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Texas-Iowa State Defense/Special Teams Postmortem

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The special teams rally and the defense gets thrashed.

Cooper Neill

Iowa State entered the game with one of the worst offenses in the league (Kansas and Texas keeping them company at the bottom) but you wouldn't know it after they racked up 524 yards on 93 plays and 38 offensive points against what had been the league's premier defense.  Iowa State's six offensive scoring drives averaged 74 yards per drive - no short field excuses to be found.  The Texas defense got its ass kicked - largely because Bedford couldn't get us off of the field on 3rd down and our red zone defense was hapless against ISU's size. Hats off to Mark Mangino for great in-game adjustments and exploiting our weaknesses.

Scheme

Texas actually spent more time in a four man front against Iowa State, but when we went with the 3 man DL, ISU averaged nearly 10 yards per rushing attempt (Wimberley went 14-110).  This is killing us.  The problems were myriad, but our tendency to pair the 3 man DL with LB stunts and run blitzes makes for a terrible combination.  I also despise our late 5 man front shift that we go to with our linebackers spinning outside - inevitably, ISU would leave the LBs unblocked, they then take a poor angle on the crash down since they're worried about contain and ISU's RB would sprint through a pair of interior double teams to open grassy plains.  Watch ISU's last scoring drive for an ugly example.

Those sequences are a Worst Of Manny Diaz hits tape - the LBs don't get there because an inside run creates its own traffic to thwart them, our play side DL gets doubled and sealed and the other linebackers are slow to react.  Our compensation when going with a 4 man DL and a shaky safety combo over the top cedes the intermediate passing game.  Mangino, to his credit, figured this out pretty early.

Overall, Texas wasn't bad against the passing game (36 of 55 for 345 yards and 2 picks is fine if you're also stopping the run), but situationally, we were terrible (3 touchdown passes, ISU was 9 of 19 on 3rd downs) and we didn't stop the run at all.  We had no answer for Bibbs and Lazard near the red zone or in 3rd and intermediate, we frequently lost contain on Richardson and on ISU's crucial end of game drive, we failed to acknowledge that the college running game is a perfectly valid option with less than a minute on the clock on our end of the field.  This is a pet peeve of mine - our debates about the UCLA game clock management dovetail here, but basically, time is really not a factor in college football.  It's nearly irrelevant.  I have a weird need for people to all understand and acknowledge this fact.  The clock is really easy to stop. Yet coaches routinely scheme and defend as if the college clock is a potential ally.  It's not.  Your job is to force them out on downs or get a turnover.

On the positive side, I think many of our problems stemmed from the fact that we missed Jason Hall- who has a great natural feel for the safety position and his run support allows us to play light fronts with a bit more impunity.  Steve Edmond was definitely injured and we simply broke down because of ISU's ability to effectively use their skill position size to exploit a smallish DB group that got more and more tentative after each Cyclone success.

DL

I wasn't concerned about Cedric Reed until this game.  He couldn't beat single blocking outside and he's not getting the batted balls, hurries and pressures that I value just as much as the more announcer-friendly sack statistics.  He seems hurt or confused about his role on passing downs.  His opposites outside - whether  Hughes, Bluieitt or Davis frequently lost containment on Richardson and had little pressure.  The DEs scored a smooth D+ in my grade book. ISU's ability to win their individual match-ups outside defined their offensive success.

The DTs played pretty well.  Ridge and Brown each had sacks and Brown paired his with nine tackles.  Brown is ridiculous.  Poona Ford had a nice pressure and a good solo tackle and Boyette had some solid snaps.

LB

Well, we figured out why Edmond is starting. Jordan Hicks played fairly well overall (18 tackles, 1 sack) but he had little support from his cohorts.  We saw real progress from this crew against the risk-averse Sooner offense - the more traditional the opponent offensive attack, the better they look - but as the game opens up and space expands, this group's effectiveness plummets.   They don't lack physicality or heart or any of other stupid comments you'll read on the boards - they're just not flush with a lot of instincts or quickness.

DB

On a second watch, the corners actually played pretty well given the volume of opportunities ISU had to attack them. We appeared to have some breakdowns between blitz calls that weren't matched with press coverage, but our corners kept everything mostly in front of them and Thomas made a great play on his interception.

Haines had an exceptional instinctive play on his touchdown interception return and he was the bright spot among the safeties.  Thompson is consistently getting great position, but not finishing the play in single coverage.  Colbert was paralyzed in the face of any route complexity.  Or routes in general.  I believe I saw Josh Turner in there at one point but he was quickly pined for a breakdown.  It turns out that Jason Hall is really good.

A lot of good safety play is defined by what you suggest to the QB and WR, a step here or there that gives the cornerback more security, an anticipation of an unfolding route - that part of the game really broke down against the Cyclones.

Special Teams

What a difference a week makes.  Great punt coverage, a new kickoff returner in Rod Bernard bringing it out with abandon, solid fundamentals and Nick Rose nails two field goals (including the game winner) bringing him up to 7 of 11 on the year.  Rose looks much more confident now and while I don't think Justin Tucker's legacy is going to be threatened, I feel a lot better about the rest of the year.  Matching this performance against KSU is paramount.

Overall

KSU will be an enormous stress on our special teams, situational defense and in demonstrating that we can surmount the challenges we've faced against the inside running game and mobile QBs breaking containment to hurt us with their feet and arm.  Jake Waters is really good (my favorite QB in the league), their top two wide receivers are slick and Snyder has already created an index card (keeps 'em in shoe box) on every weak link in our scheme and personnel and will mercilessly hammer those tendencies until we show we can stop it.

If Texas is going to get it get it done in Manhattan, the Longhorn D/ST will have to come up big.