While my offensive and defensive previews set up the strategies by which I thought there was the most hope of beating Oklahoma, I had very little faith that we'd both follow those formulas and successfully execute them. Zero faith, in fact.
On offense in particular I was convinced that we'd probably make only a timid approach to running the ball before resorting back to the spread concepts that Major installed in the offseason and getting murdered by OU's speed and anti-spread scheme. Instead Texas came out and ran the ball down the Sooners' throats from the opening drive to the end of the game.
Defensively it was fairly obvious what Gerg would attempt to do against the Sooners, obvious at least to everyone besides Bob Stoops and Josh Heupel. They were clearly totally unprepared for what was prepared for them in Austin.
What in fact happened in that 108th competition between the Oklahoma and Texas football programs was Texas coming out and establishing physical superiority in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The tremendous athletic reservoir that comes from cherry-picking Texas' finest every season was totally unleashed on the Sooners and they were completely overwhelmed. It was a beautiful sight, I wept...
I didn't actually, but it was wonderful to see the resources and potential of my home state and school brought to bear in a game of importance.
This post-mortem is going to flow a little differently than normal, because I'm going to pause at select moments to note what we all overlooked going into this game that enabled such a surprising result.
We all totally overlooked two factors that were building up steam over both the last few years as well as the last few weekends.
The last few years the Sooners have struggled to stock up with the necessary athletes to maintain their dominance. In a bit of malaise much like what overtook Texas during the Colt McCoy era, Oklahoma found themselves in a position this year in which they lacked defensive tackles, depth at linebacker, or dominant outside receivers.
This is why Bobby cleaned house this last offseason to bring aboard assistants would elevate OU's recruiting to where it needs to be. Now, the adjustments made by the revamped staff, particularly on defense, were all excellent. However, the lackadaisical recruiting left OU in a vulnerable spot. Their 3-3-5, Cover-3 approach to 2013 was heavily built around the foundation of weak inside linebacker Corey Nelson, nose tackle Jordan Phillips, and lockdown corner Aaron Colvin.
They have other good defensive players, but all three of those keystone pieces were on the sidelined injured before the game ended, and neither Nelson nor Phillips played a snap the entire game. That was enormously important in this game, the sins of past recruiting caught up to Oklahoma at the best time.
Additionally, OU had a bye week three weeks ago before enduring the stretch of @Notre Dame, TCU, and then their contest against Texas. The offensive gameplans for attacking the Notre Dame and TCU defenses were far better than what OU managed against Texas. The defensive gameplan that erased the Frog offense for nearly three quarters was not present in OU's approach against Texas.
For the most part, OU was simply overmatched, but their usual advantage in the gameplan was conspicuously absent in this game. I'm left to speculate that Bob didn't put his usual care and attention into this contest. I saw very little that was new for them save for some perimeter runs that featured Trey Millard, their best blocker and slowest runner, trying to beat Texas defenders who had previously struggled handling lead blocks and fast players in space.
Alternatively, while I projected that Texas might have skimped on preparing for Iowa St and therefore left themselves at risk to drama, the obvious upside was greater preparation for Oklahoma. This paid off big time. Applewhite armed Case McCoy with an attack plan for the Sooners that effectively combined the successful elements of the Irish and Frog attacks: wheel routes that attacked OU's nickel and dimebacks in deep coverage, heavy formations and Outside Zone against their small fronts, and frequent challenges to their daring single coverage against Mike Davis.
I wasn't sure if Blake Bell's weaknesses throwing vertical pass patterns with the right timing would hold up if we crowded the line of scrimmage in this game but it absolutely did. Gerg's plan to use press coverage to take away the Yeti's easy short throws to explosive possession receivers completely bottled up the Sooners' only recourse in the event that their run game was slowed.
I'm not at all sure why OU didn't carry a more extensive run package into this game but I can only assume that back-up QB's Trevor Knight and Kendall Thompson were injured or totally unprepared for this game. I don't believe Bell is injured based on the way he finished the TCU game and his play against Texas. Some people suggested he looked slower against Texas and must be injured. I've watched a lot of Oklahoma football this year..Yeti isn't very fast to begin with, he just runs through snow better because of his girth.
Great job by the Texas coaches in applying good principles of risk management to prepare for this game. I recommend that they use most of the following two weeks to prepare a plan that will enable Case to generate points against TCU and save Baylor prep for future favorable scheduling breaks that will occur for this team. If Texas prioritizes @TCU and takes care of business at home against Tech and OSU, it's possible that a loss @Baylor wouldn't disqualify Texas from the league crown. At any rate, there's 10 days between the prior game and that contest.
Time for some unit breakdowns
We knew that we have some great coverage corners. Even with Sheroid Evans lost for the season, Carrington Byndon-Quandre Diggs-Duke Thomas is a better top three than perhaps any other B12 school can claim in terms of man coverage abilities.
Their ability to lockdown OU's receivers was a major key to this game. I will caution that a similar approach may struggle against more a more well-rounded passing team as Waters-to-Lockett demonstrated. However, Thomas' growth and confidence that will come from this game could launch him to great heights this season.
What many overlooked heading into this game is the play of Adrian Phillips. This versatile senior is possibly the most indispensable player on the defensive roster and he was often involved in the defense's biggest plays. Check out this play on a key third down:
I noted before the game that playing Edmond and Santos on the field at linebacker would result in them being exposed by OU's spread formations either by a slot receiver or one of the running backs running a route. Well Gerg had an answer for that dilemma, when OU trotted out their four wide receiver sets he took out Santos, moved Thompson to field safety, brought in Turner to play the boundary spot, and had Phillips line up at whichever linebacker spot was most likely to be targeted in coverage.
In the clip above he begins lined up to take away a quick in by the innermost slot receiver, so Bell and OU check into a play to get the running back matched up on Edmond. Texas then switches defenses and have Phillips wait at the line of scrimmage to jam the running back and lock him down out of the backfield.
Gerg had his troops prepared to take away everything OU was comfortable with in the passing game and Phillips was a favored instrument. He also finished with nine tackles, many of them preventing OU runners who escaped the Texas DL from doing damage in the open field. Early on Millard attempted to jump over Phillips again and found himself on the ground.
Turner and Thompson did well playing the edge and leveraging runs to team pursuit, they are both moving towards become average B12 safeties, which is all we need so long as Phillips is healthy and the DL maintains its current play.
Gerg couldn't have made this game much easier for Santos and Edmond. There was, however, one stretch in which Oklahoma successfully targeted Edmond with their "Sooner formation" which is a diamond formation with Trey Millard and their other fullback Ripowski flanking the QB backed by a running back.
These three clips demonstrate three consecutive plays by Oklahoma:
You see the progression: Edmond is surprised by the fullback's trajectory and gets sealed out of the hole, leaving Phillips to clean up the error downfield. Then Edmond remembers that OU often sprays their fullbacks into a lead block and cutback block from this formation and absolutely blows up Millard in the hole before wrapping up the runner. Great job, that was a man's play.
Next play, Millard releases past him for a big catch after running through the same hole and you can see in Edmond's response the late recognition. I'm not sure if his film study is inadequate or why the game has never seemed to slow down for Edmond but these clips demonstrate that he has great potential and technique when his awareness is there.
Santos is on a faster track of growth than Edmond and his health is crucial. Gerg has decided to slow things down for Jinkens by utilizing him as the Sam linebacker when opponents use bigger formations, rather than playing him at two different positions in Diaz's already complicated schemes. This is going to pay off big down the line when Jinkens is consequently allowed to develop into the major contributor his talent portends.
The Texas DL was one of the primary reasons that Texas won this game. When Heupel realized that Gerg was going to eliminate his precious passing game by locking down Texas athletes on in man coverage on all OU receiving threats, his natural response was to attempt to run the ball from spread sets.
Texas' response here to a trips formation was to have Phillips play "middle linebacker" and cover the innermost slot receiver (number three). Then, Turner is dropped down into the box where he essentially becomes the weakside linebacker. Edmond is lined up as other inside linebacker.
Oklahoma attempts to run Zone Stretch to the boundary, one of their most effective weapons in the running game. Tank Jackson moves far too quickly for OU's fantastic Center Gabe Ikard to reach him, and also moves too quickly for the right guard Bronson Irwin to reach him either. On the backside, Malcom Brown is dominating the left guard, Adam Shead. Their penetration destroys the angles for the run and results in a tackle for loss.
Neither TCU nor Notre Dame's well regarded defensive lines gave the Oklahoma OL a thrashing like what Texas administered Saturday. Josh Turner and Steve Edmond had little to do except maintain gap integrity unmolested, and then converge on the running back. That Texas was able to dominate OU's OL with their own DL made it impossible for Oklahoma to keep up with Texas on the scoreboard.
The performance of the Texas OL was the other primary factor in Texas' crushing victory over the Sooners. They dominated the Sooners' fronts. Credit to Major for making Outside Zone and big formations the key weapon in the gameplan rather than sticking with the Inside Zone/Power-O paired with quick outside passes.
Much like in the triumph of 2008, Texas unearthed an identity in this game that could serve for beating up most of the other B12 teams as well. I'll use a single highlight to demonstrate how Texas bullied the Sooners in the trenches.
Many of Texas' runs looked much like that. Espinosa was able to reach the OU nose tackles with relative ease, or alternatively leave that task to Hopkins while flying up to the 2nd level to take out a linebacker. Texas unleashed the full complement in this game: Inside Zone, Power-O, lead draw, but the success of Outside Zone set the pace. Texas was successful blocking on the edges but got consistent push and leverage from the interior. Hopkins-Espinosa-Walters is likely to be a trio that brings Texas success against most of the remaining schedule.
Kendall Sanders beat Colvin with a few routes, Mike Davis is a player that opponents will have to gameplan for that should free up running room against future opponents, Jaxon Shipley is one of the better 3rd down options in the entire league, Marcus Johnson is already a weapon...Darrel Wyatt has done an exception job with this group.
Texas has a number one receiver that most opponents will struggle to take away without safety help and several others that can punish a team for leaving them isolated against other defenders. OU attempted various coverage leverages and tried to apply the "Case rules" by pressing the boundary corner and were unable to cover up all of Texas' receiving options on 3rd down.
The secret at Texas the last few weeks has been that the offensive line and wide receivers have been steadily improving each week while we the fans have been caught up in the team's lackluster performances and how doomed we are with Case McCoy at quarterback.
Whatever happened against New Mexico St, this team is moving piles and getting open now.
I'm including Daje Johnson here since he is essentially a running back in the duties he performs for the team, even when split out wide. I was concerned when he was moved to Punt returner that it was a desperation move out of fear that we'd have no other way to get the ball to him against Oklahoma's tight man coverage and loaded box.
Instead, he proved to make sensible decisions with the football and made the return that sealed the game. He's the best player on an offense loaded with All-Conference candidates.
Jonathan Gray's willingness to be a halfback and lead blocker in formations that place Daje Johnson as running back make him extremely valuable to the team. He's a more willing and competent blocker than either Malcolm Brown or Joe Bergeron, which means he's going to get more snaps AND touches in this offense. See how that works Joe?
Malcolm Brown's excellent vision and ability to run low and pick up tough yards inside make him the perfect complementary back and similarly wave off any need for Joe Bergeron in the rotation. Gray is the better runner with the higher upside, but Brown is the tougher runner and gains positive yards more consistently.
I'm all for giving Gray, Brown, and Johnson at least 40 total touches or so per week.
I think we might have underestimated Case McCoy's offseason. If you've ever been on a service trip of any kind, you realize that the potential character growth can seriously outweigh many other considerations. Case's timing with the current receivers isn't phenomenal, nothing about his game is, but I'd wager that his growth as a player since the idiotic mistake in San Antonio has had a lot to do with his overall growth as a person.
He no longer comes across as the entitled and insecure younger brother of a Longhorn hero, but someone who clearly shoulders the responsibility he has been given with poise. His ability to make checks at the line and manage Texas' run game is invaluable. His ability to complete the deep fades that comprise almost the entirety of Texas' vertical passing game sans Ash has kept "Case rules" from destroying all the teams' potential.
Applewhite has helped him out considerably with more under center formations, double tight end sets, and by bunching up Texas receivers on the hash marks and to the boundary. The result of all that is that people like Shipley are able to get a clean release to areas of the field that Case's arm can reach.
He left some points on the field Saturday and gifted Oklahoma a late score, but Case and the Texas offense have shown enough versatility to keep teams from teeing off on his weaknesses and he's obviously preparing vigorously for opponents. As long as Major is able to put him in positions to succeed I have little doubt that Case will maximize his abilities and execute his assignments. You can't ask for more than that.
Whether or not Applewhite will be able to put him in manageable situations against TCU or in however many other games he has to start while we wait to find out if Ash's football career will continue this season or ever, I'm not sure. I do believe that if Texas can match the preparation and effort they put forth against Oklahoma they can win the conference though.
In 2010 Mack Brown and his coaching staff went all in on one game, heading into Lincoln, Nebraska with a dynamite game plan and a team that was fired up unlike in any other contest that season. While Nebraska had an absolutely dominant pass defense that seemed ready to obliterate Garrett Gilbert and the Texas offense, the Longhorns unveiled a shocking QB run game and some unexpected physicality on inside zone that stunned the Cornhuskers.
Meanwhile Muschamp wagered against the Nebraska deep passing game and locked down their versatile run game. It was a thunderous win that revealed the potential of even the 2010 Texas team if deployed well.
Then Texas went back to sleep and lost every remaining game on the schedule save for a late non-conference home game against Florida Atlantic.
Stay awake Texas, and realize the potential that still exists for this season.