Kansas didn't offer much in the way of defensive resistance but they did offer us a medium to codify what we worked on in the bye week. Against Kansas you saw a much more streamlined play selection than in previous games: the Power O alone probably accounted for a third of our offensive play calls.
Early in the season we didn't do anything well enough to hang our hat on. Harsin compensated by doing everything he could to get some plays to the edge and tried to keep the plays as diverse as possible while keeping some consistent themes from week to week. We definitely had some bumps along the way and we are still very unbalanced but you can start to see some of the foundation that Harsin has been laying since he arrived paying dividends.
The blocking of Luke Poehlmann, Cody Johnson, and Josh Cochran has helped round out the positive momentum we have been building on the offensive line. The Power O and Inside Zone paired with our edge concepts become much more difficult for the defense to respond to now that we are starting to win our battles with the defensive ends. I would guess that we will see a significant amount of Flex outside zone this week with Poehlmann finally consistently executing the critical seal block that makes that play go.
The themes we have been seeing from defenses lately have been to overcommit to the edges of the box and then use their ends to create congestion down the line of scrimmage. The idea is to deter our outside speed running with the threat of tackles for loss. Iowa State was the first approach us in this general paradigm. Oklahoma scored big on it. Since then we have coped with it fairly well. When you look at what we have chosen to develop in the last two games, it's clear that Harsin gets it.
The focus on developing the quick game is not just to give Ash 3-step drops and underneath passes. It's also a direct deterrent to teams that are trying to use corner blitzes to sabotage our run game (as all of last 3 opponents have). Kansas exposed the flats over and over against us and we were able to turn that into easy chunks of yards on first downs. It should be noted that David Ash is surprisingly adept in the quick game and that gives Harsin a powerful play calling tool since the quick game is probably the most insulated type of play call for an offense. You can run it against just about any type of defense and still have an opportunity to execute (as long as it's not the only thing you do).
Additionally we are developing the traditional screen game in conjunction with our vertical passing concepts and draw plays. This is important because while it's great to be able to consistently eat chunks of yards up in the power run game, we need the nuclear threat to develop as well. It's not a probabilistic recipe for success to have to convert 4 or 5 third downs every time you put together a scoring drive. In addition to adding big play potential on early downs they also give us an alternative to exposing our offense's most tender spot: protecting 3rd and long.
I believe the key to the Tech game lies in the matchup between their defensive ends and our extra blockers. Cody Johnson, Luke Poehlmann, and Barrett Matthews are the guys that I think decide this game. If Texas wins that battle then Tech's ability to get us off schedule is minimized and we will wear them down and put our defense in a position to take over the game. What I saw against Kansas looked like genuine progress in technique and coordination not just an overmatched opponent. I think Tech should be fun. And I tend to only truly enjoy utter domination.