In the Takeaways & 5 Factors post, we discussed how the 5 Factors related to Texas. One of the 5 Factors is Finishing Drives. Texas is currently ranked 80 in that category. That is not good. What gives? Currently, there are a combination of things contributing to the Texas offense’s woes in the scoring and red zone. For one, getting into the scoring zone (inside opponent 40) hasn’t come easy all season. Two, Texas is what, 4 out of 9 going for it on 4th downs this season? Is that bad? Point two brings me to the subject of kicking field goals. ‘Heck’ has avoided kicking field goals multiple times, instead opting to go for it on 4th downs. The reason for that appears to be lack of confidence in the kicker. In brief, it’s a difficult situation. Surely that’s not all. I suspect Tom is okay with the trade-off getting ‘6’ versus ‘0’ and the great field position. How do you feel about that? Personally, I don’t mind either ‘solution’. It’s just that, in certain games, 3 points go a long way. You know, like this past Saturday. Anyhow, let’s dig in and discuss scoring zone and red zone offense.
When ‘Heck’ breaches the opponent’s 40, you’ll often see them take a shot. This is good, it’s aggressive and the offense is within striking distance. One way to improve Finishing Drives is to score taking a shot in the scoring zone. You see this in our first example. Below you have a sprint-pass concept from ’10’ personnel (1 RB, 0 TE). The back is leading up to block the edge while the offensive line blocks Outside Zone. They appear to be up against ‘quarters’ coverage. To the field you see ‘trips’ and take a look at Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s route stem, it’s diagonal inside.
This has a ‘widening’ effect on the defender over Humphrey on the field hash. The other defenders in coverage are off and over receivers 1 & 2 (outside-in) with the 2nd defender in with eyes on the quarterback, just in case.
What Humphrey is running is my favorite route, ole’ number 7, the corner route. Now do you see why Humphrey stemmed inside first? The corner is effective against 2-high and man-coverage. In this case field side coverage is in man with no help over the top.
If you remember this play, Sam doesn’t quite throw it well and Humphrey is forced to ‘curl’ the ‘7’ back to the ball. In the future, if Humphrey wins this route, I rather see a more vertical path coupled with a better leading throw, to the outside shoulder. This is ‘6’ if it hits the way it’s supposed to hit.
Up next is something that may make you cringe, if you’re a Cowboys fan, the end zone fade. Below, you see the route set up well, the receiver has outside leverage on the corner and Sam is pulling the trigger. Sam looks positioned to make a good throw as well.
What I didn’t like was the location and Dorian Leonard leaving his feet. The ball didn’t need to be high-pointed and it’s the receivers job to adjust to the ball in flight. The ball is slightly inside and in the air, Dorian fails to pluck the ball and grab it tight enough to secure it against good coverage.
The following are the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th & goal plays. Texas was so close to punching it in this drive, after the first drive ended in an under-thrown Post route. Below, you see Inside Zone with the H-back leading up to the edge. I want you to note the center, first time starter Terrell Cuney. He appears to be doing well.
Now, what do you see? The image is murky, but the reason you don’t see Cuney is because he’s tossed aside and now the defensive tackle is falling toward the back. If you remember this run, Porter appeared to score, but after review, his knee touched after being tripped up by the defensive tackle and others swiping at his legs. Cuney’s gotta hold his ground for a split-second longer.
Up next, it’s first-time starter, Denzel Okafor’s turn. Here, ‘Heck’ calls a quarterback Lead Outside Zone play. Note the H-back kicking out the edge defender, the back leading into the C-gap (left of Okafor), and the quarterback in tow, so far so good.
Okafor fails to ‘reach’ the his block and is now being pushed into the moving C-gap, blocking the back’s lead block. This gives Sam nowhere to go, as the edge defender maintains good leverage against the block by the H-back, tackle for loss, ouch.
This next one really got me going, not in a good way. You see the beginnings of a sprint-pass concept from ’20’ personnel (2 backs, 0 TE), only the second back is an H-back. I want you to watch Sam, the back, and the receivers, field side (twins).
The back is leading up to the right outside of the H-back, Sam is on the move, and the receivers appear to be setting up blocks. Note Reggie Hemphill-Mapps’ positioning in the slot. He is slightly outside his defender, exactly where you want to be.
Lo and behold, Hemphill-Mapps is running ole’ number 7! I was screaming, throw it now, Sam! For whatever reason, Sam holds the ball, running the play out all the way to the sideline where he tries to sneak it in to Hemphill-Mapps (out of bounds). By that time though, Devin Duvernay, the outside receiver is already blocking for a scramble-run and is called for an offensive pass interference, so unfortunate.
I was proud of ‘Heck’ for that call. They really are finding ways to get guys open in tough spots and what Sam offers, the run-threat does wonders to create these opportunities. Defenses will always have to have a guy looking into the backfield while receivers route upfield. That’s winning. Unfortunate for Sam, he didn’t see or feel comfortable making the throw against leverage. Next time, he will.
For those following, ‘Heck’ will take ‘shots’ when the scoring zone is breached. You’ve seen this multiple times. If you remember, not only the play to Humphrey above, but the touchdown pass to Chris Warren came when the scoring zone was breached. What you want to see is improvement in this area, as well as improvement at or near the goal line, especially throwing and positioning on fade routes to Johnson or Leonard. Texas has reached both spots numerous times with mixed results. When Texas reaches the scoring zone, expect a ‘shot’ on 1st or 2nd down. At or near the goal line, Texas is close, real close to improving Finishing Drives in a significant way. As we saw, Texas was a couple blocks and a missed corner route away from cashing in a great 1st scoring drive. Also, I stated in the comments yesterday, Rowland’s field goal attempts seem to be a stress issue. It’s a big jump in stress from JUCO to Texas and if he’s making them in practice, it informs you that part of the issue is stress. You hope Rowland’s visualization, mental preparation, and ‘mechanics’ begin to solidify in a positive way and his kicks begin breaking good. As always, let me know what you think in the comments.