Film Watch | The Little Things (UPDATED 9/20 11:09am)

It Starts in the Trenches

While there were some impressive performances by secondary members like Holton Hill and Deshon Elliott, the reason Texas’ defense dominated the USC offense was due to the front 7, and more specifically the line. Not a big secret, but a big key. The symbiotic relationship between the defensive line and the linebackers was on full display vs the Trojans. It allowed the Longhorns to hold a USC team that over the last 11 games averaged >5 yards per carry to 1.9 yards per carry and had Heisman hopeful, Sam Darnold, so uncomfortable in the pocket he missed a lot of passes he usually makes with ease.

This was done in large part due to the defensive line stepping up. Todd Orlando’s defense puts a lot of pressure on the guys blitzing up front to get quick penetration to disrupt the offense’s play. Todd Orlando reiterated this in his press conference before the game, and the defensive line delivered.

The importance of the front 7 working together up front in this defense was very visible in the run game. Plays like the ones below illustrate how the quick penetration up front gives the linebackers room to read and move toward the play.

USC’s offense revolves a lot around zone runs. In these zone runs they rely on their linemen’s ability to work to the next level. In the play below Gary Johnson is given time to read the backfield, due to a simple shove by Chris Nelson.

Just to hammer the point home, here is another clip. A cool stat behind this situation here of 3rd and short is that Texas had USC in 3rd and <5 fourteen times. USC only converted twice. Once again, this is in large part thanks to the defensive line buying time for other

And of course, the defensive line was crucial on the early goalline stop.

USC gets two different double teams on Poona Ford and Chris Nelson. Poona Ford slides through his double team like hot knife through butter, and Chris Nelson sits down and doesn’t move like he’s made of cement. However, the guy who made the play was Malcolm Roach. As you can see, he squeezes down and gets his eyes over the shoulder of his blocker allowing him to read and then crash in to stuff the run.

 

The Little Things

That is the theme of the USC game. It was the little things that kept Texas in the game.

Texas was money on fourth down. That was due to little things like the below play where Deshon Elliott stuck at home and didn’t give the TE any room to make a play.

Deshon Elliott had a good game because he put himself in the right place at the right time. Best game yet for him in a Texas uniform.

The angle to the ball carriers improved for the most part in this game. Not just with the linebackers, but every player on the field. Open field tackling was a huge plus. The blend of all three of these things can be best seen in Malik Jefferson being a human missile. In the below play the defensive line gives Malik time to read (as discussed above), he does so quickly, and takes a great line to the ball.

Malik did not make this play last week.

Another little thing resulted in a touchdown for Texas. A simple misdirection play.

Texas has been running what is called the sprint out pass concept (the moving pocket) with a snag (WR pick) this entire year so far. This play has only gone to one area of the field, the area the QB is running. So Beck and Herman get the entire defense moving one way, and let little ole Cade Brewer break across, and no one accounts for him because they’ve never seen it before. Sneaky and smart.

However, it was very much those small mistakes that were the reason the game ultimately slipped away from Texas. Unlike San Jose State, USC played like Mike Tyson and (almost always) hit Texas where it hurt when Texas gave them anything.

The very first touchdown the defense played almost perfectly. There was one small mistake, and Sam Darnold made them pay for it with a perfect pass.

Texas is running what is called Field Roll (Cover 2 over #1 and #2). Deshon Elliott will “kick” to (move over top of to bracket) the #3 vertical. The issue is Deshon’s angle is terrible. He doesn’t work to the near hip. By going underneath, the route he exposes the top. If he works to the near hip of the vertical he will cut-off the bent vertical and Darnold is sacked. (Thank you Coach Alexander for helping me break this one down). Also notice how Kris Boyd doesn’t jump the fake screen on the pump fake. Baby steps.

The second touchdown is another breakdown of a lot of mistakes. Although fluky, it very much could have been stopped.

Besides the obvious question of why Anthony Wheeler was so focused on Sam Darnold rather than the actual threat running by him (I don’t know if this was a bad play call or miscommunication between him and Malik), the play still could have been stopped. Once Ronald Jones gets the ball, Holton Hill and John Bonney take angles to the ball the gave Ronald Jones an edge. If you break down and don’t give up your leverage, then Ronald Jones is forced back inside or slowed down enough to take him down.

Bad eye discipline was what gave USC it’s 3rd touchdown. This was killer.

Once again, Texas is playing the same “kick” coverage variant. They ran it correctly most of the game, but Tee Martin was not going to give up the opportunity to take advantage of Kris Boyd and Brandon Jones. Kris Boyd stops his backpedal due to a simple jab step to the outside from the wide receiver. That gives the receiver separation, and instead of sitting over the top Brandon Jones tries to do too much and breaks down on the post in front of him – Deshon Elliott’s responsibility – giving the receiver room over the top. Result is an easy touchdown.

Lastly the Longhorns’ offense was not exempt from USC taking advantage of the little things they didn’t do. Most of those little things were missing blocking assignments and miscommunication. While some of the more obvious gaffes came from the five upfront, there were a couple key plays where if a Texas player doesn’t miss his key, then the play is successful. This led to true Freshman Sam Ehlinger taking 22 hits during the game. A great example of this is the much contested first fourth down try.

Texas is running a QB draw. The USC linebackers read the play well, but they get taken out by a pulling Jake McMillon and a Connor Williams who is working to the next level. This play gets a 1st down nine times out of ten… if Chris Warren doesn’t literally walk around his guy.

Tom Herman is a man of detail, or so we hear. Football is a game of execution. If Tom Herman can get his men to get these little things fixed, Texas wins this game and more in the future.