Story Poster
Photo by Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame Football

Film Don't Lie | Freeman Brings the Heat

November 16, 2021

A pass rush is a bit like the pieces of a puzzle. Unless one player absolutely dominates his one on one matchup, then it’s incumbent on all of the pieces fitting together in order to pressure or sack the quarterback. When one player is dominating his matchup and the rest of the pieces are in the right spot, it can have beautiful results.

That’s what happened on Saturday night against Virginia with Notre Dame. They finished with seven sacks and it was sparked by a few different things.

The first was Marcus Freeman ratcheting up the pressure. He blitzed on 51.2% of Virginia’s drop backs. He knew he had a freshman quarterback for Virginia and Freeman never allowed Jay Woolfolk to get comfortable.

This is on the second series of the game and he brings DJ Brown (2) on a blitz. He beats the guard and Bo Bauer (52) has an easy sack when the quarterback steps up to avoid the pressure.

He brought Ramon Henderson (11) and Jack Kiser (24) off the edge on this play where Henderson was originally lined up on the slot. They simply overloaded the protection with too many players to block and they stopped the sprint out.

Then comes the part with the dominant player. Rylie Mills (99) was a problem for Virginia on 3rd downs. He ripped through the left guard and ended up getting pressure here. The guard came all the way with Mills and that allowed Bauer to come in free.

Bauer wraps around this perfectly and with Isaiah Pryor (10) also blitzing, the back is picking him up rather than waiting for a looper.

With extra defenders rushing so frequently, it caused Virginia to try and max protect as well. Here they have seven blockers, but the Irish are only bringing four rushers. The issue for the Cavaliers is that they were unsure of which four rushers were going to rush.

The right tackle is worried about Isaiah Foskey (7) and all it takes is those first couple of steps for him to be thinking about blocking one of the most productive pass rushers in college football rather than recognizing that Mills is working outside here. He starts as a 3-tech and works all the way outside and even the back sees it too late before Mills is there for the sack.

On the opposite side of the rush is Justin Ademilola (9) who is being blocked by the tight end. That’s going to be advantage Notre Dame any times they can get one of their edge rushes one on one in that situation and if Mills didn’t get there first, Ademilola was going to be there instead.

This last sack is the same pressure Notre Dame ran earlier where Bauer ended up with the sack. Mills has the right guard on skates and that forces the quarterback to step up. Virginia is so worried about Foskey that they are planning to chip him with the tight end, but Foskey is dropping into coverage.

Justin Ademilola is cleaning this up and he’s one on one with the tight end because Pryor is blitzing and is being picked up by the tackle.

The scheme got them into favorable matchups and when that is married with a player like Mills consistently getting pressure as an individual, it can look like this with the Irish putting up seven sacks.

subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.