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Saturday Afternoon Film Review: LSU at Mississippi State

The LSU Defense Stopped College Football’s Favorite Play.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 19 LSU at Mississippi State Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Saturday in Starkville, the LSU defense imposed their will on an SEC opponent. It was a nice performance for a much maligned unit that now goes into a 2 game stretch that will make or break the season against Auburn and Alabama. Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead came into this game with a nice approach to attack LSU’s defense using the modern iteration of “God’s Play”: the power read. Unfortunately for Moorhead and co. Dave Aranda’s base scheme snuffed them out for most of the game.

Joe Moorhead had all of 2018 to prepare an offense for a quarterback who couldn’t throw a lick so when Garrett Shrader became his starting quarterback with the injuries to Tommy Stevens, he fit right into the system. Power read, also known as inverted veer, is an option play where the quarterback reads a frontside defensive lineman. The running back is on a “sweep” path, looking to get outside. The quarterback is the inside runner. This is why it’s called “inverted”. On a regular zone read, the quarterback is the outside runner and the running back is the inside runner. Should the quarterback keep the ball, an offensive line friend of his will help clear out the defense by pulling and leading from the backside to the frontside. This is where the “power” aspect of the play comes in.

MSU came out in the first three quarters and ran some variation or progression on power read more than 15 times. This was an early down tendency to use the quarterback in the run game to try to get the ball rolling on early downs. They needed to pull out all the stops because whenever LSU was able to get the Bulldogs in third or fourth down, it was a wrap. MSU went 3 for 14 on those downs. Shrader’s passing acumen is not good enough to get his team out of passing down situations so these early down runs were critical for them.

It started out well for Moorhead as his quarterback ripped off a first down run on MSU’s second play of the game. The game plan was to show LSU an empty formation (three receivers to one side and two to the backside with only the quarterback in the box) but then motion the running back into the backfield to get LSU to check out of their empty formation defense and back into a regular defense against a quarterback and running back in the backfield. Dave Aranda kept the adjustment simple and followed the same rules he’s been using for a few years in Baton Rouge. K’Lavon Chaisson would start outside the box and move back in and the backside safety would push over to the middle of the field. This left an isolated cornerback one-on-one on the backside with the receiver. LSU will take their chances with either Kristian Fulton or Derek Stingley Jr. over there so it was no sweat for them.

The play above works because Patrick Queen allows the MSU pulling guard to strike him head on. He knocks Queen back a few yards and Shrader runs behind him. Unless you are a a big thicc boy playing linebacker and can just bench offensive lineman out of the way, you need to pick a shoulder to work off of. In this case, he probably should stay inside of the blocker and force Shrader to bounce into the waiting arms of Jacob Phillips.

MSU then tried to fool the defense with a variation off their base power read play. The running back comes in motion and gets the handoff but he pivots and is actually the inside runner on the play with the same blocking scheme.

This time Queen takes the blocker on with inside leverage and forces the ball carrier to Phillips. MSU has their receiver crack Phillips which is cue for Grant Delpit to replace on the outside. Delpit makes the tackle one on one for a minimal gain.

Later in the game, with Micah Baskerville spelling Queen, MSU ran the power read at the young linebacker who played it perfectly:

Chaisson plays the running back by getting wide and forcing Shrader to keep the ball. Baskerville attacks the line and stays outside the puller to force the ball to his buddy Phillips. When Shrader declares his intentions inside, Baskerville undercuts the guard and makes a great tackle.

Again, MSU is running power read and again LSU shuts it down with Jacob Phillips making a nice play.

LSU made life miserable for the Mississippi State offense’s base play and while a nice play action concept gave them a first down in the second quarter, LSU forced the offense to play left handed. This was a good showing by the defense that didn’t have to show anything too risque against an undermanned MSU side that sets them up nicely this week against a similar quarterback situation that Auburn will bring to the table.