The Pitt Panthers upset the second ranked Miami Hurricanes up at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. The Hurricanes looked out-matched and out-coached on Black Friday. Miami called up some great plays that Malik Rosier couldn’t execute in the cold and windy day in Pittsburgh. However, when your QB is obviously off you have to adjust your game plan and find other ways to get him to execute.
Miami has abandoned the run pass option or RPO game at times and it’s hurt them. They’ll wait until the 3rd and even 4th quarter and use it to come back and beat a Georgia Tech or UNC but Pitt was using this game as their bowl game. They played a young QB and got him in-game experience heading into him being the starter in 2018 and Pitt having another good season like the did in 2016.
Here are 3 plays I pulled from the upset of Miami at Pitt.
Miami Empty Set Sack
One of my least favorite things in the world is a team with a slow-to-process quarterback like Malik Rosier running empty set with an average offensive line in front of him. Empty set formations are great for Air Raid teams that utilize future Head Football Coaches at quarterback (see: Kliff Kingsbury, Lincoln Riley) but not for someone like Malik that’s been slow to read coverages, blitzes, and doesn’t have a ton of upside to his game.
Mark Richt gets far too cute at times and on both sides of the formation, sets Malik Rosier up to fail. First there’s the pre-snap read. Pre-snap you would assume 5on5 which is something Miami has to check out of. Then it’s only a 4 man rush but St. Louis decides to chase the guy from his side leaving a faster wide open blitzer to come free. If the Miami offensive line had been NFL quality a year ago, or even for most of this year, I can see empty sets but the QB has processed slow and the O-Line hasn’t been great.
Then there’s the route combination which is 4 of 5 guys in a deep route and no immediate outlet in case of a blitz. This sets Rosier up to fail and on 3rd and 7 it’s not like Miami needed 25 yards for a first down. This could’ve been an easy “pop” pass (one step slant) or a snag concept for Rosier.
Miami Play-Action Passing with Half Slide Protection
Half slide protection is something Miami needs to employ more often. What it means is two of your offensive lineman will play ‘man’ against their defensive lineman and the other three will play ‘slide’ or step together in unison to hold off the other two linemen and possible blitzers.
The running back is involved in half slide by fitting up in between the OT and the OG. This creates a “big on big” match-up meaning O-Line versus D-Line and a “lil on lil” match-up meaning a back versus a blitzing linebacker. That way the running back isn’t overwhelmed trying to chip and stop a defensive end, which is what happens on full slide.
This is beneficial, rather than an empty set, because the back can held in pass protection.
Pitt QB Scrambles for Touchdown
Miami has tackled poorly all season. I’m not sure if that’s a hangover from Hurricane Irma cutting down on practice time and interfering with the Arkansas State game or if tackling form just isn’t a priority but this play alone sums up everything wrong with Miami’s defensive scheme and we all know the defense is the shining light of the season that’s pulled Miami to a 10-1 record.
The Anti-Manny contingent will complain that he gets too aggressive and his blitzes lack fundamentals. The line stunt and blitz in this clip will show you a giant gap left behind and how having too many guys in one gap results in any quarterback with a pulse taking advantage of that. Freshman passer Kenny Pickett took advantage of the ‘Canes poor scheme here and their poor tackling.
Also, every high school kid across the country knows that was a horrible tackle and against the tenants of Pete Carroll’s hawk tackling.
Hopefully Miami can bounce back as the Clemson Tigers are no slouch of an opponent for the ACC Championship game in Charlotte.