Texas is a mediocre team that has some elite players.
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After the 38-13 drubbing on Saturday at DKR, stood at 62nd overall in the S&P rankings which adjust for your opponents. You'd expect a team with so many All-conference candidates to be better.
The previous week Texas was ranked...62nd. The numbers were not confused by "undefeated in B12 play!"
Around the league, OSU is currently ranked 26th, Tech is ranked 75th,and Baylor is ranked #2.
Our mediocrity as a team should have been obvious, really. Texas defeated a KSU team that was still rounding into the team it is today and only handed the ball to Daniel Sams eight times. Sams now has 143 carries for 784 yards and is arguably the best runner in the conference behind Seastrunk. Texas then beat ISU with the help of some questionable officiating.
Then the Red River Shootout happened. Granted, OU has a porous run defense and had just lost two of their best defenders for the season. Granted they mysteriously ignored Texas' previous opponents good fortune running the football with the QB. We granted all that and said, "yeah, but still!"
Another off week to prepare and the Horned Frogs took it on the chin as well. Hells yeah, payback tour 2013!
A thoroughly unimpressive win over Kansas followed, then Mack Brown needed overtime to handle West Virginia.
Finally, a road bump appeared and the Dreamwagon swerved and crashed back into the flaming dumpster.
So which deficiencies were revealed on tape that prevent Texas from turning a roster full of talent into a real team?
In summary: the gist of the Case rules is to first outnumber the run game and then press the receivers and take away quick inside routes in order to prevent Case from hitting his comfortable inside routes and deep fades...then pressure Case's decision with extra blitzers.
It's tricky to actually take that all away at the same time, just witness Texas' 10-19 conversion rate on 3rd down against the Cowboys afforded by timely play calls from Major and more McCoy-to-Shipley connections. When Case and Major have a manageable 3rd down, the myriad of options Texas has and the protection the OL offers allow Case's cunning to come into play; choosing a weak spot and then getting rid of the ball.
However, OSU had a plan influenced by the Case Rules for attacking Texas that was obviously quite effective in preventing scores. They made use of their Tampa-2 package in a major way to attack our QB's deficiencies:
Included in their 3rd down and late packages Oklahoma St has installed a few different ways to run Tampa-2 zone defense. You may remember this as the moniker for a popular style of defense that dominated the late 90's and early 00's in the NFL while originating with the Steel Curtain defense of the 70's.
OSU uses it on 3rd down because it's a perfect fit for their overall approach to playing aggressive zone defense and to exploit the lack of arm strength from collegiate signal callers.
With four (or sometimes five if they only rush three like in this instance) underneath defenders leveraging away dangerous underneath throws and three deep defenders sitting on top of everything there's nowhere to go with the football on 3rd and long. You can try and beat coverage with a throw downfield, or you can check down and hope someone breaks a tackle.
None of Case's favorite throws are available against this eight-man coverage. Shipley is doubled inside and the easy slant isn't there. Then, Case foolishly assumes that the checkdown available against normal prevent-style college D's is available and floats the out over to Sanders. The throw is late and Gilbert is well positioned as an underneath defender to jump the throw. Interception, touchdown Oklahoma St, game essentially over.
The more universal application of the Case rules isn't so much in trying to take away everything Case can do and then pressuring him. If a team attempted that regularly they could be blasted. The real key is in outnumbering the run game and taking away the middle on 3rd down. McCoy's 6.5 yards per attempt will not be able to punish you severely enough overall for taking away the Longhorns' best feature.
Texas is currently only ranked 69th in rushing S&P and this is largely a function of facing loaded fronts such as this one:
This is a Cover-3 defense from OSU that allowed them to attack the trips side perimeter for Texas while still outnumbering the box. When you heard Nobis60 and Scipio say that the Texas OL blocked a pretty good game this is what they are talking about.
Espinosa reaches the nose tackle and Hopkins seals Lowe (the safety) off but that leaves Malcolm Brown to beat weakside linebacker Ryan Simmons to make a big gain (and it would have been massive since the deep safety was coming late to the middle of the field). Nothing doing. Before paging Bill Connelly, I'd hazard a guess that Malcom Brown ranks fairly low nationally in "highlight yards per carry," yardage accumulated after the OL has already sprung the RB. We need more Bergeron and Daje to be more than a "three yards and a cloud of dust" offense.
(Editor's note: Bill Connelly responded to the page, the Texas RB's "highlights yards": Gray: 5.2, Bergeron: 3.9, Brown: 3.6, Ash: 7.3...sigh, Daje: 4.1, Overstreet: 7.9, McCoy: 3.1, Swoopes: 4.7, DLT: 11.5)
That means we'll have to figure out how to get Daje the ball, something Major strongly hinted he would improve upon with Harsin gone.
Texas punished the loaded front approach once, with Case's nice deep fade to Mike Davis:
and so OSU had Gilbert take a deeper alignment vs Davis next snap and they continued about their business. McCoy's 5.7 yards per attempt did little to dissuade them from outnumbering the run at their discretion.
They also mixed in some of their normal Cover-2 and prevented any long runs by Texas save for when Bergeron went on a tear before the half.
There was a lot to the OSU gameplan and they had a few different tactics for attempting to prevent Shipley from burning them on 3rd down. Linebackers were always keen to maintain inside leverage on him and prevent Case from hitting him over the middle. In part as a consequence to their excessive attention to Shipley, they were beat on 3rd down a few times by screens or Davis, or Shipley anyways.
However, the resilience of Texas on 3rd down was truly depressing when considered in light of the overall game's flow. Case was 5-12 in attempting to convert 3rd downs through the air with three of the failures coming from incompletions.
Not terrible, but OSU trounced Texas on 1st and 2nd down, giving up 3.5 yards per carry and 5.5 yards per pass, good for 4.5 yards per play on the day. It's hard to score a lot of points when you move the ball at that rate with 43 passes thrown and three turnovers.
Moving forward, the gameplans for Baylor and Tech on defense are obvious. Outnumber the run game on first and second down. On 3rd down, be ready to take away the middle of the field in coverage and dare McCoy to beat Zone coverage outside of the hash marks.
If you can stop the Texas run game without giving up the deep pass there's little on tape to suggest that Texas can match the scoring efforts either remaining opponent are capable of. This leads us to the Texas defense.
Soft edges and option defense
We talked at length early in the year about how option football was causing Texas fits. I've made dozens of recommendations to Texas about how to handle the tactic better. For the most part, Gerg settled on the formula of outnumbering fronts with eight man fronts in nickel personnel. This had a degree of success against KSU and overwhelmed limited offenses throughout the six game winning streak.
However, it was not really tested by a QB run game save with Iowa St., who ran for 200 yards on Texas.
While tape reveals that OSU certainly did their homework in scouting Texas, their OC was absolved from the "we're gonna do what we do" defense of a bad game plan by the simple fact that involving the QB in the run game is what the Pokes do.
At last an OC gave us an update on how Texas' approach to Zone and Power-Read have evolved since early in the year as well as whether Texas could handle the dreaded QB draw.
The interesting point early on was that Texas started the game in Palms (Cover-2) and relied on it heavily for the first time since Ole Miss. Since Robinson prefers to take away an opponents' strength we can only assume that he felt the OSU offense would fall apart without big plays in the passing game.
I was pleased to see Texas employ something that would certainly be valuable against Tech and Baylor, teams Texas isn't likely to get away with playing man coverage against.
I was less pleased with the results:
This is one of everyone's favorite new ways to run Zone-Read: leave the DE unblocked and read him, arc the fullback around the line towards a 2nd level target, in this instance middle linebacker Dalton Santos.
You'll notice on the play that Chelf was untouched for the first 14 yards, but there are other things to take notice of in understanding how this disaster occurred. To begin with, Texas has started using scrape-exchange as a primary method for handling Zone-Read. In a scrape exchange, the DE crashes inside so that the QB keeps the ball while the linebacker scrapes outside to take the QB.
Texas had problems executing this throughout the day. In the instance above they don't even attempt it as Santos sits in the B-gap. Diggs is supposed to be the "run force" player, to keep the ball inside of him and funneled to the pursuing Texas linebackers. Instead, he's pushed inside by the slot receiver and driven off the ball.
Thompson had a shot at making the tackle before the marker but he was sucked inside, believing Chelf might cut upfield through the linebackers. Certainly a mistake, but not the most grievous one of the play. Let's consider another example.
Texas is in Dime this time, meaning that Phillips is playing linebacker most likely to have to play coverage in space with Edmond and Diggs as his compatriots. Thompson and Turner are your deep safeties playing Cover-2 again.
There isn't much scraping or exchanging going on, but Texas is essentially employing that tactic. Reed is crashing inside while Phillips attacks the QB.
Problems emerge quickly. Tank Jackson flies into the backfield, good for him, but the B-gap between his guard and Reed is widened due to his penetration and Reed is unable to shove the OT inside enough to squeeze it closed. Similarly, Malcom Brown has also penetrated into the B-gap and been allowed to do so, freeing up the center to block Edmond and create gaps in the Texas wall.
So, Chelf hands off to Roland and he immediately cuts upfield through the B-gap and then bounces outside behind his center's block on Edmond, whom to his credit was positioned to make a play on the other side of the center. Quandre Diggs cannot help as he's basically been pancaked by a slot receiver.
Thompson overpursues the initial cut and has to rely on his speed to chase down Roland 28 yards past the line of scrimmage.
Notice a common culprit in both of these clips is not Edmond but Diggs, who has given Texas a soft edge against the run all season. It's wonderful to have someone who can man up a slot receiver, but the position also demands someone who can set the edge against blocks by wide receivers and even fullbacks. Diggs has failed to do so all season and it makes Texas exceptionally vulnerable to a wide variety of outside runs.
I'll give one more example:
Zone-read again with the fullback arcing out to take on Diggs. The nickelback has one responsibility, to keep the ball inside of him and "force" it inside to the pursuing linebackers. Watch how helpless Diggs is to avoid being reached by the fullback while Chelf glides around him for the easy score.
I'm not sure what the answer is for the Tech and Baylor games but Diggs to nickel should be reversed next season by the new DC.
Then there was the QB Draw.
It doesn't appear that Texas was particularly aware of the possibility of this play coming up early in the game. Even though OSU nearly beat Texas last year with the same concept and has run it all year. In the first clip no one is prepared to replace Edmond chasing the RB in man coverage. In the second clip, Texas fires an unsound blitz that leaves an A-gap wide open. The fullback turns that into two needlessly wide open gaps for an easy six points.
Since Tech likes to run the same play, I recommend Gerg take some time with his charges in the coming week to consider how to stop that one.
Suffice to say, Texas was unable to stop the OSU run game effectively from a Cover-2 shell.
There were some positives. I'm not sure if OSU introduced Power-Read this week to their offense for the simple reason that we've been nearly helpless against it but Texas stuffed it every time.
The plan didn't change so much as the awareness of the play has improved. Santos and Edmond both fly to the edge in a hurry and Thompson does a good job of getting to the ball quickly while maintaining leverage on the runner.
Of course, the force defender Diggs was blocked out of the play by a slot receiver.
Other interesting elements of the game included OSU using the diamond formation and drawing Texas' 46 front so that they could throw post routes against it as West Virginia found success doing last week and Gerg abandoning Cover-2 down the stretch but too late to have a real impact.
Texas still has a team that doesn't seem to know their opponents particularly well (except OU) and is below average at whichever linebacker and safety positions aren't occupied by Adrian Phillips.
Technically, Texas still isn't out of mathematical contention for the B12 title. If you want to crown them then crown their ass, but they are who we thought they were. Underachieving and disappointing.