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How BYU got to Sam Bradford

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The reigning Heisman athlete in college football, Sam Bradford, was literally coached into the ground. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a shame to see an all-American kid like him get hurt. These things happen in football.

So how did BYU get to Sam Bradford?

The Spread

The interesting thing about the spread offense in football is that it tries to level the playing field. If you can put your athletes in one-on-one matchups or scheme them into large holes in zone coverage, you can win with less talent or put up ridiculous points with more talent.

At the same time, this strategy puts enormous pressure on the offensive line and Quarterback because they, too are put in more one-on-one matchups. If the defense can figure out how to get number advantages in the small areas between linemen, and can figure out how to cover the field with less defensive backs, the offense can be in for a long day.

Such is the case with Oklahoma and BYU.

This article focuses on BYU’s pressure and coverage package. Oklahoma runs a standard 4-3 defense and put a cover two and cover four shell behind it most of the time. And they could match up man-for-man to pressure because of a distinct talent advantage. So there is nothing interesting about them.

What’s more, the Oklahoma offense was disadvantaged only one NFL-quality tight end. They had the rest of their starting talent on the field. Talent that should be able to put a Mountain West Conference team like BYU in its place.

So what is intriguing is what the underdog did to take down the more talented big dog.

BYU’s Pressure Package

BYU’s defense was impressive all-around. Run support was phenomenal, though sometimes spotty. Most impressive was BYU’s commitment and success in pressuring the passer.

BYU’s successful pressure package took the form of a number of zone blitzes. BYU doesn’t match up man-for-man with Oklahoma’s receivers, so it is necessary for BYU to utilize zone support underneath Oklahoma’s pass schemes, even when pressuring.

What is impressive about BYU’s pressure is that it necessitated vacating one zone coverage defender in order to put an extra player into a blitz. Oklahoma never seemed to find that opening. One particular zone blitz was extremely effective and ended up putting the hurt on Oklahoma, literally.


In this blitz scheme, BYU came from the boundary side. This was also the QB backside, so it was less conspicuous to a right-handed QB like Bradford.

Defensive Line Play

The defensive line was in BYU’s “even” front- a shift of the whole defensive line one man over.

Ends (E) are lined up with one over the tight end or over where the tight end would be, and the other End lining up over the backside Guard.

The Nose Tackle (N) is lined up over the call side guard.

The outside linebacker (S) will then fill in to make an even look, taking a position over the tight end, if present, or over where the tight end would line up, if not present.

The End on the blitz side takes an outside leverage rush, taking the left tackle wide.

The Nose Tackle slants hard away from the blitz, aiming hard for the A gap ad taking the Guard wide away as well.

The other End now takes a hard slant away to control the B and C gaps on the away side, either applying pressure upfield or playing a pseudo-zone position on the edge to discourage a QB scramble and to discourage a quick pass to the short hook/curl zone.

Linebacker Play

The Will (W) and Buc (B) linebackers will be pressuring in this case. Buc strikes first to occupy the Left Guard or Running Back on the blitz side. On this play, it was the running back.

Will follows through, looping inside the End/left tackle and having a free path to the QB if there is no remaining blocker.

The Mike (M) linebacker checks run and then runs hard for the No. 2 defender on the blitz side- a long way to cover. Mike will have responsibility for walling and shadowing under #2 in covering the hook/curl zones on the blitz side.

The Sam (S) linebacker checks run as well and then breaks fast for the No. 2 receiver to wall and shadow No. 2 underneath and cover curl, flat and wheel zones.

Mike and Sam make up the only underneath support coverage.

Safety Play

The Safeties in this scheme cover deep halves and the Corners cover flat and wheel zones in cover-two fashion.


In the instance of Bradford’s injury, the running back came up to block the Buc linebacker and Will ran past the reach of the left tackle, who tried to get back to close his inside gap. Bradford half-rolled away from pressure, but the Will caught him just at release and the rest is history.

Sam Bradford was leveled at least two times from this blitz on his final drive of the game. The second time he left the game with a shoulder sprain. BYU continued to run this blitz against the backup, Landry Jones, who was hit by the free linebacker as well.


It is interesting to note that in one of BYU’s greatest accomplishments as a football team, head coach Bronco Mendenhall found his defensive Coordinator, Jaime Hill, after the game and gave him a big hug.

Why? BYU was well-prepared and well-coached for this game and it showed. They did not waste a single player in space, putting everyone in a position to cover someone and make a play.

Most football teams have a goal defensively to hold opponents to 17 or fewer points per game. That’s two touchdowns and a field goal. Against the likes of Oklahoma, such a goal seams out of reach.

Thirteen points later (1 TD, 2 FG), the story of the day was BYU’s defense. It seems that Bob Stoops was outcoached again.


Written by Jon Ellsworth

September 10, 2009 at 10:29 pm