Upon Further Review- Miami vs. Pitt (1st Half)

Lance Roffers
Lance Roffers
23 min read
Welcome back to Upon Further Review, where we will review the previous week’s Miami Hurricanes game on film. This week it’s another dominating defensive effort and some offensive play that will make you shield your eyes. What did we see this week? Find out here.

Miami comes out with Boulware at LG and Donaldson at RG. This is the best personnel grouping for the OL. Hopefully Miami sticks with this group for every play unless there is an injury.

There are games where you can tell the opponent is the type that will “run their stuff no matter the opponent” and then there are opponents who create a game plan for each opponent. It is obvious from play one that Pitt has developed a game plan to counteract Miami’s tendencies and take away certain parts of their offense. 1st down shows that the edge player is not even the slightest bit concerned with the play fake. He is concerned with getting upfield and getting into the passing lane on this play to take away the bubble to that side. He gets way upfield and jumps and knocks this pass down. What’s also interesting is the way Pitt is defending the slot receiver. Look at how they have a stack of their LB and S right behind one another. This is designed to take away the three staples that the offense runs from this formation (bubbles, slants, vertical seams). This defensive alignment virtually could not cover a stick route, but we do not run that nearly as much as we should.

-Explanation of a stick route for those who care- With the three WR’s/TE’s to one side, the outside WR runs a clear out deep (vertical). The middle slot runs an out route into the area vacated by the vertical route and the DB taking the WR outside. The inside slot (receiver bubbling here) runs straight up the field about five yards and turns towards the QB. He either “sticks” in this spot if the LB shades inside towards the run, or he drifts away from the LB towards the sideline if the LB drifts towards the receiver. Pitt cannot defend this route in this alignment. There are a bunch of variations you can run off of “stick” concepts and it’s a staple of what West Virginia and Oklahoma run in their offenses currently. Those two happen to be pretty good offenses.

2nd and 10 and line up in the same formation and run a little curl to Cager. First I want to highlight the OL. Look at Gauthier at the 26-yard line. It’s something I’ve highlighted multiple times this year about this OL looking straight down at the ground often. I didn’t stop this screen shot at this point to embarrass Gauthier, or orchestrate this shot, I stopped it to show where Cager is at when Perry throws the ball and just saw Gauthier. Scaife has his block nicely and is in an athletic position. The only OL who doesn’t allow his man past the LOS is Boulware. You can see in the second screen shot he’s actually knocked him backwards, which is something this OL needs more of. Boulware’s technique compared to the rest of the OL is different on film.

I almost wrote in my explanation of a stick route above that the receiver has to be “QB friendly” on the route, meaning if the throw comes to them in that spot they have to come just a tick towards the QB so that the pass cannot be knocked down by the LB. Look at this screen shot right here. This is an easy completion, but Cager keeps drifting away from the QB and the LB actually comes underneath the WR and knocks this pass down before it can get there. That’s really on Cager here, as you can see he’s drifted three yards downfield when his QB expects him to come back to him a step from where he initially stops his route. If Cager comes back to the QB here, he’s got an easy catch and he actually has space to turn it upfield if the LB isn’t on him immediately.

I almost wrote in my explanation of a stick route above that the receiver has to be “QB friendly” on the route, meaning if the throw comes to them in that spot they have to come just a tick towards the QB so that the pass cannot be knocked down by the LB. Look at this screen shot right here. This is an easy completion, but Cager keeps drifting away from the QB and the LB actually comes underneath the WR and knocks this pass down before it can get there. That’s really on Cager here, as you can see he’s drifted three yards downfield when his QB expects him to come back to him a step from where he initially stops his route. If Cager comes back to the QB here, he’s got an easy catch and he actually has space to turn it upfield if the LB isn’t on him immediately.

Now you’re at 3rd & 10 and that’s a very difficult place to try and convert. If Cager catches the pass before like he should have, you’re looking at 3rd & 5 at worst. Perry pre-determined where he was going to go with this ball before the pass and throws it short to Harley immediately. He’s tackled short of the 1st down as this what Pitt wanted Miami to do on 3rd & long is throw it short of the sticks and rally to tackle. Look at the bottom of your screen and you can see that Perry missed Langham coming wide open on the skinny post. If Perry sees this and keeps the ball inside to Langham this is an easy 1st down. Also, look for work Boulware!

Spicer with an awful punt. (Not pictured)

Joe Jackson was awesome in this game, but on 1st down he takes the cheese and looks inside at the QB while the WR already has the ball on the jet sweep (#2). This is a huge gain as Miami was not ready for this play.

On 2nd down Garvin sees the H-back crossing across the field behind the LOS and grabs him to slow him down. Pinckney is chasing from the weak-side and gets there to stop it for a 2-yard gain. It’s because of Garvin grabbing him that the play wasn’t bigger, as it slowed him down. QB outside of the pocket and behind the LOS he could’ve laid him out, honestly. Nice job.

Willis makes the tackle, but Tito is the one who blew this play up by getting into the backfield before the pulled could get there. Tito played his best game of the season in this one.

Joe Jax gets the sack, but it’s because of Pinckney that the QB can’t step up into the pocket. I hope Garvin didn’t need a new jersey after this one is torn off by #76. Great job by the Pitt lineman just standing there watching the QB get sacked while he touches nary a soul.

Pitt drills Dallas as he tries to make a fair catch on the punt. Big mistake because it gets Miami some field position. (Not pictured)

1st down and Perry takes a shot deep for Hightower on the outside. You think Pitt is worried about the slant? They’ve got that same S/LB stack look again and then the ILB is jumping the snap. Three defenders dedicated to Harley here should open things for the offense. Hightower draws a pass interference.

Miami’s 1st down and we pull Boulware, run Cager across the middle on an angle route, Harley runs a jerk route after only two yards and Pitt is just crashing everything. Harley drops it, but it would’ve gone for only two. Miami is going to have to challenge this defense deep, who is just squeezing everything short right now. Perry threw the pass with way too much zip, as well. Instead of being 1-3, Perry should be 3-3 with another pass interference. (Not pictured)

Here is the first big run from Homer. Boulware sticks the DT and then comes off onto the LB. Interesting way to help block two defenders there. Look at Wiggins lay a dude out on the wham block onto the LB. Gray blocks the wrong shoulder but Homer uses his off-arm for a stiff arm and gets skinny through the hole. Then Homer puts #11 on his back with a stiff arm and then runs down the sideline inside the red zone. Donaldson has to get more flexible and stop being such a waist-bender. Luckily the play went away from him on this one.

This throw needs to be up towards the corner to give Harley a chance to catch it. Instead Perry throws it well out-of-bounds. Harley started inside the hash so he had the whole field to use to that side. No idea why it was such a poor pass because he had great protection. In reality, Harley was wide open and this should’ve been a TD.

Look at Pope at the 16-yard line. He has his arms up as if to signal TD because he knows they got exactly what they wanted. I have made it known that I’m out on Richt as a playcaller, but in his defense, our QB’s leave lots of points on the field each week.

Perry has to do the actual fake on the run because Pitt is reading that it’s a bubble based on the fact Perry skips that part. You see Homer do the fake, but Perry already moves to throw it. When he doesn’t show the ball the outside edge is immediately watching that and trying to jump it. He once again knocks down the bubble on this play. The worst part is this was going to work if he gets it out there. Defender playing inside technique would’ve allowed Pope to seal him and Harley to get the edge. Easy 8 yards, probable 1st down, perhaps even TD. Perry has played very poorly on this drive.

3rd down and once again Perry has a pre-determined read. He goes outside to Langham on a 7-yard stop route. Langham saves him from being intercepted and it wouldn’t have been a 1st down anyway. Look at the bubble screen; Pitt jumped it with two defenders, which leaves Harley wide open on the seam route. This was an easy 1st down but Perry looked at his first read and got rid of it. So. Many. Points. Left. Out. There.

FG attempt we have to call a timeout because we only had 10 men on the field. Baxa drills the FG is starting to become a pretty solid weapon. Have to think next year he will be on some kind of All-ACC team. (Not pictured)

Look at what this OL is doing to Shaq’s knee. How is this legal to dive at a guy’s knees and wrap your arm around it and flip him? Shaq definitely felt his knee buckle and got up gingerly. Bethel here, in the middle of the screen at the hole gets held something fierce as he turns his jersey is torn well away from his body.

Swing pass on next play and Bandy hits him with shoulder and no wrap-up. He gets about 7. (Not pictured)

2nd down and Bethel gets washed down the line way too easily. RB cuts behind him and gets close to 1st down. Need Bethel to step up. (Not pictured)

3rd and short and Pitt tries to leave Joe Jax blocked by the FB and get an OL on Shaq. That goes about as well as you’d expect. Jax smushes the FB into the RB, Pinckney beats that TE block and Garvin beats his TE block from #87 and cleans up from the backside. Big loss on the play.

If you read @romancane and see him write about “mirrored switch concepts” here is what he is talking about. 2 x 2 formation (Two WR’s on each side) and then they “switch” places on both sides. The “mirror” is doing the same thing on both sides of the field (like looking into a mirror). We do this so often Pitt is actually sitting on it on this 3rd down and they send a delayed blitzer (#20). Miami has no one to account for this free rusher and Pitt knows the routes we are going to run on 3rd & long. Sack. To the left of Perry that defender is the only one out there (Plus the S deep) because they sent #20 on the blitz. There has to be a sight adjustment on this play with one of the WR’s because you simply cannot allow Pitt to cover four guys with three defenders.

Awful punt by Spicer. Personnel decisions are easy to question when they’re not working, I get that. The thing is there is an obvious talent difference in a lot of the personnel decisions that have been made. Mahoney/Jahair over Boulware. Rosier over Perry. Knowles over Carter. Spicer over Feagles. I’d rather let the more talented guy play in most cases. (Not pictured)

Pitt 1st down and Mike Jax beaten on the inside-breaking route. Drink.

If Shaq is two yards further outside on this play he can still tackle the QB and get outside on the option. He actually runs into Joe Jax he’s so close to him. 1st down that should’ve been a loss.

Miami plays a soft zone on next play and the WR finds a soft spot behind LB’s and in front of CB’s. Don’t like that defense. (Not pictured)

Remember early on when this jet sweep went right by Joe Jax and became a huge play? He learned from that play and said that isn’t happening again. If he isn’t there this is another huge play.

When you look at stats for DT’s you can miss a lot of their impact on a ball game. This is Tito simply stealing the soul of this Pitt OL. Look at how he is dog-walking this guy into the backfield. It forces the RB to bubble away from the hole and then try to cut it back. Because of this, he gets out of rhythm and doesn’t put the ball away. It’s knocked out on a great play by Jaquan and recovered by Miami. Tito’s name will be nowhere the play, but he made a huge part of things by forcing the RB to go back towards the defense so they could strip him.

Vertical outs on both sides (mirrored) and the out is complete to Harley for a 1st down. (Not pictured)

On this play Miami is just not stressing the defense enough. They’ve got a free LB and a free edge player. You can’t even see the defender on the slot. Just raise up and throw this ball to the slot receiver and take the free money. If you want to leave them like this then run the WR back towards the LOS and he can wham the edge play and Perry can pull this and then run/pass on the edge. Instead, this simple dive is exactly what the defense wants. Look at the OL, everyone got their blocks (though St. Louis shouldn’t allow the DL to cross his face here).

Good route combo with Cager running deep and clearing outside CB and then Langham running the stop route. Ball is there on-time, Langham just drops it. Should’ve been a 1st down.

Pass is high, but you gotta catch this Wiggins. Woof.

Feagles with maybe his best punt at Miami. Hits at the 1, checks up and is downed at the 4. Great job. (Not pictured)

FB dive gets 5 on 1st down. (Not pictured)

2nd down and Joe Jax knifes by T, then takes out the FB (called a “spill”). That allows Pinckney to run free to the RB and get a TFL. (Not pictured)

Pressure doesn’t get there on 3rd and Dean is in off-coverage. WR has time to run a comeback route and pickup the 1st down. Not on secondary so much as the DL for not getting pressure. (Not pictured)

Dive on 1st down gets 6. (Not pictured)

Next play Miami “Hides” Shaq in front of Pinckney in a pretty unique alignment. Shaq immediately blitzes behind Ford and is into the backfield immediately for the sack. Diaz with the cool play design that pays off. Announcer says this isn’t a blitz, but look at Shaq off at the snap and the other LB’s reading keys.

3rd and long and Dean played this play really well. They run the slot on a little jerk route and then cross the slot in front of Dean. Dean has to reverse and carry the slot to a certain depth and then come back into the flat once that receiver gets out of his area. Dean hits the outside receiver who pivots back outside at the LOS for a TFL. Many get frustrated with Coach Rumph when top guys get away, but this man can coach, as Dean just performed a complicated play to perfection. (Not pictured)

I see you Evidence. Tough throw. Tough catch. Might deserve some more burn if you’re going to catch like this. Not a huge fan of running these stop routes to the outside with Njoku/Langham paired with Cager. They run the exact same play that Langham dropped a few plays ago, only this time Pitt covers it much better and Njoku still makes the catch.

Miami runs four verticals on the next play and not a single man gets any separation. Targets Hightower, but there was nothing there. (Not pictured)

The guards on this drive are Gaynor and Boulware. Both did their jobs on this play and if Dallas beats this defender this is a TD. FS comes crashing downhill and makes a nice tackle, but this is the last man as they slanted into a six-man box and Evidence blocked outside. Dallas needs to borrow that Homer stiff-arm.

Miami runs a stop route to Evidence and Pitt had their hands all over him. It’s an incomplete pass but we get the call. (Not pictured)

Boulware whipped immediately by the arm-over. Tried to punch and the target had already moved, then completely off-balance.

I have no earthly idea what Cager is doing on this play. I’m guessing there was a sight adjustment by Perry and Cager didn’t see it. This is yet another play where the receivers do not help the QB. It’s always something; either the WR’s are dropping balls or running poor routes, or the QB is making a poor read, shelling up from pressure, or making a bad throw, or the OL is getting whipped immediately. Cager, you hit 8-yards and are wide-open, be QB friendly, throw that arm up and start looking for the ball.

3rd & 10 and Perry throws the ball deep and to a covered man. He throws the ball out-of-bounds. This is such a big problem with our QB’s, they don’t even give the receivers a chance on these deep throws. Perry had time to step up and keep the play alive but locked onto one receiver and never tried to make a play. (Not pictured)

Feagles with another good punt inside the 10. (Not pictured)

McCloud can’t give up the edge this easily. This is that same angle run that UNC and Duke hurt us with. McCloud has to trust the others that the B gap is covered and take a step to his right and cover up that C gap.

They fooled Joe Jax on the first one, but the next two he has just eaten up on the fly sweep. QB keeps on this one and Jax just drops him. Time for something different, Pitt. Leaving him unblocked isn’t working.

Garvin leaps up and bats down the out route at the LOS. Redwine had great coverage and might’ve undercut the route, but a great play by Garvin. (Not pictured)

Almost any punt return for a TD involves making the first man miss. Here, Dallas makes two miss in space.

Right about here #81 is thinking that career as a rower sounds good. Homer lays him out. Look just below the left shoulder pad of #81 and you will Homer’s helmet. This hit was never anywhere near the kid’s head and was an absolutely perfect, legal block. The fact that replay had to fix the officials badness is just unbelievable. Mark my words that Travis Homer has a long NFL career ahead of him (barring injury) due to his superb specials teams play.

Finally, Knowles, what are you doing my man. Dallas is screaming at him to turn around and block downfield but Knowles is looking the complete wrong direction and I’m not sure he even knows where Dallas is. Knowles actually does a pirouette here and never touches a soul. Seriously, he never blocks anyone, he just turns around and runs.

I cannot believe we turned this into a TD with this blocking downfield. Langham takes out his own dude (McCloud). Carter takes out #30 that Knowles never blocks (he’s the one running the other way from Dallas here, smartly). This is why I truly believe we need to get our numbers up with more fast guys, because our older backups who play specials just aren’t very good at it.

Pitt takes a shot downfield on 1st down and Bandy eats it up. He runs the route better than the receiver. He’s really good. (Not pictured)

Pitt goes false start, delay of game. Woof. Then they try a dive and Willis whips his man and it’s a TFL- though the count didn’t go to Willis. (Not pictured)

They drop it off outside and Derrick Smith misses the tackle and gives up another several yards but it’s well short of the 1st down. (Not pictured)

Dallas has to go catch this punt. Lands at the 32-yard line and then rolls to the 12-yard line. He knew it after the play.

On 1st down they throw an 8-yard stop route and it’s right into Njoku’s belly. He drops it. Woof. (Not pictured)

Someone runs the wrong play. Perry runs for 5.

Our 3rd down route of choice seems to be an outside stop route against press coverage. That is such a difficult play to execute successfully (which also tells you a bit more on why we were 0-5 to this point). Cager makes a nice catch against the defender and picks up the first. (Not pictured)

Jahair and Donaldson are now your guards. Donaldson is a bully when he down blocks and he wipes out the whole side of the defense on this play. Davis cuts behind it and gets 4, it would’ve been more but he tripped into Scaife. (Not pictured)

We did something I like to see here as we brought Cager down on a wham block against the S. We run an option look to the other side with Perry and Dallas. If Cager gets this block (he doesn’t) it’s a big gain. We can absolutely come back to this play with the option over there though. If we had run the option on this play look at that space with only one defender.

1st down, move the chains. Nope. Another drop.

DeeJay Dallas gets blocked in the back and still makes a great tackle. Nice punt as well. (Not pictured)

Pitt watched the VT film and saw how often we had trouble defending the FB backside screen. If Garvin doesn’t tip this it goes a big gain. No one out there.

Try the dive on 2nd and Tito gets penetration, Willis comes off his block and combines with Pinckney for the stop. (Not pictured)

Miami goes to a 2-down lineman look. Flip Joe Jax inside and stand him up over the C. Willis has the LT on the backside and we send three guys from an overload blitz to the field side. The QB has to know he has to get rid of this ball even though they’ve slid protection to that side. Bandy honestly gives away that he’s coming and Pitt should’ve had a blitz beater to that side and picks it up but they did not. Willis splits underneath the LT before he knows what happened and sacks the QB. Just look at that technique for Willis. Left-hand arm bar to the shoulder, swim move (arm over) with the right and into the gap. Perfect.

Mahoney and Donaldson your G’s. We run jet sweep motion with Harley. We have run the ball every single time we have shown jet sweep motion this year. Going to need to pass some to get teams off of that some. St. Louis never does get his reach block on the edge and Mahoney is late to his block on the LB. Homer has to cut early and gets hit on the ball and fumbles. (Not pictured)

Pitt wants to run a screen to the bottom but Finley reads it perfectly and blows it up. The QB pulls it down and looks to his outlet (the wheel route). Miami has it defended perfectly, but for some reason no one runs with #30 on this wheel. Big play for Pitt. Jaquan saved the day or it’s probably a TD.

Pitt runs power on the next play and Finley sees it, knifes through two blocks, while he doesn’t make the tackle he blows it up for Shaq to clean up. (Not pictured)

They try to get fancy on the next play and run an option look with a reverse. Joe Jax just goes straight upfield on the TE block and forces the runner to bubble way back. Finley sees the play at the same time as Joe Jax and gets into the backfield for an awesome TFL. Finley might be most improved player on team. Takes them out of FG range.

Miami runs out the clock. 10-0 at halftime.

So many points left on the field and poor plays by the offense in this first half. Check back to see how the second half plays out and how it all looks on film.

Comments (7)

@Lance Roffers what are your thoughts on how the o-line played?

In the 1st half they played well. The preoccupation with the bubbles made life easier for the OL and going 4-wide spread Pitt out some and caused their LB's to have to run further. Liked what I saw out of Gaynor in this game. Think he will really help us next year. Boulware starting at one of the G spots will be a big help as well.
Don’t forget, I demand full coverage of the bubble to Langham in the second half. That was a thing of beauty. :rolleyes:
I know they looked better against Pitt but these O-Line rotations will be the death of me. Just play the best players.
Great work as usual thanks. Richt gets criticism for his offense and he deserves it, but man we leave a lot of points out there every week with just terrible execution.