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FILM STUDY: How Vanderbilt slowed down Shea Patterson and the Ole Miss offense

An immovable object meets another immovable object.

Mississippi v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

When Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson last faced Vanderbilt, he was fresh off a fourth-quarter soul removal of Texas A&M and making his second collegiate start in as many games. This Saturday, he’ll have his second shot at the Commodores, but he’s yet to break the double-digit barrier in career starts.

If you recall last year’s affair in Nashville, things went really well for a quarter, with Patterson picking up where he left off against the Aggies. Then, based on some dumb rules that don’t make sense, Ole Miss had to play three more quarters, which did not go well at all.

The Ole Miss offense sputtered and farted around, while the defense helped a Derek Mason Vanderbilt team set a record for most points against an SEC team during his tenure. So how did this come to pass?

Well, other than Ole Miss’ defense providing a preview for this year’s defense — which is to say no defense — Vanderbilt’s defense did its best to confuse Patterson and the offensive line, keep Patterson from hurting them with his legs, and make Ole Miss’ receivers win matchups in a short period of time. Also, if Derek Mason’s game plan included Ole Miss receivers dropping eight passes (seven of which would’ve been first downs and one a touchdown) through the third quarter, that was smart too.

Let’s hit the lights, put in a dip* and see how they got the better of the Ole Miss offense (via here).

/gets dizzy


/incapacitated for the rest of the day

We pick things up at the literal beginning of the second quarter. This is what Patterson sees pre-snap. Five guys showing pressure and two safeties within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.

Just before the snap, the two safeties attack. One will blitz, while the other drops into some space to either take away a quick slant or spy on Patterson to keep him in check if he escapes the pocket.

Vanderbilt sends six players against Ole Miss’ six blockers, as the running back stays in to help. In the secondary, Vanderbilt is playing man coverage with no safety help.

Six blockers taking on six rushers seems fine, yes? LOL.

As you see, the left guard blows protection and the running back whiffs on the blitzing safety. And since all the wide receivers’ routes are intermediate to deep, Patterson has nowhere to go.

One of the things Vanderbilt did consistently, especially when Ole Miss lined up with three wide receivers and a tight end, was have the defensive back lined up over the slot receiver take a few steps inside, as if he might attack. If he read a run play, he usually did, but on pass plays he primarily dropped into coverage.

They also made it a point to always have a spy on Patterson. They did not want him running around, extending plays, or getting rushing yards once he broke containment from the pass rush. With an effective spy, they could take that away from Patterson’s game.

Vandy only rushes three and drops eight into coverage, flooding the short middle of the field with defenders. They may have been somewhat concerned about Evan Engram operating in this area (he stayed in to block on this play).

If you do the math, three receivers against eight guys in coverage is, what people in the business would say, NOT IDEAL.

Patterson takes off because no one is open and the rush eventually gets to him, but a fleet (BOOM NAILED IT) of Commodore defenders awaits him.

Earlier, I mentioned Vanderbilt’s attempt to confuse Patterson and the offensive line. They wanted to do what teams have done this year, which is make it hard to identify who is rushing and who is dropping off.

Here, we see them doing just that. Five potential rushers crowd the line (and two linebackers have the potential for a delayed blitz).

Only three rush, with a spy dropping off and a defensive back dropping into coverage. Again, the middle of the field is crowded with defenders and Engram has no room to work. Now, if the middle is crowded, there’s space outside.

Patterson is forced to bail because Ole Miss can’t handle a three-man rush, and though he has his running back still open, he never sees him. On top of that, two Vanderbilt defenders (the spy and a linebacker) are very much focused on him.

Joining the party is a defensive back, who takes away even more space.

Here’s a good look at what Vanderbilt did pretty much the last three quarters. They used two-high safeties, showed a rush of four or more, and dropped a spy, leaving only three to rush.

It certainly didn’t help Ole Miss that they were constantly in long-yardage situations on second and third downs, but it REALLY didn’t help that they couldn’t block three rushers with five guys.

This probably wouldn’t have been a first down, but you get your receiver the ball in space and he has to beat one guy for the first down.

While the offensive line carries a lot of the blame, sometimes the receivers just couldn’t get open (or perhaps Patterson didn’t see them). Either way, there were plays where he had time to review his options.

Even though we have a new shape, STILL LOOKING GOOD, FRIENDS.

Alas, Patterson fired it in the direction of Engram, who was surrounded by defenders in the middle of the field. PUNT.

Because Vandy’s pass rush was effective no matter how many people stayed in to block, Patterson was understandably skittish. That meant the slightest flash of a pass rusher in his vision caused him to not want to be buried alive again (NO JUDGMENT HERE, SEEMS VERY UNFUN IMO).

On this play, Ole Miss sends out three receivers and leaves seven in to block Vandy’s four rushers. The math tells you it’s three-on-seven, with the safeties taking away deep throws.

Ole Miss defies the odds and is able to block four rushers with seven blockers.

However, as the pocket shifts, Patterson has seen enough of this ish and bails (it also helps receivers couldn’t get open in the brief time he spent in the pocket).

Now a quick timeout for a segment I like to call HUGH MAD.

And that was this week’s edition of HUGH MAD.

Later in the game, when things were officially out of control, Ole Miss threw out a five-wide set on third and 10.

Vanderbilt pounced on the opportunity to overwhelm the offensive line, knowing a quick throw was unlikely to pick up a first down. They sent six rushers, meaning Ole Miss, barring a leg whip or spectacular hold, cannot stop one rusher.

AND BEHOLD (also, the short throw was there to a guy in space).

Finally, no film review would be complete without Ole Miss’ offensive line collapsing against a delayed blitz. Granted, Vanderbilt is in no way expecting a run, so why should they not attack Patterson in the pocket?

Here we see a linebacker, posing as the spy that was such a featured part of this defense.

Except this time, he decides to not wait for Patterson’s scramble to get to him, but to go meet him with a friend.

The linebacker isn’t picked up, throw in a bad block by the offensive line, and here we are.

Easy enough that Derek Mason can enjoy a refreshing beverage while coordinating defense.

Obviously, things are a little different this year, as Ole Miss isn’t running the four versions of plays it ran last year with Patterson. Unfortunately, they still have the same problems.

The offensive line isn’t good, they struggle to run or won’t make the effort (Akeem Judd averaged 6.3 yards/carry last year and naturally got only 10 carries), and Patterson still hasn’t seen a lot as a quarterback. I assume Mason will once again look to hide how many people will rush, force throws to the outside, and give up no explosive plays.

However, if Ole Miss can get decent yardage out of the running backs (via run and pass), protect when Vandy plays coverage, and patiently hit the underneath throws to the outside, they can stay out of long-yardage situations and methodically pick the Commodores apart. If not, SEQUEL AHOY.