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Notre Dame Football

Film Don't Lie | MTA Shines and One Complicated Play

November 18, 2020

Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa isn’t having a season that would put him with Sheldon Day and Jerry Tillery as the best 3-technique defensive tackles of the Brian Kelly era. But it’s not just about numbers at that spot. His four tackles for loss don’t come close to telling the story of his value as a run defender.

He finished with nothing on the stat sheet against Boston College, but had a big impact on the game helping others thrive. MTA and Kurt Hinish are two significant factors in Notre Dame having one of the best run defenses in college football. That’s why I chose a couple of plays that highlight the work MTA did against BC stuffing the run in this week’s FDL. He deserves to be featured because what he did won’t get a lot of praise because it didn’t show up in the box score.

In addition to those plays, I chose one other play that had a lot of moving pieces that can hopefully explain to ISD readers how so much goes into why a play is successful or not.

Splitting the double

It just doesn’t get better than this from MTA (95). He gets off the ball and attacks with a great punch on the right guard. That immediately knocks the guard back on his heels and it means that that center can’t get to him.

He uses a beautiful push-pull to split the double team and although he doesn’t make the play, the fact that he occupies two blockers lets Jack Kiser (24) be unblocked.

Kiser finishes it off and gets the TFL. There is no doubt he did a fine job. It doesn’t happen like it did without MTA, though. They should give assists on play like this when the defensive lineman disrupts the play.


Lateral step and penetrate

Everyone should remember this big 4th and 1 play with Boston College trying to get six instead of three. Notre Dame had just sent in a fresh crew on the defensive line to the field and that meant MTA was not supposed to be out there.

That seemed like it was a mistake, but regardless of whether it was or not, the Irish were bailed out by a timeout from Boston College. That allowed the coaches to send MTA back out on the field and it worked out well.

First, let’s highlight Kurt Hinish (41) who is the right defensive tackle and lined up as the 3-tech. He is slanting to the A gap and does a fine job holding his own at the point of attack.

It’s MTA at the other defensive tackle spot who is able to penetrate into the backfield, though. He has a good lateral step to the inside shoulder of the guard and steps through the gap. This is exactly how it's supposed to look.

He is free with the backside tackle too late to pick him up. Drew White (40) is unblocked and meets the back right in the hole. He and MTA combine to get a stop on arguably the most important play of the game for the defense.

Who was keeping track of the stats in this game? They whiffed badly because MTA was clearly in on this tackle and didn’t get credit for it. It didn’t go unnoticed here. I’m sure it didn’t by Mike Elston when he watched the film as well.


Blown coverage on a 40-yard reception

Notre Dame, like many teams, plays a good amount of matchup zone. I believe they call it match-man and it’s essentially zone coverage that turns into man coverage with the defensive backs matching the pattern of the receivers and passing off the receivers.

It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the best way I can describe it without getting too far down the rabbit hole. This entire play and how it breaks down is a little bit complicated and without the exact call, I can’t say for sure who is at fault.

Nick McLoud (4) is the corner who is chasing the outside receiver to the right across the field. If you watch McCloud, you would think this is man coverage with the way he is running with this.

But look at the other side of the field and see cornerback TaRiq Bracy (28). He’s not running with the outside receiver on his side who is running a post. He starts running vertically with him at the snap, but when the opposite side receiver is running his way, that’s the guy he is taking.

Seeing that would make me think that McCloud is making a mistake by continuing to run with the in route. You can also see him stop for one moment like he is questioning whether he should run with it or not. He does and whether or not he should have given the call seems unlikely, but I can’t say for certain.

Shaun Crawford (20) is the deep safety. Whether McCloud was right or wrong here, it wouldn’t have mattered because Crawford was the guy who was supposed to cover this when Jaelen Gill started running this deep.

I really would love to hear Crawford’s thoughts on this play. At first I had thought that he was reading the eyes of Phil Jurkovec and perhaps he was. He might have seen Jurkovec looking that way and assumed this was Jurkovec staring down his primary receiver (he does that a decent amount).

Looking at this closer, though, I think he might have just bit on the move from Jaelen Gill who gives a fake to make it look like he is running a corner route, but then breaks hard inside to run a post.

As soon as Crawford opened up as much as he did, it was going to be nearly impossible to get back to make a play unless this was a duck from Jurkovec. It wasn’t.

Crawford had the cushion to be a lot more patient in my opinion, but that’s easy for me to say when I’m not in a back pedal with a fast receiver running my direction.

I’m sure many are wondering what the deal is with Kyle Hamilton (14) here. He is tight to the line of scrimmage, but this isn’t a case of Notre Dame loading the box to stop the run. He is matched up with tight end Hunter Long (80).

If Long released vertically, it’s Hamilton who is running with him. Long is one of the best tight ends in college football and Notre Dame clearly made him a priority.

Long didn’t release down the field. He came across the formation at the snap running behind the line of scrimmage. You can see Hamilton point at the snap to indicate Long doing that and likely signalling that someone else is going to take him. The most likely player to do that would have been Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (6), who you see stepping up with the run fake and then dropping back. He ends up taking the other tight end who releases into the flat (more on that guy in a moment).

Without Long as his assignment, I wish I could tell you that I knew Hamilton’s job was to get deep. Maybe it was and he just reacted too late to this seeing Gill run the post.

First of all, this would have been a ridiculous play if he had got there. It was this close to happening. Secondly, this was either a crazy instinctive play from him to see that and run with it or he was late  getting back there where he should have been when he saw Long not release.

That is a lot going on and that’s just the secondary.


Now we are on to why Jurkovec had so much time to throw this. It really comes down to a couple of things.

It’s a great design from BC on the play-action. Justin Ademilola (19) was having his read tested and that makes him slow down his initial rush. The left tackle steps down and when an end sees that, the first instinct is always eyes inside to deal with a possible trap or wham block. It’s something that makes an end think that a run is coming and potentially right at him.

Ademilola also has the other tight end step right to him. Of course he is going to engage with that and think this is a run when you add in the other components. But that tight end is just running interference before he releases into the flat. That gives time for Long to get over to that side and then block Ademilola.

Long does a horrendous job, but Jurkovec already had his feet set by the time Ademilola started rushing. He wasn’t going to get there in time.

That leaves only two other rushers. The reason for that is the Vyper, Ovie Oghoufo (29), is stepping out with the running back. I don’t know if this was supposed to be Oghoufo taking the back if he crossed his face or if this was just Oghoufo thinking this might be a screen. Either way, Oghoufo is out of the picture as a pass rusher.

The two defensive tackles are now both being double teamed so the chances of them getting to Jurkovec were going to be slim.

All of that equals to a clean pocket with only pressure very late from Ademilola. That combined with a blown coverage makes this a big gain that eventually led to a field goal for BC.

They were lucky it was only that. If Jurkovec let this ball go sooner, it could have been a touchdown. He waited to see Gill open rather than anticipating this. So even though this was a good play for BC, it was indicative of Jurkovec not having a great day as well.

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