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West Virginia Film Review


Ryan Bridges
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I don't know how to feel about this game. West Virginia is good and was the better team, but Texas still had multiple chances to win. As a matter of fact, WVU scored only seven points in the final 44:39. It was also the rare Big 12 game where the officials appeared to be present and competent, so that was cool.

 

OFFENSE

 

As always, let's start with the bad news.

 

Freshmen and Seniors Playing Like Freshmen

 

West Virginia came into this game 9th in the Big 12 and 101st nationally in sacks, but they attacked Texas where the pass protection is weakest: right up the middle. Zach Shackelford was responsible for allowing two sacks.

 

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Both times Shack fails to pick up a linebacker shooting through the A gap. On the second play, D'Onta Foreman is responsible for #11, the player who gets the sack, but instead he has to try to pick up the linebacker who Shack missed.

 

Those are bad but sort of forgivable because he's still a true freshman and the effort is there. The same cannot be said for Kent Perkins.

 

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On both plays, Perkins should be sliding to his right. We may never know why he didn't think that assignment came with a responsibility to protect the B gap.

 

Points Left on the Field

 

I understood but did not agree with the decision to try the field goal just before the half. But those weren't the only potential points left on the field. In fact, on Texas' first drive, the Longhorns settled for three when they should have had seven.

 

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This is Texas' go-to red zone pass play, so it's astonishing that WVU wasn't better prepared for it. An accurate throw to either of the two receivers would have resulted in a touchdown. Hopefully, Sterlin Gilbert works with Shane Buechele on this concept to drill the point home that the slant is sometimes open too (besides this one, it was open for several first downs and touchdowns against Oklahoma), and it's frequently the easier throw. On the ensuing play, which I didn't diagram, Buechele tried to force a throw to Johnson in the back of the end zone when WVU had left Dorian Leonard uncovered near the first-down marker.

 

What Happened to Armanti?

 

Texas' leading receiver had zero catches and was targeted only once that I can recall. (It was a deep shot on the final drive of the game. I feel like Armanti Foreman could have put up a fight to get inside to the ball and drawn a defensive pass interference, but oh well.) Instead, it was the Collin Johnson show. Johnson has played well, but he's not taking the top off defenses and tip-toeing down sidelines like Foreman has been. He did a pretty good impression here, though.

 

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WVU loves their Cover 0. Notice where the corner is lined up and how he plays with inside leverage on Johnson (it will come up in the Defense section). This is because he has no help inside, but he does have help outside in the form of the sideline. Buechele's timing in the quick game has gotten better and better throughout the season, and it was great here. It's a good thing, too, because his ball placement wasn't. You've heard it before: On an outside-breaking route, if the quarterback is going to miss, he wants to miss outside. I don't know why the corner was so worried about being beaten deep, but with tighter coverage this one could have gone the other way. After the catch, Johnson mimics Foreman and highlights the dangers of Cover 0 — miss an open-field tackle and the fight song starts playing. And just set aside for a moment the disappointment of this season and consider that this is a freshman snapping to a freshman throwing to a freshman.

 

Bad Beat

 

The Mountaineers played a lot of trap coverage looks, which is why you kept seeing Jake Oliver and whoever else get popped immediately after catching quick outs. The gif below shows the coverage they were playing and what it was designed to stop (not the play Texas actually ran).

 

B3sjr6G.png

 

The hole in the coverage is behind the corner, who is aggressively playing the flat, and in front of the deep safety. (It should be more pronounced in Cover 2 and less so here, in Cover 3 Cloud. I think because the safety was playing close at the snap to disguise the coverage he overcorrected to try not to get beaten deep and left a bigger hole in the process.) West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson was betting that Buechele couldn't make this throw across the field and in that gap. This is the only time I can recall Buechele trying it — though there should have been others — so it was a smart gamble even though it didn't work out this time. 

 

This is an impressive throw and an even more impressive catch. Who would have thought Leonard would be 44 yards shy of leading the team in receiving yards? And he didn't even play against Notre Dame or register any stats against Baylor. Assuming Armanti returns for his senior year (he should), Texas will have 89.7% of its targets coming back next year. Not bad.

 

Watch Out, Lamar Jackson

 

There was a funny tweet on Saturday about Buechele's absurdly high spin-to-run ratio. Whatever, it works for him, but no one's going to mistake him for VY or Colt or even Ash.

 

a3X1KA5.png

 

I included the pre-snap bits because it illustrates the effect Johnson's touchdowns from last week have on a defense. West Virginia starts in what looks like man coverage on the trips side, which is what that corner route by Johnson is intended to beat. When Texas audibles, WVU switches to a Cover 3 look on the trips side. That pulls a linebacker out of the box, which is what Texas wanted anyway. 

 

The other change is that the safety and corner switch spots on the boundary side; the safety moves up to the line of scrimmage, presumably to give the defense a harder edge against the run. The problem they run into, though, is that apparently the corner isn't as familiar with this role, and both players take the dive on zone read. Let this be a lesson to Big 12 DCs everywhere: If Buechele gets loose on the perimeter, watch out.

 

DEFENSE

 

We'll start with the bad, and there's a lot of it.

 

Matador Defense

 

Speechless.

 

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Anytime you see an offensive lineman reach the second level and look on, perplexed, as his assignment runs the wrong way, it's a bad sign. That's exactly what happens between the center and Anthony Wheeler on this play. Dylan Haines is still in position to make the tackle, but he, too, is chasing ghosts. The last bit of salt on the wound is watching Paul Boyette get cut off and walked back to the goal line by the right guard. 

 

It gets worse.

 

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I don't know what coverage this is, and I'm not sure the players did either. And it's a good thing the ball didn't go to the receiver in motion, because Kris Boyd was nowhere near keeping pace with him. Even with those problems, Texas is in decent position to stop this play. Then things fall apart rapidly. Boyette lets — hell, he insists that — the center cross his face. He likes to do this, and it almost always ends badly. If he was where he should be, the hole gets much smaller. 

 

In a peculiar twist, because Boyd was so far out of position relative to the motion man, he ends up directly in the path of the ballcarrier. Between he and Tim Cole, someone should be able to make the stop, since someone is going to be unblocked. Unfortunately, Boyd drops his head when he tries to make the tackle. In his defense, he probably wasn't expecting to be making goal-line tackles on run plays here. I'm really not sure why the Mountaineers didn't run their Spread-I game more often, because if these plays are any indication, Texas couldn't consistently stop it.

 

Boyd Meets World

 

Maybe we got ahead of ourselves when it comes to Boyd. He was picked on all day. This was a 3rd & %$*#ing 9 play that was immediately followed by a touchdown.

 

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Texas is in Cover 0. Remember what we discussed earlier: Don't let the receiver get inside. Boyd is beaten before the ball is even snapped because of his alignment. I don't know whether it's a coaching problem or a player problem (though John Bonney is in better position on the other side), but hopefully this gets fixed before the start of conference play — oh wait.

 

Texas ran more zone blitzes in this game than probably in any other game this season. A lot of them went right, but this one didn't.

 

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The receiver runs what might be described as a 4th-grade-level hitch-and-go, and somehow he ends up behind Boyd. Boyd manages to get back in phase, but he never makes an effort to turn around and find the ball. In fact, whatever the opposite of making an effort to find the ball is, he does that. The contact looks pretty incidental to me — they're both bumping, and the receiver was slowing to adjust to the ball — but I'm not sure how to explain away Boyd's disinterest in playing the football. He had a bad day, but he'll learn from it and get better.

 

Zone Blitzes

 

Five blockers, five rushers, no blown blocking assignments and one free rusher; Charlie Strong should pat himself on the back for this one.

 

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Skyler Howard has to be aware that the blocking can't account for Jason Hall, but even at that, the only open receiver is the fullback in the flat. Also, again I want to point out the youth on display here. The Longhorns on the field for this play include three true freshmen, four true sophomores and two redshirt sophomores.

 

Here's the same blitz against a similar passing concept.

 

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This time the pressure is picked up. P.J. Locke is slow to recognize the tight end to the flat, but Ed Freeman reads this all the way and plays it flawlessly. Howard forces the throw, and because of the tight coverage he has to put the ball way out front, right to Haines. I actually forgot Freeman was only a (redshirt) sophomore until I was typing that earlier paragraph. That's very good news, because he's very good in coverage already. Now if they can just get him (and every other linebacker) playing up to an acceptable level against the run.

 

Locke-down

 

This is another concept West Virginia ran several times.

 

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Howard wanted to take the deep shot on the left but it's bracketed by Hall and Boyd. He comes back to his right, where Bonney hasn't recovered from the shock of the apparent wheel route turning out to be a wheel-stop. But instead of going there, Howard forces a late throw into Locke's zone. Locke is now second on the team in interceptions; he has 25% of the team's INTs. That's a fancy way of saying he has two picks this year. 

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Shack and Perk need to get better with their eyes. As Ryan mentioned, it is much more forgiveable for this to happen with a true freshman rather than a senior who has NFL aspirations.

 

If Perk has his eyes in the right place, Shane doesn't nearly get broke in half and Texas is walking away with points. Hopefully Perk apologized to Shane after that.

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Wow, that's impressive. Interesting that he is getting recognized even though he plays on a bad team. Crazy he was a TE a few years ago.

 

Will Baizer has a post entitled:

"The stats behind Texas running back D'Onta Foreman's charge for 2,000 yards"

According to Will's research, when D'Onta Foreman runs to the left side of Texas' OL,

specifically behind the blocking of LT Connor Williams, Foreman averages 7.0 yards

a carry. That's an extremely impressive stat at any level of football, high school, college

or pro. The bulk of Foreman's yardage this season has come from running behind and

through the left side of Texas' OL.  

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