This week I just wanted to look at our running game against Iowa State. This is just a walk through of our runs through the first half with a quick look at second half adjustments (be warned it's long and somewhat meandering). It's important to note that although the offensive line had a few missed assignments here and there, by and large they played great against Iowa State and we averaged roughly 5 yards per carry against a stacked front until we went to almost exclusively working the inside zone in the second half with alternate personnel groupings on offense. The plays where we stuggled some in the running game, the breakdowns primarily came from missed seals by tight ends or whiffs in space by extra blockers. This game actually represented a step forward for the offensive line despite popular sentiment and I think that's evident on film.
The ability of our offense to move the ball against a stacked front really opened up some big play opportunities in the passing game and gave our quarterbacks a lot of time to work, particularly off of play action. Our ability to protect continues to surprise me, we only had one protection mistake and that was a double inside pressure where Espinosa was forced to choose between two blitzers and didn't know he had help from Whittaker on the play.
Looking Forward to Oklahoma
For the new offense this is absolutely the game they have been looking forward to. While it may be true that we prepare for one game at a time, we have very clearly been mixing elements from week to week as we build that are designed to set and break tendency over and over again. Harsin is pretty clearly a guy who understands the importance of emotion and momentum on top of strategy and honestly he seems like he was designed for high stakes games like this. I expect some fireworks early to try to gain the emotional upper hand.
Iowa State was very instructive for us heading into Oklahoma. I expect Oklahoma to employ a similar tactic of using their defensive ends to control the C gaps almost exclusively, and aggressive tactics with their outside linebackers and defensive backs to pressure outside the tackles and try to grab some tackles for loss. I see Texas' big opportunities coming from cutbacks on our power, counters, and inside zone along with draws and play action to crossers in the middle. The middle of the field is going to be wide open, the question is whether we can find the lanes to exploit it.
Flipping around to our defense against the Oklahoma attack: I think we'll actually see Oklahoma start this game conservatively with up tempo 3-step passing and inside zone running. They are going to try to avoid our pressure concepts and force us to commit to defending the flats then work their downfield passing once the game slows down a little also hoping that our young team will shoot itself in the foot a few times. Diaz has shown that he has the patience to avoid exposing his coverage and let the opponents drive the ball: that will be crucial to the defense's success over the course of the game. I expect Manny to continue to vary our defensive concepts throughout the game and avoid giving their offense reliable reads.
Texas probably shouldn't be in the same conversation as a top 5 team this year. They are. Regardless of the outcome this team has definitely exceeded early expectations and are trending upward quickly. The Longhorns don't look like a young team on film right now except in that they are somewhat limited conceptually at this stage. This is largely mitigated by the simplicity, intelligence, and diversity of the schemes our staff is employing. Ash, Shipley, Brown and our young corners have all have looked completely calm when they are under pressure thus far. So while traditional logic tells me that a team this young will be overwhelmed on this stage, I don't think that applies to the 2011 Texas Longhorns. It's also obvious that this team is playing with a very high level of confidence within their concepts. All schematic talk aside, they are becoming a group that believes it will make the big plays and I think that's crucial in the RRS where the emotional swings are insanely amplified.