Many good things came together for Virginia Tech on Saturday. Most important was that the Hokies were ready in all three phases of the game. The coaches had solid plans, and the players executed them with precision and discipline. Even the o-line managed to step up its performance; while I imagine Coach Vice’s context-free scores from Atlanta are comparable to the ones Tech’s blockers managed against Pitt, the competition they faced on Saturday was a tremendous step up. Bryan Hudson gets a big round of applause for holding down the middle on pass plays, and Austin Cannon and Christian Darrisaw did well, too. And it seemed like Tech’s corners and safeties knew the routes better than anyone on the offense.
Next was Pitt. The offense wasn’t ready to play, and the defense gaffed on things it shouldn’t have. For the offense, some of that was the weather. While Tech’s running game isn’t ideal for bad weather—north/south running is a little safer—it was certainly better-suited than Pitt’s offense, a pass-heavy scheme with an iffy QB and drop-prone receivers. The Pitt skill players were ready to have the worst day of catching in the history of modern football. When I compared them to UNC, I think I insulted the Heels. And unlike the Heels, they rarely got open. Let’s start with how Coach Cornelsen and crew hatched up a plan to crack the Pitt defense.
Lateral Stress is the Best
Hokie fans are used to seeing the 4-2 defensive norm where the ends crash on the running back against spread-option plays. 4-3 Over defenses like Pitt’s are more likely to have those ends coming upfield for the QB. Off the top of my head, Miami might’ve been the last Over front like this that Tech played, having gone through a stretch of 4-2 teams after them.
Pitt has good DEs, with Patrick Jones II (#91) being a speedster presenting special problems. On one snap, Keene turned in to pin him on a sweep play, but Jones breezed by untouched. On mesh options, DEs with that kind of speed can break the option read by being fast enough to tackle either QB or RB, or even break up the mesh. The Hokies had some ideas about how to handle that, though, including one tweak introduced on the opening snap:
It worked against more than just ends, though:
But it was more than just...
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