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Coaching, Physicality and the Texas-Oklahoma Game

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34-27 was a very deceptive scoreboard. Clear minds, fast legs.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Texas v Oklahoma Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I watched it again so you don’t have to. That scoreboard was deceptive. As time passes, a 7 point loss will allow some Texas fans solace that’s not deserved. Buy hey, we covered!

Texas gave up 7.7 yards per play while gaining 3.5 per snap. The Longhorns gave up 9 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. OU suffered 0 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. Jalen Hurts surrendered two deep red zone turnovers (on individual Longhorn defender efforts) and revealed his weaknesses as a decision maker on some 3rd downs. Jalen’s final box score was as deceptive as our scoreboard.

Defense

Rod’s right. I counted nine missed tackles in the second half by Texas DBs alone.

What is it to be out coached? Fans and media throw that around a lot, often incorrectly. Or inexactly.

Sometimes a coaching loss happens during game week by failure of recognition of opponent strengths, schemes, and weaknesses. Or how to best deploy your assets. This can happen to the very best. Particularly when there’s a wide range of schemes to prepare for in a short time period. Shit happens. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

A more subtle, but far more dangerous form of being out coached, is when a staff wastes Spring and Fall camps by failing to teach basic fundamentals or establish a sound schematic structure. This doesn’t happen to the best. The most pernicious aspect of this type of failure is that it leads to blaming the players themselves. By the fans and coaches alike. It’s a vicious cycle. If we can just replace these players with other players who arrive here as complete products that require no coaching, everything will be fixed!

We can debate whether Texas is being out coached on defense each week with our eternally shifting base alignments, random Battleship guesses from the play sheet (I-9, B-3, C-6 - any hits?), or weekly new role assignments.

I’m more concerned that Texas comes into each game out coached because we blew Spring and Fall camps. Judging from the on-field product, it would seem the staff:

1) Failed to teach tackling. Texas leads FBS in missed tackles. Is that good? Or do we just need more four and five stars?

2) Has no viable plan for setting the edge in the running game from our tite front (the second half of the OU game is a comedic exercise on this point, and it’s recurrent) or establishing containment or pass rush in the passing game (Hurts ran for 107 yards in the first half, primarily on easy scrambles; zero sacks).

3) Failed to teach positional fundamentals within a larger coherent structure.

Those aren’t negotiable teaching points in an effective defense. They are not theory. They can’t be disguised by a brilliant guess where you try to operate every defender like a robot on a joystick. A DC eventually gets exposed against legitimate offense when the guesses start missing and when poor play renders the call moot.

A defense implies a coherent interrelated set of responsibilities and roles playing together with sound fundamentals that do their individual jobs to create a common good. At key positions that require some flexibility like LB and S, this establishes individual agency that allows the player to make adjustments in real time based on what they’re experiencing.

Right now, the Texas defense is a bunch of dudes running calls.

Texas has earned every bit of its last place ranking in the Big 12 in yards per play surrendered and total yardage allowed.

Offense

On review, once you control for all of the sacks, pressure and ineffective game planning, Sam was fine. Even if the stat line said differently.

He had several perfect strikes to receivers that were straight dropped or dropped while being PI’d (Eagles x 2, Collin Johnson, Jake Smith). All of them would have been big air yards. Two potential touchdowns. I mentioned in my preview that OU teaches holding at DB (which, amusingly, Grinch acknowledged to the broadcast crew) and that this has to be a major coaching point before the game with the league office, through the week with the team, in pregame with the crew, and during the game with the team and officials. I’ll let you decide how we handled it.

As Sam got beat up and Texas receivers ran too many routes like he had clean pockets, his play degraded. That’s how it works at all levels: from high school to Tom Brady. He took sacks because that’s better than the alternative.

Shack was slow laterally and lacked recognition. We didn’t have a well-executed game plan for OU’s stunting and twisting and we didn’t marry up line protections with the TE and RB effectively. Grinch’s approach is no mystery. Shack and Angilau repeatedly got set and exploited by Gallimore creating massive holes for OU LBs on stunts or the DE on a T/E twist. When #90 wasn’t taking the center apart directly on a bull rush. Junior fell apart technically and started turning his shoulders. Kerstetter suffered when all doubt about run/pass mix and Sam’s pocket depth were no longer a mystery on 3rd and 11.

OL really benefit from defenders having to play multiple responsibilities. When we consented to play the entire game in 3rd and long, we played right to OU’s strengths and game plan. If you let an opposing defense line up in track stances on your OL, you’re not setting your players up for success.

Texas had nothing installed to counter Grinch’s front games or OU’s stunting linebackers.

I understand the typical fan reaction is to say “How could we do anything when the OL was getting whipped?” but you saw the end state of our decisions. You can punish an aggressive, pursuing, downhill defense up front (with OU typically playing two deep) if you have the tools to fly sweep, misdirect, counter, screen and run HUNH with some quick passing game all intermixed. Texas can do all of that. Sam’s intelligence and experience allows a lot.

We never made OU think or take a hesitant step until it was too late. By motion, scheme, or play call. It was all see-ball, chase-ball on the OU side.

You can’t let a defense play downhill in a rivalry game.

Special Teams

Consistently poor decision making in the return game. This is easily coachable during the week and with a simple word on the sideline to remind the returners of the game situation. Average starting position for Texas on fielded kicks off returns was the Longhorn 17, including starts on the 5 and 13 yard line. Jamison let a catchable punt roll down inside the Longhorn 10. Duvernay fielded a kick return with zero time outs and limited play clock when Texas was trying to score before the half. That’s a no-no. Situational Football 101. Not a single coach on the staff has the game recognition to pull Duve aside and tell him the situation? Or explain how the fair catch rule works so Texas isn’t pinned on the 5?

Parting Words

Physicality flows from preparation and clear direction.

Clear mind, fast legs.

Stop puzzling over why OU was the more physical team on Saturday.