Coaching a team as a 17-point underdog is never easy. You must have — and instill in your team — a healthy fear of your opponent. But you also have to convince your players that they belong on the same field, and that they can win. You do this by telling them no one’s giving them a chance, telling them they’re going to shock the world, telling them they’re going to punch the opponent in the face and keep punching until the referees stop the fight. That was the attitude Texas took into the game. The defense executed it, but not the offense (or special teams).
It’s not enough to tell your players that this is your plan — you have to demonstrate it through your actions. This is why I understand and appreciate decisions like going for it on 4th & 2 on the first offensive series (even when you don’t convert), and throwing deep on 1st down from your own 1-yard line (even when it’s intercepted). It’s why I would have gone for two in overtime. Seventeen-point underdogs don’t secure upsets by playing for field goals and field position.
I haven’t had a chance to do a full rewatch yet, but it sure seems like this unit is figuring things out. I do think that schematically, Todd Orlando’s defense matches up well with what USC tries to do — maybe we’ll get into that during the bye week. There are also still problems in the back end: every offense so far has targeted Kris Boyd and Brandon Jones; two of them had success doing so, and one was a couple of misconnections away from it. But let’s start with positives.
Just wow. On 4th & Goal, USC tries to punch it in with inside zone. They get two double teams on Chris Nelson and Poona Ford, which you’d expect to be enough for Roland Jones to gain a few inches and six points. Instead, Nelson goes nowhere, and Ford splits his double team. The real key, though, was Malcolm Roach. He’s lined up on the inside shoulder of the tight end, who’s drawn the near-impossible task of cutting him off. You can see how that goes. Note that Texas has two defenders on the far right in position to stop the zone read.
I think this makes Charles Omenihu the team’s sack leader. It’s been cool to watch him grow into the player Charlie Strong thought he could be. This was USC’s second offensive series of the second half. They were up 14-10 and had just connected on a long pass to get out from their own 13-yard line. At this point in the game, the Texas defense’s performance felt unsustainable. Then Omenihu came through. He leaned into USC’s right tackle, apparently got his inside hand under the tackle’s pec and eased him right out of the play. Daniel could tell you more about what went wrong with the tackle’s technique. It’s scary how effortless Omenihu made this look.
USC’s first two touchdowns were flukey.
On the first score, they were trying to exploit Boyd’s tendency to jump underneath routes. The No. 1 receiver sets up for a flash screen, and the tight end fakes like he’s blocking then runs the fade. The Texas defense is doing something you’ll see a lot of in this post: playing Quarters coverage with a solo call on the single-receiver side. This allows them to bring the free safety over to cover the No. 3 receiver if he runs a deep route. But the weakside corner wasn’t completely on his own: the defense was also dropping the B-backer to take away the quick game to that side.
Boyd blew me away with his discipline on this play (little victories). Sam Darnold has to improvise. No. 3 has run a deep route, so the free safety, DeShon Elliott, is on him. I can’t even get mad at this play — that’s an almost impossible throw and catch. I would have been far more upset if Darnold had run this in, which he might have been able to do since the pass rush had been washed out.
The second touchdown, however, involved a lapse worth getting upset about.
First, let’s admire Breckyn Hager. I don’t know that anyone on the team approaches every play with the unbridled rage and tenacity that he does. Now, to the ugly stuff. The pass rush and deep coverage forces Darnold to check it down, which is exactly what the defense wants. At this point in the play, USC has, hypothetically, four blockers (one is behind the defense and can’t help) to take on seven defenders. The only thing the defense has to do is funnel the ball into a smaller and smaller area until Roland can either be tackled or shoved out of bounds. Somehow, Holton Hill still doesn’t understand leverage (and he’s far from the only one guilty of this — just look at their kick coverage). This is JV stuff, and it’s infuriating.
This was one of the turning points of the game. The potential game-saving sack was dangled in front of us, then The Darnold did his thing. I think it was around this point in the broadcast that Joel Klatt was saying Texas couldn’t sit back and had to keep attacking. On the previous play — the first of the series — they’d played zone and allowed an easy completion over the middle. This time, they went Cover 2 Man and tried to overwhelm the left side of USC’s offensive line. Darnold and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin did a great job targeting the weakest link in the coverage: Anthony Wheeler on a running back up the seam. Wheeler seems to anticipate a route to the flat and overruns it, letting the back cut inside, but he did an impressive job of recovering for a big man. That doesn’t make it any less painful.
Here’s the same coverage against trips that I said you’d see again. USC releases the back to the trips side, actually giving them a 4×1 look — and 4-on-4 matchup to that side, since the Rover is blitzing and the B-backer is dropping underneath the No. 1 weak. Roach is beating the right tackle up like Omenihu did on his sack, but the solo receiver is able to get separation (way too much) on Boyd on the slant route in time for Darnold to find him. The rest is just luck. Watching Elliott return this pick, though, makes me wonder why anyone ever thought this guy would be a linebacker.
I’m not entirely sure what Texas was going for on this one; someone definitely screwed up, but I’m not sure whether it’s Hager or Jefferson. What likely confused them was the late motion by USC, which changes the look to the field side from deuces to trips. Neither Hager nor Jefferson seemed to notice. My guess would be that initially Hager was supposed to drop to account for the back while Jefferson would spy Darnold and rush if he saw a lane. I would then guess that their responsibilities should have flipped once the back flipped. Either way, someone needs to carry that tight end up the seam. Darnold handed Texas a gift with this play.
This one gave me flashbacks to Notre Dame scoring on the first play of overtime last year. It’s trips again from USC, and the same coverage adjustment from Texas. Boyd’s receiver gives a jab step to the corner before cutting to the post, and that’s all it takes to get separation — but Boyd should have inside help from Jones. Instead, Jones is jumping the deep route by the No. 3 receiver, who is already covered low by Wheeler and high by Elliott. If you need something to cheer you up a little, watch Jefferson maul Roland.
There’s something we’re not being told about the running backs. I’m sure of it. There is no way that these coaches made it this far into their careers if they were so bad at evaluating that they legitimately think there’s no difference in the abilities of Chris Warren and Kyle Porter to carry the football. Herman said in Monday’s press conference that Warren was averaging only 3.8 yards per carry. He got only four carries. This is what we call a small sample size. But if that’s the company line, let’s compare Warren’s 3.8 ypc to Porter’s 1.8. There’s a big difference between 2nd & 6 and 2nd & 8, and an even bigger difference between 3rd & 2 and 3rd & 6. This is always true, but especially when your offense is struggling. It doesn’t have to be about generating explosive plays. This is as simple as helping out your freshman quarterback. (By the way, it’s 10 yards for a first down. 3.8 x 3 = 11.4. 11.4 > 10.)
Porter is a better blocker. I get it. That’s a good reason to use him as a blocker; it’s not a good reason to give him Warren’s carries. Use 20 personnel. Do something. Don’t make him the lead blocker for your quarterback when you’ve only got 1 ½ healthy quarterbacks and pretend that it was a good idea. This is up there with 2014, when Shawn Watson gave Johnathan Gray so many carries over D’Onta Foreman. Maybe Warren isn’t practicing as hard as the coaches would like; Herman noted, after all, that a lack of work ethic in practice had been costing Armanti Foreman snaps. That’s fine. (Well, it’s not, but you know. They’re trying to change the culture or whatever.) But don’t pretend that the two are equals. Warren or the freshmen need to get more touches. That’s step one to fixing the run game. I’m afraid that we’ll continue to see them rely on Sam Ehlinger until he’s knocked out of a game, at which point he’ll be replaced by the unimaginative package with Jerrod Heard back there. [/rant]
I’m starting this one with the fun stuff only because Ehlinger had an opportunity to make a similar throw to the one Darnold made for the touchdown in OT. Before the snap, it looks like USC is going to bring the house, but they actually rush only four, drop two underneath defenders to spy Ehlinger and pick up any crossers, and play what looks to me like off man behind it. Ehlinger, of course, does a nice job extending the play and finding Foreman, but he missed the fact that Lorenzo Joe’s route was going to run off the safety, leaving Lil’Jordan Humphrey open on the exact same route that beat Boyd. It’s still a great play; I’m just illustrating that there’s plenty of room for growth. You have to like the way Foreman keeps working to find an opening and give Ehlinger somewhere to go with the ball.
As I said above, I love this play-call because actions speak louder than words. If you want to communicate to your team that you’re coming for the Trojans’ throats, a QB sneak isn’t the way to do it, but max protect three verticals is. USC doubles Collin Johnson at the top, and they’ll get a de facto double team on Humphrey in the slot, but Devin Duvernay is matched up one-on-one. Tim Beck likes this more than he should — recall that Shane Buechele threw a pick to Duvernay on this same concept against Maryland. The throw is late, and I wonder if this is the max of Ehlinger’s range, but that’s not really the issue. With the off coverage, this should be converted to a deep comeback, in my opinion. Make that determination pre-snap based on the coverage if you have to, but take the 15-yard gain and first down. It doesn’t matter how much faster Duvernay is than the other guy if (1) the quarterback doesn’t get the ball out in time to lead him, or (2) the corner is so far off that Duvernay can’t overtake him.
This should have been a flag. I know the hand was at Ehlinger’s neck, but something — maybe the defender’s hand, or maybe his glove — caught Ehlinger by something, probably the chin strap. By rule, grabbing and pulling the chin strap is the same as grabbing and pulling the facemask. Even worse, by rule, it’s a flag if there’s any doubt. You’re a blanking idiot if you don’t have doubts as to whether it was a facemask.
But beyond that, this is the sort of play that was lacking in the first half. A good rule of thumb is that when you hear the announcers gushing about how fast a defense is, the offense should be serving up a healthy dose of misdirection, screens and draws. Texas doesn’t seem to have a slow screen in the whole damn playbook (and I’ve been lamenting this fact for years), but at least they made an effort to slow USC down later in the game with misdirection (reverses, throwback, etc.).
Window dressing aside, this was a major play in Herman’s playbook — a concept I highlighted in my breakdown of his offense during the offseason. I wish we had the all-22, because I’d bet Johnson was open on the deep crossing route. The jet motion removed the curl/flat player to the playside, the corner doesn’t have leverage on the in-breaking route, and at less than five yards’ depth, none of the underneath defenders should be a threat. What keeps this from being a short gain, though, is that tight end Cade Brewer got hung up on the blitzing outside linebacker. That disrupts the timing, lets USC’s defense recover from the misdirection and gives that defender time to GRAB EHLINGER BY THE FACE WHAT THE HELL ARE THE REFS DOING?
As annoyed as I was at the personnel decisions and absence of misdirection in the offense, this was a terrific play-call. Another play that Beck and Herman love is the snag or spot concept. It was all over the place in the Maryland game, for instance. (Apologies — I should have started that clip with a trigger warning.) If I know that, USC certainly does. The defense overreacts to the sprint action, and no one accounts for Brewer coming back across the formation.
Let’s overreact. Hook ’em.
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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