What does ECU v. Tulsa from 2008 say about FSU v. Clemson?

I'm always interested in the different schemes teams run. When you understand what your own team is doing, as well as the opponent, the game is much more enjoyable. Last year we talked about how new Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops had defended the BYU offense at his previous school.

The same thing applies for this weekend's big divisional matchup at Clemson. Clemson hired Chad Morris, who runs the Gus Malzahn hurry up no huddle spread (HUNHS) system. Morris is a protege of Malzahn. There aren't any differences in the system that I'm aware of.

So where have FSU's coaches seen this before? In the 2008 Conference USA Championship Game, of course! East Carolina beat Tulsa, 27-24.

The defensive coordinator for East Carolina? Current FSU linebacker coach Greg Hudson. The offensive coordinator of Tulsa? Gus Malzahn, the creator of the offense Morris runs.

You can read all about the Clemson offense here: http://www.shakinthesouthland.com/2011/9/2/2400212/inside-the-clemson-offense-the-links

So how did ECU defend the dominant Tulsa HUNHS attack that featured the nation's top-rated passer? 

What was your defensive strategy today:

"We wanted to keep the ball in front of us and just make them snap it again. We put pressure on our front four to stop the run and keep the ball in front us and don't give up anything cheap. As long as we keep the ball in front of us and make them snap it again, we felt like we were winning on defense." 

 

ECU refused to allow big plays. Tulsa had a good rushing attack, but it wasn't a great rushing attack. ECU played a great mixture of cover two (including two-man) and cover four, keeping everything in front of the back-line defenders, and rarely blitzing. Tulsa's most explosive play of the day went for only 20 yards. They made Tulsa execute all the way down the field. And for the most part, Tulsa did just that, running an incredible 97 plays! 

But while Tulsa moved the football, its efficiency was terrible, at 4.1 yards/play. And frustrated by ECU making them work the ball slowly down the field, Tulsa became frustrated and tried to force passes that simply weren't there. Five of those passes ended up in the hands of ECU defenders -- one for each member of the starting secondary and another for good measure.

This certainly isn't predictive, but it is interesting. Will FSU look to be patient on defense and rush only four, seeing if Clemson QB Boyd will force balls where he shouldn't? I think the 'Noles might. Clemson relies on the big play more than almost anyone (5 of 50+ yards this season). Boyd hasn't seen anything resembling a decent defense yet (Troy is better than Auburn, but both are among the worst 30 in the nation), and to this point Boyd has had wide open players in every game. That's unlikely to be the norm against the 'Noles. You have to believe Hudson is busting out his old game prep from 2008 to help FSU DC Mark Stoops. 

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