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By Ryan Bridges I won’t repeat my rant from last week. This team is close — objectively closer than they’ve been in years. (Eleven of their 21 losses the past three seasons came by 14 points or more. There’s some teams left on the schedule that could pull that off, but it hasn’t happened yet.) The offensive coaches aren’t doing a good job. The players aren’t taking advantage of enough opportunities either. Let’s rip the Band-Aid off and start there. Side note: I’m throwing this together in a hurry because I’m preparing to move across an ocean later this week. I gave the videos a lot of attention but the text was rushed at the end. At least you’re not paying $9.95/mo. for this. The Last Play Yes, this was the same route concept against man coverage that Clemson used to beat Alabama in the national championship last year. I hate the idea of running it to the left, but if I’m stretching for excuses, maybe there were defensive tendencies the coaches factored into their decision. Seeing the play-call and knowing that Reggie Hemphill-Mapps was out, the personnel makes more sense than it did at the time: Collin Johnson would have been a decoy where Dorian Leonard lined up; Lorenzo Joe is a smart player who they thought could execute the pick; and Jerrod Heard was the next man up after Hemphill-Mapps. I like the idea of having Lil’Jordan Humphrey out there somewhere, but that’s not egregious in my opinion. Two man defenders lined up at the same level against receivers with tight splits are begging to be picked. Heard did not take a good angle but he was still briefly open because his man had to bend around his teammate. I’m not interested in arguing about degrees of openness or whether the result would have been 1st & Goal or touchdown — this ball has to come out. Missed Opportunities P.J. Locke had a chance to recover the fumble at the 1-yard line on the drive that ended with the game-tying field goal, but someone blew a whistle, so I can’t blame him too much. There were also like four dropped passes on offense, and this offense isn’t good enough to drop passes. But let’s look at the two missed interceptions, because there’s some interesting schematic stuff. The first play is a good example of what makes Todd Orlando’s defense so confusing to offenses. The boundary side is playing Cover 2 and the field side is playing Quarters. That’s nothing fancy. Four players will be rushing the quarterback. You’d expect it to be the three down linemen and a linebacker — it’s almost always been Malik Jefferson. Instead, Charles Omenihu drops into the middle hook, Gary Johnson blitzes the B gap and John Bonney blitzes off the edge. I’m not sure what Mason Rudolph was thinking, but this throw was never going to be a good idea. An interception there gives Texas the ball at its own 39 or 40; after the punt, they took over at the -19. The receiver did a great job becoming a defender, though. The implications of the second drop, which was truly a drop, were much worse. Texas’ offense would have taken over at the Oklahoma State 36 with 1:07 left to play — four more yards and they’d be in range to attempt to replicate Josh Rowland’s season long of 49 yards. The defensive call exemplifies what the defense did most of the game: rushing three and playing three-deep, five-under zone coverage. Much like opposing teams have been doing to Texas’ offense, the Longhorns defense challenged Oklahoma State to run the ball, and they couldn’t consistently do it. Coverage Sacks and Quickness Sacks Breckyn “Brecklyn” Hager is a one-trick pony, but he’s probably the best on the team at that trick. The first of Hager’s two sacks was the definition of a coverage sack (Rudolph had close to six seconds in the pocket). This drive was Oklahoma State’s chance to answer Texas’ touchdown. It was 3rd & 4 near midfield, and Texas was playing Cover 2. There’s absolutely no one open. Good job, good effort. Hager’s second sack came in an equally critical situation. Without it, the Cowboys may have been able to attempt a field goal to end the half or get into range to run a play other than a Hail Mary. Note that it’s a three-man rush again with three-deep, five-under coverage on the back end. It’s a huge advantage for a defense if it has a pass rusher who can win one-on-ones when he gets them. Malik’s Game-Saving Tackle Last week, Naashon Hughes and Malik Jefferson teamed up to make back-to-back tackles that gave Texas’ offense the ball and a chance to win the game. Malik did it again on Saturday. 3rd & 3 at the Texas 13, five minutes left in the game. Oklahoma State runs zone read, with Rudolph pulling the ball and trying to run off-tackle. Technically, Bonney would be responsible for the quarterback, but he’s nine yards deep. Malik has the frontside A gap, but when he sees Rudolph pull the football, he scrapes over the top and makes the open-field tackle. The result: OK State attempted, and missed, a 29-yard field goal. Bullets Dodged It seemed like Texas had more lucky breaks go against it than in its favor — especially when it came to the officiating — but it caught a break here. They’re again running their three-deep, five-under zone. Oklahoma State is in a 3×1 set. They run four verticals, with the #3 receiver occupying the deep middle defender (Bonney). This puts Brandon Jones over the top of the #2 and #1 receivers, but fortunately he has the cornerback and nickel trailing them. In theory, this should force Rudolph to float the ball over the shallow defenders, hopefully giving Jones time to intersect the route. Somehow, Jones is slow to react to the throw. Splicing the two shots together, we know Rudolph started his throwing motion when the receiver was between the 35- and 30-yard lines. The ball looks to be at least two-thirds of the way there as Jones is planting his foot in response. Almost certainly he wasn’t disciplined with his eyes. And I don’t know what was wrong with his cleats, but he’s way too athletic to be stumbling and slipping around out there like he was. Speaking of poor eye discipline, for the second straight week we have a Texas DB looking for the football while out of phase with the receiver, enabling the receiver to get even more separation. The ball isn’t going to you, it’s going to him — focus your energy on catching up. Run D Locke seemed like he had a rough game again. He was tentative against the run on Oklahoma State’s lone touchdown, getting owned by a receiver who gave up 30 pounds to him. What I’ve seen of Malcolm Roach at defensive end this season has been mostly disappointing. He should get stronger, but he just hasn’t looked like the same player that he was playing in space as a freshman. He didn’t read his key on this 3rd down on a drive that led to the game-tying field goal. He’s supposed to drop back into the middle hook area, but only if he reads pass. He has to play the run first. He abandons the edge, and the Cowboys narrowly convert. Here’s a more positive play by the defensive front — one that potentially saved Texas from falling behind by 14 in the early second quarter. OSU runs outside zone, and Texas slants that way and brings a blitz off the backside edge. Poona Ford is a goddamn monster, breaks through and forces the cutback, right into the waiting arms of Chris Nelson. First man wraps up, second man rips at the football. Hell of a play. Ehlinger Every game, Ehlinger has made a number of plays that Shane Buechele can’t make. Against Oklahoma State, he made fewer of those types of plays than he had in any previous game. I don’t know whether that was due to linger effects from the totally-not-a-concussion he suffered last week, or whether it was because there’s enough tape on him now that defenses have him figured out (the same thing that happened with Heard and Buechele). Still, it’s hard to look good behind this offensive line. They had worked their way downfield behind a couple of nice runs by Ehlinger and had converted a 4th down, putting them inside the OSU 30. Then the right side of the line does this. The splits is not a good position to start a play for any player. Terrell Cuney gave it a shot anyway. Then he kicked it up a notch by not helping Derek Kerstetter at all. Against a twist stunt, it’s not enough to give the lineman a friendly nudge in your teammate’s direction. I’m running out of time to type more notes, so briefly, OSU’s coverage to the trips side was interesting — they were trying hard to take away the WR screen, but Texas had Hemphill coming across the formation for a quasi screen anyway. Sam’s got to throw this ball away. And briefly, the touchdown. I haven’t been able to find this cable cam view in the high-quality version of the game that I saved, so here it is in potato definition. I guess because this play yielded points once, Tim Beck decided to try it a hundred more times. I don’t know. I don’t think it worked again. But let’s celebrate the time when a two-yard gain on it was enough for six points.
The draft is this Thursday. Soon all of our questions will be answered and we can spend the summer debating Houston's decision at #1 Overall and what Jerry Jones was thinking. But before that time comes, there is a lot of conversation revolved around the two picks and the potential that Manziel could land with either team. So I'm interested, if Manziel lands with your team (Texans or Cowboys), could you/would you root for him?