCR for 4 yards to the VT40, out-of-bounds (Whitlock, N).

All day to throw, just reverses field and gets 4 yards, nobody was really ever close to making a tackle. He ran around for at least 9 seconds. Not good enough up front, not even close.

T 2-6 T40 Taylor, T sideline pass complete to Boykin, J for 7 yards to the VT47, 1ST DOWN VT, out-of-bounds (Marshall, AJ).

Another out route to Boykin. Marshall is 8 yards deep and behind the play as usual.

 T 1-10 T47 Taylor, T sideline pass complete to Roberts, D for 13 yards to the WF40, 1ST DOWN VT, out-of-bounds (Okoro, K).

Yet another out route for Taylor to throw, fits it perfectly in there. Kevin Johnson 8 yards off and behind the play.

 T 1-10 W40 Taylor, T pass incomplete to Roberts, D, clock 01:30.

Bootleg to the right, same play as the 1st down play. Taylor makes a great throw but Roberts lapses in concentration and drops it. Marshall behind the play.

 T 2-10 W40 Taylor, T slant pass complete to Boykin, J for 19 yards to the WF21, 1ST DOWN VT (Johnson, K).

No initial pressure, good coverage to start, Taylor evades the blitz and throws it to a wide open Boykin who is then hammered by Johnson who was behind the play.

 T 1-10 W21 Taylor, T sideline pass complete to Roberts, D for 11 yards to the WF10, 1ST DOWN VT (Marshall, AJ).

Another out route to the sideline with Marshall behind him. Great catch by Roberts.

T 1-9 W10 Taylor, T post pass complete to Boykin, J for 10 yards to the WF0, 1ST DOWN VT, TOUCHDOWN, clock 00:52.

Pretty good pressure, forced Taylor to throw off his back foot to Boykin in the middle. Marshall is behind the play and there is no safety over the top. Marshall was about 3 steps behind the play.

7 Plays, 64 yards, VT 49- Wake 14

 

Ok, for those of you who read this far I commend you. Especially given the absolutely atrocious formatting, and play of the defense. It seems to me that most of the problems can be summed up into one of three categories.

  1. Scheme for the corners. Marshall and Johnson played 8-10 yards off of the LOS on almost every single play. Even when there wasn't a receiver in front of them, they hardly ever went up to the line. This caused a lot of problems because not only did they play off the ball from the snap, but they never adjusted. They seemed to be content on playing good defense behind the receiver and then just making the tackle. I will give credit to them though, for the amount of throws that Taylor went right at them, they were in pretty good position most of the time, especially on the long balls. They were right there all the time, they just didn't make the play they needed to make to keep the ball out of the hands of the receiver.
  2. There was absolutely no pressure on Taylor at all. If I had to guess what his average time to throw, it would probably be around 4-5 seconds. When you have a lot of young players in the secondary this is a recipe for disaster. It is nearly impossible for anybody to cover college receivers for more than about 3 seconds. Problems were compounded by the fact that the corners were often on islands with no secondary help in the middle of the field, it was just man on man all day. For many of the plays it felt like there were no safeties on the field at all. People want to put all of the blame on the secondary, and I will agree that they were very poor on Saturday, as well as throughout the year, but I feel really bad for them because they are getting no help at all. The Hokies manhandled us up front and that is not something that is going to change. We are too small there and we don't make plays when we do flush the QB out of the pocket (see Nesbitt/Dobbs/Taylor/Luck).
  3. The defensive scheme in general is just bizarre at times. There was hardly ever any creativity on blitzes, the set before the snap was the same almost all game, and there was absolutely no aggression at all in the secondary, or at the line of scrimmage for the most part. Taylor did make some good plays on the times we flushed him out of the pocket, but the defense has to be able to make plays when they get him on the run and they didn't do that. Lambert needs to take the bye week to look hard at his scheme and reassess whether he is giving the players the best shot at succeeding. Honestly if we continue to play with the same scheme that we used on Saturday, and continue to fail to adjust to the same plays over and over again (see the out routes on the last drive for VT in the first half), then Coach Grobe will have to reassess the DC position for next year.

So that wraps up my review of the defense for the game. I really did see some bright spots to be honest with you. Marshall and Johnson got completely obliterated, but they were often times in the right spot, and they just have to make plays. Next year around this time, I bet they both make at least 5 more plays a piece, which could result in 2-4 turnovers that can completely change the game. There is certainly a lot of talent on the defense, but they are very young and making dumb mistakes. I think the potential is there, there are just a few tweaks that need to be made both from a coaching and execution standpoint to get us where we need to be heading into next year.

I think the main thing is to not get too down on the guys. They put forth a lot of effort, they were just completely undermanned and overpowered by a much better Virginia Tech team. I appreciate the way they kept their heads up and played on despite getting beat pretty handily.

Comments are always welcome. I'll do my best to shape up the formatting to make it readable for those who want to sort through it. Thanks and Go Deacs!!!

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