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Film study: Containing spread offenses in the 3-3-5

OSU’s defense held its ground when it needed to on Saturday. Here’s a look at how they did it.



Let’s take a quick look at the sack by Emmanuel Ogbah on the 3rd-and-10 late in the 4th quarter that helped OSU escape with a victory.

OSU is lined up in a 3-3-5 alignment, which is commonly used to stop – or at the very least, contain—spread offenses. Depending on the down and distance, you might see a team in the 3-3-5 rush only the linemen, or you could see one or two linebackers blitz, too.


On this play, KU is in a 4-wide set, meaning there are four wide receivers lined up wide with a halfback in the backfield to either run a route out of the backfield, to draw the attention of the LBs, or to be a sixth blocker.

As the ball is snapped, the three linebackers and five secondary players drop back to play zone coverage. The first initial coverage is solid and there are no immediate throws downfield.


However, the QB doesn’t have long to let the receivers make their breaks in their routes before the pressure intensifies and he starts to panic and leaves the pocket. The QB only makes it a couple of steps outside of the pocket before he is brought down for the sack, causing a fourth-and-long.

Why this play worked

A 3-3-5 set requires an athletic defense all around. But the defensive linemen must be especially athletic. The linemen must have speed off the ball and be able to control running lanes and get off blocks.

Luckily for OSU, it has multiple linemen who fit this mold, and that’s why Glenn Spencer has no problem sending just those three to pressure the QB.

The two defensive ends fire off the ball and purposefully over-pursue the QB.


There’s a couple reasons for doing this:

1. It doesn’t allow the QB to buy more time by scrambling outside of the offensive tackles.
2. It not only draws the tackles to the blocks but the guards too.

This leaves the DT in a one-on-one matchup with the center.


The DT’s job in this situation is to play contain. If he goes right after the QB, the QB might evade the pressure and have an easy opportunity to pick up the first down, especially with the linebackers dropped back in pressure. The DT has to stay at home and dictate where the QB goes.

Vili Leveni does a great job at playing contain and not allowing the QB a chance to set his feet and make a throw or take off and run.


The QB runs to his right, trying to get out of the pocket, and appears to be looking for a receive downfield when Ogbah closes in on him to make the sack.

Here’s a look at the entire play:

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