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Losing the Point of Attack

Texas has won the battle in the trenches against the Sooners for the last several years. Generally, the defensive line on each side tends to have the advantage and I'm suspicious that both schools are/were prioritizing pass protection both in recruiting and in player development. This year OU dominated the line of scrimmage in all aspects of the game, but primarily pass protection and run defense.

The current Sooner OL cannot run the ball against a defense with BCS athletes and we handled them with 6 in the box with relative ease save for that one boundary Outside-Zone run that they seem to land at least once against everyone. The Diaz attack plan was to play Vaccaro in the nickel all game against Broyles and confuse Landry with a combination of Fire Zones and various 7 and 8 man coverages. Our base defense is a traditional Cover-3 Zone with mostly classic Under/Over defensive fronts and it saw heavy work. We also played Okafor some in a wide-9 technique that generated some of our only effective 4 man pass rush when he bulldozed their tight end. I don't think we've done that much this season and usually play him further inside to take advantage of his run defense.

I have no idea what Muschamp would have done against this Sooner offense because no one on our DL should scare opponents in a 1 on 1 matchup. Okafor or Jeffcoat playing a wide-9 more might help but that's not really enough. They've all been very good in run defense but we aren't collapsing the pocket for our young secondary anywhere near like we were in 2008.

After an injured Demarco Cobbs, Acho is probably our best pass rusher and Robinson might be 2nd on the list. Priority for the offseason and year two in the scheme is developing pass rush moves for all of our DL. The swim move should be useful since we stunt so much and Diaz's "run to daylight" and various pass-rush concepts definitely could benefit from another year in the crockpot. But some of it is also schematic as his DL at MIss St didn't get many sacks either.

Our Fire Zones still offer the best formation to bring pressure but they were actually some of our safer defensive calls against OU for two reasons.

1) The inability of our 4 man pass rush to consistently trouble Jones, and 2) Breakdowns in our secondary that occurred in 7 man coverages where we were plagued either by lack of discipline, execution errors, or execution failures.

In today's Big 12 there might be no better mark of a league champion than having an experienced pass offense and experienced secondary to handle everyone else's passing game. I've got some screen shot examples of coverage breakdowns that will demonstrate this.

So again, the plan is to play nickel and bewilder Landry by mixing Fire Zones with thick coverages. One of our main max-coverage calls was Cover-5. It's a 2 deep safety coverage with the linebackers and corners locked up in man coverage on the receivers and backs. Ideally you force the QB to hit extremely tight windows downfield and encourage short passes to the running backs that can't do much damage. On 2nd and 8, down 6-3 and after an offensive score with the chance to gain momentum we made the Cover-5 call against the following look:


OU is in the pistol with 2 WR, Millard and one of their RB's in the backfield, and a tight end to the boundary. We have Byndom on Stills, Vaccaro on Broyles and Gideon over the top. We can't play a much safer look than that.


Well OU had a plan to make it work. They send Broyles and Stills deep and the RB flares out. Robinson runs out to the flat with the RB, revealing us to be in man coverage which could be threatened by the RB-LB matchup. For that reason, Byndom unfortunately decides to peek back into the backfield, as though he were in a zone coverage with no deep responsibilities. Since OU has two of the league's best receivers going deep a wiser defensive back leaves the RB to Robinson until the ball has been thrown. Also, they ran this play to take the lead against Florida St. in the 4th quarter which we should have noticed on film. It gets much worse though.


Acho blitzes once he realizes his assignment, the FB, is not going out on a pass route. Diggs and Scott are pretty much wasted in double coverage on a tight end who is also pass protecting because OU wants to insure that Landry has time to execute the pump fake. The key point to note here is that Gideon is breaking towards Broyles who has created separation from Vaccaro by making a double move outside.

However, Byndom is still over Broyles and no one is behind Stills. His priority has to be protecting the endzone. I'm not really sure what happened here with Gideon. If he was reacting to the pump fake than his reaction time is incredibly slow, if he was trying to help on Broyles than he wasn't paying attention to Stills who had gained separation and was almost in the end zone. If he was reading Landry's eyes he was doing so poorly because #12 was looking to Stills after he pump faked. Whatever the case was, he was not honoring his deep safety responsibilities.


Here you see Gideon's head whipped around as he realizes the ball is going over his head to Stills. "Oh yeah that guy, the deepest receiver who was uncovered and headed towards the end zone..."

We were in a good coverage to deal with that play and had we played it correctly at either the corner position or at safety we could have been looking at a first down to the RB at worst and an interception or sack at best.

This OU offense should call to our minds our own 2008 Texas offense. An offensive line that is experienced in pass protection and nearly useless in run blocking, a QB who knows where to exploit coverages and delivers passes accurately to small windows, and 2 elite-level receivers who can stress a defense even in a coverage-heavy scheme. We see here that presenting a defense with both Stills and Broyles to the same side was more pressure than our crew could handle.

On the next OU drive we dial up Cover-5 again. First Byndom draws a pass interference call on Stills. That previous play where Byndom peeked into the backfield was really the only instance in which Stills bested him one on one. Byndom is already playing at roughly a 3rd team All-conference level with potentially 2 years left on scholarship. He's Curtis Brown with a mean streak. Or Cedric Griffin with no qualifiers. Let's hope we get those two years.

The Sooners find themselves in 1st & 25 and a Fire Zone causes an incompletion. 2nd & 25, same result. 3rd & 25, Diaz decides to play Cover-5 again and catch Landry trying to force something -- either an incompletion or turnover.


We show a massive blitz to disguise and encourage Landry to revert to freshman Uncle Rico mode and throw into heavy coverage.


Notice that our linebackers have managed to drop back in time to lock on to the inside receivers. We have Robinson deep down the middle, Byndom has totally out-leveraged Stills on the outside and the safeties are in deep drops. There are a few problems though. First, notice that Landry is looking to Reynolds vs. Diggs. Whether he believes we are blitzing or not he knows the best chance at a first down is to attack our 3rd corner with a much taller receiver. Decision made, Uncle Rico is going to throw it up and and at worst we get the ball deep in our own territory.


In Cover-2, Zone or man, the corner wants to jam the receiver outside along the sideline, or force them into a shallow cross. Once the receiver has to run along the sideline the deep safety can reach them and the QB has to make the farthest possible throw, deep to the far sideline, against the safety coming at a favorable angle.


We've seen this from UT corners before. Diggs lets the WR pursue his chosen route to the outside because that's where we wanted him to go anyways. But you should still jam the receiver and hold up their progress so that the QB has to hold the ball longer and the safety has more time to react to the route developments. If you blow the jam and get beat you still have the deep support and we are no worse off than we are here where Reynolds has tremendous separation.


It turns out that OU was running 4 verticals and Landry just picked his best matchup and delivered a strike. Phillips split the difference between vertical threats and doesn't respond in time to either play the ball or knock Reynolds unconscious for extending to catch it. First and goal for the Sooners. They convert on a hitch to Broyles where Diggs again failed to jam the receiver. In my opinion you should always jam receivers and play them tight on the goal line and force them to break free in a small endzone where help comes quickly, or beat you on a fade, either of which are much more difficult than what OU did here.

We have to give credit to Reynolds for getting that break off the line and a lot more credit to Landry Jones for delivering a perfect ball. But that's a pretty sizable window that he hit against a coverage designed to make that window as small as possible.

Simple execution errors by a young secondary exploited by a veteran QB and his receivers. On both plays we lost the point of attack in the passing game, despite superior numbers, against the strength of the OU offense. If you are Diaz, what do you do? We can whine that he didn't train these guys adequately in the coverage but that would be silly in light of how well we played them overall in this game and how well our young guys have played this season. Diggs is a true freshman and Phillips is a part-time safety and first year starter.

I could outline a few plays where Gideon's inability to run and play match-zone or man coverage hurt us but I don't see much value in that. This was one of his worst games at Texas when we needed steady, disciplined play. We could have possibly survived his physical limitations but if he is giving up TD's over the top there isn't a ton of value that he brings.

Instead of focusing on that issue, let's look at an earlier Texas drive that reveals how OU attacked us and gained the turnovers that turned a defeat into a route.


On first down we try and run Power-O against an honest front. They have 7 in the box with Jefferson either playing safety or riding the bench. They like to play Corey Nelson (#7) on the edge to take advantage of his natural talent there before eventually replacing Lewis. The Safeties are lined up in deep Cover-2 mode but that changes when they blitz the corner. It's an under front with the DL strength shifted to the weakside and the linebackers shifted to the strong side. In the Power-O our key matchup is against the strongside 5-tech defensive end, number 92.


Number 92, their defensive tackle Stacy McGee who weighs 300 pounds, is not getting budged at all. OU played a lot of big bodies on the line and brought linebacker blitzes with man-coverage when they wanted to get pressure in a hurry. Since we can't clear him out of the way, Mason Walters can't reach Travis Lewis.

The result here is just a pile-up at the line of scrimmage. Somehow Malcolm Brown wiggles his way to a 2 yard gain.


The next play is one I'd rather just not revisit again. Ash took a slanted drop and ran into Fozzy Whittaker, then had to fire the ball out of bounds. It's awful, let's move on.


We have 2 backs for dump-off or max protection possibilities since they have been blitzing 6 in this instance and will continue to do so throughout the game. Not here though. The Sooners have Jefferson on Shipley and are presenting a Quarters or Cover-3 look in the secondary. We'll find out which.


Turns out it's quarters, but you would have trouble guessing if you were the QB. It took me a while to figure it out while playing process of elimination in slow motion. In quarters coverage the safeties stay over the top of the inside receivers, the corners stay over the top of the outside receivers and the linebackers cover the flats leaving the Mike with the middle of the field to himself. They're pattern reading though, and Jefferson knows that one of Ash's comfort throws is the slant down the middle to Shipley.


Jefferson ignores his typical responsibility to pick up Fozzy in the flat and trails Shipley while the Mike leverages Shipley further upfield so he doesn't get behind him. Meanwhile, the deep safety is closing in as well. Three defenders converging on one tendency.


Either the leverage move by the Mike linebacker or the threat of the impending death blow by the safety trips up Shipley. Since he's played with a lot of courage we'll assume the former but I would forgive him for avoiding a shot like that and staying healthy. Jefferson is able to jump over his body and collect his 4th interception in 2 games.

OU generally played our running game with an honest front and only dropped an 8th man in the box when we went big with only 1 WR on the field, yet they got us in 3rd and long pretty regularly and then used their man-blitzes and tendency attacking coverage to beat us into submission.

We don't have much of a passing game installed yet and we definitely don't possess an OL that has mastered protections, or a QB that can make the pre-snap reads that Landry Jones can make to set himself up for easy throws. This is what happens when a competent defensive game planner goes up against an incomplete offense with inexperienced quarterback play.

We'll get better and rip them to pieces when they insert inexperienced Drew Allen next year without Broyles or half the current OL. If they don't rebuild their running game they are looking at some long seasons ahead. I'm sure those bastards will find a way. Defensively, they are in great shape and have made several adjustments to help them continue to destroy the spread out Big 12.

Other notes:

-Drew Allen has a cannon arm. He has prototypical size and on his one deep throw seemed to possess solid accuracy as well. Once they can rep him in their system I'm sure he could be the next great OU QB, but who knows how steep the learning curve will be? Evidently 3* QB's with cannon arms that can be fashioned by OU into day 1 draft picks are growing on trees these days. We need to find those trees and cut them down.

-Kansas St. They've beaten 3 quality opponents. On offense it's the same thing they always do and Snyder is finding some of the spread/single-wing formations of today offer even more options for his, uh, option attack. On defense they are playing 3 athletic linebackers instead of a nickel and rotated between Cover-2 and Cover-4 to shut down the Missouri passing attack while their DL shredded the Tiger OL. It's a scary team and possibly one of OU's most likely losses since they play in Manhattan. I'm cautiously looking forward to my trip to DKR to see us play them.

-The team that beats OU is going to be either the one with the resources in the secondary to lock them down or the one that can play stuff like Cover-5 with discipline while they get pressure with 4. I don't know if anyone in the league is up to it because it's hard to account for 2 receivers that good but I remain convinced that Alabama or LSU will take them apart.

-Baylor has to outscore Aggy to win and probably also needs Sherman to wet the bed again because they are even worse equipped than OSU or Tech to stop that rushing attack. On the other hand, Robert Griffin and that passing game are going to make the Aggy pass defense prove that they have improved.

-As terrible as Ash's mistakes were in that game I'll take him over Case, who self-sacks himself, has no accuracy downfield, and fails to step into throws in order to avoid hits. We can correct the mistakes Ash made but I'm not sure about Case's. He strikes me as being Todd Reesing with less acumen and arm strength. I don't want that.