Texas took a positive step toward putting a tired meme to bed, so there’s that. Let’s keep this brief. The offense continues to amaze with its ineptitude. They had a good plan to start the game, and then forgot to prepare adjustments. Kansas repeatedly begged the offense to throw quick to the outside – including on a 3rd & 1 where the corner was NINE yards off the receiver. I thought for sure we’d see run-pass options with hitches and quick-outs to punish the Jayhawks for those cushions, but they never came. Texas tried WR screens, but they’re sorely missing Reggie Hemphill-Mapps’ decisiveness on those. The few times the receiver did stick his foot in the ground and go, it was because his blocker was tumbling back into his lap. Other times, Shane Buechele underthrew or missed receivers in space. Other passes were dropped. And the offensive line managed to give up pressures even when they were in seven- or eight-man protections.
The defense wasn’t so bad, but if I had to guess, Holton Hill’s suspension will cost Texas bowl eligibility. Hill to Davante Davis is a falling-off-the-edge-of-the-earth-type drop-off. Josh Thompson got his shot at the end of the game and aimed it at his foot. Brandon Jones is still struggling with the basic skills of a
football player mobile living being, such as angles. Antwuan Davis was in the wrong spot more often than he was in the right one, but he made the best of his opportunities. Jason Hall and Kris Boyd had a few communication issues, especially on one early series in the red zone. They looked at times like the 2016 secondary because, personnel-wise, they were the 2016 secondary. With two top-10 passing offenses left on the schedule, I am not optimistic.
Texas scored on the first play again, and I mumbled, “Aww ****.”
It’s really nothing special, and I’ve talked about this principle of attacking Quarters coverage before. Kansas is playing a man coverage variant of Quarters, so the safety and cornerback stick with their receivers even when they cross paths on the Scissors concept. This is simpler than switching responsibilities, but it also puts the cornerback in a footrace to the post. If you’re wondering why Texas didn’t do this more often, recall the dozens of times you’ve seen the offensive line give up sacks and pressures while in max protection and you’ll have your answer. It’s a miracle they executed this one.
Sam Is Back-ish
I’ll refrain from speculation, but the way the coaches handled Sam Ehlinger in this game was bizarre. We’re not talking about a bum ankle – either he’s cleared or he isn’t. Here was our non-garbage time glimpse of him.
This is the sort of play design I’d expect to see in an offense built around Ehlinger (Cameron Rising could probably do it too). The run fake presents the threat of a sweep by Toneil Carter, or an off-tackle run by Ehlinger. Texas has run Power Read a few times this season, which is very similar, but I don’t think they’ve presented this exact look before. That it worked anyway goes to show how dangerous it could be – against Kansas, at least. I’m glad they snuck this play in with Luke Ford in attendance.
Run It ‘Til They Stop It
On their second offensive scoring drive, Texas ran the same play five straight times.
They got in 12 personnel with the tight end and fullback/H-back on the same side and the tailback on the opposite side. Kansas lined up each time in an under front, which means there’s a “bubble” in the backside A gap (no defender lined up directly over it). Texas then ran inside zone to the strong side but had the fullback/H-back, Chris Warren, cross the center and lead block through that uncovered A gap.
Kansas finally adjusted on the fifth play, running a fire zone from the strong side and slanting the defensive line toward the offense’s targeted gap. Improbably, the offensive line – particularly center Zach Shackelford and right guard Jake McMillon – had no problem handling the line movement. Daniel Young and Toneil Carter ran exceptionally well on this series, and though I’m very reluctant to dismiss another offensive coordinator, their performances continue to make a convincing case that whoever decided Kyle Porter and Chris Warren deserved carries over the freshmen should be out of coaching.
A week after his grown-man effort on a touchdown reception against TCU, Collin Johnson is frustrating again.
Kansas had started rolling to one-deep safety looks to try to stop the run game, giving Texas one-on-one matchups outside. Big men punish teams for doing this, or they don’t play. Period. I’m not entertaining excuses here: When you’re eight inches taller and 45 pounds heavier than your opponent, you should be unstoppable. You should be making catches like you’re in your backyard being guarded by your little sister. Johnson didn’t even leave his feet. It’s time to accept that, at this still-early juncture in his career, Johnson is not who we thought he was before the season and even after USC.
And then there were plays like these that belong squarely on Buechele’s shoulders.
In the first clip, a 2nd & 7 at the +19, Kansas sold out to stop the run. With no deep safeties, all Buechele had to do was fire a quick, on-target pass to Johnson on the slant and it’s, at worst, 1st & Goal. I swear football isn’t as difficult as Texas makes it look.
In the second clip, a 3rd & 10, Texas has to use seven-man protection just to have a prayer at completing a route longer than 10 yards. The nature of Kansas’ coverage means the other routes clear out the defense, leaving the cornerback to chase Lorenzo Joe on the dig. When you watch other games, you’ll often see a receiver catch a pass in this area of the field and then run for a long time. That would have happened here if Buechele had thrown the ball above Joe’s knees.
And then there was the interception. Needing seven yards for a first down, Texas ran a concept designed to beat Cover 2 against Kansas’ … Cover 2. The cornerback is forced to decide between sinking and taking away the corner route, or sitting on the flat route and giving up the longer completion. This cornerback overplayed the corner route, leaving Lil’Jordan Humphrey open for an easy first down, but Buechele threw the deeper route anyway. Ughhhhhh.
One of Three Stupid Touchdowns
The only one of Kansas’ touchdowns I care to diagram is the first one. The second TD was a gadget play, and the last one was in garbage time against second stringers who would be third stringers if Texas had any depth.
This shouldn’t go for more than maybe a yard. There’s one blocker for three defenders. But the numbers don’t matter if Kris Boyd gets cut, and they matter even less if he loses contain.
Stats are necessary, but they conceal much more information than they convey. Antwuan Davis’ pick-six is a great example, because it could easily have been six points the other way.
Texas was playing a two-deep, six-under zone coverage. Note where Gary Johnson is in relation to the slot receiver on the far side, then compare that to where Davis is in relation to the near slot. Were it not for the pressure (it’s nice to turn the tables and get pressure with only three rushers), the Kansas QB would have had time to let the slot find his way into the vast emptiness in midfield. But fortunately, Charles Omenihu was bearing down on him and forced the early throw.
The second clip shows Jason Hall’s interception. Texas was playing Quarters, which means Hall needed to wall off the in-breaking route by the slot receiver. He overruns the route, and is mid-“oh ****” when the ball almost hits him in the face. Terrible read by the Kansas quarterback.
That’s all from me. Regarding the defensive performance, I wanted to add a little more context. Pretty much without fail, the lapses were a result of mistakes made by the players mentioned in the intro – players who were supposed to be backups (though with Hill and P.J. Locke still out, that hardly matters now). Even still, Texas gifted Kansas 30 yards in (questionable) penalties on their first scoring drive. The second touchdown came on a trick play after a series of missed tackles and confusion by the secondary in the red zone. Kansas’ first field goal came after going three-and-out on a drive starting at the Texas 24. And the last touchdown was in garbage time against backups. Texas could (and should) certainly have held Kansas to 20 points, and I have no doubt they would have scored no more than half that total if Hill had played.
Looking ahead, Antwuan Davis is going to make some mental mistakes, but they’ll be tolerable if he can pair them with big plays. Davante Davis is going to make mental and physical mistakes – he has to be protected as much as possible. Brandon Jones just needs to survive until the offseason, then really dedicate himself to becoming the football player he can be. Help is on the way.
That offensive line, though…