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By Chandler Miller (@ChannyMill)

Fellow Cougar Fans, welcome to the newest regular BYU segment– The True Blue Review. Each week, I’ll be reviewing a few notable plays of game film from the previous week’s game. The goal is to highlight player performance, teach about football, and assess the good, the bad and the ugly from each BYU game. As a reminder, any assessment of performance isn’t personal in nature and isn’t meant to demean our talented players or coaches.

Lets get into it–

Play #1: A Tale of Two Blockers

The first play I’d like to highlight happened early in the first quarter. 

I’d like to highlight the brilliant play design from Coach Roderick. The pre-snap motion from Parker Kingston moves a defender away from the play and reveals man-coverage. Shortly after the snap, we see the SUU safety initially bite on the motion and get carried into center field before retreating to his deep zone. 

This play stood out to me primarily for two reasons: Incredible effort from one blocker, and a poorer effort from another. 

Right Tackle Caleb Etienne (#76) was largely ineffective on this play. Although it can be advantageous (and often a part of the play design) to allow defenders through the O-line on screen plays, judging from Etienne’s body language, it doesn’t seem as though this was intended. He watches two rushers rush past, one then makes seemingly incidental contact with Isaac Rex (#83), and Etienne doesn’t get his head around to look for a blocking assignment upfield. As Rex catches the pass in the flat, Etienne doesn’t make an effort to clear a path for him. If an SUU defender had sniffed out the screen a bit quicker, there’s a good chance that Rex gets tackled short of the sticks on this 3rd down and the drive stalls. Even if the play result wouldn’t have been effected, I’d like to see greater effort to “find work” from our blockers here.

On the other hand, notice the tenacity from Darius Lassiter (#5) on his blocking assignment on the boundary. Take note of how Lassiter gets his hands inside the shoulders of the defensive back, maintains his leverage, and turns the defender parallel to the sideline. He finishes the block by driving the defender into the sideline and removing him from the play entirely. Wide receivers who can be dominant blockers on the perimeter are crucial for plays like this to have success and keep moving the chains. 

Play #2: Tight Window to the Tight End

This play evokes quite a mixed bag of emotions. On 2nd and 10, Roderick decides to stretch the field a bit with some vertical concepts. Both Lassiter (#5) and Hill (#1) have routes that have take them out and up, clearing space in the middle of the field. As Rex (#83) breaks towards the middle of the field on a deep post route, Slovis decidesto fire it to him over the middle. 

Watching this play live, I vaguely remember yelling something to the effect of “Oh NO Why throw tha–“, and suddenly switching my tone to an excited “WHAT A DART” as I saw the ball hit Rex’s hands. While I do question the decision to throw into such a tight window, it’s important to give credit where credit is due for an incredible throw. Slovis has plenty of arm talent, and he really puts it on display with throws deep downfield into tight windows like this. My only hope is that Slovis uses sound judgement when deciding to test the limits of his arm talent.

Play #3: Seek and Destroy

Play #3 stood out to me because it shows a remarkable improvement from last year’s defensive woes. For the past several seasons, there’s been an observable, painful trend on quick throws to the boundary– Our defensive backs seemed to passively catch blocks and struggle to get free to make tackles on swing passes like these. 

Evidently, Coach Jay Hill and Caleb Christensen (#4) are tired of this trend. Watch the quick recognition and quick action from Christensen, Ethan Slade (#26), and Evan Johnson (#36) to move towards the ball carrier. Rather than catching the block and holding his ground, Christensen’s quick recognition allows him to slide past the first blocker and maintain Outside Contain. Though Christensen ends up absorbing the 2nd block and making the tackle for a loss all by himself, maintaining outside contain is a cornerstone principle of disciplined defense. Christensen has teammates that can make the tackle if he forces the runner inside, but the chance for a big play increases if he loses outside contain and allows the runner space towards the sideline. This level of heads-up, disciplined defending is really encouraging to see from a cornerback listed 4th on the depth chart, and it’s a testament to the coaching staff getting our players prepared to make big plays when they get the opportunity to do so.

That’s all for this week– Check back in next week for the True Blue Review of BYU vs Arkansas.

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