Winning is fun. Yay! But that was a really bad football team. Eight losses last season, including a 34-pointer to Iowa State – a team that even Texas beat by three scores. Their offense had several chances to put up points through the air, as you’ll see, but their defense was just trash. Let’s do this quickly and then turn our focus to USC.
Technically a Shutout, but…
San Jose State’s first near-scoring opportunity came on the first play of their second possession.
Kris Boyd is a great athlete but still not a great football player. This is the second week he’s been picked on. On this play, Texas was in Cover 3, with Boyd responsible for a deep third of the field. Alternatively, he could bite on a pump fake and get smoked by a former low 3-star wide receiver (who, to be fair, was clocked at 4.49 in high school). Watch the quarterback’s non-throwing hand – it doesn’t come off the ball. That’s typically what defensive backs are taught to look for before they break on a throw. Boyd is a boom-or-bust player. He hasn’t had many booms yet this season, but he will.
Brandon Jones is another guy who has been and will continue to be targeted by opposing offenses. Texas is in its “2-4-5” even front that we saw in the spring game, and is running a fire zone blitz. In simple terms, Jones is responsible for the second receiver from the sideline after the receivers have completed their release. That last part matters. At the snap, the second receiver from the sideline (or No. 2) is the slot receiver, but then he and the tight end (No. 3) cross each other. The tight end becomes the No. 2, and the slot the No. 3. The No. 3 receiver is the responsibility of the hook defender, in this case Gary Johnson. But Jones chases the slot inside, which – if the tight end had caught the ball – would have forced Boyd to attempt an open-field tackle on a player who is four inches taller and 53 pounds heavier than him. Five will get you 10 that he misses that tackle.
This is the very next play. Texas again brings pressure from the field but this time with man coverage behind it. When the running back releases on a route, Anthony Wheeler has to peel off his blitz and run with him. That is his job. It is NOT Malik Jefferson’s job. Malik should be bouncing in the middle, watching the quarterback and in prime position to recognize the wave of offensive linemen setting up a screen in front of him. An engagement there likely forces the receiver to bend his path back toward Naashon Hughes, but instead he has space to split the difference between Hughes and Malcolm Roach. Had the runner not slipped, I have confidence in DeShon Elliott to make this tackle and prevent the score, but it should still have been 1st & Goal.
The whatever-San-Jose-State’s-mascot-ises split two receivers to the left and put a tight end and wing on the right. The Longhorns bring Holton Hill from the boundary and run Cover 2 behind it, with Elliott assuming Hill’s flat responsibilities (which, schematically, is pretty cool). The tight end runs a curl route and the wing runs a fade. Elliott will trail the fade with the expectation that the deep safety, Jones, is patrolling the half of the field behind him. Jones, however, was jumping the curl route from literally 12 yards away. That route isn’t Jones’ problem until the ball’s thrown. He left Elliott hanging, and they’re fortunate that Mr. 4.49 didn’t bring his hands to Austin. Otherwise, it very well could have been tied at 21 at the half.
Your Leading Scorer
Who had Hill as the team’s leader scorer after week two?
Texas rushes three, has Johnson spy the quarterback and runs
Quarter-Quarter-Half Cover 3 Cloud* on the back end. Hill, on the “Half” (Cover 2) side of the coverage side where the coverage is rotating, trails the No. 1 receiver, with Jones over the top. The quarterback tries to fit the ball into what I hope was a tight window (I can’t see Jones) but the ball flutters and dies. Hill and his blockers do the rest.
The scoring plays were efficient and pretty boring, but I at least got some pleasure out of seeing power and other gap-scheme runs. They were sorely missed against Maryland.
There’s so much going on in this play that I couldn’t diagram everything. The playside of the offensive line blocks down and washes the defense inside, leaving just a few stragglers for the H-back, running back and backside guard to clean up. There’s some confusion in the defense about who should fit where – or San Jose State’s 193-pound safety wanted no part of 305-pound Jake McMillon. A couple of things that wouldn’t fit in the diagram: right tackle Denzel Okafor needs to chip the edge rusher who nearly makes the stop in the backfield. Watch Connor Williams on the next play to see what it should look like. And I like what Corby Meekins has tight end Kendall Moore doing – he locks up one linebacker for a one-count before releasing and engaging the next defender – but he should probably focus on sticking with one guy per play, or at least hold the block for a two-count. Moore impressed me when I noticed him. Don’t get used to this, though; the line won’t dominate many other teams this easily. Even…even Garrett Gray stuffed his defender.
And even Kyle Porter found the end zone! (It’s time for Daniel Young and Toneil Carter to get more reps.) He ran better later in the game, but this was a weak opponent and Texas needs production in all four quarters. He’s running like he’s waiting to go down. But back to the play – SJSU overplays the jet sweep action and leaves a poor linebacker and the backside cornerback alone against Patrick Vahe and Porter. The linebacker just stands there, becoming an organic blocking sled for Vahe to slam into. Really bad defense.
Jerrod Heard scored on power too. It doesn’t get much easier. I’m not sure which play SJSU was worried about but it wasn’t the right one. The defenders are slow to react and overpursue when they do. I’d like to see Heard NOT run into the back of his damn blocker; it’s not like he didn’t have time to see how the block was unfolding and adjust. Notice Moore helping to wall off the defense again (it didn’t look hard).
In the Zone
The zone run plays that were ineffective last week were productive this week, especially later in the game when SJSU was worn out.
Texas’ first score came on Q outside zone. This is another clip that illustrates how bad SJSU was. The backside of the play gets cut off, including a nose tackle who was reached by the backside guard. SJSU caps it off with a pitiful effort from the backside defensive end. There’s not much else to say or learn about this one.
SJSU has loaded the box, and the safety isn’t falling for that jet sweep crap again. They were going to have two guys (a linebacker and the safety) unblocked anyway because of numbers and the front, but Patrick Hudson loses his footing and leaves a second linebacker unblocked. This play should have gone nowhere, but they lost track of Warren. I like the linebacker who gives up and just starts spanking Moore the best.
Spartans to Trojans
That’s enough of that. I’ve read exactly nothing about USC and watched only their opener against Western Michigan, so all I can tell you is what the video said. Their defense should be familiar to the offense, since they’ve practiced against the 2-4-5 look. Outside linebacker #45** was the first guy who jumped out. He’s like a bigger Breckyn Hager with better football instincts. Their insider linebacker play got way better in the second half, which I soon figured out was because #35 returned from suspension. The only defensive lineman who consistently caught my eye was #94, so that makes me feel a little bit better about Texas’ chances of at least sustaining plays for more than three seconds. Their secondary looks like it’s in fast-forward; everyone looked good, but they weren’t challenged very often (only 23 total pass attempts).
I didn’t have time to watch the whole game on offense, but you all know Roland Jones. He’s terrifying and angry, so that should be fun. Repeat for Sam Darnold. I’m hoping to find a weak spot in their offensive line when I watch the Stanford game.
The only positives I’ve got are that this Texas squad has had a habit the past two years of hanging with highly ranked teams (2-2 straight up, 3-1 against the spread as double-digit underdogs), and Tom Herman has the same reputation, but better.
Now, how many comments can we go before we start talking about the quarterbacks?
* I saw the all-22 shot of the play. It was Cover 3 Cloud, not Quarter-Quarter-Half. The same principles apply: Hill trailing, Jones over the top. The window was larger than you’d like.
** @ShotgunSpr tweeted that #45 (Porter Gustin) will have an MRI on his shoulder Sunday night.