Far too many fans take the details of defending the run for granted. No matter how much football has trended toward the pass, your defense must ALWAYS be built around how you stop the run. Because an effective run game allows offenses to control possession, stay out of unfavorable down and distance, easily move the football, and even create some explosives, the foundation of your defense needs to always allow you to make the run inefficient. If your defense is good in obvious dropback situations but struggles against the run, you will play teams that can stay out of them because they’re in 3rd and 2 all the time. Over a year, that isn’t a great strategy for an offense because, if a team CAN stop the run, they will end up frequently behind the sticks and put their QB in unfavorable situations to throw into, but over a single game, it can work very well.
LSU is one of those defenses. All year, Matt House’s D has had sound and effective answers against dropback pass. One of the better units in the country in obvious pass situations, they do a good job mixing coverages, generating pressure, and getting off the field. What has, to this point, not terribly cost LSU is their lack of soundness in both structure and execution in the run fit. Despite LSU tightening up on D on third and long and in the red zone, teams have been able to move the ball against LSU on standard downs in large part due to recurring issues that we’ll get into here. Texas A&M was able to reliably churn out efficient plays on the ground whenever they wanted, Devon Achane rushed for 215 yards despite a long of only 29. Frankly, that’s why LSU lost.
I’m not exactly sure who is supposed to account for the C gap here. Either it’s Baskerville, or Penn is supposed to get over the top and fill it. Either way, three tackles are missed and it turns into an explosive play for A&M.
With inside zone, you need force defenders, whose job it is to set an edge and force the run back inside to help, on both sides of the formation since the back has the freedom to bounce wherever if his interior gaps are accounted for. Here, Ojulari does a poor job on backside contain, getting too narrow and too far inside to force the RB back to Baskerville. As a result, he’s able to bounce it for a conversion, which turned into an explosive play due to some more missed tackles.
More issues with contain. Ojulari tries to fold inside the tackle, leaving contain and allowing the play to bounce outside instead of setting the edge and forcing it back inside in the B gap to Foucha, like he’s supposed to. The WR cracks down on Foucha. In these cases, the defense is supposed to execute a “crack replace,” where the corner folds behind the cracking WR to make the tackle. Garner is slow to replace.
All year, LSU has had issues fitting counter with proper technique and leverage. Ojulari does a good job of “boxing” it back inside, but Baskerville needs to get to the outside shoulder of the 2nd puller and force this back to Penn who gets over the top here.
With the DL doing a good job getting vertical to the frontside, you need Greg Penn here to control the backside C gap and take care of the cutback. Instead, he slow-plays it and absorbs a block, getting taken out of his gap.
I don’t know what their rules/plan against split-flow in this front/pressure are, but I hope they aren’t this. There’s nobody in the new gap created inside of the sifting TE, and it’s an easy 10 yards on the cutback.
And all night, there was plenty of good, old-fashioned poor tackling.