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Oklahoma Film Review: 5-1 If You Count Moral Victories

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I’m tired of moral victories. I’m tired of explaining away losses because of youth or injuries. The excuses are hollowed out more each year. Call it ‘Battered Longhorn Syndrome‘, but if this thing unravels, the parallels to Charlie Strong’s first year will be hard to ignore. Offensive line decimated by injuries? Check. (Occasionally) incompetent offensive coordinator whom no one wanted? Check. Stout defense that deserves better than the offense it’s stuck with? Mostly. Malik Jefferson’s improvement has been remarkable – so was Steve Edmond’s. But we have our quarterback of the future! There was a tweet the other day that I can’t find anymore (#freestringsays) that showed the funny results that come up when you put something like “Texas,” “QB” and “hope” in the search bar. Journalists since 2015 have been writing the same story about the Longhorns finding the QB who will lead them to the promised land. Someone probably wrote it about Tyrone Swoopes after the UCLA game.

This isn’t an argument against Tom Herman, just an expression of one fan’s frustration. The team generally seems to be better prepared, more determined and more violent. They’ve played with the intensity in every game that Strong’s teams really only brought against Oklahoma and Baylor. (By the way, Strong also lost his first game against Oklahoma by five points, 31-26.) But these are subjective measurements. I can’t celebrate them anymore. It’s time for objective progress.

Screens!

“Screens are an offensive lineman’s best friend.’’

– Tampa Bay center Joe Hawley

None of the offensive linemen come away with a passing grade from this effort. Tim Beck tried to help them in pass protection with tight ends and backs, but as you’ll see, even that wasn’t always enough, and you can’t max protect on every play unless you want to lose. So what do you do when your offensive line is just Walmart greeters for the pass rush? You tell them to run downfield and block somebody smaller. As a defensive lineman, when the pass rushing is coming easy, it’s really hard to tell the difference between when you beat your man and when he let you win.

Texas ran the same slow screen three times, and despite the offensive line’s best efforts, two of the three were huge successes.

The first screen came on the first play of the game. That’s what you call a tone-setter. Oklahoma spent most of the game with two deep safeties and played man coverage underneath. They handled jet and orbit motion by shadowing it and leaving everyone else in place. That removed a defender from the point of attack and could have resulted in an opening-play touchdown if the lead blockers could finish (or start) their blocks. Check out Collin Johnson’s crack block on the inside linebacker on the second play. Oklahoma had a busted coverage on that one — I doubt they intended to play a three-deep, two-under zone. The gain on the third play was negated by an illegal block. Go figure.

Blocking: Optional

I don’t need to remind anyone who watched the game why the pass protection needed help. OU took it to the tackles all game, but the interior was bad too.

There’s no reason to slow this down and critique it because they all sucked. Just know that you should be able to go out and find seven human beings of a certain size, then find three more human beings of roughly that same size, and the seven should be able to get in the way of the three for at least a few seconds. Not only is this clip stupid, but it also means Texas had three players trying to get open against eight defenders.

But enough with the negativity; here’s one where the blocking was inadequate but Texas scored anyway.

This is one of Texas’ go-to plays in short-yardage: inside zone from 11 personnel. They leave the 5-technique unblocked and read him, while Cade Brewer seals off the edge player. This play probably goes for a touchdown between Denzel Okafor and Patrick Vahe were it not for the linebacker shooting the A gap. He should have been blocked by Terrell Cuney, but again, I’m not interested in pointing fingers along the O-line unless I can point all five. The rest of this is just want-to.

Brewer!

This was a ‘yuge’ completion midway through the 4th quarter that put Texas inside the 10 and set up the go-ahead touchdown. Brewer looks like he might be a good one.

“If you really want play-action, you’d better pull a guard.” – Chris Brown

This play-fake and protection is a staple of Herman’s offense, but it’s more effective when paired with an actual run game. Texas also hasn’t really run power very much this season, which makes it a less convincing fake for smart linebackers. Oklahoma’s Will linebacker wasn’t fooled at all on this one.

Beck was trying to sneak Chris Warren out of the backfield on a throwback rail route. I love the design. The Z and H run a smash concept that Texas uses often, and the X is coming across the field on a deep post route. What makes it really great, though, is Brewer on the delay-release checkdown. I should probably praise the offensive line for the protection, but really it’s the play-fake that makes it work. The whole play just flows really well, and Brewer looks pretty good in space.

Throwback to the Throwback

Beck must have really wanted Brewer to get his touchdown, because he tried to go back to him on the very next play. (Herman said on Rewind that this was supposed to be a naked bootleg, but unless he has a definition of naked bootleg that I’ve never encountered, there’s no way; the routes are wrong for it.)

In addition to the screens, Texas had a great plan to try to slow down Oklahoma’s defense with the throwbacks like we saw in the previous video. This time, the play they’re faking is outside zone (which we also didn’t run, I don’t think; faking speed option may have been more effective). They’re hoping to get the whole OU defense flowing to the right so that Brewer can sneak up the seam on the left side for the easy six-pointer. The deep safety holds his ground, though, so Ehlinger has to improvise. He’s pretty good at that.

We Can’t Stop Counter Trey

Perimeter runs are a weakness of our base defense. We tried to mitigate this by playing more even fronts and slanting/blitzing, but we still got burned sometimes in our base look or guessed wrong on the blitzes. And sometimes, we just got beat.

We guessed right on this one but didn’t maintain gap integrity.

With the slant, the playside A, B and C gaps are closed. The linebackers can scrape over the top to meet the two pulling linemen, and a safety, Brandon Jones, will be there to clean it up. The problem occurs when Chris Nelson goes over the top of the tight end’s down block, opening up the C gap. Ideally, Malik Jefferson or Jones would recognize it and correct it, but that’s a tough play by that point.

Coverage Busts

The first OU touchdown wasn’t a busted coverage so much as it was bad technique, but it’s interesting to look at next to the other long touchdown pass because the route concept is so similar.

In case you were wondering, 5.02 seconds elapsed between the snap and the release of the ball. Kris Boyd is essentially in man coverage on the outside receiver. He’s beaten badly, but then he makes it way, way worse by trying to find the ball. He starts looking for it at the 25-yard line, and then continues alternating his eyes from the receiver to the sky all the way to the goal line. There’s a reason you don’t see championship sprinters look behind them to see how they’re doing — it makes you slow. If he’d just focus on the man, he could at least run through him and prevent him from catching the ball. Take the 15-yard penalty over the 54-yard touchdown.

Now compare that route distribution (post, deep out) to this one:

A problem that inexperienced secondaries can encounter with pattern match coverages is that it isn’t always obvious what the receiver’s stem is. Is the tight end running an out or a vertical route? Jones decides that it’s an out, which P.J. Locke can handle, and tries to get underneath the post by the outside receiver. In the previous example, the stem was more clearly defined — the slot ran 10 yards downfield before making the out cut — so Jones had no trouble diagnosing it as being his responsibility. This one’s fuzzy, but the result isn’t.

So Long, Mayfield

Baker Mayfield is very slippery when he’s running from anyone except the Fayetteville PD. He finishes his career against Texas with a 2-2 record and four interceptions. Here’s one.

OU’s got a good one in Trey Sermon. They like to swing him out on rail routes and had a lot of success doing so against Iowa State. But Naashon Hughes has done a good job this season playing under control and picking up routes like this. On the first play, Texas is in a Cover 0 blitz, meaning Hughes has to peel off if Sermon releases. This was a big play on 3rd & 5 with OU knocking on the door to a 24-0 lead.

The second play was even bigger. It’s 4th & 3. Oklahoma is trying to extend its lead right before the half, and Texas would be content to get to the locker room down by 13 points. Orlando dials up more man pressure, but he’s got a deep safety and has Anthony Wheeler drop out of the blitz as a spy/middle hook player. Like Hughes earlier, John Bonney is a blitzer unless his man releases on a route. He takes an incredible angle to intersect the route and comes away with a pick — Mayfield’s first of the season — that sets up Texas’ field goal, cutting OU’s halftime lead to 10.

When Jones and Gerald Wilbon apparently knocked Mayfield out of the game late in the third quarter, with Texas down by just six points, it sure felt like a turning point.

I really thought Jones was offsides, but he wasn’t. He got an incredible jump, though — he’s almost even with the tight end before he gets out of his three-point stance. It’s impossible to ignore his athleticism out there. Now he just needs to eliminate the mental mistakes and get better as a tackler.

Oklahoma’s trying to take a page out of Beck’s book, faking outside zone to the left only to dump it off quickly to the right. When they weren’t gashing the run defense or throwing on Boyd downfield, they were drawing up plays intended to force him into making open-field tackles. They really avoided Holton Hill — the only ball Mayfield completed on him was to Sermon (not even Hill’s original receiver on the play) after a long scramble and went for just four yards. It’s a testament to his abilities as a tackler that Hill still tied for second in total tackles.

Anyway, back to the clip. Texas seems to be running a fire zone. They defend the play well, although Boyd jumped the flat route and may have cleared enough space that Mayfield could have hit the out route behind it had he not had Jones in his face.

Texas really has to figure out the cornerback spot. If Josh Thompson is healthy and as good as the people who should know have said, he needs to get a look … but maybe wait until the Baylor game. The 2018 cornerback commits had better show up ready to go. Hill could be gone, and Boyd’s job should be up for grabs.

Right now, Texas is a 7-point underdog against Oklahoma State. We’re winless in five games as underdogs against them, and we’ve covered in only one of those games. But hey, we’re 4-1 against the spread this season. Anything’s possible.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. cyncus1

    October 17, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Out of all the articles and news columns regarding the Longhorns, this is by far my favorite!!!!! Can you please break down more of our Oline blocking scheme so we can see why we are not able to run the ball? Your example of Cuney not blocking the blitzer in the A gap is a great example. Thanks and please keepem coming!

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Commitment Spotlight: Tyler Owens

Texas has landed a commitment from highly coveted safety Tyler Owens. What does he bring to Todd Orlando’s defense?

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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.

Player Information

Name: Tyler Owns
Position: S
High School: Plano East
City & State: Plano, Texas

Measurables

Height: 6’2
Weight:  202
40-yard time: 4.48
Shuttle: 3.29
Vertical: N/A

Statistics

No stats available.

Film

Tyler Owens Junior Season

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Summary

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.

Final Verdict

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.

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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

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Photo via: Bethany Hocker, USA TODAY Sports

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:

The Good

The Secondary

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 two 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.

Collin Johnson

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.

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.

Turnover-Free Sam

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.

The Bad

Slow Start

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.

The Ugly

Special Teams

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. 

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Sights from the Texas win over #17 TCU

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Photo: Andrew Dieb, USA TODAY Sports

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.

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Texas drops #17 TCU 31-16

Tom Herman got his first signature win over Gary Patterson and TCU on Saturday

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Photo: Bethany Hocker, USA TODAY Sports

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.

INJURIES

  • 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.

GAME NOTES

  • 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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