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Marty Simpsons big-play breakdown

In this special feature, former Gamecock football player Marty Simpson breaks down how the Gamecocks defended Navy's triple-option offense.
The Gamecock defense got the stops it needed in order to put the game away, but I would like to point out a few pros and cons for good measure. These pros and cons will be touched upon during the video breakdowns themselves, but I wanted to clearly explain them first.
First, I will discuss the pros of the Gamecocks' approach to the triple option.
Pro #1: USC won. Credit the halftime adjustments of correcting technique and angles of pursuit.
Pro #2: USC players made big plays in crunch time. Stephon Gilmore, Jadeveon Clowney, Melvin Ingram and Antonio Allen all made huge plays in the fourth quarter. Winning games is all about putting your players in a position to make plays and Ellis Johnson certainly did that in the fourth quarter.
Pro #3: USC showed a hint of imagination by showing Navy multiple sets on defense. Primarily, the defense operated out of three distinctly different defensive sets: a 3-3 stacked look, a 4-3 alignment, and a traditional 3-4 (or 5-2 look).
Johnson attempted to confuse Navy "pre-snap" by utilizing different alignments. This is a sound approach to stopping a complex offense like Navy's rushing attack.
Here are the three alignment looks given by South Carolina during the game.
The 3-3 Stacked Look
The 4-3 Defense
The 3-4 / 5-2 Defense
Here is a list of cons to the approach taken by the Gamecock defense versus the Navy triple-option attack.
Con #1: Johnson felt like Navy's offense "takes the athleticism off the table." I disagree with this statement. I feel like the Gamecock scheme took the athleticism out of the equation. By choosing to stand still and read keys and "play assignment football," the USC defense was put in a position where it was forced to play timidly.
Triple-option football is all about decision making by the quarterback during the play while it's happening. The quarterback is deciding whether to give the ball to the fullback as the fullback attacks the line of scrimmage.
I believe the Gamecocks could have injected their athletic ability into the equation by stunting and "forcing action." This type of defensive call would allow the Gamecocks to fly around full speed without worrying about reading the play on the run. By the end of the game it would seem that Clowney had started "getting the feel" for the option read in front of him and began guessing anyway. Fortunately, for the Gamecocks, Clowney is the type of player that can get away with this because of his athletic ability.
Forcing Action: A Clowney Cut-up
(click on the video to play it)
Con #2: While creating different sets to confuse the Navy offense is a good strategy on paper, the actual sets themselves had a few flaws.
The pre-snap 4-3 alignment is the exact defense that an option team wants to see when it comes to the line of scrimmage. It creates the most leverage pre-snap for the linebackers to be sealed by the linemen and creates a problem for the alley players supporting a quick pitch to the tailback or a quarterback run.
Scheme Problems: The 4-3 Pre-Snap Alignment
(click on the video to play it)
Also, the 3-3 stacked alignment creates a real problem for the midline triple option in which the fullback attacks the center's butt-pad as his landmark. This is just too far for the end to go to tackle the dive. This will create big plays on the "give to the fullback" as the quarterback reads this mesh.
Scheme Problems: 3-3 Stacked Look vs. Midline Dive
(click on the video to play it)
Con #3: The Gamecocks didn't dictate action with it's pre-snap alignments. It is easy to predict an option team will run where they have "numbers." Meaning, when the Gamecocks lined up in their 3-3 stacked alignment with a Spur to the wide side of the field, this means the short side of the field has a numbers disadvantage on defense.
It is easy to predict that the offense will see this and choose to run into the boundary. Therefore a pre-snap alignment with the Spur to the wide side, with a short side stunt crashing into the play would have shown a little more imagination.
All I am saying is the USC defense could have aligned one way to "force" the offense to run into the boundary, then stunted into the boundary. It's not rocket science.
Here is an example of baiting them to run short side and stunting towards it.
The fear with this is obviously that if the offense runs to the wide side then the defense is in trouble. My thought is this now injects the Gamecock athletic ability into the equation.
The backside stunts might actually run the play down from behind. The front side players may bow up and stop them anyway because of their superior athletic ability. And lastly, and probably most importantly, if they do score, it will be right away and the Gamecock offense will get the ball more times in the half.
Worth noting that the Gamecock defense didn't really ever stop the option until the fourth quarter anyway, so why not gamble? The risk-reward here is a no-brainer.
Now I will break down several plays and use video illustrations to make those points. Categorically the rest of the videos are broken down into Scheme Problems, Execution Problems, Overall Good Plays, Other Nuances, and a few clips which show what happened when South Carolina did force action with pre-snap pressure calls.
I will start with the Scheme Problems.
Scheme Problems: No Quarterback Defender on Mid-line Keeper
(click on the video to play it)
When Navy reviews the film, I am certain they will regret not running this play more often. It would appear from this one time in the game that we had no answer for the quarterback keeping the ball on true mid-line.
The Gamecocks approached this game with a "bend-but-don't-break" mentality. They were content to try and stop the Navy rushing attack while reading keys and playing assignment football. Johnson said during his post-game interview he didn't imagine the defense had two busted assignments, if that many, but was still giving up huge clips of yardage.
To me this indicates a few issues with the scheme. If the Gamecocks were not missing assignments, and they were doing what they were trying to do, and still giving up huge clips of yardage, doesn't this indicate a problem with what they were intending to do in the first place?
Now let's take a look at a play in which the scheme did actually work as intended.
3-3 Stacked Look Played Well by the Gamecocks
(click on the video to play it)
Now I will take a look at the actual problems with the execution of the scheme.
Execution Problem: 5-2 Defense and Not Slow Playing the QB
(click on the video to play it)
Execution Problem: Not Taking SHOTS When They are Available, part 1
(click on the video to play it)
Execution Problem: Not Taking SHOTS When They are Available, part 2
(click on the video to play it)
Now let's take a look at some general good plays in the game for the Gamecocks.
Good Plays: Gilmore's Great Play vs. Double Team
(click on the video to play it)
Good Plays: Great Effort Near the End of the Game
(click on the video to play it)
Good Plays: 3-3 Stacked Look, Stoned the Center
(click on the video to play it)
Now let's see some of the other nuances from the Navy game.
Nuance: Williams Brice Does It's Part
(click on the video to play it)
Nuance: Navy's Cut Blocks
(click on the video to play it)
And now, let's see what happened for the defense on the plays it actually did force action by either bringing pressure or reacting with so much quickness it seemed as if it was a pre-snap decision.
Forcing Action: A Plays At the End of the Game
(click on the video to play it)
It seems obvious from these last few cut-ups that had USC forced action more often than the defense would have had a more exciting night. However, I have to give credit to Johnson's "bend-but-don't-break" philosophy as the Gamecocks did step away victorious.
I just think they did so with a passive approach not utilizing their athletes in the best way possible. But in a game of inches like college football, a win is a win no matter what happens.
I am sure South Carolina fans everywhere are starting to pray that they don't have to face Georgia Tech in a bowl game. Navy rushed for 279 yards Saturday versus the Gamecocks. Georgia Tech, using a similar offense to Navy, rushed for over 600 yards versus Kansas!
From coach to comedian: Marty Simpson is a former Academic All-Conference player for USC who scored the Gamecocks' first 6 points in the SEC. During 8 years as a high school varsity coach, Simpson led his team to the state finals and saw one player advance to set an NFL rookie record. Simpson now divides his time between his family, running a multimedia company named Blue-Eyed Panda and traveling the country performing stand-up comedy for clubs, churches, and corporations.

Check out Marty's comedian website here.
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