Texas Longhorns-Iowa State Cyclones Football Post-Mortem: Offense/Special Teams

Cooper Neill

1st down play action deep. Running game. Rinse. Repeat.

Texas won a decisive 33-7 victory that felt more like 53-7.

Observe:


Offense

7.9 yards per play, 609 yards, and total domination at the line of scrimmage. The Longhorns have developed a strong 1st down play action identity over the last two weeks and that's not going to stop until defenses learn that Harsin will attack downfield out of run formations and that Texas can run adeptly out of pass-friendly formations, particularly with Johnathan Gray in the game.

I mentioned last week that Harsin has tweaked the Mike Davis play action go route to a deep post to facilitate Ash's accuracy on the deep ball and that observation bore out against the Cyclones. That's great coaching. Don't yell at the guy for what he can't do consistently - give him a better route to throw.

The Longhorns are currently ranked 5th in the nation in turnovers lost, 3rd in tackles for loss allowed, and 8th in the country in passing efficiency. Those are key offensive efficiency measures and evidence of a very well-constructed attack that can balance risk aversion with strong production (39.6 points per game). That Texas can do those things and maintain one of the better downfield passing games in college football is a testament to how this offense is coming together, even without all of the pieces required or desired.

We could nitpick over the DJ Grant 4th and 1 red zone play action call, but that call, along with all of the others, was about an attacking mindset and putting the fear of God into defensive coordinators who like the crib sheet of down and distance tendency to aid their calls. Take that crib sheet away and defenses get exposed. As ISU's did.

WR/TE

I never start with the TE position, but the development of Greg Daniels (2-62) and the reward play to Barrett Matthews in the red zone for the touchdown are reminders of what the position can be if Daniels continues his development. Greg has prototypical size, caught the ball well on the Wishbone gadget play, and then looked very polished on a play action roll out. I'm eager to see what an offseason of development will mean for him as a blocker and pass catcher. This position will substantially better in 2013.

Jaxon Shipley put on a balls skills clinic exploiting ISU's weak corners (8-137) and Mike Davis (7-113-1td) offered his routine deep ball TD and proved extremely elusive catching the ball inside Iowa State's loose zone coverages. Nice to see Cayleb Jones snag a ball late, too. If Shipley and Davis can continue to demand honest fronts when Texas goes to its 2 WR packages, they pretty much guarantee the effectiveness of our running game.

OL

Dominant. Ash wasn't sacked. Our running backs had constant holes throughout the game (222 yards rushing, 4.9 yards per attempt, longest run only 15 yards) and very few mental lapses. No, this is not a physically dominating unit, but they're dialed in, play hard, and they have a surprising level of athleticism in the open field.

Every OL performed between a B+ and an A. On balance, this unit has shown marked improvement vs. last year.

RB

Malcolm Brown emerged from carbon deep freeze to garner all of the 4th quarter carries (10-31) but Gray (14-74-2 tds) and Bergeron (12-86) carried the load when it mattered with decisive, physical running and several nice cuts. Gray's work in the screen game (2 catches, 31 yards) is now very good after struggles against Kansas. He has a great feel for the development of this play and his first step powers him out of the early blow-up potential from the LBs. Our disguise on that misdirection screen play is wicked, by the way. I couldn't be happier with the current structure of our backfield and if Brown can earn his way back, there's plenty of room for him.

DJ Monroe and Daje Johnson didn't see the ball much for good reason - ISU played their DEs wide and upfield to prevent the outside running game and jet series. That's three straight weeks we've seen that tactic. We were more than happy to pound away inside.

QB

A career day for Ash not only in terms of gaudy objective statistics (24 of 31, 362, 2 tds, 0 ints) but also subjectively as a decisive passer who got the ball out on time, accurately, with confidence, attacking every level of the defense. This was a complete passing performance, despite 30 mile per hour wind gusts, spawned from an extremely aggressive game plan that carried over from Texas Tech.

Ash's passing on 1st down was the key: 11 of 14 for 222 yards. Including throws of 61, 47, and 38. If you want to understand how we're taking the next step as an offense and David Ash's progress as a QB, look nowhere else but here. It's opening up everything.

Defensive coordinators looking to cheat on "run downs" have a lot of film now suggesting that they'll have their asses handed to them. If they want to beat the Texas offense, they'll need to do it by winning match-ups and making great calls, not hedging bets.

Special Teams

A net loss, unfortunately. A disappointing missed extra point and blocked field goal (low trajectory) from Fera cost Texas 4 points and earned him pine as Nick Jordan closed out the game with a pair of successful kicks (37, 25). Shaky field goal kicking doesn't make me happy, but if it means that we'll continue to push the envelope on 4th downs, there is a silver lining. I just hope we don't need to make a pressure kick to win a game over the next three.

Alex King has been tremendous all year. We only punted twice, but neither could be returned. The Longhorns are 8th in the nation in net punting and most of that is King. A really nice addition.

Longhorn return game and coverage were net losses. ISU averaged 29 yards per return on kickoffs and started near mid-field twice. I understand the role the wind played, but this was about tackling and staying in lanes.

Final

This was a dominant offensive display that didn't always translate cleanly to the scoreboard. Some of that is on Texas, but Iowa State had something to do with that. The main takeaway is that Texas did what it wanted on offense when the game still mattered before running clock for the entire 4th quarter.

8-2 and we're going to kick the hell out of bye week this Saturday.

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