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Maryland Film Review: It Could Always Be Worse, Maybe

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I really wanted to come with some silver linings, but I’m not ready to lie to myself yet. The best I can come up with is that special teams wasn’t entirely a disaster as it has been in the past, and more important, Texas may have still found a way to win if it hadn’t committed so many stupid penalties. Normally you’d say those are fixable, but the repairman has been MIA for years. After what I’ve seen these past several seasons, my definition of fixable for this football team has changed.

Run Fits

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This is 2016 all over again: a combination of players who are lost and players who are trying to do too much. The play is sort of an inverted zone bluff. The H-back crosses the formation like he’s going to kick out the defensive end, but instead the DE is being read, and the H-back is looking for the next off-color jersey. The quarterback can either toss it to the running back or run it between the tackles.

The man being read is sophomore Malcolm Roach. He should be responsible for the quarterback, but he bites on the fake toss and opens up a lane inside. It was probably game over at that point.

But there was another error. Had Roach forced the toss, there would have been no one there to clean it up because Mac linebacker Anthony Wheeler – a junior – was chasing phantoms. There’s nothing indicating to him that he should run inside and into the waiting arms of the right tackle. He and DeShon Elliott should have been outside and in position to bracket the H-back’s lead block. Only Elliott did his job.

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This time, Maryland is running zone read with a triple option. Texas almost plays it well: Elliott eliminates the third option, Charles Omenihu (who’s being read) has the QB, and the inside linebackers are running a cross dog blitz into the A gaps. Malik Jefferson hits the frontside A gap, and Wheeler is supposed to fill the backside A gap. Instead, Wheeler attacks the outside shoulder of the guard, also known as the B gap. He can’t shed the block and get back into his gap, and the ballcarrier waltzes through the opening.

EVEN STILL, there’s a safety between the ball and the goal line. Safeties at major programs should make this tackle; Brandon Jones didn’t even make contact.

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Jones was the star of his own tragicomedy when it came to perimeter run defense on Saturday. Look up most of the outside runs and you’ll see him either falling victim to very defeatable cut blocks or flailing hopelessly at the runner’s feet. On this play, it’s the former.

But there’s plenty of blame to go around. Junior nickelback P.J. Locke makes the best block on the whole play, since he eliminates two defenders – himself and Wheeler. The running back who becomes the lead blocker should have been looking to cut Locke, but since Locke had already blocked himself, Maryland was able to block Jones, who should have been free.

Finally, there’s the comically bad pursuit angles taken by Locke and Kris Boyd. This issue has reared its head over and over for years, and it’s hard to blame coaching. Go to any youth football practice and you’ll see players doing pursuit drills. Being incapable of observing a runner and adjusting your speed and angle to intersect his path is the punter equivalent of this:

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At least Todd Orlando can blame youth for some of this play. True freshman Taquon Graham is lined up as the 4i on the right side. He’s responsible for the B gap, but Maryland’s left tackle is able to dig him out of his gap. Freshmen playing like freshmen (ahem, Daniel Young fumbling a kickoff) is understandable, especially in week one.

But where the heck is Locke going? He runs straight upfield, but he’s not responsible for the near back – that’s the job of Brandon Jones (just out of the shot). Maybe Locke thought Maryland was running a sweep, but the back likely would have been lined up closer to parallel with the quarterback if that were the case, and at any rate, even a cursory glance at the nearest lineman would have told him it wasn’t a sweep.

No Pass Rush, No Eye Discipline

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Here’s one of those exotic blitzes you heard about when Orlando was hired. It’s a four-man rush, with Elliott blitzing off the weak side. Behind the blitz, it plays out like Cover 2. Jones and Locke are the deep zone defenders, and there are five underneath defenders, with the solo-side cornerback (Kris Boyd) in man coverage. The biggest problem is that Locke lost a race; in the future, he probably should start bailing before the snap. But he also should have had a little help from Jones in the other safety spot. Jones basically didn’t drop at all. If he had, he may have been able to affect the throw.

The defensive front also could have done more to disguise the pressure. It would have helped, for example, if Naashon Hughes had lined up closer to the box instead of defending grass. I’d blame it on the new scheme, but Texas has been terrible at disguising looks for years now. Underclassmen, upperclassmen – it doesn’t matter.

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Here’s another pressure that didn’t get the job done. The blitzers, Locke and Wheeler, were hardly at the line of scrimmage by the time the quarterback had completed his drop. There was no anticipation of the snap whatsoever.

Behind that, an old problem in the secondary was back. Despite having no run responsibilities, Kris Boyd was so focused on the backfield that he forgot about his only job: covering the guy in front of him. There’s no reason for it; he’s trying to do too much.

Buechele: The Difference Between ‘A’ Problem and ‘The’ Problem

Shane Buechele had ups and downs, but my initial read is that he played an above-average game. His stat line was fine and looks better when you consider that he was under pressure even when Maryland was dropping seven or eight into coverage and had NO run game to ease the pressure. The biggest problem I saw was that he was trying to do too much.

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This was an insanely predictable play call to start the game. It was one of the most frequently run plays in the spring game – watch the first two plays and you’ll see it. Maryland thought it was predictable as well, which is why they rolled their coverage to the trips side – the best defense against this passing concept (known as Sail).

What’s frustrating is that the coverage has a glaring weakness – the weakside flat – and the play has a route built into it to target that area. For whatever reason, Buechele seems to think that’s a play-fake and not a true option. It’s pitch and catch for at least a five-yard gain if he makes the obvious throw. Some folks on Twitter wanted him to throw the flat route, and perhaps he could have for a minimal gain, but the defense was accounting for that route as well with two defenders. The fatal mistake had already happened.

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Tom Herman said Maryland played a lot of 2-Man. Here’s an example. To beat it, the offense needs to be able to run the ball, create rubs to knock defenders off their man, or select or manufacture favorable matchups. The first option was too tall a task for Chris Warren, Kyle Porter and the offensive line. (I hope to find out why later this week.) The officials deemed the second option intolerable – and Texas wasn’t very good at executing the rubs anyway. The third option somehow wasn’t viable as often as it should have been; guys weren’t consistently winning and getting open.

This time, one of them did. Texas switched the normal alignment so that Armanti Foreman was the No. 3 receiver and Porter was in the slot to the trips side. Maybe Maryland would get sloppy and put a linebacker on Foreman. At the very least, this alignment gives Foreman more room to work.

The protection was good (it was just a three-man rush, though), and Foreman beat his defender. The throw wasn’t great but ironically may have disoriented the safety enough to enable Foreman to score.

Bright Spots

Reggie Hemphill-Mapps picked up where he left off in the spring game. He’s not the game breaker that Urban Meyer and Herman are used to having in the H role, but he appears to be dependable and he played as hard as anyone on Saturday.

Holton Hill is another guy who looked pretty good.

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Hill did a great job hanging on the vertical route by the outside receiver until the ball was thrown, then closing on it in time to snag the tipped ball. He may have been a tad too quick in his backpedal, but it worked out fine. He seemed to be all over the field.

I hope to have time later this week to analyze the problems with the run game on both sides of the ball.

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Texas Longhorns Football

Top Plays: Texas vs. Baylor

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Photo: John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns held on to beat the Baylor Bears 23-17 last Saturday in Austin to win their sixth straight game, improving to 6-1 overall and 4-0 in Big 12 play.  Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger left the game with a shoulder injury on the opening drive and was replaced by junior Shane Buechele. Buechele, who saw his first action on the field since the Longhorns’ bowl game against Missouri last December, finished 20-34 with 184 yards and one touchdown.  True freshman running back Keaontay Ingram surpassed the century mark on the ground, the first in his career, amassing 110 yards on 19 carries.

Texas scored all of its points in the first half and held a 23-10 lead over Baylor at the half. The Bears scored a touchdown in the third quarter to cut the lead to 23-17 and held possession of the ball on the final drive of the game. Todd Orlando’s defense held steady as Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer was pressured and threw a last-effort pass out of the Texas end zone as the game clock expired.

Place your vote for Texas’ top play in the win over Baylor.

Shane Buechele’s 44-yard TD pass to Collin Johnson (4:21 – 2nd quarter)

 

LJ Humphrey’s quarterback keeper for a TD (1:12 – 2nd quarter)

 

Caden Sterns intercepts Charlie Brewer (:44 – 2nd Quarter)

 

Texas defense pressures Brewer on final play of the game (:01 – 4th quarter)

 

Vote for your Top Play below.

What was Texas' Top Play in the win over Baylor?

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Big 12

Texas Football 2019 full schedule released

The Longhorns host LSU at Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 7

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Photo: USA TODAY Sports

The Big 12 Conference released the 2019 football schedules for all ten conference schools on Thursday.  The Longhorns’ schedule includes three non-conference games, two of which are against teams from Louisiana. Notably, Texas will host the LSU Tigers on September 7th after a home season-opener against Louisiana Tech, and will complete non-conference play against former Southwest Conference opponent Rice at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Texas will host Texas Tech on Friday, November 29th, the day after Thanksgiving, to wrap up the season.

Full schedule can be found below.

2019 Texas Football Schedule

Aug. 31—Louisiana Tech
Sept. 7—LSU
Sept. 14—at Rice (NRG Stadium)
Sept. 21—Oklahoma State
Oct. 5—at West Virginia
Oct. 12—vs Oklahoma (Cotton Bowl)
Oct. 19—Kansas
Oct. 26—at TCU
Nov. 9—Kansas State
Nov. 16—at Iowa State
Nov. 23—at Baylor
Nov. 29—Texas Tech

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College Football

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Baylor

Texas narrowly escaped with a victory against Baylor on Saturday, and there are several areas that the Longhorns must clean up to stay atop the Big 12

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John Gutierrez, USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another close ballgame that came down to the final drive for Texas. The Longhorns found themselves behind the eight ball when Sam Ehlinger exited the game with an injury in the 1st quarter, and Baylor ended up giving Texas all they could handle. Regardless, Texas is now 6-1 and sits alone atop of the Big 12 conference standings. The Longhorns will gladly welcome the bye week as they prepare for the final stretch of the season. Let’s take a look at the good and the bad from a 23-17 win over the Bears:

The Good

Texas finally has a 100-yard rusher

For the first time in the Tom Herman era, Texas had a 100-yard rusher. Freshman Keaontay Ingram finished the afternoon with 110 yards on 19 carries. It’s hard to believe it had been 20 games since the Longhorns had someone surpass the 100-yard rushing mark, but it is only appropriate Ingram was the one to break the streak. Ingram continues to see an uptick in touches and has proven to be the best running back on the roster.

Collin Johnson continues to dominate

Texas now has a good problem on their hands. Collin Johnson is playing himself into position to be a potential high NFL draft pick, and I don’t think you will find many people who are upset about it. Johnson has cemented himself as a number 1 receiver after turning in another great performance on Saturday, hauling in 11 receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown. The biggest improvement he has made from his first two seasons is his physicality. Johnson has proven to be reliable going over the middle of the field while also also improving his ability beat corners off the line of scrimmage.

The Bad

Punting

It’s hard to find a lot of negative when you look at Ryan Bujcevski’s stat line: 47.8 yards per punt and 3 punts inside the 20. Unfortunately, the stats do not tell the full story. Texas continues to have major issues getting punts off in a timely manner, and I am beginning to think it is more on Bujcevski than the protection unit. The Aussie takes far too long to get the ball off his foot once he receives the snap. Baylor nearly had a block yesterday, and it is a minor miracle the Longhorns have not had a punt blocked this year.

Opening drive scores

The Texas defense has had a tough time stopping opponents on their opening drives this season. In the 7 opening drives opponents have had against the Longhorns this year, 5 have ended in either a touchdown or field goal. Todd Orlando has stressed the importance of starting fast on defense, but a trend has emerged.

Cameron Dicker comes back to earth

Cameron Dicker carried over his momentum from his game winner against Oklahoma, going 3 for 3 on field goals in the first half, including a 47-yarder to end the half. The second half was a different story. Dicker missed a 34-yard attempt late in the 4th quarter that would have given Texas a 9-point lead. He followed it up with a miss from 51 yards. It has been a roller coaster ride for Tom Herman as he tries to manage the punting and kicking unit, but it’s hard to expect anything less since he is having to trot out a true freshman punter and kicker.

The Ugly

Zero second half points

The Longhorns had 5 drives in the second half — 2 ending in punts, 2 in missed field goals and one with an interception. Similar to the Kansas State game, the Texas offense moved the ball at times in the second half but were hurt by the inability to finish drives. Tom Herman and the offensive staff have shown improvements in making halftime adjustments, but the staff failed to put Shane Buechele and the offense in a position to finish off drives against a Baylor defense that ranked at or near the bottom of the Big 12 in nearly every major statistical category.

Sam Ehlinger’s injury

Texas fans now have a greater appreciation for Sam Ehlinger after watching the offense try to operate for almost 4 full quarters without him. Shane Buechele is considered a quality passer, but he fails to bring the running dimension to the offense that Ehlinger brings. The Longhorn offense is built around Ehlinger, and if he were to miss any extended period of time, it would not be good. If he is healthy enough for Oklahoma State, he needs to play. The Texas offense is not good enough to plug in the backup and rest the starter, even against a team like Oklahoma State.

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Texas Longhorns Football

Ehlinger’s MRI results show shoulder sprain

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Photo: USA TODAY Sports Images

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger left the Baylor game in the opening series after suffering a shoulder injury.  Ehlinger left for the locker room to be evaluated and was replaced by backup Shane Buechele.  He returned to the field but remained on the sideline with a headset on for the duration of the game.  The Longhorns, behind Buechele, held on to defeat the Bears 23-17 and improved to 6-1 overall on the season.

In his postgame media availability, head coach Tom Herman expressed uncertainty about the injury to his sophomore quarterback, who led the Longhorns to five straight wins before the injury.

“I think any time you hurt a throwing shoulder, my level of concern is greater than zero, but I don’t know enough. I’ve got to be educated more on it.”

Ehlinger’s MRI results revealed a first degree sprained shoulder, which is good news for the Longhorns, who travel to Stillwater in two weeks to face Oklahoma State.

Ehlinger has thrown for 1,534 yards and 11 touchdowns this season with just two interceptions. He has also rushed for 230 yards and 6 touchdowns.

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