A closer look at the play of the Irish linebackers in Saturday’s victory over the Boilermakers:
After initially over-pursuing (Kerry Neal had the sideline sealed off), stuck with QB Robert Marve on a cutback to force the season’s first punt…played a tunnel screen to Keith Smith expertly to force a 3rd and 6, limiting the receiver to one-yard with an ankle tackle; that play routinely went for big yardage vs. the Irish last season. An excellent read by Te’o who got late help from a hustling Cwynar…lost Dierking out of the backfield on a designed roll but did drill the senior after the catch…lost sight of the football on a delayed draw to Dierking, instead running to the outside flat though Neal had Marve dead-to-rights had the QB kept the football…failed to get off block by RT Nick Mondek but received help from Calabrese/safeties short of the first down…great recognition of quick-look pass to slot receiver but completely whiffed in space…missed a point-blank fill tackle on Dierking that would have negated a first down run (13 yard gain, Te’o met him around Yard #6)…weak attempt vs. backup QB Rob Henry (a good athlete) on the ensuing play as Henry ran through his attempt for a 9-yard gain…diagnosed another tunnel screen; missed again, but was aided by Harrison Smith and a hustling Ethan Johnson to stop Smith short of the marker; nice range by Te’o on the play but he lost his feet.
Second Half: Missed space tackle on Justin Siller though not an easy play in pursuit after the catch…Fought off a block to tackle Dierking after an 8-yard gain on 2nd and 15…Soft tackle attempt (no power or feet) vs. Dierking on a swing route that should have been stopped for a 5-yard gain on 3rd and 9 but Dierking gained 8…Like Neal, diagnosed Marve’s roll on 4th and 1 attempt near the goal line; Te’o showed incredible burst to close on Marve from about 8 yards away…Made his best play after a tunnel screen to stop Cortez Smith short of the marker after a 2nd and 5 catch; excellent read and speed, plus the stop by Te’o…Followed that up one series later with a dominant effort, again reading a wide receiver screen and dropping Smith one-on-one in space…
Observations: Te’o needlessly over pursues when he has a teammate already in position to cut out the running lane toward the outside/sideline…he’ll one day be a force vs. the short passing game but will need to keep his feet next week vs. a quicker Michigan team and lightning fast QB Denard Robinson.
Covered no one as field side drop linebacker resulting in a 14-yard gain to Keith Smith in the left (field side) flat…disguised a delayed blitz well to bother Marve on second possession…Allowed himself to be blocked by WR Justin Siller on run action to his flat…kept outside containment to force Antavian Edison inside where Calabrese made the stop…Pressured Marve into rushed 3rd down throw but coverage behind him failed (there’s a chance that tight end Kyle Adams was actually his man, however).
Second Half: Missed a point-blank tackle in pursuit, sliding off Dierking for an 8-yard gain…Physical hit on blocking back on 3rd and 1 might have been the hit of the day, but the play went for 8 yards inside…Lost simple containment to his side on boot left, allowing fullback Jared Frank an easy path to the flat for 14 yards…Good fill and tackle vs. Marve in open space after a designed roll…Inexcusable mental mistake on 4th and 1 to lose containment on Marve (its not like it was his first outside boot/roll) to allow a 2
Observations: Makes too many mistakes and misses too many tackles for a senior and 25-game starter; difficult to understand from a studious player.
Missed his first chance for a sack on the season’s first play, whiffing on Marve’s pirouette in the backfield…faked out by a stutter from Al-Terek Burse on the ensuing handoff…lost contain of Marve one series later for a gain of 8 yards to the boundary side…fought off lead block to help stop Dierking on 3rd and 1…took out two blockers on 2nd and short to allow Gary Gray a tackle…good pursuit of Marve on a 2nd Quarter roll-out though was cut down before he could get to the mobile QB.
Second Half: Sat out much of the second half due to cramping.
Observations: Sub par start for a player I’ve pegged for All-America mention next year.
Combined with Lewis-Moore for a stop of Crank at the line of scrimmage on second series; nice fill by Carlo…suckered out of his assignment (fullback out of the backfield) on Purdue’s initial 4th down conversion for 6 yards; Carlo bit on play-action…nice pursuit tackle on Marve for a short gain after Te’o slowed the QBs initial charge on a designed draw…bad run support angle allowed Dierking an easy 13 yards on a delayed draw.
Second Half: Impressive clean-up tackle of Dierking after the catch on 3rd and long to force a first possession punt…Stayed home to clean-up Dierking with form tackle in the backfield…Saved a long gain with ankle tackle of Dierking up the gut on 3rd and 1…Filled up the gut to stop Dierking for no gain on 3rd and 1
Observations: Covers more ground than I thought he would in pursuit/pass coverage after the catch…Played his role exceptionally well for a first career start.
Stayed home twice in the first three series to take away outside options but was betrayed by the over-pursuit of his teammates…Narrowly missed a diving safety of Marve on the second play of the 2nd Half…Stunt from left defensive end spot (Dime defense) forced Marve to flee from the pocket and into the arms of Ian Williams for a drive-ending sack…lost sight of the ball (followed Marve) on sprint option run to his side but was bailed out by Calabrese…Maintained crucial containment vs. Marve on 4th and 1 that was deflected by Gray (and intercepted by Williams)…Allowed himself to be blocked too easily on a late-game reverse…
Observations: Reads his pass keys and misdirection much better than both Brian Smith and Manti Te’o…Neal is a much more disciplined drop linebacker than his classmate Smith…Seems to have benefitted the most from the new coaching staff through one game.
Fleming, Calabrese, Te’o and Smith all erred vs. Marve’s bootleg action Saturday…Calabrese and Te’o inconsistent defeating blocks at the point…Irish will be susceptible to power running teams such as Stanford, Boston College and Pittsburgh…Steve Filer was hesitant on first couple of boots to his side when he entered in the 3rd Quarter as the CAT linebacker…Excellent one-on-one tackle in space on pass to the flat by Filer late in the 3rd Quarter, denying two cutbacks by the Siller…Irish linebackers missed too often today…Impressive that the unit remained on the field in favor of a nickel defense, though that should change as the season progresses and teams begin to target them down the seams.