MQ Pressure Tape: Virginia vs Notre Dame (2019)

Virginia’s Head Coach, Bronco Mendenhall brought his attacking defensive style with him to Charlottesville after his long stint at BYU. Though the Cavaliers are not in the upper echelon of defense, the defensive staff at Virginia has found ways to cause havoc for opposing QBs. The program as a whole has been slowly rising their standard of play with 2019 being a high watermark accumulating nine wins. The most wins since 2007.

Defensively, the Cavs are not the most efficient defense in the country (#71 in DEff), but they made it count in “havoc stats” (3rd Down, TFLs, & Turnovers). The Cavs didn’t accumulate many turnovers (18/t-64th), but they were in the top 2t in TFLs (#22/7.1 a game) and Sacks (#9/3.29 a game). Their 3rd Down percentage was in the top third as well, with opponents only gaining a 1st Down on 36% of their attempts. Finally, the Cavs were 23rd in Busted Drives, which is the percentage of opponent offensive drives that earn zero or negative yards.

MQ will take a look at Virginia’s matchup with Notre Dame. The Irish were a top-25 offense in OEff (#25), winning 11 games, and only losing to Michigan and Georgia. Virginia would lose the battle but accumulated five TFLs and four sacks against a program that is known for offensive line play.


Pressure Tape

This particular pressure is a favorite among those attacking the middle of the line with a Bear Front. The Cavs align in a four-down Bear. They get to this from a typical four-down Jet Front (5s/3s) used by most four-down teams to attack pass-pro on 3rd Down. Mike shades the center to the RB’s side making it a five-man front. This type of alignment forces man blocking across the front. The RB will be in charge of the Will LB. This places a static blocker on a rusher coming from depth.

Notre Dame attempts a RB Slip-screen which allows the Will LB free access to the QB. The front structure forces man blocking, with the RB in charge of the Will. Since he is running a screen, there is no one to take him. This pressure forces the eyes of the QB on the pressure and not the RB. There is little time for the play to develop. Both DEs are funneling the RB, which adds to the defense’s ability to snuff out the screen.

[UVAvND] 01 Bear Cross 1

Virginia is playing Cover 1 behind the Simulate Pressure. The secondary adjust with the motion. In the Saban vernacular this is Bears 1 Rat and is one of the top pressures used when trying to attack the “A” gaps. The Cavs used a four-down presentation instead of the Saban-systems three-down. Regardless, the blitz paths are similar and are an efficient way to attack the QB.


Offense use pin-and-pull schemes to get numbers on the outside against defenses. Virginia uses the defensive version of pin-and-pull to get a free hitter of the edge. In fact, the RB motion actually helps the Cavs, leaving four-on-three to the boundary. The front used is an Overload Front. This refers to the numbers, but also where the “bigs” are placed. Virginia places the boundary DE, DT, and Nose all on one side. The mugged Mike adds to the overload.

The stunt is a simple pin-loop stunt. This type of pressure is used with an outside rusher taking contain. The “T” will rub off the Mike who is “pinning” the OT and the “B” gap. Virginia places the Nose in a shade, which helps pull the line towards the field. The shade allows the Nose to cross the centers face. Notre Dames RG picks up the DT in the “A” gap while the RT works into the Mike. With the RB gone, there is no one to take the Jack or boundary DE.

[UVAVND] 02 BND Overload Grenade 3

Virginia is playing Cover 3 behind the pressure. To the boundary, the CB is in MEG (Man Everywhere he Goes) on #1 with “hot” support by the BS. The Trips side is covered by a “box concept. The FS and FC “cone” or double the Corner by the TE. The Ni pushes with the RB and the Will “caps” the two hitches. Though the Cavs are outnumbered, the play is ruined by the free hitting DE off the edge.


The final pressure is a Trap 2 pressure that brings the boundary CB and the Will. Virginia is in their Jet Front and will insert both rushers from depth. The field DE will drop into coverage away from the pressure. This is a great pressure versus Notre Dame’s slide protection. As the Irish slide to the field, the RB is left to block to defenders.

A Pirate stunt is run by the DT and the boundary DE. This helps “pull” the slide protection with them. The aiming point of the DT is the opposite “A” gap, while the “B” is trying the hit off the guard. If the guard steps to him he will cross-face. In the clip, the guard slides away, so the “B” attempts to insert off his backside. This movement brings the guard and tackle, leaving the RB by himself. By proximity, the Will reaches the RB first who attempts to wall him from the QB. This leaves a gap for the knifing CB to hit home on the pressure. The QB feels the pressure and works to the movement.

[UVAvND] 03 Jet Crow Trap 2

Virginia gives the illusion of a Cover 3 to begin the play. Post-snap the FC bails and plays a Squat technique, working in with the #1 WR. The “F” drops into the seam while the Ni bails to the Deep 1/2. This creates a triangle over the two WRs. With the Ni bailing, the Slot Fade runs right into the deep player. To the boundary, the BS sinks down and collects the “X” WR. He is playing a trail technique since the WR wen vertical. The FS caps.

This is an easy way to play a Trap 2 from a single-high look. The key is in the presentation. Force the offense to guess off your pre-snap alignment only to change post-snap. The defense doesn’t have to beat the OC, but the QB. The pressure is designed well and the CB comes home free forcing the QB to hurry and eventually get caught.

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