The next installment of SEC Country’s Scheme or Skill series brings us down to Death Valley where the LSU Tigers escaped a late comeback by Mississippi State on Saturday night.
The win for LSU came off a few big plays by newly named starting quarterback Danny Etling and the return of star running back Leonard Fournette. But in the end, it was the LSU defense that shut the door on the Bulldogs. The one doing the shutting was none other than pass rusher Arden Key.
With the Bulldogs needing at least eight yards to continue the drive, the Tigers matched MSU’s three wide receiver set with nickel formation with two safeties playing deep. On this particular play, it was the safeties job to not get beat deep and the three cornerbacks’ jobs to focus on that first-down marker and not give the receivers any room past that hypothetical yellow line.
On the previous play, Mississippi State quarterback Damian Williams overthrew his wide receiver because there was heavy pressure by Key off a stunt blitz that gave him a free shot at the quarterback. Since that type of blitz was giving MSU’s offensive line trouble, LSU decided to dial it up again for fourth down.
At the snap, Key did a good job of selling the stunt by taking his first few steps like he was going to go around the edge. That caused the offensive lineman to start to shift left in order to brace to form the pocket. As Key made his cut off his right foot and back into the middle of the trench, LSU’s defensive tackle pushed to the right, taking his assignment and now the confused left tackle with him.
This gave Key another unblocked chance to chase the quarterback.
With the running back in to help block, the stunt blitz should have been picked up regardless if the offensive lineman missed. However, what starts to tip this play into more of a skill play was that Key was so fast and explosive through the gap that the running back didn’t even have time to make contact with him.
Here’s how those screenshots played out in real time.
Though LSUs defensive coordinator Dave Aranda made a great call going back to the stunt blitz, this play is skill more than scheme due to how freakishly athletic Key was to cut back into the middle and sprint up the gap past the running back.
There are reasons why Key is tied for first in the country for the most solo sacks. He put some of those reasons on display to seal the win for his team Saturday night.