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West Virginia Film Review: Lucky Break

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

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What is the expected point value of any one player? Vegas tell us the best quarterbacks are worth seven points, and the best non-QB in college is worth no more than three points. An oddsmaker for one Vegas sportsbook said in 2013 that Jadeveon Clowney was worth only two points to South Carolina.

This was a game where those numbers were worth thinking about. Texas was without should-have-been Thorpe Award semi-finalist Holton Hill, but they added should-have-been All-American Connor Williams and apparently healthy Sam Ehlinger. West Virginia lost quarterback Will Grier at the end of their third series on a play that literally cost them seven points. My gut says this is another game that would have gone to overtime without Grier’s injury, but even that is way better than I expected.

It Starts Up Front

Texas’ first three offensive series: five plays, 19 yards, punt; four plays, -5 yards, punt; three plays, five yards, punt. The next two series (Ehlinger’s second and third): 11 plays, 91 yards, touchdown; 10 plays, 87 yards, touchdown. This is the play that got it started.

WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson coaches in the extremes. His defenses aren’t afraid of all-out blitzes, but he’ll just as soon drop eight into coverage. He even dropped 10 into coverage at one point.

On this play, they’re bringing the house. Texas has a great play called for the situation. The two short routes keep the defenders in the shallows, putting Reggie Hemphill-Mapps one-on-one on the corner route against an inside-leveraged defender. Ehlinger rolls away from the brunt of the blitz and throws this ball with an upperclassman’s anticipation and touch.

What jumps out even more, though, is the blocking. It’s one-on-one matchups across the board, but no one got beat. There are plenty of stories out right now about how Connor Williams’ return made everyone better, but this play shows five other men (counting Kyle Porter) holding their own. I don’t want to make too much of it — when I scouted West Virginia, I couldn’t find an impact defensive lineman — but it was cool to see.

Once Texas got inside the 25, it was 11’s time. Ehlinger carried the ball four times in five plays on QB power, setting up 3rd & Goal at the four-yard line. With the defense now completely zeroed in on everything Ehlinger did in the backfield, Tim Beck called play-action.

As we discussed last week, his run threat makes play-action in the red zone very effective. Texas doesn’t even have to fake the same run play that got them there — this is inside zone read. Collin Johnson executes his crack block to perfection, and playside linebacker #11 (there was a lot of hype around him, but he had a rough game from what I’ve seen) had his feet in cement. The ball is almost touching Kendall Moore’s fingertips before #11 starts actually running to the flat. This is the cornerback’s play to make first and foremost, but the pursuit from the inside should be barreling down on them a lot quicker than it is here.

Ehlinger in Space

Gibson went the other route on 3rd & 9 on the ensuing Texas possession. I understand the intent, and I applaud him for scheming it so that his lone rusher was matched up on the running back and not a lineman. But it’s stupid to allow a dual-threat quarterback basically 10 lead blockers — five of whom are on scholarship for their blocking ability — while dropping into zones and thus surrendering half the yardage needed for the first down without a fight.

Still, the pressure gets Ehlinger to roll away from his linemen. Hemphill-Mapps, Porter and Devin Duvernay did tremendous jobs transitioning from receivers to blockers, and West Virginia got what it deserved for this play-call.

The throwback pass came next, and although I’m not going to break it down, it was nice to see Texas use its former quarterback as a passer. If this was part of his wildcat package, the package would probably still work.

Texas capped the drive off with another play-action pass, this time to Chris Warren.

This is nearly identical to Ehlinger’s touchdown pass to Cade Brewer last week, except Warren is lined up on the backside (and runs the backside seam) instead of on the frontside. West Virginia is all over power read, and someone — either the boundary safety or the Will linebacker — blew his assignment. (My guess is the boundary safety was on a designed blitz, and the Will, #11 again, should have stuck with Warren.)

And the Freshman Taketh Away

Threatening to take a 21-0 lead, Texas reverted to DumbShit™, official sponsor of Texas Football since 2010.

This was a similar sprint out concept to the one that ended the Oklahoma State game. (The receivers even picked each other again.) But the trouble is up front. Terrell Cuney decides to check the field conditions after the snap instead of looking at what he wants to hit. He’s got no immediate threat to his gap, but he still lets the Sam linebacker squeeze through the A gap. Zach Shackelford has no chance to make this block without Cuney’s help. And Ehlinger needs to take the sack and live to fight another down, obviously. (h/t to Daniel for the analysis of the OL breakdown.)

Roughshod

This was only the second game this year in which Texas went over 175 yards rushing and 5.0 yards per carry. (San Jose State was the other game.) This was a two-play, 46-yard scoring drive.

It starts with basic inside zone. The playside defensive end shoots way upfield, and then the Will linebacker (#11 again) didn’t fill the B gap. Daniel Young ran through #11’s feeble tackle attempt, and then didn’t even have to elude the playside safety because he derp’d himself out of the play. Not that he had to do much here, but Young looks like a good one.

(Quick aside, the following guys were additions by Tom Herman’s staff before signing day: Young, Kerstetter, Brewer, Toneil Carter and Gary Johnson. That’s pretty good.)

The second run is all about the blocking — this is freaking textbook counter. Before the snap, you can see the vulnerability in WVU’s alignment. It’s an easy block for Williams to mash the 4i defensive end inside, and the next layer of defense is starting the play four yards off the line of scrimmage. The linebacker spills Jake McMillon’s trap block, but McMillon does a nice job of “logging” him (basically letting him have the inside rather than trying to kick him out). Brewer had struggled adjusting when this happened, but Moore deftly bypasses past it. He was getting ready to block the safety when Jerrod Heard laid that GORGEOUS FREAKING crack block on him — AND GOT IN THE WAY OF THE NEXT LINEBACKER OMG 😍 — so Moore moved on and found the cornerback. This kind of execution makes me want to type the rest of this article in all-caps.

Even Hillbilly Fingers Shouldn’t Do That

Dana Holgorsen was right to be mad about this play-call after the game, though I would point out that forcing the football to David Sills is the reason he’s leading the nation in touchdown receptions.

WVU moved their left tackle to the right side and put Sills in his place as an eligible receiver. There are five offensive lineman and an H-back on the right side of the line, and they pretty much dominated Texas up front. Malik Jefferson got launched back into Gary Johnson, and another lineman who lined up in the backfield plowed through DeShon Elliott. A handoff would have gone for an easy touchdown.

Instead, it’s a bootleg, intended to go to Sills. Kris Boyd sniffed it out and stuck with Sills (at least until Sills’ blatant push-off). And then we have Brandon Jones. This is why he’s so frustrating and so hard to give up on. He’s shot out of a cannon on this play and saves the day for Texas.

No Ball Skills

And this is why Jones is frustrating. He could have had two interceptions on Saturday if he’d just tried — tried — to find the football.

You may notice that this is the same concept beating Jones up the sideline all three times. On the first play, Texas is in their Tampa 2 look, so Jones has basically nothing to do except get to the numbers and take away throws like this one. I really don’t know what he was doing when he was off-screen.

Texas is running very similar coverages on the next two plays; the cornerback will jump the bubble route by the slot receiver and Jones will get over the top of the outside receiver. Jones is in great position both times, but he makes no effort to find the football. He looks like a guy who’s never played in the secondary before. It’s hard not to think his job might be in jeopardy next year, but then I’m reminded of the jump several of the third-year defensive players made this season. Let’s take some blood pressure medication and see what he looks like in year three.

Close Call

After one of those long completions allowed by Jones to end the third quarter, West Virginia started the fourth quarter with a 1st down at the Texas 25.

The coverage decision on the first play is incredible to me, and I wonder if Todd Orlando would have been this brave if Grier was in the game. I doubt it. He’s got Boyd on an island that’s about one-sixth the size of the entire field, matched up with the NCAA’s leader in touchdown receptions. That enables the rest of the defense to rush four and still play six guys on the other four receivers. Somehow they still blow the coverage. Davante Davis made the mistake — one he made repeatedly — of chasing the inside-breaking route instead of passing that off to the safety and picking up the wheel route. Without Gary Johnson’s pressure in the quarterback’s face, this is probably a touchdown.

The 2nd & 10 play goes much better. WVU tries to run the same counter play that Porter scored on, but Breckyn Hager blows up the playside tackle and disrupts the trap and lead blockers, then Jason Hall takes a good angle down the heel line and makes the stop. That’s what it should look like from the back side; let Elliott worry about the quarterback.

On 3rd & 9, WVU uses orbit motion and ties to hit the motion man in the flat against Texas’ Man Free coverage. In years past, the Texas defender would have missed this open-field tackle at least 33 percent of the time. Hager affects the throw, but Elliott’s going to make this play no matter what. Appreciate the certainty of knowing he won’t miss, because that feeling’s probably leaving with him for the NFL.

On 4th down, things break down on Davis’ side again. Texas looks to be running a two-deep, four-under zone blitz — basically a Cover 2 look without the middle hook defender. Davis chases the slant by the outside receiver and leaves the slot receiver uncovered on the inside fade route. Elliott makes a ridiculous play. We’re gonna miss him.

One Too Many Mistakes

We pick it back up on 3rd & 9 on WVU’s next possession. After the BS roughing the passer/targeting on Hager put the Mountaineers in Texas territory, and they “completed” an impossible 30-yard pass down the middle, they were at the Texas 16.

WVU comes out in a 2×2 set, and Texas lines up in 2-Man coverage, meaning they’ve got only five defenders in the box to take on five blockers. West Virginia calls a draw and gets both guards to Malik on the second level. It should probably be a touchdown at that point, but Malik somehow avoids them both and makes the stop. This is a play I’m not sure Malik would have made in previous seasons. We go to Holgo for the appropriate response.

But it was all for naught. WVU motions the back out on 4th down to create a 4×1 set. For some reason, Orlando doubles the single receiver this time, but it’s some guy who isn’t their first-, second- or third-leading receiver. Sills is lined up as the No. 2 receiver to the strong side. I can’t tell what coverage Texas is running, but best guess: everyone’s in man, except Antwuan Davis and Jones are bracketing Sills. I’m struggling to think of a scenario where Davante Davis wouldn’t be expected to lock up the No. 1 receiver. Maybe he thought he had safety help inside, or maybe he’s just really bad at man coverage, but look at how tight Elliott’s coverage is, then look at how much space Davante’s receiver has.

Right now, Texas is a 10-point favorite over Texas Tech. I’m not going to fall into the trap of calling it a must-win game — it would have been if West Virginia had won and Texas literally needed the win to reach a bowl, but that’s it. But this game and the bowl are enormous for the perception of the program. Get the W and guarantee a winning record. Then get better in the bowl practices and win that one too. An 8-5 record quiets a lot of critics and sends a loud message to recruits.

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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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