Hello everyone. Today we’re going to find out why good and bad things happen to us. Not so much in a philosophical sense, more like why did some plays go Texas’ way and others didn’t.
Freshman QB Going To Do Freshman QB Things
Let’s start from the beginning. And by that, I mean the very first play of the game was an interception. Does that mean it was a bad play? No. In fact, this play should have gone for a big gain, or maybe even a touchdown.
It was a great play call that was almost executed perfectly. Texas rolls out the pocket and runs a flood concept (where the #1 receiver runs a deep route, the #2 receiver runs an out, and the #3 receiver runs a underneath). Kansas State is expecting Texas to run with Ehlinger in the backfield, so Texas comes at them with play meant to test the defense’s eye discipline. It works and Lorenzo Joe gets a step on the CB; however, Sam Ehlinger hops into his stance and doesn’t set his feet. This means he can’t drive through the ball as well and is falling to the left so his pass will be short and to the left… right where the defender is. Oh well. Once again, not a bad play. Texas would run this play again later in the game with success.
Sam Ehlinger also took a bit too long throwing the ball on certain occasions. There were at least three times I counted where if Sam Ehlinger releases the ball sooner Texas has a big play or touchdown. Plays like the one in the video below.
The play is designed to give Ehlinger room and time to read the play and allow Reggie Hemphill-Mapps to do what he does best and find space.
Ehlinger needs to be able to read a play quicker than this. Reggie gets separation, but Ehlinger doesn’t recognize. Two more steps and the play is still makeable but just a bit more difficult. Four steps after that is when Ehlinger decides to throw the ball and by then it is too late, the defensive back has caught up and his receiver is out-of-bounds.
Instead of a touchdown it’s a turnover on downs.
“You Lack Discipline”
Texas was selling out to stop the run all game long, and they did so successfully. They held Kansas State to 29 yards through 3 quarters (before Alex Delton came in). This meant that the coverage by the defensive backs had to be stellar. It was less than stellar. Discipline remains a problem for this pass defense.
Kris Boyd has had some trouble this year with double moves and keeps eye/play discipline. It once again reared its ugly head vs Kansas State. Here is a small example of what I’m talking about. A simple hitch and go route. Not even a pump fake, but the cornerback bites without help over the top.
Luckily the ball is waaaaay over thrown.
Kris Boyd is less lucky on this play, where he leaves his responsibility because of a pump fake.
Boyd has the deep third of the field in Cover 3. Instead of staying over the deepest receiver, he attempts to jump the short route. This leaves the deep route wide open down the field. Fortunately for Texas, Brandon Jones catches the mistake and stops the receiver before he’s gone. Instead of a stop on third down, it’s a long gain.
But let’s not pick on Boyd because the only two defensive backs to have decent games were of course DeShon Elliott and Holton Hill. Captain PJ Locke had his struggles as well, one resulting in a touchdown.
Kansas State throws a bunch of different depth slants at the defense. This is to hopefully cause confusion between defensive backs as to who they should guard when there are multiple guys in their zones. In this instance that is not the case. Locke is just flat footed, and as they say, “flat feet don’t eat.” .. or is it slow feet. Either way, that works here. PJ Locke makes his first move when the receiver has already made his break. Locke needs to be able to get underneath this crossing route, and if he is on his toes he could have been able to react quickly enough to do so. Instead, it’s 7 points.
Once again, Texas lined up and failed to execute their coverage due to lacking disciplined play. Texas lines up to run Cover 6 where PJ Locke has the deep left half of the field, Holton Hill and Brandon Jones the deep right quarters, and Anthony Wheeler to the “hole” (mid-to-deep middle of the field). Kansas State runs a guy right inbetween PJ Locke and Anthony Wheeler. Anthony Wheeler takes a step up focused on a QB run and PJ Locke tries to split the two receivers on his side for some reason or another. Instead they should have run to bracket the receiver breaking over the middle, but due to their disciplinary breakdowns both guys are late to their assignments, resulting in an 82 yard touchdown.
The thing about playing defensive back is that you will be beat occasionally. The job of the defensive back is to limit the amount of times they get beat. Consistently making simple mistakes like this is not a good start.
I have a theory that the reason Texas can’t consistently hit a field goal is because they whiff on so many blocks in-game that they create an air current in the stadium that confused Joshua Rowland. Kind of like the below play
While Sam Ehlinger take a sack, it was not because of great offensive line play. There were some standout performances on the line like Terrel Cuney taking on KState’s Will Geary, but there was also a lot of bad. Ehlinger took was hit 16 times during that game after dropping back to pass. 5 times it was because Ehlinger felt pressure and took of scrambling. 9 other times it was due to offensive line whiffing on assignments or getting driven back.
The run game wasn’t much better as the offensive line averaged 0 yards before the running back got contacted. That means the offensive line got more times than not absolutely no push and there are numbers to back up that claim.
Escapability and Playmaking in the Backfield
How do you deal with a less than stellar offensive line? You put players in the backfield who has a bit of shake and speed to make a guy miss. Ehlinger and Toneil Carter are those guys. And until they forgot Toneil Carter existed, it was working out tremendously. Toneil was averaging ~2.5 yards before a defender could make contact with him and about 5 yards per run. Sam Ehlinger stepped out of 3 separate sacks and turned loses of -9, -7, and -5 yards into two first downs and a 5-yard run in the final seconds of regulation.
The ability of these players to make a man miss or use their legs to gain space had a noticeable impact on the offensive line. They no longer had to hold their blocks as long. The less you give to someone struggling with their job, the easier it will be for that person.
The staff may be tentative to use two freshmen in the backfield, but both need more playing time.
Personnel Usage and Play Calling
Contrary to popular opinion, play calling is not the thing that makes or breaks an offensive coordinator. It’s how the offensive coordinator uses their personnel and how well that personnel can execute the plays given to them. Don’t get me wrong play calling is still important. If you call a play where you use the wrong players, it goes to the wrong players, or just a general lack of understanding of the situation then play calling becomes a huge issue.
None of that was the case. Texas finally placed their best ten on the field (used 10 personnel) and the play calling was well timed and most of the time well executed. I’ve already described how the first play was very well thought out and executed.
The 10 personnel allowed Texas to take pressure off their best receivers. The option to just bracket Collin Johnson was no longer on the table because then you leave Reggie Hemphill, Lil’Jordan Humphries, or Jerrod Heard wide open. This eventually led to Texas being able to strike quickly in overtime.
On the first play of overtime, Texas ran 3 go routes with Collin Johnson, Lil’Jordan Humphries, and Reggie Hemphill-Mapps. Kansas State recognized the throw and went into a cover four and took out those three receivers. What they didn’t recognize was Jerrod Heard coming underneath, so the middle linebacker had to cover the freak athlete that is Jerrod Heard. Instant mismatch resulted in a touchdown.
The situational awareness was also on point from the play caller. Besides the first play where I’ve already illustrated the awareness, Chris Warren’s touchdown was due to excellent situational awareness.
By the time Texas had run this play, they had already run numerous roll outs and bootlegs where the play stayed to the side the QB ran, and while this play may have looked like the one Texas scored on in OT vs USC, it is not the same play.
Kansas State is not looking for this play and would not even know what to look for. You get every Kansas State defender flowing one way, then toss it right over their heads to a waiting receiver already 5 yards ahead of them. Result is a touchdown.
Containing the Run
Kansas State’s QB is a glorified running back. Therefore, they basically have 10 blockers on most every play. Texas’ challenge this game was to demonstrate the ability to clog up running lanes and get off blocks. Until a quarterback who could punish this game plan by bouncing the play outside, it worked holding Kansas State to way below their season average. This game plan took a lot of individual effort on the part of the defense.
Kansas State tries to put Texas is a pickle by having to pick their poison with a read option. Either Texas can take the running back or the quarter back. The defensive line creates a wall for the running back to get through, driving back the offensive line two yards off the line. This allows Kris Boyd the ability to try to take both the QB and RB. Ertz realizes Kris Boyd is floating inside so he pulls it and Kris Boyd make an athletic leap up field to get right in Ertz’s face. This give DeShon Elliott and Charles Omenihu time to read the play and fight through a block. Wonderful execution by the defense.
And when Kansas State tried to bounce plays outside there were guys like Brandon Jones or Malik Jefferson there waiting to stop it.
Kansas State runs a Power Speed Option to the field side, and Texas puts on a clinic of how to play the option and what the pursuit drill is for. PJ Locke takes out a pulling tackle and the first man to the ball takes QB and second man takes RB. Malik Jefferson then hits a top speed somewhere near 20-25 mph with a perfect angle to stop a wonderful play call from the Purple Wizard.
Looking towards this week, you’re going up against a runner and gunner in Baker Mayfield. Texas hasn’t faced a QB like him since the first week of the season, and we all know how that ended. This defense is going to have to be a lot more disciplined in the pass game then what they showed vs Kansas State, or it could be a long game.
Nonetheless, the game vs Kansas State boils down to is this… This exact Kansas State team beat basically this exact Texas team last year in basically the exact same fashion they tried to this year in last year’s game. However, Texas executed a good game plan and their playmakers made plays. Yes there were some not so good things like abandoning Toneil Carter and not taking an easy three points that bit Texas in the butt, but a win is a win. And a win against Kansas State is big win. And therein lies the real “good” in all of this.