Playing quarterback is hard. Playing quarterback without a run game, minimal pass protection, and an unimaginative game plan and playcaller is harder. So before we dig into the things Shane Buechele did wrong on Saturday, let’s briefly consider what he had to overcome. Some of this will be a defense of Buechele, but my goal is to convey that there are challenges that won’t change whether Buechele, Sam Ehlinger or Jerrod Heard is taking the snaps.
No Run Game
As best I can tell, the plan to run the ball was: Don’t. In the base offense (not Wildhorn or whatever they’re calling it), Texas ran inside zone 67% of the time. The offensive line got movement 0% of the time.
Now, the Maryland defense was giving up the outside, which is why Texas threw so many bubble and swing screens, and they were productive plays. But Maryland also left itself open to some other runs, especially counters. Tim Beck called counter-G once, but Buechele threw the bubble screen instead – a good thing, because the playside of the offensive line took the play off.
It’s true that Texas fell behind early, but by the second half, they had made it a close game. And besides, converting short-yardage situations is a lot easier when there’s actually a threat to run the ball. Maybe a more mobile quarterback can open things up, but the benefits will be mitigated if the team is running only one play, poorly, and changing only the ballcarrier.
Occasional Free Rushers
Connor Williams had his worst game as a Longhorn.
And he still looked like an All-American next to his peers.
Because the protection was so bad, Texas used more seven-man protections. The result was always something like this.
2.5 to 3 receivers trying to find space against seven defenders. Buechele pressured himself on this particular play, but we’ll get to that.
On a day when the playcalling was very special, this goal line series stood out.
The first clip is a crack screen (at least according to Tom Herman). Reggie Hemphill didn’t block the safety, so it wouldn’t have mattered, but I also don’t know what Dorian Leonard is doing. He could block the cornerback and stay on him – which isn’t a crack screen – or he could act like he’s running a slant and then block the first defender who shows. He tried to do both but succeeded only in telling the cornerback that it was a screen. The point is to pull the corner inside (he’ll think he’s covering a slant route) and cut off the pursuit, eliminating two defenders. Of course, there’s also the issue of Garrett Gray, whose fruitless hop to catch the ball slowed his turn upfield.
The second clip is a snag concept that looks to be designed to go to Chris Warren*. That raises the question: Why not have those receivers block? But there’s a lesson that we can learn here, one that you’d expect a Power 5 offensive coordinator to anticipate, not learn with us, the fans. When the offense throws the ball to the flat over and over, eventually the defense starts jumping those routes. When the defense starts jumping short routes, other routes come open behind them – like Leonard’s corner route on this play.
I thought maybe Beck was concerned that Buechele couldn’t see over the line well enough near the goal line to throw it over the middle, but then he called this levels concept on a two-point conversion attempt.
And Buechele executed it well, putting the ball up over the defender and… right through Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s hands.
In fact, there were lots of things that Buechele did well, and some plays that he singlehandedly turned from bad to good.
Here’s a passing concept that will become familiar in this post. I don’t know why Texas wasn’t running a slant/flat combination to the boundary, unless Beck gets a bonus for every wasted receiver/route**. Maryland gets not just pressure, but a free rusher, with only four guys. The likeliest hot route, Hemphill, is bracketed. This is a terrible play, but Buechele keeps it alive and converts it into a first down.
This time it’s 3rd & 9, and the offense is trying to set up a drive concept to the field, with Duvernay running a drag route and Hemphill running a dig route behind him. It takes a little time to develop, which isn’t something Buechele had much of. There’s no blitz this time, just Patrick Vahe failing to pick up a defensive line twist stunt, something he’s struggled with his entire career. Before Hemphill has even made his cut, Buechele has a loose defender – ONE OF ONLY THREE PASS RUSHERS ON THE PLAY – barreling down on him. Again he keeps the play alive and completes it for a first down. I don’t mean to excuse it, but seeing plays like this helps to explain why Buechele flushes himself from the pocket at times.
Where Buechele Fell Short
Texas ran this double-in concept repeatedly in short-yardage situations.
Maryland is in 2-Man coverage (two deep safeties, man coverage underneath). The Y (Gray) should and does clear out space for Buechele to throw to the slot (Humphrey), but instead Buechele hesitates and the pressure gets to him. And yeah, “Why are they running four-yard routes on 3rd & 8?” is a great question.
Here’s the same concept from above combined with a go route and a quick out. It’s 4th & 2, the sort of situation where you’d like to have the threat of pounding the ball with your 250-pound running back. Maryland is again in what looks to be 2-Man, but I think the Terps had wisely started to double team Collin Johnson by this point. That may be why Buechele didn’t throw this ball, but I doubt it; it looks like there should be enough cushion to the safety for the throw to be safe. The limited space between Johnson and the sideline could be another reason he hesitated. Whatever he saw, it’s not the end of the world, but he makes things way more difficult when he leaves the pocket for no reason. It constricts the amount of field he has to work with and gives the linebacker who’s spying him a free path to the sack. That leads us to our next problem.
Same concept. Maryland’s in Cover 3 this time. Based on the concepts and coverage, Buechele picked the right side of the field to attack, but the DB covering Hemphill has outside leverage on the out route. So Buechele’s first look wasn’t open, but the play isn’t doomed yet. The pocket is intact, and he still has a whole other side of the field to check out – there’s even one whole wide receiver over there***! (The one guy who’s open is Kyle Porter.) Instead, Buechele stumbles forward for a few yards. At least he got the first down.
Buechele wasn’t good, but he did lots of things right, and he was hyper accurate on nearly every throw. Three passes were dropped (a long ball to Johnson, a two-point conversion to Humphrey and a deep comeback to Duvernay), the game plan and playcalling were unimaginative, and Maryland overwhelmed Texas’ pass protection all day. I expect improvement this Saturday against San Jose St., but getting this fixed over the long term isn’t as simple as changing who’s under center.
* I’m basing this assumption on all the trouble Texas went through to move Warren around before the play, but the more I watch it – now that the clips are already made and the article already written – the more I think Buechele may have pre-determined the throw himself.
** The personnel decisions, especially when Texas went with empty sets, were puzzling. Wide receiver is the deepest position group on the team. Texas is down by multiple scores. They’re going to throw the ball. They telegraph that they’re going to throw the ball by lining up in empty. WHY ARE THEY WASTING TWO OF THEIR FIVE SPOTS FOR ELIGIBLE RECEIVERS ON GARRETT GRAY AND KYLE PORTER (SOMETIMES CHRIS WARREN)? If they’re going to tell the defense what they’re about to do, at least do it with the best players for the job out there on the field. This is like lining up in goal line but playing only the guys on your roster who are 200 pounds or less.
Commitment Spotlight: Tyler Owens
Texas has landed a commitment from highly coveted safety Tyler Owens. What does he bring to Todd Orlando’s defense?
Following the “Stars at Night” camp in July, Texas extended several offers to prospects who impressed the coaches throughout the evening. One of those offers went to 2019 Plano East safety Tyler Owens, who won the fastest man competition. The Longhorns quickly became the front runner in his recruitment, and the intriguing prospect ultimately chose to shut down his recruitment and pledge to Texas.
Owens joins a secondary class that already has commitments from Mayfield (CA) S Chris Adimora, Grayson (GA) CB Kenyatta Watson II and Alvin CB Marques Caldwell. The 6’2, 202 pounder currently ranks as the 44th best safety in the country and the 631st player overall, according to the 247sports composite rankings. Owens chose the Longhorns over offers from 14 other schools, including Baylor, Houston, Nebraska and UCLA.
Name: Tyler Owns
High School: Plano East
City & State: Plano, Texas
40-yard time: 4.48
No stats available.
- Very reliable tackler. Wraps up and takes good angles to the ball carrier. Good technique.
- Has a knack for squaring ball carriers up and laying some pretty solid hits.
- While his straight line speed isn’t as noticeable as it may be when he is in shorts, Owens definitely shows the ability to stick his foot in the ground and get downhill quickly.
- Shows a good football IQ. Diagnoses plays well and knows where to be on the field.
- Very good special teams player. Uses his speed to get down the field on kickoffs and always seems to find the ball.
- Played very good competition. Had highlights against 6A state champion Highland Park and plays in the same district as state powerhouse Allen.
- Needs to continue to develop his ball skills. Shows the ability to defend the pass, but will need to work on getting his head around and finding the ball.
- Positional fit. Owens best fit could be at linebacker after he spends a season or two in a college strength and conditioning program.
- Tests extremely well, but you don’t see those athletic traits translating much to his tape.
- Seems a little stiff on tape, so that will be something to take monitor when his senior tape comes out. Could factor in to where he projects long-term.
When you turn on the film for Owens, the first thing to stick out is how projectable he is. He could easily add weight and spin down to linebacker, which wouldn’t be bad at all considering his reliability as a tackler and how well he defends the run. It is easy to see why Todd Orlando and Craig Naivar like Owens. He has a nose for the football and his athleticism will allow him to be utilized in multiple ways. 2018 signee DeMarvion Overshown had a similar build to Owens coming out of Arp (6’3, 200 pounds), and there are definitely some similarities in the way the two play.
If Owens sticks at safety, he will need to continue to work on defending the pass. His speed helps him tremendously when tracking down the ball in the air, but there will be a learning curve as he adjusts to the passing game at the college level. Owens possesses great athleticism, as seen by his testing numbers, but it is a bit concerning that you don’t see that explosiveness and twitch on tape much. Is he a combine warrior or does he just need more time in the incubator to unlock his potential? It will be interesting to see what the senior film beholds because it could be a solid indicator for what his development curve is.
After hearing how Owens performed in the camp setting and watching his film, there should not be any doubts about whether he is a take for Texas. The loaded 2018 defensive back class should allow almost all the 2019 signees in the secondary to be eased into action. Owens has a very high ceiling, and the Texas coaching staff feels confident they can tap into his potential.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: TCU
The Longhorns had many positives and some negatives to analyze after a big win over TCU on Saturday
For the second straight week, Texas physically outplayed a ranked opponent. The Longhorns opened Big 12 play with a 31-16 win over TCU. Similar to last week, the win featured a lot of good and not a lot of bad, but let’s take a look at some takeaways from an impressive victory over the Horned Frogs:
Entering Saturday’s contest, there were a lot of questions about how the Texas secondary would hold up against a TCU passing attack that featured several talented playmakers. The Longhorns defensive backs ended up surrendering only 197 passing yards to Shawn Robinson, and came away with three interceptions. Kris Boyd, Brandon Jones, Caden Sterns and Devante Davis all had big moments. Sterns in particular continues to shine as a freshman, recording both interceptions and playing well in run support. Boyd and Davis each had a few plays they would like to forget, but the duo played well overall.
It is no secret that Collin Johnson has the skill set to take over games at the receiver position, but #9 turned in one of his most memorable performances in a Texas uniform. Johnson recorded his 3rd 100+ yard game in his career, finishing the night with 7 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. In addition to his big game catching the ball, Johnson also had a huge block to help spring Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s game-clinching 38-yard touchdown reception in the 4th quarter.
I believe I can flyyy 🎶
COLLIN. JOHNSON. EVERYBODY. pic.twitter.com/va9OYXYlhS
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) September 22, 2018
Johnson’s talent has never been in question, but Saturday’s performance proves that the junior can be a matchup nightmare and has what it takes to be Sam Ehlinger’s #1 receiver.
For the third consecutive game, Sam Ehlinger played a turnover-free game. Don’t look now, but the sophomore has now thrown 8 touchdown passes compared to just 2 interceptions. Tom Herman commented after the game that a lot of Ehlinger’s progress is due to the offensive staff calling plays he is comfortable with and not asking him to do too much. There may not be a play that describes Ehlinger’s development more than his touchdown pass to Humphrey, where Ehlinger stood in the pocket, thought about bailing, but took a few steps back before finding Humphrey over the middle of the field.
— Stadium (@WatchStadium) September 23, 2018
In 3 of the 4 games for the Longhorns this season, their opponent has scored on their first possession. Yesterday, the Horned Frogs drove down the field with relative ease before having to settle for 46-yard field goal by Jonathan Song. Although the sample size is still relatively small, the Texas defense needs to do a better job of settling down early in games and not letting their opponents draw first blood.
Short Yardage Situations
Facing a 4th and 1 in the second quarter, Texas did something that I haven’t seen since 2016: playing under center. The result? A pitch play on the short side of the field to Daniel Young that resulted in the loss of a yard. In real time, I agreed with the decision to go for it, but the play call and personnel that matched it were very questionable. It didn’t end up hurting Texas in the long run, but the offensive coaching staff needs to do a better job of sticking with what makes sense.
A week after nailing all 3 of his field goal attempts, Cameron Dicker came back down to Earth by making only 1 of 3 field goals, missing very badly on his final attempt. Ryan Bujcevski averaged 39 yards on 5 punt attempts, but it is obvious that Tom Herman does not have a ton of confidence in his punter. Herman chose not to re-kick following an offsides penalty on a punt, likely because he didn’t want to risk a possible block or a shank from the freshman. D’Shawn Jamison made a mistake on during a kickoff return, bringing out a kick that went 3 yards into the endzone, resulting in a short return and a holding penalty, forcing Texas to start a drive at their own 5.
Special teams mistakes have not cost Texas a game to this point in the year, but if the Longhorns plan on competing for a Big 12 title, they must make corrections.
Sights from the Texas win over #17 TCU
The Texas Longhorns snapped a 4-game skid against the 17-ranked Horned Frogs on Saturday for their 3rd straight win. Texas defensive back Caden Sterns had 2 interceptions, and quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another. With his effort on Saturday night, Ehlinger became the first Texas quarterback since Colt McCoy (2008) with at least two passing TDs and one rushing TD in three consecutive games.
The Longhorns will travel next to Manhattan, Kansas to face the Kansas State Wildcats, where they haven’t won since 2002.
View sights from the Texas victory over TCU below.
Texas drops #17 TCU 31-16
Tom Herman got his first signature win over Gary Patterson and TCU on Saturday
The Texas Longhorns entered Saturday’s game looking to put an end to a nasty trend of losing to TCU — a team they have historically had their way with. Recent history has proven this task difficult, with TCU winning five of six since joining the Big 12, including four straight against the Longhorns. As a Big 12 member, TCU has a perfect 3-0 record in Austin. On Saturday afternoon, the Longhorns emphatically ended the losing streak to Gary Patterson and TCU in front of 95,124 fans, proving they are a legitimate contender for the Big 12 Championship this season.
TCU began on offense after Texas won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. The Horned Frogs worked quickly behind quarterback Shawn Robinson, marching 46 yards on 8 plays. The drive was capped with a 46-yard field goal by Jonathan Song which gave TCU an early 3-0 lead over Texas.
Texas failed to answer Songs’s field goal on their first offensive possession, with freshman kicker Cameron Dicker missing his first field goal of the season on a 42-yard attempt.
The Longhorns would make up for it on their next possession, with quarterback Sam Ehlinger engineering a 65-yard scoring drive which was capped off by a five yard touchdown run by Tre Watson. Texas led TCU 7-3 at the 4:09 mark of the quarter, their first lead over the Horned Frogs in four years.
After two rushing plays on the next possession, Robinson would complete a 50-yard pass to Jalen Reagor, setting TCU up for a first and goal at the Texas 4 yard line. The Texas defense held steady, forcing the Frogs to settle for a 23-yard field goal, Jonathan Song’s second of the day.
The Longhorns maintained a 7-6 lead after one quarter was in the books.
Cameron Dicker’s 34-yard field goal represented the first points of the second quarter, extending Texas’ lead to 10-6 over TCU.
TCU would take a 13-10 lead into the locker room at the half, on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to Jalen Reagor.
Texas started the third quarter on offense but quickly went three-and-out. On the next possession Robinson was intercepted by Brandon Jones, but the Longhorns would fail to capitalize.
Song extended the TCU lead to 16-10 at the 8:44 mark, making good on his 3rd field goal of the night, this time from 29 yards out.
Texas regained its lead with less than a minute left in the quarter after Sam Ehlinger found a stretched-out Collin Johnson in the end zone for the score. Texas led TCU 17-16.
On TCU’s next possession, Caden Sterns intercepted Shawn Robinson for the second time on the evening and returned it for a touchdown. After review by the officials, Sterns stepped out of bounds at the TCU 2 yard line. Sam Ehlinger finished the short drive by taking the first down snap and running it in untouched for a touchdown.
Headed to the fourth quarter, Texas held a 24-16 lead over the Horned Frogs.
The fourth quarter belonged all to the Longhorns, who scored a lone touchdown courtesy of Sam Ehlinger to Lil’Jordan Humphrey, and played solid defense en route to a 31-16 win.
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the win and rushed for one touchdown. Collin Johnson led the Longhorns with 124 yards receiving and one touchdown. The Texas offense totaled 367 yards of total offense compared to TCU’s 372.
Cade Sterns and Brandon Jones each had interceptions against TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson, who threw for 197 yards in the loss.
The Longhorns improve to 3-1 overall and are riding a three-game win streak, something they haven’t accomplished since the 2014 season. Additionally, Texas defeated it’s second consecutive ranked opponent in two weeks.
While the win over TCU was important, Tom Herman knows he has a lot of work ahead if his team wishes to leave the Manhattan with a win next Saturday:
“We’re going to celebrate it, enjoy it, and we’re going to wake up tomorrow knowing we got to go on the road for the first time in a month against a Kansas State team that’s always, always tough to handle and especially when they’re playing at home. That is a tough, tough place to play. ”
Texas will travel to Manhattan, Kansas to take on the Kansas State Wildcats next Saturday at 2:30 PM.
- True freshman running back Keaontay Ingram returned to the field against TCU after missing the USC game with a knee injury. Ingram left the game in the first half after suffering a hip pointer. In his postgame presser, Herman said he doesn’t expect Ingram’s injury to be anything long-term.
- Defensive back Jarmarquis Durst sustained a severe shoulder sprain.
- Offensive lineman Calvin Anderson played through some knee issues in the game and will be evaluated on Sunday.
- Texas improved to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big 12 Conference with the win
- The Longhorns are now 3-1 for the first time since 2012
- Saturday’s win marks the first time UT has beaten Top 25 teams in consecutive weeks since 2008
- The Texas defense forced four turnovers in the win
- Collin Johnson’s 100-yard receiving performance marked the second straight season, and seventh time in school history, that a Longhorn receiver has eclipsed the century mark against TCU.
- Sam Ehlinger has 2,893 career passing yards, surpassing his high school coach Todd Dodge’s career passing mark for 15th all-time in school history. Ehlinger also becomes the first Longhorn QB since Colt McCoy in 2008 with at least one passing and one rushing TD in three consecutive games.
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