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The Alphabetical, Week 11: No, you don't know how to read a defense

LSU wasn't actually using that defense we all accused them of using, Gene Chizik's dictator years have gotten all sad, and Marqise Lee might be USC's best defender after all.

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Matthew Stockman

A, B, C. As in exhibits, since something needs rebuttal and needs rebuttal now. Imagine a world where you had not watched Alabama play LSU last Saturday night, then searched "LSU prevent defense" on Twitter. You would believe, sight unseen, that LSU has lost the game by playing in a "prevent" coverage. By "prevent," I refer to dropping seven or more players into deep coverage, and thus preventing a deep pass from beating you late in the game.

A lot of people said this, including me in a bad Arrested Development reference. Those people, including me, were all terribly wrong.

A. First down and the whole field, basically. LSU shows a six man front, and then falls off into man-to-man with a four man rush. It's not a blitz, but it's not exactly prevent either.


Norwood on the completion, though you can't be sure of the exact route combo because this is definitely not All-22 footage. (Best guess: post-curl combo.) AJ McCarron takes the short hitch, and Kevin Norwood turns a six-yard route into an 18-yard gain thanks to some bad tackling, not a prevent defense.

B. Back to first and 10 at the Alabama 46.


LSU bluffs again, this time with a three-man front and multiple bobbing players along the line, but settles for another four-man rush with a twist: Jalen Mills blitzing from his slot coverage on McCarron's left. LSU remains in man, and that's too bad for No. 34 Micah Eugene, who gives up a 15-yard completion to Norwood again on a smash combination.

C. First and 10 at the LSU 39-yard line.


LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis actually blitzes this time, bringing five out of the three-man front--part of the 3-2-6 "Mustang" package--and again, letting everyone play man-to-man. McCarron likes this, because Norwood is open along the sideline and then makes a leaning catch of some difficulty to get another 11 yards out of the Tiger defense.

That's 3 plays, 44 yards, and the quarterback throwing to one dude in man coverage. There is nothing complex about this whatsoever. Absolutely nothing, except for the part where you have to do it against a running clock in a hellish road environment at full game speed. Besides that, this is TOTALLY SIMPLE.

On the next first down, McCarron sees a four-man front with man coverage and runs out of time before missing Norwood in the endzone. The only incompletion of the final drive comes off a four-man pressure out of a three-man front.



Endzone. McCarron sees a possible seven-man rush, ideal for a screen pass call. This was no audible, by the way: this was something Alabama was waiting on, and that center Barrett Jones mentioned specifically to the Tide's coaches before the final drive. LSU ends up rushing six towards McCarron. When you do that to A.J. McCarron and you haven't accounted for T.J. Yeldon on a screen pass, you're gonna have a bad time.


LSU played the final five downs of the game in five different looks, with none of them resembling a prevent defense. They played man-to-man defense like they usually do, and got beat at individual matchups at multiple spots: Norwood against Eugene, the Alabama o-line versus the LSU d-line, and even T.J. Yeldon (a freshman!) destroying a blitzer on a pickup block.

Flurry. Rapid movement, the kind occurring on a football field that confuses players in person and, evidently, viewers at home. LSU played nothing like prevent defense, and in fact was so aggressive down the stretch Alabama built that into the endgame with fatal results for LSU. So why did people get it so wrong? It's mostly due to plain ignorance and exotic excitement. People don't know that LSU wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary because they--like most football viewers, yours truly included--suck at watching defenses, and that it was all very exciting, and thus interfered with thinking about what you were watching. The former is a matter of light study; the latter is something you probably don't want to short-circuit, because sports should have the power to turn you into a shrieking, irrational banshee in the moment.

Geeeeeeeeks. Bringing us to this disastrous imaginary person:


The NFL does things right in one respect: it publishes All-22 film, so that if you are inclined, you can see the full span of a play as they unfold on the field. It is not the most TV-friendly angle--it can look like the "blimp" view from certain stadiums' crows nests--but it does show a lot you won't see from TV angles. (CBS in particular can be a little tight, probably because it looks so much better at the point of attack.)

Heavy. On the other hand, the idea of all but the most diehard NFL fan being able to spot a zone blitz in action is as funny as a casual fan knowing what the hell a quarterback was actually reading during a flexbone triple-option play. Football fans generally don't know what they're watching at both levels, and 90 percent of the time don't really have to because BOOM pass OW score YAYYY WE WON. But when that 10 percent comes? Get your ass some Smart Football, son, and make the right criticism you carefully wrap around the brick you throw through your coach's bedroom window at 3 a.m.

P.S. That appears to be 185 on the bar for Zone Blitz Willie, which seems a bit heavy for him. Also, knowing what is happening on the field will not make you friends, especially in the proletarian NFL where the reaction might be, "WELL WELL PERFESSER, UMM....GRITTINESS, MANHOOD, SOMETHING."

I-81. The interstate running through Blacksburg, Virginia, home of Virginia Tech, a 4-5 team likely falling to 4-6 after playing Florida State tonight. The offense--particularly QB Logan Thomas--isn't doing anything the Virginia Tech offense under Frank Beamer hasn't always done, i.e. piddle around, wait for the mobile quarterback to make a few plays, and then kick field goals after stalling out in the redzone. That's S.O.P. for the Hokies, and it hasn't stopped them from winning 10 games or more for eight straight seasons.

John Mayer. The time Virginia Tech did not win 10 games in 2003, John Mayer released "Your Body Is A Wonderland" in the same calendar year. Should you be worried that the two are connected, and Mayer's next unkillable vanilla poopbeast of a love song will surface from a benighted crack in the earth's crust because Virginia Tech won't win 10 games this year? Yes. You should worry about this exact thing. (Especially now that he's cocooned up in Montana, just waiting to emerge as a new variation of douchebag butterfly.)

KO. As in "kickoffs" in play-by-play notation. Bud Foster's defense is one problem. They've been very good except when they haven't, and then they haven't opposing rushers have taken free yardage in chunks. The Hokies are a ghastly 81st in the nation in long opponent runs allowed, but that still is only part of the equation. The other culprit: special teams. For a team crafted around defense and special teams, sitting at 109th in opponent kickoff returns and 105th in punting will put you on the bad side of short fields way more often than one can afford.

Leach. As in Mike, who needs a vacation.

Let's just all back away from MIke, leave a bag of Clif Bars and a Camelbak full of fresh water by the door, and let him go on walkabout until he feels better. While he's in the woods, maybe he'll find Marquess Wilson, his leading receiver currently suspended from the team, and the two of them can settle their differences while asking the creatures of the forest for advice. I am totally serious in suggesting this, and you know I am because Mike Leach just might do this before the UCLA game on Saturday.

Mackin'. It gets cold on long Minnesota nights, and that's why Goldy Gopher never sleeps alone.


Goldy Gopher is trying to pick up your girl in front of your very eyes. If the gentleman in the grey wool cap seems defenseless, it is because he is just following the lead of his football team

Noriega. If you were casting dictators out of the ranks of SEC coaches, you might instantly think of Nick Saban. You're not entirely off the mark, but Saban isn't the most obvious choice to the connoisseur of dictatorships. Dictators, by tradition, wear ugly shirts. They aren't particularly bright, and catch a huge number of breaks on their way up the ladder. They are surrounded by toadies, and when the end comes, it comes fast and in ugly fashion, usually after some hysterical overreach of power.

Overreach. You know, like hiring a private security firm to watch your off-campus players' curfew compliance. Perhaps you would like it in terms applicable to your life? Okay. You are a severely underpaid minor league athlete with few rights as an employee to begin with, and then your boss--your boss whose methods have amounted to zero conference wins this year--decides to check and see if you are in your bed by 11 p.m. through some form of check or surveillance. Your boss also wears the shacket, the stupidest form of clothing ever created. That's not entirely relevant, but it's not irrelevant when estimating the credibility of the man, you know?

Piss off. So if Auburn players mail it in against Georgia, I'd understand. Dictators are pretty compelling when there's parades to go with the police state, but without the ticker tape it's just a hollow bore in a suit. Which, at the moment, describes Gene Chizik in his capacities as the coach of the Auburn football team--a role he won't have for much longer, no matter what happens against Georgia.

-qise. As in the unconventionally spelled Marqise Lee, who really is just a terrifying blur of knees and elbows unlike anything seen since Randy Moss. You might think his practicing on defense is Lane Kiffin's worst idea yet, and without defending the move in particular let us assure you: Lane Kiffin has had so many other bad ideas that this isn't even in the top 20 of Lane Kiffin's Worst Ideas Ever. If you've seen the USC defense in action against spread offenses, you would also have to admit that the worst idea for them would be continuing to do what they have been doing.

Rams. By the way, this is what Marshall Faulk once volunteered to do in a professional football game when the Rams couldn't defend the pass. Marshall Faulk was dead serious about playing DB cold in the NFL after playing running back for a whole game. Marshall Faulk was fearless beyond understanding, and if Marqise Lee is willing to do this, then hell, put him in the same category.

Spliced. Or juxtaposed:


Torrid. As in the pace of Kawann Short of Purdue, who has blocked four kicks this season, a good number for a whole team in the course of an average football season and an astonishing number for one player.

Unwinfeated. For variation, let's do those winless in conference play: Kansas, Auburn, Connecticut, Purdue, Illinois, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Akron, Eastern Michigan, Washington State, Southern Miss, Kentucky, New Mexico State, and Tennessee.


Wariness. Due to K-State, who play TCU, a team clearly on a suicide mission since going for two to beat WVU late on the road in Morgantown. TCU's doing this with 50 percent new starters, and without Casey Pachall at quarterback. Gary Patterson is bad at shirts, and very good at coaching football.

Xtacles. As for Johnny Manziel: the key to beating Alabama is to remember your rocket boots, and then scream, "Let's do thiiiiiiiiiiis," as you take the field in Tuscaloosa.

Y-formation. As in the wishbone, or "right-left" as Texas and Darrell Royal called it when it was unveiled in 1968. Texas used the formation against Arkansas in the first "Game of the Century," Texas' title-clinching, 15-14 defeat of the Razorbacks in that same season. When they met at midfield afterward, this is what Royal did.

Flanked as usual by his 11-year-old twin daughters, Broyles was stoic. The girls, Betsy and Linda, were not. "We were bawling," Arnold said Wednesday. The Texas coach shook hands with the Arkansas coach. And then, before leaving the field, Royal tried to console the girls, wrapping one in a hug.

And to demonstrate the range of a man, please also see this story from commenter macsm about meeting Royal as an awestruck child.

I was in the locker room at a golf course in the Austin suburbs waiting for my dad to come out of shower when in walked the big fella. Two 30-ish looking guys approached him and offered to buy his drink. One of them was in a UT golf shirt. The other was in a maroon and white TAMU shirt, with a matching aggie koozie. DKR asked to see the aggies Koozie because ‘it can keep my dick warm.’Persuaded by the good grey coach, the aggie proceeded to hand him the koozie. To which DKR responded, "I’m fucking Joking, I don’t want to touch that." it was all in fun though, DKR bought him a beer and shook his hand.

I stood in awe, for one, I had never been that close to a living legend and two, I had never heard a man in 80’s say dick or fuck.

After beers The coach called for a van and walked out.

When Texas lines up in the wishbone tomorrow on the first play in tribute, it will honor their greatest coach, a man of compassion, but also one who knew the value of a rival's koozie.

Zombocom. You can do anything at Zombocom, Notre Dame, but in the real world it will take a miracle to get you into the BCS title game. (But to repeat: you can do anything at Zombocom.)

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