For many, the story of Saturday night’s UNBELIEVABLE victory will be Jayden Daniels putting the game on his back in the 4th quarter and overtime, or Brian Kelly’s bold, correct decision to go for the kill shot. For three and a half quarters, however, until Bryce Young decided to do things nobody can stop, the story was Matt House’s defense. After three, the Heisman winner and a bunch of 5-stars had nine points. In the end, they only hit the 30 mark because of overtime, which skews things.
Now, Matt House threw the sink at them. He did A LOT of different things well and I could write five film reviews about it, they did a nice job mixing coverages and keeping Alabama’s play caller and QB off balance. They stressed protections with DL games as they have all year, and they both simulated and outright sent pressure. All in all, amazing job, the LSU defensive staff really rose to the moment.
When it came to dealing with Bryce Young in passing downs, LSU—as I suggested they should in my second Ole Miss film review—was “Odd Mirror.”
While it is often played with 5, or 2-man, which LSU used against Ole Miss, it can be paired with a complete menu of coverages behind it. The idea is to rush three, play your coverage, and have your most athletic LB play an aggressive spy on the QB, “mirroring” everywhere he goes and running him down if he leaves the pocket.
It suits LSU very well because Harold Perkins is more athletic and dynamic than any opposing QB LSU will have on their schedule.
Bryce Young is a great scrambler, but not necessarily to run. He does a great job, as we saw against a 0 blitz to take a late lead, escaping the pocket and creating plays downfield out-of-structure, like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.
Ultimately, you’re trying to stop him from doing this when your coverage takes everything away.
LSU’s solution to that in obvious passing situations, which protects their coverages from having to extend beyond a normal length of time, and keeps Bryce Young from moving the chains in the scramble drill, was to simply tell Harold Perkins to go get him whenever he tried to do it. Odd Mirror is designed for that.
LSU paired it with numerous coverage concepts, including some of the 3-High looks they’ve been experimenting a bit with. Here, they run a 3-High Tampa-2 structure with the middle read defender being the middle of the 3-High safeties. The coverage structure takes care of the route distribution and Bryce Young has to extend the play to find something. When he moves, Perkins runs him down and takes that away, forcing a dump-off.
In the red zone, they paired it with their red zone Cover-0. Perkins runs him down in space for the sack.
LSU has utilized a coverage lately on 3rd and long from 3-high where they buzz the field and boundary safeties down to the sticks and plant them there. The idea’s simple, defend the line to gain and rally if the ball goes underneath. They force the checkdown and make the play, but Perkins was ready if he left the pocket and looked for more.
When LSU wants to lock up and take away anything quick in third and medium, they can play Cover-1 behind it. In this case, it’s 1-Robber with the safety coming down to play the hole. They tighten up and force a difficult throw that sails high. Up front, they crush the pocket with just three guys. Perkins does a good job picking up and staying in the window for the Texas route by the RB when he sees that the pocket is too collapsed for Young to leave. A smart play for a freshman.
LATE 4th QUARTER
When it came down to Alabama’s final drive, every play a passing down, in the 4th quarter, LSU turned right back to Odd Mirror.....4 times in a row.
The first time, they played it with their 3-High Tampa, and Young did a good job hitting the over the ball route in the gap between the hook droppers and under the middle-read defender.
The second time, they played Odd Mirror 5, the most typical coverage played with this concept (since the QB scramble is the weak spot of Cover-5, also known as 2-Man). They lock up the routes in man coverage and when Young tries to extend the play and create something, Perkins runs him down and forces the throwaway.
The 3rd time, they played it with 1-Robber, with Young dumping the ball off.
The 4th time, and what got LSU out of it, was JaCorey Brooks running a great out-breaker and getting himself open against Cover-5. Young hits him quick for a first down on 3rd down.
LSU did a lot of things to get Bryce Young off the field Saturday, but neutralizing his most overpowering and explosive trait with an even more explosive athlete, mixing coverages behind it to keep Alabama’s offensive brain-trust and QB off balance, was the biggest reason LSU was able to consistently stop Alabama’s passing game on 3rd and long, making the best QB in the country a non-factor for most of the game. Enough that, when he finally snapped in the 4th Quarter (which he always does), LSU could still be in a position to pull it out.