I know, Gloomy Gus back with another unpleasant look at an unpleasant event. But, I just signed up for BevoD so I had the game available. Suck it.
This game is a perfect example of why you can't predict future results based off the previous year's contest. It could've easily been 28-7 in our favor had we gotten a few little breaks. Now, A&M more than deserved to win, it's not that I'm trying to take something away from them (OK . . . maybe a little), all I mean is that we played better than the scoreboard showed.
This post will focus on the offense, since the defense, while not great, was not the reason we lost. Chizik couldn't defend Johnston High's option attack, and A&M killed most of their drives on their own, but we did only give up 12.
A&M lined up against us like so:
The first picture is their 4-2-5 umbrella look (the W stands for Whip, a hybrid S/LB). This is what we saw most of the time. We couldn't get deep or intermediate routes against the 4 deep look because they specifically engineered their defense to clamp down on them. They gave us anything we wanted short and relied on QB sacks, DL penetration and penalties to end our drive, which worked like a charm. Occasionally they would line up like the 2nd diagram, putting the SS down in the box to help against the run.
Since they were giving us underneath patterns, we should have been more active in working there. Colt was 9/9 on passes under 10 yards, and 3/13 with 3 INT on passes over 10 yards. I may have missed a pass or two, but the pattern is evident. You don't need to be Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind to see it.
A&M played bend but don't break to absolute perfection. We would put together a nice 7 play drive only to give it away on a turnover or bad pass or something. What A&M did was drop the LBs way back to take away the seam and deep middle patterns we like to run, giving their DL time to rush Colt. That was really what turned the game, the coverage sacks.
This is a generic example of what I mean. Normally, underneath zone defenders try to bump the receiver running past them to slow them down, then let them go. A&M's underneath guys stayed way back and on top of the receivers for as long as possible, making Colt hold the ball longer while his guys got open. This led to several sacks where Colt didn't see or care to throw to his outlet (the INT where his arm was hit. Sweed was wide open, but he needed to get rid of the ball sooner). In this example, by the time the receivers work free, Colt is pressured and has to focus on not getting sacked.
This is evident especially on passing downs and late game situations. The Aggie LBs lined up 6-8 yards off the ball, double what most schools will do. We needed to adjust in our gameplan to run and throw short, because we had success with that. But of course, we aren't the type of team that adjusts. Our first drive was a good one, centered around short passes. Had we converted the 4th and inches inside A&M's 10 yard line, I think we probably go on to win. Not only did it keep us from scoring, but A&M took it on a long drive the next possession and scored. Brian Robison missing a tackle on 3 and 10 didn't help matters either (1:58 here). These are plays that change entire games. No sport is more susceptible to the ripple effect of one small outcome.
So we get the ball back, march down the field with short passes and runs, and Colt throws his INT after the lame Sweed PI call (again, we win if it's not called).
Now you may say that if those breaks fall our way, there is no telling HOW the game is changed. I disagree. We put A&M away in 2005 when time started running out and they were forced to pass. They have a QB that can't throw, an OL that can't pass block, and a bunch of TEs masquerading as WRs. They aren't going to throw on you and win. Last year, we never got ahead enough to force them to the air. If we are leading 21-6, they need to start throwing. The game tilts even more in our favor.
What really killed us though was the playcalling on our last drive while leading 7-6. We lined up in two TE sets or I formation sets, and ran it down their throats. 4 runs, 20 yards, two first downs. All we need to do is keep handing it off. What we do is classic Greg Davis, lining up in shotgun and throwing an intermediate seam route into the teeth of the defense. Mark Dodge comes over from his area guarding the outlet pass to knock it away:
This was possible because of how deep he dropped. Had Colt thrown the outlet pass, we've likely got 2nd and 4 or 5. Instead he went with the primary route and we were left with 2nd and 10, and we didn't convert. Punt, touchdown, game.
That is what happened all day. We'd put together nice drives, but then one bad call or decision or pass and we're in long yardage situations and unable to convert. The INTs didn't help either, of course, but they were all three part of the scheme's effect on the game. A&M intercepted those passes in the coaches room during the week, so to speak.
To summarize, we lost because we got outcoached and outplayed. If we had gotten lucky, we would've still won, because our players are better, but we didn't. This should've been a comfortable win, aside from maybe a half dozen plays. That's the story of our 2006 football team.