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Saturday Night Film Review: The Defense Rises

The Tigers hammer the Aggies.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Dave and the boys finally put their foot down. The Tiger defense absolutely destroyed a pretty good Texas A&M team en route to capping off a perfect regular season. This wasn’t a bad Texas A&M offense either and considering how the LSU defense had played for most of this year and how much the Aggies had scored on this Aranda defense last season (31 points before overtime) this was performance was very welcome.

I don’t have the pre-LSU numbers for Texas A&M’s offense but they now rank 34th in the country in offensive S&P and 33rd in offensive FEI. What LSU did to an offense ranked in the top 30 of the country heading into the game should be illegal.

That’s a lot of deep red in the Texas A&M boxes. The interesting thing for me was that LSU didn’t do all that much. Besides the nice pressures that rocked Kellen Mond all day, LSU stuck in their Cover-1 and other man coverage defenses for most of the night. In the two outings since the Ole Miss debacle, Aranda has decided to stay in man for most of those two games. It worked against Arkansas and it worked again against Aggie.

This whole idea hinges on the play of Kary Vincent, who continually gets attacked by opposing teams offenses. It’s understandable. If you were scheming or playing quarterback against LSU, you would try your best to avoid throwing at Kristian Fulton or Derek Stingley. Quarterbacks end up looking inside to the slot. Vincent has had it rough for parts of the season. It’s one of the reasons we’ve seen so much Cordale Flott. I actually don’t think Vincent has been bad, it just feels like opposing quarterbacks turn into, well, Joe Burrow, when targeting the slot.

Once LSU spins down to one high safety and man across the board, you can’t bracket the slot receiver like you can in certain 2 high looks. That puts a lot of strain on the the slot defender who has to deal with inside and outside breaks. Unlike the cornerbacks, he doesn’t have the sideline to protect him. Jimbo Fisher and Mond tried to take advantage of that matchup but whether it was Vincent making some nice plays or Mond making some horrible plays, LSU won that “game within a game” quite easily.

Being able to get the quarterback off his first reads is going to allow pressure to finally come through and boy did it for the guys up front. LSU tallied 6 sacks and the pressure forced errant throws that led to a few interceptions including one by the aforementioned Vincent.

Aranda came up with some nice pressures to attack Jimbo Fisher’s protections and he played man coverage behind five of the six sacks. The differences between each type of man coverage is where things got interesting for the defensive coordinator.

The first sack of the game was this Marcel Brooks and K’Lavon Chaisson high tea meeting at the quarterback:

You can see LSU line up with two deep safeties, Grant Delpit and Jacoby Stevens. At the snap, Delpit spins down and shows himself right into the window where Mond wants to throw the deep over route. Four-man rushes with one-deep man coverage behind it produce a “rat” defender who’s job it is to pick up certain routes over the middle of the field depending on certain calls. Delpit is the rat here and he comes down from depth because LSU wants to disguise their initial intentions so he can see the over route coming. LSU will also play similar coverages where the “rat” player is starting at linebacker depth. Delpit would have let that over route bypass him in a situation like that. With Texas A&M running four verts, it allowed Delpit to bracket the over route, Stevens to hang back and bracket the seam route which are Mond’s initial reads.

The pressure is nice too. They force the Texas A&M right guard to be useless by showing Patrick Queen in the gap pre-snap. He actually has the running back since it’s man coverage. Texas A&M only slides with three lineman to the left because the guard has to respect Queen at first. Chaisson comes around as the looper on a three-man stunt that has been very good for LSU over the years. Marcel Brooks does a great job of getting speed around the edge to force Mond up in the pocket right into the looper.

On this one, LSU is sending five rushers and playing with one high safety, which means they can’t have a “rat” players. The interesting thing is how, because the running back stays in to block, Jacoby Stevens, who is man with the running back, can float and ends up taking away the middle of the field. Some teams will add the their player to the rush but Jacoby sits in the middle of the field and gets in the window for the short route to the inside.

The pressure has similar characteristics to the first play. Chaisson comes from outside in against the three-man offensive line slide right up the gut. In this instance, he’s not coming from the complete outside, as they line him up as an inside linebacker. Rashard Lawrence does a good job pining the center enough as Chaisson explodes inside. The center has no chance against that speed.

Even with two receivers down, these are the same areas where Georgia will probably try to attack LSU. Aranda will play a lot of single-high looks to create a numbers advantage in the box against Georgia’s run game. This means man coverage and whoever is defending the slot will have to be vigilant once more. Loading the box and forcing Georgia into third-and-medium/longs, will allow LSU to get nasty with the blitz package and get to the quarterback. It might make for a long day if you’re Jake Fromm as it did for Kellen Mond and the outmatched Aggies.