Hokies Rip Through Tar Heels

Film review focused on how the Virginia Tech defensive line owned the line of scrimmage against North Carolina.

[Mark Umansky]

It was a bright, sunny autumn afternoon as a sold out homecoming crowd packed into Lane Stadium Saturday to watch Virginia Tech-North Carolina. However, for the powder blue clad visitors, a powerful storm was brewing. Bud Foster called down the thunder. The Hokies' defensive line ripped through the Tar Heels' front-five as destructively as a storm surge crashing over a barrier island sand dune. The throwback 6.0 sack, 13.0 tackle for a loss category-four performance from the Lunch Pail Defense completely washed away any chance for a Tar Heel victory. The rout was on once Tech's offense found its footing, and Larry Fedora's squad folded more easily than a paper graded by a secretary for a no-show class. The bus ride back to Chapel Hill must have been awfully soggy after 7-59 loss.

After only generating 12.0 sacks through six games, increasing penetration and disruptive plays was clearly a point of emphasis over the bye week by the defensive coaches. Through most of the season, the Hokies' defensive line rushed very square to their blocker is an attempt to contain quarterback scrambles. Against North Carolina, the defensive game plan focused much more on shooting gaps and penetrating.

"We felt like we could read some stances to play anticipating football," said Foster. "It didn't always mean they were going to throw. Our guys were working too hard on some pass rush fundamentals and techniques not for us to be able to get the pressure on the quarterback or finish plays that I felt like we needed to do and put the type of pressure we need to do on the quarterback. But we did that today. ...

"Charley (Wiles), myself, we challenged those guys. We need to up our game and put more pressure on the quarterback just from our front-four without having to do it by bring in a fifth or sixth guy."

The Hokies' defensive line answered the call. Ricky Walker and Tim Settle completely outclassed the interior of the North Carolina offensive line, especially when the Heels attempted to block them one-on-one. Trevon Hill was twitchy and disruptive in his best game of the season. Vinny Mihota often dropped to cover the boundary flat when Foster (often) blitzed Mook Reynolds from the whip spot. Even reserves Jarrod Hewitt and Houshun Gaines got pressure as they loaded up on valuable repetitions when the game got out of hand.

Cashing in on improved pass rush technique.

Outside of the terrific effort by the entire defensive line group, two immediate nuances jumped out on film. First, Foster repeatedly slanted his defensive line away from the alignment of whip linebacker Mook Reynolds. Reynolds would spill or force from his alignment, making it look like a run blitz. Linebackers Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds would scrape against the flow of the slant and fit into any bubbles that formed. This in effect would create a seven-man wall of defenders accounting for every gap on the line of scrimmage, leaving the secondary one-on-one in man or quarters coverage.

Here is a view of the defensive concept from the perspective of the UNC offense.

Trevon Hill gets up the field hard. He has contain ("force") responsibility to the boundary because Tremaine Edmunds and Motuapuaka are scraping to the right (field-side). Ricky Walker and Tim Settle slant to the left (to the boundary). As quarterback Chazz Surratt forms his mesh point with the running back, note how Hill, Walker, and Settle have their outside shoulder free and fit in the A-, B-, and C-gaps to the left side. There is nowhere for a running play to develop. Also, note that there are three defenders away from the slant (Vinny Mihota, Motuapuaka, and Reynolds) to account for the quarterback run.

Hill uses a speed rush and great bend to get under the shoulder of left tackle Bentley Spain (No. 75), who looked like one of the best young offensive linemen in the ACC back in 2015. Walker uses a rip move to dip under the down block of center Cam Dillard (No. 54). As a former offensive lineman, I do not envy Dillard's task to snap the ball and block back on an twitchy defensive tackle such as Walker. This is almost an impossible blocking angle. Both Walker and Hill meet to crush Surratt, who has no feel for the pressure caving in the back-side of the play.

The second thing that jumped out was how often I watched a seamless leverage-technique executed by a Virginia Tech defensive lineman to outclass the senior-laden UNC offensive line. Foster specifically mentioned how hard the team worked on pass rush fundamentals, and it finally paid off. I counted no less than eleven plays where a defender used a rip technique to generate a tackle for loss, sack, or quarterback pressure. Even on mundane plays, the Hokies were shooting gaps and getting through thanks to beautiful leverage technique.

On this 2nd-and-7, the Heels run an inside zone read. Settle and Walker slant to the boundary and Hill has force-contain responsibility. Walker beats left guard Khaliel Rodgers (No. 64) cleanly with a rip move. Tailback Jordon Brown (No. 2) has to cut back. Brown finds a small hole, yet also discovers rover Reggie Floyd awaiting him inside thanks to Hill and Walker forcing a cutback).

Let us take a closer look at Walker's technique. Everything starts with his get-off on the snap. Walker takes a lateral step and extends his arms to "punch" into the outside shoulder of Rodgers. Walker beats Rodgers to initiate contact, and then seamlessly dips his left shoulder and rips his left arm up and under Rodgers' left armpit. Once Walker is even with Rodgers hip, Rodgers is beaten. Settle also executes a rip move, while Hill executes a hand slap ("wipe") technique on the edge.

The game film was a virtual "how-to" guide on delivering a rip move to shoot through gaps and pressure quarterbacks. Every starting defensive lineman had highlights featuring the rip move.

Tim Settle ripped through Dillard's pass block to gang up on QB Brandon Harris after a rare free safety blitz by Terrell Edmunds.

Trevon Hill ripped under the left arm of Spain to force a sack and fumble as Foster called a four-man rush in a two minute situation.

Vinny Mihota worked an outside rip move through RT Charlie Heck (No. 67) to combine with Walker, who came unblocked off an X-stunt with Settle, to crush Surratt's ribs on a 9-yard sack.

Backup defensive end Houshun Gaines even got in on the rip move party. On this third-and-12, Gaines transitions from a wrist-break (punching down on the top of Heck's wrist) into an outside rip move.

Gaines does not stop moving north-south as he transitions, which is a critical key to success with a leverage move. When a defender keeps his feet moving during the transition, the blocker can't deliver a blow to stop the defender's momentum. Gaines' feet never stop. Heck is in decent position when Gaines delivers the wrist-break. However, Heck's arms are extended, making him vulnerable to the rip. If Gaines' feet stop, Heck can recover his base. Instead, Heck is still leaning a bit forward. Gaines uses the opening to rip under Heck's right arm and bend to the quarterback. Gaines pressure forces Harris into an inaccurate short throw well short of the first down marker. Gaines pressure helps get the defense off the field.

A Close Call

Ricky Walker's touchdown fumble recovery provided the first in a series of epic highlight moments for the Lunch Pail Defense. However, it could have been a disaster. Let us take a closer look. On the play, North Carolina is running a quarterback power RPO, similar to the quarterback power/jump pass that the Hokies have incorporated from time-to-time this season. The Hokies' three down d-linemen slant to the boundary. Mihota drops into a short zone to the boundary. Mook Reynolds blitzes from the field.

Hill dips under Spain with a rip technique and Spain responds by tackling Hill. Reynolds hits Surratt and doesn't wrap up. Tremaine Edmunds reads the play beautifully and fills Surratt's running lane. Surratt scrambles to throw and coughs the ball up, leaving Walker to pick up the ball and run stoically into the end zone as Chariots of Fire booms from the heavens.

πŸ’¨πŸ’¨πŸ’¨ DT Ricky Walker scoop and score for 6. #Hokies

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Outside of Reynolds failing to wrap his arms, this appears to be a dream play. However, a second look shows that the Hokies narrowly averted being down 0-7. Off of the run action, Brown runs a circle route right behind the linebackers. If Surratt could have come under control after bouncing off Reynolds, Brown was wide open and right in his line of vision.

Based on the coverage, it is very difficult to tell if Floyd should have passed the corner route off to Adonis Alexander in a deep third, or if Motuapuaka should have retreated with Brown. Either way, it was a badly busted coverage. If this defense has a weak point, it's coverage on running backs by Tech's linebackers, especially on vertical routes. This play ended up being seven points for the Hokies. However, North Carolina successfully ran a similar circle route to running back Michael Carter for 20 yards on the opening play of the last Heels' drive of the third quarter. Foster and his staff need to clean that up.

I can assure you that David Cutcliffe and the Duke staff are looking at ways to get their running backs vertical to help kick-start their struggling passing game against Virginia Tech. Running back Shaun Wilson is Duke's second leading receiver.

Duke presents a different kind of challenge for the Hokies. The Blue Devils wide receivers have struggled mightily to get separation this season, and quarterback Daniel Jones' (158 of 290, 54.5%, 1,670 yards, 8 TDs, 6 INTs) level of play has dropped off significantly. However, Cutcliffe's offenses have always given Foster fits, especially with the read option game. Jones hurt the Hokies with his legs last season, and Wilson and Brittain Brown are both averaging well over 5 yards per carry. Duke's defense will give the young Hokies' offense more problems than North Carolina's battered unit. Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys make up one of the fastest and most physical pairs of linebackers in the ACC. Duke's defense blitzes from everywhere and creates all kinds of negative plays (66 tackles for a loss in six games!). The Hokies' offense has not operated efficiently enough yet to overcome a poor performance by the defense against the Blue Devils. Bud Foster and the Lunch Pail Defense will again be the key to victory.

Comments

Thanks for the film review, French. It's good stuff and is slowly teaching me to look at more detail than just "YAY sack!" or "Dammit ref, call that hold!"

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

It is worth noting that a rip technique is the best way to draw a holding call. If you keep your feet moving it is almost impossible that the OL won't have his arms across your chest. I would teach DL that if you do a rip and you are still blocked, use your rip arm to hold his arms against you and scream "holding" because it looks just like he is grabbing you.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

This is what I see every play when I watch Ryan Kerrigan

The first paragraph is meteorical, literary gold

Agreed, I only have 1 correction.

The rout was on once Tech's offense found its footing, and Larry Fedora's squad folded more easily than a paper graded by a secretary for a no-show class airplane thrown within arms reach of Hokie Fireman.

"What are you going to do, stab me? - Quote from Man Stabbed

Came here to make that joke!

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

While staring at the people who made it.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

Incoming!

Let's Go

HOKIES

"What are you going to do, stab me? - Quote from Man Stabbed

Fantastic write-up. This makes me understand the value of the rip move the same way your write-up on GT's flexbone all those years ago made me understand why that offense is so hard to defend. Top notch analysis.

I would suggest, maybe compare notes with which plays Mason is including in his film review. He covered the Walker scoop and score and how close to a big UNC play it was in his writeup, and it felt like I was just rereading what he wrote.

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

My apologies. I picked the play initially because the rip move by Hill drew blocking away from Mook. It fit the theme. I trimmed it back because, well, I wrote the review as quickly as I could before catching a flight to Hawaii and I didn't know what Mason was writing.

Fortunately, I am eating breakfast and looking at the beach right now.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

there's nothing on the beach to look at?

It reads like poetry, French. Absolutely fantastic.

Thank you French...I'm hoping Mook can wrap up and also with Divine gone, I hope we still have good downfield coverage, we're doing pretty good upfront.

Hokies, Local Soccer, AFC Ajax, Ravens

"Charley (Wiles), myself, we challenged those guys. We need to up our game and put more pressure on the quarterback just from our front-four without having to do it by bring in a fifth or sixth guy."

This is essentially what Clempson did to us, allowing their linebackers to help guard the pass, right?

Great write up as always!

The level of play from the front four was so much better than we have seen all year. Do you think this is because Bud saw something in the tape that caused them to focus on rip move fundamentals or was it down to the level of competition? (Just because they are senior-laden on their o-line doesn't mean they are working well as a team)

The disruption up the middle from our tackles seemed to stop their run on the inside runs, and also disrupt the timing of the quarterback on pass plays. I am wondering if we will blitz off the edge more if this inside dominance on the d line interior continues.

I am surprised we have not seen more of Tremaine lining up on the edge for a 46 look. But Bud likes his ability to spy the QB.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

66 TFL in 6 games. So the Devils have 66 in 6. Hmmm...

Cue Paul Johnson busting a RB pass play for big yards after his inept passing QB almost gets sacked.. argghh

Wheel route from the A back/ post from the X combo will be run several times. So will the veer release pop pass to the A Back.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

And if those GahTech plays are successful I will react accordingly:

Let's Go

HOKIES

I agree with the LBs seeming to lose the RB out of the backfield far to often. It looks to me like it happens with Tr Edmunds more than Moto

I am not sure what to do with my hands now

Great write up - as always. My big question is how much of this is a problem with the UNCheat O-line, how much of it is the development of our D-line, and how much is the change in Bud's play calling? Can we do this again against Duke, Miami and GT?

Also, great photo by Umansky. Makes the uni's look sharp, crystal clear, and represents the defense beautifully.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

I think it is a change in Bud's approach from game 1 (in this case, going back to his traditional approach that has also been subject to getting burnt by the QB run game) and fresher DL. Hewitt and Gaines got a to. Of reps early and that paired with the defense getting off the field quickly helps keep guys fresh. Those leverage moves requires extra exertion and you wear out quicker than you do just playing contain (at least I did.)

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

It was a bright, sunny autumn afternoon as a sold out homecoming crowd packed into Lane Stadium Saturday to watch Virginia Tech-North Carolina. However, for the powder blue clad visitors, a powerful storm was brewing. Bud Foster called down the thunder. The Hokies' defensive line ripped through the Tar Heels' front-five as destructively as a storm surge crashing over a barrier island sand dune. The throwback 6.0 sack, 13.0 tackle for a loss category-four performance from the Lunch Pail Defense completely washed away any chance for a Tar Heel victory. The rout was on once Tech's offense found its footing, and Larry Fedora's squad folded more easily than a paper graded by a secretary for a no-show class. The bus ride back to Chapel Hill must have been awfully soggy after 7-59 loss.

It's an unwritten law that it's my lunch pail. I've issued the challenge. If someone outworks me, they can get it.
Darryl Tapp

Agreed, but so well done it makes me hope UNC doesn't read it and then easily assume this game could be called Hurricane Game 2.0

This is a hybrid. This is a cross, ah, of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia.

Is it me or didn't it seem like we had a lot more than 6 sacks?

THIS. I have no idea how "running versus scrambling" are decided now with these QB'S who can run all the way until the last second and throw.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

So if the QB is considered a 'runner' it's a TFL and if he's scrambling it's a sack? Honest question.

Yep.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

Definitely felt like we had sewn more together than 6.

"What are you going to do, stab me? - Quote from Man Stabbed

stupid phone... fixed.

Haha, had me in stitches.

"What are you going to do, stab me? - Quote from Man Stabbed

Did the two sack fumbles count as sacks?

HokieSpider

It was a bright, sunny autumn afternoon

Sorry, some of us couldn't hear you, a little louder for the cheaters in the back, please?

That video shows how if you rip and then are too slow to get the QB, just grab the arm and start screaming. I don't know why teams don't use it more. If you execute the move the OL is holding you even if they are not trying to.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

On that Walker TD, my first reaction in the stands was why in the hell didn't Mook wrap him up, woulda been an easy sack...then I saw it was all part of the plan

Now finish up them taters; I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters.

Actually, if Surratt doesn't drop that ball, its probably 7 for UNC (as French shows above). We were very lucky on that play. Against a better/more experienced QB in good conditions we're down 7 complaining why Mook didn't wrap up.

I know, my "part of the plan" comment was sarcasm. Just happy it worked out.

My biggest complaint with the D over the years, and it's not just VT, all these young guys in college football, want to just try to nail the player hard enough to knock him down instead of wrapping him up for a hard, pretty form tackle.

Now finish up them taters; I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters.

Hey French, your comments seem to imply that our linemen are applying better pass rush technique and that led to more sacks (as opposed to saying we just flat out out-talented a poor offensive line). Do you think this means we can expect the defense to be more effective in the pass rush going forward?

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Jet Sweep

Technique and approach lead to more pressure. The two DTs are special players and that prevents doubling and chipping on the outside. Bud has always lined his DEs up wide and speed rushed on the edge. The downside to that approach is if they don't turn the corner, the QB has huge running lanes. Plus, Mihota isn't a speed rush guy anyway.

For the first couple of games, I really think Bud relied on his ends to bull rush and contain QBs and force bad throws because the two special DTs collapsed the pocket. UNC's OL isn't bad. They have experienced players. But, they had a young QB and a head coach calling plays that seemed to have a hard on for VERY slow developing RPOs, even though he didn't have the WRs that could beat man coverage. Bud played the percentages and decided to start shooting gaps and bring his whip (leaving Terrell Edmunds in man to man on UNC's slot guys- I don't think Bud would have done that often if Ryan Switzer or Austin Proehl is in that spot) because the QB wasn't going to beat man. There was a risk reward, with the risk being the QB run, and both Surratt and Harris popped a few big runs.

I look at the schedule, and I like our defense against Duke, Miami, and UVA if they can at least contain the running game. Pitt is interesting because they have Henderson on jet sweeps, which can mitigate some of the slanting and Mook coming off the edge (which is what turned the tide when VT played a similar scheme with Arkansas.)

I think GT will give VT fits. I think this is one of CPJ's better offenses. I am stunned that Miami beat them. The Hokies offense has to deliver a top notch performance against the Yellow Jackets because I think they can mitigate Settle and Walker a bit by veering the dives and walling them inside. The DE's are going to have a ton of pressure on them. I honestly would not be shocked if Bud does something wonky, like playing Edmunds as a DE and Shegog as a LB or something different up front because their QB is a special player and they need athletes everywhere in space.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Interesting, but I think the short answer is no, we played a different pass rushing scheme assuming UNC wouldn't be able to exploit it?

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Jet Sweep

I think there are more factors than just a yes or no. But, their technique was being showcased and looked crisp much more frequently versus UNC. It is the synergy of gameplan, having the athletes, and executing that makes success. To credit one without looking at the other isn't fair. I think the approach changed. I think the technique was better (and VT had more talent than UNC on the inside.) And VT's DL executed really well.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

You hit on GT which was a question I was wondering recently. It seems when we handle GT the best, we get one player that plays lights out. Kyle Fuller for example. Do we have that special player that can be utilized to trump most of the plays GT will throw at us.

This is a hybrid. This is a cross, ah, of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia.

Tremaine. If hes gonna prove he deserves all that preseason NFL hype...this is his game.

β€œI remember Lee Corso's car didn't get out of the parking lot.” -cFB
TKPC #666 ...man that was long wait...

I'm thinking Mook will play the Kyle Fuller role.

Reality has a mighty pimp hand.

I'm not sure I agree. It used to be stopping GT meant stopping the triple option. I don't think they run it nearly as much as they used to, but that's still what I think of. Stopping the triple option means assignment football. If #4 and #8 take away the dive, and the outside players keep contain on the pitch, it's up to the LBs to make the QB pay for every yard on the keeper. But if anyone fails at his assignment because he's trying to do too much -- I'm looking at you, Dadi -- that's when the system breaks down.

"Our job as coaches is to influence young people's lives for the better in terms of fundamental skills, work ethic, and doing the right thing. Every now and again, a player actually has that effect on the coaching staff." Justin Fuente on Sam Rogers

Understood and yes, I never meant to diminish the overall mantra of simply play full fledged assignment football and trust each of those assignments. I guess I meant that as a given. Without really having specific facts/years/players in line to fully back it up, I just felt for some reason when we had won, there seemed to be a player that always stood out much more.

As much as this game every year has me digest my giblets above most others, I do love to see each year what Bud comes up with.

This is a hybrid. This is a cross, ah, of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia.

Wonky like align in a 3-5, slant the line, and have Tremaine/Shegog work outside in while Motu/Terrell fill inside?

β€œI remember Lee Corso's car didn't get out of the parking lot.” -cFB
TKPC #666 ...man that was long wait...

The Hokies offense has to deliver a top notch performance against the Yellow Jackets ..

See we outpsyched ourselves last year because we "HAD" to perform on O given limited offensive drives that opponents usually get against that O.

I don't know how we get out of that mentality other than not making such statements and applying that kind of pressure on ourselves.

If the defense gets a bunch of three and outs on them, we won't have limited offensive drives.

Awesome as always French. Do you think the opposite handedness of the QBs caused problems for UNC's line? I've never played so I don't know if the guards and tackles on each side play differently based on which hand their QB throws with.