It’s hard to take away many positives after losing 31-6 at home like Mississippi State did Saturday. However, the Bulldogs have to factor in the opponent and realize they went up against what some people believe is the best team in the country in Alabama.
That said, Mississippi State did a good job turning interior pressure into production against the pocket — also using it to force a turnover.
I wish I had different angles of this play to show, because it really is a nice call from MSU in a variety of ways. Before we examine the hit on the quarterback itself, let’s go over why the blitz worked so well.
MSU lines up in a 3-4 with with one linebacker in a stand-up position at the line of scrimmage. Most of the time this means he’s going to blitz off the edge.
But after taking a few steps forward, he actually drops back into zone coverage. This small hesitation forced both the right tackle and right guard to take one player. This left running back Derrick Henry one-on-one with a stunt-blitzing defensive end now coming up the middle.
To top it all off, the Bulldogs sent inside linebacker Richie Brown on a delayed blitz up the middle knowing the two offensive tackles were left with no one to block while the center and guards in the middle of the trench had more than they could handle.
MSU used a stunt blitz, a fake blitz and a delayed blitz to create unused blockers on the edge and a mismatch against the running back. When a defense can be effective and complex with its interior pressure, it can create turnovers like this:
If defensive linemen can get offensive linemen to worry about how they can better block those mixed blitzes, that’s when the defensive linemen can go straight at them and use power to get by. Another stunt in the play above was successful because defensive end A.J. Jefferson attacked right between the center and guard, a gap he knew would open up when his linebacker came in late.
Alabama’s offensive line has given up quite a few negative plays this year, and a lot can be attributed to how other teams are mixing up their pressure on the inside to force quarterback Jacob Coker to make an errant throw or make him move outside the pocket.
But getting interior pressure doesn’t guarantee a stop.
We saw LSU use these kinds of running plays in its game against Florida. Because defensive tackle Jon Bullard was blowing up plays in the middle, LSU called running plays that gave room for interior pressure only to give running back Leonard Fournette a lane to bounce outside.
Interior pressure is a weak spot for the Crimson Tide, but they do have their counters to it. Any team that will contain them must find a way to get consistent interior pressure, but limit those big plays to the outside when it takes its chances.