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BYU-41, Texas-7, Longhorn Football Defense/Special Teams Post-Mortem

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Chris Covatta

An oddly disjointed defensive performance characterized by a strong first half and a complete collapse in the 3rd quarter with a late rally for pride.  It reminded me of several of the games in the 2010 season: defense plays well, hits a mental wall caused by exhaustion or frustration or disinterest, collapses for a quarter, then rebounds.

Texas held the Cougars to an acceptable 4.9 yards per play, but the Cougars ran 87 plays from scrimmage for 429 yards.  The BYU ball domination was partly a function of an awful Texas offense and turnovers putting the defense into tough spots but also because the defense couldn't get it itself off of the field on key downs.

While it's very tempting to blame fatigue for the entire third quarter defensive collapse, that doesn't hold water upon a second viewing. Particularly when BYU's first drive after the half goes 9 plays for 75 yards.  Nobody was tired there. It was about adjustments.  BYU ran the ball 6 times for 62 yards on that drive - gouging the Longhorns up the middle - and Taysom Hill capped it off with a 30 yard gallop TD when we failed to contain and play smart.

The next Cougar possession went 5 plays for 55 yards.

So after our halftime adjustments and a nice rest, BYU went 14 plays for 130 yards and two touchdowns.  That's not exhaustion.  Sorry.  BYU found the ability to run the ball by giving our linebackers some backfield distraction and Hill realized that Steve Edmond assigned to containment and a DC calling man coverage is an invitation to roam.

The next two scoring drives may well have been a function of exhaustion and frustration as BYU began with the ball both times inside our 25 yard line and our defense had zero chance to rest.

Still, that all four of these drives ended in touchdowns rather than field goals is telling.  As one commenter wrote in our game thread "This team has a lot of losing built into its muscle memory."

Yes it does.

**

DL

A strong performance by the DTs.  Malcom Brown compiled a NFL draft audition tape with 10 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.  Desmond Jackson did well for the most part (though I'd expect domination matched against a true freshman center) and Paul Boyette was pretty game in his 25 snaps.  Alex Norman didn't perform well in limited snaps and big Hassan Ridgeway was a puzzling no-show.

Shiro Davis showed both his good and bad.  He blew 2-3 tackles and a couple of option assignments and doesn't have much pass rushing ability straight up.  However, he is active in pursuit and his 3 tackles for loss were all a result of good clean-up efforts on DT penetration and a nice sack when Hill held the ball too long on play action.  Cedric Reed played well and got some pressure, but Hill's mobility and BYU's awareness made his box score modest.

Generally, a winning effort from the DL.  The LB's, however...

LB

Back to square one.

BYU spreads you out to run the ball.  Preferably inside the tackles.  They throw effectively and run Taysom when you overcompensate and make it easy for them.  If you're a LB, that's the assumption from which you must operate.

Steve Edmond was exploited throughout the entire third quarter - more or less the recipient, if not the target, of the entire BYU offensive effort.  He takes false steps when he sees any sort of backfield motion or misdirection, putting him entirely out of position from the basic HB power play that's coming off of it into the space he just vacated.  For no reason.  He did a hypnotized shuffle step into irrelevance on at least three plays that led to large BYU gains or scores. I don't get it.  It's a cardinal rule of linebacking.

On passing downs, he has zero ability to contain a good running QB - he's just not athletic or decisive enough in space.  After a while, his response to confusion is to shut down into a weird half-jog.  Quite frustrating when you watch him play a mostly solid first half.

Jordan Hicks was largely very good until he somehow fell into the same shuffle step hypnosis caused by very basic spread misdirection blocking and backfield movement.  I don't know what we're teaching our LBs to key on or if they're just falling back into bad habits.  Or maybe they're not seeing it in practice.  A fairly alarming thought considering the rest of our Big 12 slate.

Jinkens was a non-factor.

DBs

Quandre Diggs had a wonderful end zone interception to save a late first half score, but he was actually pretty average beyond that highlight.  Weak in run support (bulldozed twice in key goal line or short yardage situations), neutralized by WR blocking and he conceded a few too many gimme routes against a WR corps that can't really run.

Duke Thomas gave up a lucky catch downfield, but was otherwise OK.  Neither cornerback handled the physicality of BYU's WRs well in the running game.

The safeties were active and BYU did nothing over the top outside of a lucky catch, but played comparably to the linebackers in the 3rd quarter in run support and with respect to awareness of Hill as a running threat.  Dylan Haines is catching grief for getting hurdled by Taysom Hill but when an athletic 230 pound guy who runs a 4.4 has a twenty yard head of steam while you're coming at an angle, there aren't a lot of options available to you.  Physics and all of that.

Props to the big BYU receivers, who ate our DBs lunches on a number of occasions blocking downfield.  The Cougars seemed quite happy to take an aggression penalty or two in order to establish physical dominance.

Which they did.

Special Teams

Nick Rose isn't very good at kicking field goals right now.  Since he's our field goal kicker, that's a problem.  He's 1 for 3 on three very makable field goals attempts in two games.  Marcus Johnson had two nice kick off returns that he followed with a stupid effort that got him nailed him at the 11 followed later by a fumble.  Dalton Santos had a holding penalty that made us start another drive from the 7.  Pretty awful.

I'm not sure what we're trying to do on punt return as we're neither setting up the return particularly well nor are we getting close on blocks.