One of the questions stemming from last Saturday's Ohio State victory over Wisconsin – especially after the first half – was why wasn't OSU consistently getting pressure on Wisconsin's quarterback, Joel Stave. With a team so loaded in the front four with pure pass rushers, it was expected that they would force Stave's hand a bit. Indeed, they did, even when they didn't necessarily get pressure. We'll look at a few ways that Wisconsin attempted to mitigate pressure, and how, eventually, the Buckeyes still overcame it to hurry the opposing QB for much of the game.
After Wisconsin got over the initial terror of the first few drives, they went back to the drawing board in a way. Rather than attacking Ohio State horizontally, they started going more straight ahead. Combined with that, they were able to start incorporating some of their max protection package, where they only send two or three receivers out in routes. What this means is that OSU's front four will initially be doubled, and every blitzer should theoretically be easily picked up. The key is that you have to maintain coverage behind it.
Or, you can beat the chip blocks (having the RB do an awful job also helps) and you see something like this:
So then how else did Wisconsin "avoid pressure"?
It's a misconception by many that teams roll out simply to avoid pressure. Certainly, that is one reason, but it's also utilized for several other purposes: misdirection, to allow the QB to threaten the edge with his legs, to give the QB easier reads and shorter throws, and to allow the QB to threaten sideline-to-sideline with his arm. So, Wisconsin probably had other motives for rolling out, but I can say with some certainty that escaping pressure was one of their motives as well.
Now, when a QB rolls out, defenses all start to roll their coverage. A cover 2 safety will start playing something more like a quarter while the backside cover 2 safety will run something closer to a middle third. Defenses rotate to squeeze the throwing windows and to compensate for the shorter passes that these QBs make. To counter these aggressive antics, offenses will run double moves.
But, roll out too often and you get heavy pressure right into the teeth of the defense.
While that's a completion, that's a fairly risky pass for quite a little pay off. So Wisconsin can't simply afford to roll out every time they want to escape. So they incorporate...
Here, pressure is applied in a third and long situation. The WR adjusts his route to a slant to attack the vacated area from the blitzing LBs. But because of the athletes in the secondary, that isn't good enough.
And so it's stopped short.
Even when Wisconsin dropped back and only kept in a single blocker, there were times when OSU didn't get a lot of pressure. Those times weren't exactly often though. Here's one example:
Here, the two interior guys get chipped, so when they get half a body, they get another half from another OL, which stalls their progress. On the outside, the DE at the bottom of the screen tries an inside move, which is a mistake as he rushes in the same lane as his DT, and by consequence gets chipped. The DE at the top takes on the OT too straight up, and never really gets good push.
Video got a little corrupted, but the DT beat the RG with an inside move. How? He attacked half the RG's body and ripped right by.
When the front four did get stalemated, it appeared that typically the problems seemed to be the defensive ends getting too wide and being allowed to be driven up field and then the initial move by the DTs getting stoned because the OL was able to move their feet to get in front (a lot of DTs, once their initial pass rush fails, will stop attacking and start looking for knock downs). But for the most part, that wasn't the case. Even when pressure didn't always get home on Stave, the perceived pressure was felt. It was felt with the play calling. It was felt with getting hands in the QBs face. It was felt with the types of routes. The coverage needs to do better, and OSU could afford to be better on the edge to force the QB to gain more depth on his roll out, but really other than that the pressure was good for Ohio State, and they left Wisconsin's Stave feeling...
(And that's how you flip the "downside" into an "upside")