Justin Fuente spit some X's and O's knowledge during his Tech Talk Live segment on Monday. The Head Hokie provided a detailed response when asked how Virginia Tech combatted Boston College's press man coverage defense.
"Boston College centered their defense around loading the box, so putting more people around the football than you can block, to eliminate the run game", Fuente said Monday night. "And then on the outside they didn't play zone coverage, they played man coverage, so the corners cover the widest guy to the field. They didn't play off of them either. They had one corner that was 6-3, and another one that was 6-1.5. So they had these big corners, and they played press man, so they're right up there next to you, right when the ball's snapped. Which really restricts some of the things you can do offensively. If you can't get people out of it, the combinations, and kind of fun stuff you get to do on offense is really, really limited. It's hard to run the ball. That was our primary focus going into the game was, how can we mess with them a little bit in man coverage.
"Can we line up a tight end at tackle. Which is what we did on the touchdown pass to Travon (McMillian), the first touchdown pass. We went quick, and had our tight end lined up at left tackle, so now there's a guy over there covering a guy that's lined up at left tackle. We had our left tackle lined up at right tight end. Those sorts of things to try and mess with those things, to get the ball out in space, and get things going, and we did that. And then the real chess match began.
"Then they started moving fronts, mixing in blitzes. They brought some things they had not shown before, and it was up to us to try and adapt. Heading into East Carolina, another team that likes man coverage. Another team that gets to it a little bit differently though. They don't play quite as much press, but they will. They load the box in different ways. They move the front, they move guys around, which creates a whole other issue of trying to get them out of that, to get them to their secondary calls."
Here's the play Fuente described above — Travon McMillian's touchdown catch against the Eagles. Bucky Hodges is on the line of scrimmage to the field (out of view), and C.J. Carroll is in the field slot. Isaiah Ford is split to the boundary off the LOS. And sure enough Tech's rolling an unbalanced line. Chris Cunningham is lined up at left tackle, and Yosuah Nijman is the tight end on the right of the formation.
Given how much Teller opens up, my educated guess is it's a designed pass all the way. There's a ton of backfield action happening quickly too. Carroll's motion draws free safety John Johnson (No. 9) across the formation with him. The fakes to McMillian and Carroll cause LB Ty Schwab (No. 10) to stutter just enough in his pursuit of Jerod Evans. DE Wyatt Ray (No. 11) is fixated on Carroll as he passes through the mesh point with Evans. The threat of Carroll carrying is enough to keep Ray at bay. The slick play design nullifies Boston College's numbers advantage in the box, and leaves the Eagles with one defender (LB Connor Strachan, No. 13) to account for Cunningham and McMillian flooding to the field.
The result of the savvy architecture is McMillian in space with the ball, and his power and speed ensure the play results in a Hokies' touchdown.