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Ryan Bridges

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Ryan Bridges last won the day on November 15 2016

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  1. I've only watched the TCU game but the two guards look like the weak links on the OL. Kliff must have thought so too since he's benching the guy who started at LG in all but their first two games. But I can't find any sign that the first LG, Hines, was ever injured, so he can't be too great either.
  2. I agree with everything here. This was the worst loss (by margin) of the Tom Herman era, but it wasn't hard in my opinion to see how it could have been a W. Three seasons ago, Texas lost five games by 21 or more. It was impossible to argue they were a few plays from beating TCU (48-10), BYU (41-7), Arkansas (31-7) or Kansas State (23-0), though I could have made the case for the Baylor game (28-7). Two seasons ago, they had those kinds of games against Iowa State (24-0), Notre Dame (38-3) and TCU (50-7); the kinds of games that felt hopeless from start to finish. They also lost 38-20 to WVU, but that's another one that I felt at the time was winnable. Last year it was really just TCU (31-9) and Oklahoma State (49-31). This year, I haven't had that feeling except maybe against Maryland, which would have lost by double digits if Texas' defense had played the way it's played since that game. There's still at least three games left, though, so we'll see. But I think this team is on the cusp.
  3. Go through those classes and remove the guys who never made it to campus, washed out or haven't stayed healthy enough to contribute and you get a slightly different picture. The 2014 class drops into the 30s in national ranking if you take out the guys who didn't make it to campus or washed out when Strong was hired. Those are your seniors and redshirt juniors right now. You can remove 10 blue chips from the 2015-16 classes (counting Kirk Johnson and Patrick Hudson because of injury), plus two more from 2014 (Roberson and Catalon). Far more significantly, erase three offensive linemen (Delance, Hodges, Major; add Hudson if you want). There's a fair chance those first two guys would be your starting tackles right now. Okafor could play guard. Kerstetter could have redshirted. Etc. So the recruiting rankings don't tell the whole story. To be sure, too many guys haven't been adequately developed. That's hardly the fault of the coaches who've had one spring, summer and part of a fall with them. And it's a rare athlete who can reach his potential when he's playing for a new position coach in a new system every year or two.
  4. I just looked through the rulebook, and it's not a reviewable play. The only times they can "create a foul" is stuff like forward pass beyond the neutral zone, blocking early on an onside kick, too many men on the field, illegal touching after going out of bounds, and targeting.
  5. "The players hate Herman" is the stupidest thing I've read in at least a week. That's not hyperbole. A few players probably hate him, maybe even more than they hate standing on the sideline watching better players play.
  6. I have two thoughts on the CJ "benching." Herman referenced one in his presser. The receivers aren't doing a great job in the scramble drill right now, which wasn't a big deal when Buechele was at QB but with Ehlinger it is. It's impossible to know who's falling short without seeing the all-22, but arguably they all are. This is totally a guess, but maybe Collin's gotten frustrated with the double teams and is giving up on plays. The more likely explanation is that it's because he's not making enough of his limited opportunities downfield. The scary thing about 6'6" receivers is they turn 50-50 balls into, like, 70-30 balls. Collin did this against USC, which is what earned him the frequent double teams, but to my recollection he hasn't done it since. When he gets single coverage — which does still happen, a lot — and the ball comes his way, he has to make something of it. He dropped a touchdown in the 4th quarter on a drive that ended with 0 points. It was good coverage and a tough catch, but that's why you throw fades to 6'6" receivers — the good ones make tough catches against good coverage. Drop enough of those — and I really want to stress that by 6'6", star receiver standards, this is a drop... — and defenses are going to stop double covering you. Texas isn't good enough to work methodically downfield; they need more explosive plays. If Leonard gets single coverage but comes down with one or two of those deep shots, it opens everything else up, and he's giving you something that Collin hasn't been.
  7. While you guys are arguing about 10 wins and championship-caliber QB play, the coaches and players are trying to figure out how to rebound from losing to a mediocre team they were picked to beat by three scores. Buechele is the QB because he's accurate, experienced (relative to the competition), mostly poised and can generally execute the passing concepts, as we saw in the spring game and more often than critics care to admit during actual games. Personally, I think Ehlinger can come close to matching his poise and a little less close to matching his accuracy, but he can't match his experience or, if the spring game is any indication, his ability to execute the passing game. That may have changed since April, but none of us know. Heard can't match Buechele in any of those areas. He's a much better runner. How well do you expect him to run when there's no threat through the air and his offensive line is getting pushed around? You might start by watching the 2015 Iowa State game. There are a lot of problems to fix. It's easy to start by blaming the QB because most people watch the ball, and he's usually got the ball. Getting the offensive line to give a damn, teaching the backs to identify holes, or injecting some creativity into the playcalling would do much, much more for the offensive production of this team than taking the passer off the field for a wide receiver playing running back.
  8. I can't answer for Daniel, but *proceeds to answer for Daniel* ... Heard's issues I think come down to decision-making and accuracy. Even if different, hopefully better, coaching could lead to quicker, better decisions, can he consistently connect in the quick game? Recall his struggles even accurately throwing screens in 2015.
  9. Really nice pickup, all things considered. Herman came in just over three weeks ago with no running backs committed and three RBs on the roster, two of whom are coming off season-ending injuries. To land a blue-chip just six weeks from signing day is nothing to sneeze at. If they can add Eno, they'll be in great shape at the position. I see Carter as someone who can help early as the sweeper on Power Read and Bash and on Outside Zone. If Kirk Johnson is healthy, he'd be my top pick for the role, and I think Porter can do it as well, but neither guy has much of an advantage over Carter in experience, and we can't assume Johnson will be the same as before the injury(ies). Carter also catches some passes (14 receptions this year, if MaxPreps is right), so he could see looks on Flare Screens and running flat routes on some of those triangle stretches.
  10. I think he does, especially if they get him out of the pocket.
  11. As fun as the Herman run game is, I have even more fun watching the passing attack. I pointed out in last year's Sterlin Gilbert breakdown that, outside of the screen and quick game, "most of [the routes] are just running straight ahead to different depths." The new offense will be radically different. 
 There are still RPOs and quick screens, but if you were one of those fans clamoring for some passes over the middle this past season, get ready to be excited. There will also now be bootlegs and sprintouts. And my favorite new addition: TRIANGLES. Triangles everywhere. 
 I didn't see nearly as many RPOs as I expected at either Ohio State or Houston, but it makes sense that they may run more of them at Texas. The general idea of the RPO is to punish the defense's overhang players for focusing too much on the run and not honoring the threat of the pass to the outside. If the offense has a credible runner at quarterback, it can use the read-option to eliminate an in-the-box defender and just block that overaggressive overhang player. Texas probably won't have that option next season, so they'll need the RPOs. 
 Here's another version using a Flash Screen to the outside. With the strong safety in a deep-half zone and the Mike linebacker lined up in an apex position and so focused on the run, the offense has a 3-on-2 advantage for the screen. 
 When safeties start creeping into the box, the offense can attack the cornerbacks, who, lacking safety help, are playing off coverage. They do this with hitches or quick outs. In this example, the hitch is paired with Power-O. 
 We've seen the Flash Screen already. Houston also ran a fair bit of Bubble Screens and Tunnel Screens. 
 Texas ran Flash and Bubble screens in 2016, but I don't think they ran Tunnel Screens. I also don't recall Flare Screens. It's the same principle as the Bubble Screen but it uses the running back instead of a slot receiver. It's another way to keep the defense from crowding the box, because if it does, it risks getting outflanked on a play like this. 
 I didn't see any Conventional Screens in any of the 12 games I watched. Texas toyed with one in the Cal game last year but it almost got Buechele killed, and it seems like they threw out that page of the playbook then and there. 
 There are some other quick passes Ohio State and Houston ran, especially H Option.
 The gist of it is that the slot receiver runs a few yards and turns around, or if he has to, runs away from the nearest defender. If you've ever watched the Patriots, you've seen it a jillion times. 
 This play also gives us our first look at another cool change to the offense: the protections. Herman will frequently pull guards on play-action passes. This is really hard on linebackers because not only is it one more key telling them it's a run play, but it also tells them they need to follow the puller (if it were a run, he'd be adding another gap to the frontside). 
 As I said, Texas will throw over the middle next year. We'll see a deep crossing route later, and of course they throw some posts, but their favorite way to attack the short and intermediate middle is a concept called Follow Pivot. 
 The inverted alignment of the two receivers on the left — the slot is on the line of scrimmage — all but guarantees a rub for any inside-breaking route by the outermost receiver. That means the near inside linebacker is the only player who can defend the snag/pivot route. If he sits on that route, however, the follow (dig) route should come open behind him. 
 No gif for this one, but they'll also often combine the Follow concept with Mesh (and the dig route with the drag coming from the other side is called Drive... football is silly). 
 Anyway, that's enough of that. 
 So those were high/low reads on the inside; here's a high/low read on the outside. 
 This is the play Collin Johnson scored his two touchdowns with against Texas Tech. It can be run from trips, as it was here and on those CJ TDs, or twins, and the outside receiver can run an in route or a hitch. With so much field to cover, it's difficult for the defense to eliminate the corner route unless the outside defender (highlighted) drops into a deep zone. (And if he does that, the in/hitch route should be open.) In other words, the offense is attacking that defender with a high/low read. If the defense is in man, as it is in this example and was in the Texas Tech game, the corner route is a big problem. 
 Here's an example of what it can look like from a twins set. 
 See how difficult it is to defend both routes? An interesting aside from the first play against Michigan State is that you can see the safety thinks the slot receiver is going to run a dig route like in the Follow concept from before. The pivot route by the outside receiver helps sell it. And with the corner in man coverage on the pivot route, the safety's hesitation means he doesn't have a chance to defend the corner route. 
 We just had an example of how the concepts build off one another, but this part is really cool. The Snag concept could take up a whole article, but I'll try to keep it brief. It's a three-route concept with a corner route, a flat route and a snag route. Together, the routes form a triangle, which works as both a Cover 2 beater (recall the Smash concept from before, with a high/low read on the cornerback) and a Cover 3 beater (the snag and flat stretch the curl/flat defender horizontally). Take a look. 
 The cornerback (1) bails, which theoretically means he will be in position to cover the corner route. This tells the quarterback to get his eyes to the curl/flat defender (2). He gets rubbed here (more on that in the next example), otherwise he probably would have been in position to take away the flat route. In that case, the receiver running the snag route would have the freedom to try to find space against the inside linebacker. Failing that, this particular play is a sprintout, meaning the quarterback can keep it and get some easy yardage. 
 The flat route isn't the only potential spot for a rub, though. 
 If the defense isn't going to pass off routes, it's hard to defend this concept with man coverage. Herman loves running it in the red zone and other short-yardage situations. 
 The best part about it, though, is that you can arrive at it in a variety ways. Say you want to take a deep shot off a double move, for example. 
 Initially this looks like Power Read, with the pulling guard and everything. But then the outside receiver breaks back outside to the corner and the slot, who has been acting like he's trying to seal the linebacker for the Power Read, turns to the quarterback. The cornerback plays disciplined and takes away the corner route, so the quarterback works back to the snag/flat and eventually finds the snag open. 
 It gets a lot more complicated, though. Well, it's complicated for the defense. That's the beauty of it: With a subtle adjustment, the offense presents a completely different look, but very little changes for the quarterback. 
 The Power-O play-fake holds the linebackers, and then the Mesh concept attacks them. But look closer and you'll notice that the corner route, flat route and drag from the boundary form... a triangle. The cornerback bails and the curl/flat defender covers the flat route, but with the help of a rub, the drag route — playing the part of the snag — comes open. 
 Here's a different look: a Smash concept with the tight end running an out route. 
 It attacks the same parts of the field, but only the corner route is the same. 
 Let's do one more and then move on. 
 Power Read play-fake followed by a naked bootleg. Again, the routes change but the outcome (and read) is the same. The boot action benefits a running quarterback, but it also helps to shorten the throw, so look for Texas to do the same since they lack a big-armed quarterback. You can see, though, how the offense can construct literally a dozen different iterations of this concept, and the quarterback doesn't have to learn anything new. 
 Sail If Herman wants to go a little deeper downfield, a favorite is the Sail concept, a three-level vertical stretch to the outside. 
 The outside receiver runs a go or skinny post, the second receiver runs a deep speed out and the third receiver heads to the flat. It's extremely difficult for the defense to account for all three levels. 
 But this is another example of a concept the offense can build upon with minimal effort. 
 They fake Split Zone and then flood the weakside with routes at three different levels. The boundary receiver gets the corner all turned around and the deep middle safety doesn't get over to help. 
 And once that's established, the offense can come back with a devastating counterpunch. 
 And thus concludes our breakdown of the Tom Herman passing attack. It's radically different from what Texas was doing in 2016, but like the run game, it's much less complicated than it appears.
  12. The news that Major Applewhite would be the new head coach at Houston threw a wrench in my work on this breakdown, but it turned out to be a bit of a blessing. I had watched eight Houston games and, after weeks of reading everywhere about Tom Herman's power run attack, I was very confused: There was a fair amount of Power Read, but I had seen Power-O less than a handful of times. But then I flipped on some 2012-14 Ohio State and, miraculously, there was Power-O (and a lot of other stuff more interesting than what Houston was doing). Texas is going to run a lot of Power-O in 2017, so it's useful to see it in action. The other benefit of watching Ohio State is that the talent is more similar to Texas'. Ohio State's wide receivers make plays that Houston's can't, but Texas' can. Greg Ward's athleticism also let UofH do some things that Ohio State didn't — or more likely, his athleticism relative to that of his teammates meant UofH asked him to do things that OSU didn't have to ask of J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones. Texas' situation will be closer to Ohio State's. All that to say, I expect Texas' offense to more closely resemble what Herman did at Ohio State than what he and Applewhite did at Houston. Even if I'm wrong, the core concepts are the same. And there's one other perk of watching these old OSU games: I have All-22 videos of some of them. We'll stick to using those since they're superior to TV broadcast angles in every way. Personnel and Alignment Most of the offense will be run out of 11 personnel (1 back and 1 tight end), same as this year's Texas offense. Unlike Sterlin Gilbert's offense, however, there's also a fair amount of 21 personnel, typically with a tailback and a slot receiver type (Urban Meyer calls this player the H; think Percy Harvin and Curtis Samuel, or UofH's Demarcus Ayers and D'Eriq King). The H is a bigly player in this offense, as you'll see. Sometimes he'll start in the backfield, but more often he's motioned in before the snap. Tight ends (Y) will line up in-line, as H-backs or occasionally as offset fullbacks. Empty, 12 and 10 personnel are also prevalent. It goes without saying that the days of crazy wide receiver splits are over. This offense will actually go in the opposite direction, frequently using "nasty" (tight) receiver splits for some passing concepts, which we'll get to in Part 2. Another interesting feature is the use of unbalanced sets, including Quads (four receivers to a side). The Plays The Sterlin Gilbert preview had a handful of run plays in it; this one's going to triple that number. The base play is Inside Zone, but even that has several mutations (we'll look at Inside Zone Read, Zone Arc, Split Zone, Zone Bluff and Bash). There are off-tackle runs: Outside Zone, Pin & Pull, Buck Sweep, Speed Option... And there are between-the-tackle gap schemes like Power-O, Power Read, Counter H, Wham and Dart. We'll look at the individual plays in a second, but just look at some of the variety Herman can hit the defense with from 11 personnel sets just based on whether the tailback and H-back are on the same side... ... or opposite sides. Obviously, it gets more complicated when you add a second back to the mix with the threat of Jet Sweep, Lead Outside Zone, Triple Option and so on. Inside Zone This is the bread-and-butter play, a quick hitter that attacks the A gaps. I assume people know what the play looks like, so I just highlighted that they will run it toward or away from the tight end. The same is true if the Y is lined up in an H-back role, but if he and the back are to the same side, it becomes Zone Arc, in which the H-back will arc around the read man to block someone on the second level. This gives the quarterback a lead blocker if the defensive end crashes down and takes away the dive. They can also run Midline Zone Read, where a defensive tackle is the unblocked read defender instead of the backside defensive end, but I didn't see that frequently enough to warrant its own gif. Split Zone Everything about this play is the same as Inside Zone Read — including the fact that the backside end is initially left unblocked — except that this time the H-back crosses the formation and kicks out the end, creating a seam for a cutback. Somehow I don't have an example of this, but another variation of Split Zone is Zone Bluff, where the H-back will act like he's going to kick out the unblocked defender, only to wrap around him to block the next guy, just as he would in Zone Arc. The quarterback reads the end the same way: If he attacks the block, the QB keeps; if he stands pat, the QB gives. And here's the first appearance of the H, this time played by #17 Jalin Marshall. The blocking is the same, and shades of Zone Bluff are visible — the H-back doesn't immediately engage the outside linebacker, and if the OLB crashed inside, the H-back would bypass him for the next inside linebacker. The quarterback is reading the OLB as well. If he had crashed, the QB would have pulled and proceeded on with the option, with Marshall as the pitch man. Power-O This one should be very familiar. Tight end kicks out, backside guard pulls and leads through the hole and the rest of the line blocks down. Another option, instead of blocking the defensive end, is to read him and send the tight end to the second level. This is Power Read. The quarterback becomes the "dive" player while the tailback or H (#10 Corey Brown) runs across his face in a sweep action. Counter Another familiar play is Counter, or specifically Counter H. The line blocks down except the backside guard pulls and kicks out the defensive end and the H-back (hence the "H" in the play's name) crosses the formation to lead block for the tailback. Notice the backfield action. Most teams (including Houston and Texas last year) put the tailback on the side away from where the play is going. He takes a counter step before turning back and receiving the handoff. I'm not sure which way Herman will do it at Texas, though I seem to recall that he did it the same way it's done in this gif when he was at Iowa State. We'll see. If the quarterback is a capable runner, he can carry it himself with either an H-back or even a tailback as his lead blocker. So yeah, maybe we'll see this one in a few years. Outside Zone Here's a new one. The offensive line basically tries to hook the defense or, if it can't, tries to run them to the sideline. The tailback gets the handoff in a sort of sweep action. Theoretically the quarterback could read the backside defensive end or backside linebacker and decide to keep it if the defense overpursued. Now with the H carrying it and the tailback acting as a lead blocker: The next one is "Jet Sweep," but it's the same idea except with the H receiving the handoff while in motion and not starting in the backfield. Notice how wide the tailback is, a clue that an outside run is coming. He's lined up wide so he can get out front quickly as a blocker. If he's capable, the quarterback can also run it himself: A related play Herman will dial up from time to time is Pin & Pull. It's the same backfield action but the offensive line is no longer zone blocking. If a lineman has a defender lined up on him, he blocks him; if not, he pulls. In this example, the left tackle and center are uncovered, so they're the pullers. Flip the back to the other side and the quarterback could just as easily keep it himself, though I don't expect Shane Buechele to be doing much of that either. Dart These next two plays aren't run frequently enough to warrant their own sections, I just think they're cool. Notice at the beginning of this play how much it looks like basic Inside Zone. The trick is that the backside tackle pulls and the tailback uses his counter steps to follow him. You can see the headache this causes for the playside linebacker, who thinks he's seeing Inside Zone, overpursues and then gets trapped inside by the pulling tackle. Bash Finally, this is a combination of Inside Zone Read (the blocking) and Power Read (the backfield action and read). I've also seen this called Switch Read (because the quarterback and tailback switch their Inside Zone Read responsibilities), but Bash is Meyer's terminology. The way this offense toys with defensive ends is great and may be worth exploring later. There you have it. We'll get to the passing game soon, hopefully this weekend.
  13. Let's wrap this up and start preparing for Hermania. OFFENSE If a Foreman Falls in the End Zone, but Big 12 Refs Are Around to See It... I expected the offense to struggle, but I thought they'd at least score a touchdown. Turns out, they did. This is, I believe, the same play Texas started running a couple weeks ago. Every time they motioned Dorian Leonard into the formation, they did this. There was never a constraint play, no tricks or frills. Having a freshman quarterback in no way prohibits them from running a play-action pass from this set. Anyway, the penetration from both edges makes things a lot more difficult. D'Onta Foreman did a nice job avoiding it and diving for the end zone, and then falling over it. Take that "can't see his knee" crap somewhere else; if you have a basic understanding of human anatomy, you can tell his knee wasn't down. Who knows how those seven six points (let's not assume anything) would have affected the outcome. Probably not at all, but that's why the games are played. Go Get Paid, D'Onta I'm of the belief he was leaving either way. It's the right thing for him to do, at least. Check out this run. The play, Counter H, should be familiar. Patrick Vahe, the pulling guard, wants to kick out the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMLOS). The EMLOS wants to squeeze inside the kick-out block and spill the ball to the outside. Vahe won. That meant the two TCU defenders going outside to clean up the spill are now in the wrong spot. Foreman reads it well and is off to the races. Freshman to Freshman Here's something to look forward to for at least the next two years. I'm really not sure why Texas didn't run this inside fade with Devin Duvernay more often. TCU is in Cover 1, with a safety on Duvernay. It doesn't help him that he's running up to take away the quick throws and has to reverse field, but he wasn't going to keep up with Duvernay anyway. The offensive line gives Shane Buechele a rare clean pocket and he puts it right on the money. I'm not 100% certain Buechele will be the guy long-term (more like 60%), but it's important to remember that (1) he was a true freshman; (2) he was banged up for much of the season; and (3) his playcaller didn't do him many favors. The fact that every route and throw is predictable has little to do with Buechele. He kept his composure all year and never shied away from pressure, even when he was getting his rips cracked by it. Those are things you can't teach. DEFENSE Let's look at the one positive play we've got in the highlights (and even that ended with a negative). Maybe DeShon Is Good I still don't know if he got playing time because Jason Hall was hurt or because he just passed him on the depth chart, but DeShon Elliott gave us some cause for optimism. TCU has a good route concept for the coverage (Cover 2), but Kenny Hill stared down the receiver the whole way. He should have never thrown this ball. I'm excited about getting to face Mr. Trill one more time next year. Bad Press Technique Here's how not to play press coverage. The goal here for the defender is to stay square with the receiver as long as possible and match his release. Instead, Kris Boyd lunges at the receiver at the snap and immediately gives him a release. Press coverage is won by the DB's feet, not his hands. All the athleticism in the world can't cover for that. Confusion Abounds I'm not sure Texas wasn't lined up wrong or confused about assignments on every other TCU touchdown. Notice that Naashon Hughes and Edwin Freeman are moving around at the snap — Freeman because he's blitzing, but Hughes seems to have just realized he's in the wrong spot. It's just inside zone read, but Texas has no one to take away the quarterback. My guess would be that Dylan Haines was supposed to be out there, but it's just a guess. Watching the rest of the game would probably reveal more, but who wants to do that? I can't figure out how Texas could have stopped this play from this alignment and with this zone blitz on. They're outnumbered at the point of attack. The only thing I can think is if Malik Jefferson had come flat down the line instead of bowing out like he was responsible for the bootleg (he isn't; P.J. Locke is), but even that is a hell of a thing to ask a player to do. Basically, the outcome of this play was inevitable as soon as the teams lined up. Here again, Texas loses the edge. The defensive end, Bryce Cottrell, can't let the ball get outside of him, because the only three defenders over there are focused solely on their receivers. Texas had Malik spying the quarterback for much of this game, but that doesn't work when he gets blocked. Texas is playing 2-Man, and I bet Malik and Breckyn Hager are combo'ing the running back — if he releases to Malik's side, Malik covers him and Hager spies Hill, and vice versa. So when the back goes to the right, I assume Hager should have assumed the responsibility of spying Hill, which he can't do if he shuffles outside like he did. Be thankful we don't have to watch Haines miss open-field tackles like this anymore. And the final part that's frustrating is that two guys had a chance to push Hill out of bounds and didn't. That is purely, 100%, an effort play. This is what you highlight when you say, "If you wanted to keep your coach, play like it." All right, that wraps up 2016. I'll pull something together once Tom Herman's coaching staff is in place like I did last offseason for Sterlin Gilbert so we can see what we're getting. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. Hook 'em.
  14. Well, I count this among the most pointless things I've ever done. DEFENSE I don't know why this play made the Big 12's highlights, but until the full game is uploaded, this is all we have to work with. I've never seen Texas run this zone blitz before, but I'm extremely confident that Anthony Wheeler and Jeffrey McCulloch were not meant to rush the same gap. If Wheeler goes through the A gap, he likely recognizes that the back is preparing to catch the ball and stops the play dead. Just kidding. But he might discourage the pitch. I also strongly suspect that DeShon Elliott's instructions included getting his eyes back to the quarterback and not blindly chasing the X receiver downfield. Kris Boyd should not have been the first player to make contact with the ballcarrier. Does this look like a well-coached team? Another reminder that I didn't pick the highlights. My suspicion, again, is that Charlie Strong didn't design this blitz with three guys coming off the edge. Wheeler very likely was supposed to squeeze inside the left tackle, aka the B gap. Guess where the ball went. The other linebackers, Breckyn Hager and McCulloch, calmly wait for the blockers to come to them. The result is even more space to run through. I spent way more time than necessary last week watching West Virginia because it was so cool to see good linebacker play. This isn't it. This was Kansas' only offensive touchdown. It's very hard to get stops in short-yardage situations without penetration. A couple of guys get it, but then you have true freshman defensive tackle De'Andre Christmas. He tries to read and react instead of fighting through the blocks to create disruption. That isn't going to cut it. Here's the two-point conversion. Pretty obvious what went wrong here. Dylan Haines recognized what Kansas was trying to do but lacked the athleticism to defend it. His first priority was not to lose the edge; his second priority was to force a throw or make the tackle. In his effort to accomplish priority two, he failed at priority one. OFFENSE This is as simple as it gets. The weakside linebacker has the unenviable task of taking away the quick throw to the slot receiver while also filling the B gap in the event of a run play. So Texas called both plays at once — inside zone with a hitch route. The linebacker can't be right, but the safety can still make the tackle and minimize the gain. This was not Fish Smithson's finest hour. We can fit the other two Texas touchdowns in one gif. First play: Caleb Bluiett and D'Onta Foreman did good things. Brandon Hodges and Elijiah Rodriguez did bad things. The good was enough to overcome the bad. No doubt Texas missed Jake McMillon and Zach Shackelford, but in a game like this, it shouldn't matter because you're playing Kansas. Second play: Split zone. The defensive line is pinching, which helped Hodges smash the end down inside. Kansas has a sophomore, backup linebacker in, and he goes the wrong way. You can't make mistakes like that against Foreman at the one-yard line. I'm still pretty sure Shane Buechele had a concussion in this game. He was playing like it. Texas runs the same route concept to both sides: basically a slant/flat. Kansas is in man coverage, and the hope is a defender will get rubbed. If the quarterback targets the wrong receiver, though, then it's as if the receiver got rubbed. This doesn't excuse it, but in Buechele's defense, Hodges was beaten so badly that he couldn't have gotten the ball to Jake Oliver even if he'd tried. Finally, the play that did Texas in. Buechele wanted to go to Andrew Beck on the out route, but between the linebacker and cornerback, it's bracketed. The coverage was well-disguised so I can't fault a true freshman for that. Also, the route was really bad, and it would have resulted in an interception if the ball had been thrown. Devin Duvernay will eventually be open behind the linebackers, but the pressure is a problem, as is the fact the defense is able to disrupt his route and slow him down. So after the incorrect pre-snap read, Buechele did a lot of things right — didn't throw a bad pass, eluded the pressure, extended the play and found an open man — but his throw sailed. I don't think Buechele should have been in the game at all after his injury. And it's not a hot take to say there was no excuse for Foreman having 52 touches. They needed to work Kyle Porter in earlier in the game — two carries is inexcusable. Potential concussions and extreme fatigue lead to mistakes like bad throws and fumbles. It's on the players, but they shouldn't have been put in those positions in the first place. And that is on the coaches.
  15. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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). 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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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