Trench Warfare | Texas vs USC

One of the reasons that I was motivated to start doing Trench Warfare four years ago, is that Offensive linemen catch a lot of flak that may be undue.  I played offensive line for quite a few years, and there are things that happen during the game that make you look bad as a lineman, that may not necessarily have been your fault.  Watching this game Saturday night, and talking to Gabe today, I still think that the Longhorns left a lot on the table against the Trojans out in the Coliseum the other night.

I’ve been very frustrated watching Texas this year because I’m a big fan of the run game.  I grew up watching Nebraska, Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.  I think there’s something beautiful about a great run game.  You have to be committed to it however.  K grew up around boxing, and he always talks about how even if a run game doesn’t yield a lot of yards early, it deals critical body blows to a defense that pay off late for better results.

Like Most of you I was really looking forward to seeing Texas get back to prominence this year, and I’m here to tell you now, that not all is lost.  Texas is 1-2, but I saw and see a lot of things that are easily correctible from an execution standpoint that really would have helped the Horns’ run game just a few days ago.


To start the game when there was still a run threat, USC couldn’t pin their ears back and just come after Ehlinger.  I’m of the opinion that Texas abandoned the run game too early, and while it will be blamed on the O-Line, not all of it is deserved.  Some of it rightfully so, but in today’s game, the pass and the run are interdependent.  Like I said before, because there’s a threat for a run, those athletic d-ends have to stay at home and this helps the offensive line have really solid protection.



Here this is zone protection where the whole O line except for the right tackle turn and run to the left.  Texas kept Tristan Nickelson at home on the backside to cut off the free rusher who would have run Ehlinger down.  At this point Sam needs to stop on the blue X and just set up shop.  This makes the front look bad because he kept going and “outran” his protection to the outside.  This allowed #42 in red between the two blue arrows, get upfield and lay a hit on Sam.  Had Ehlinger stopped and set up, he wouldn’t have negated the leverage of his blockers and most likely wouldn’t have gotten hit.



This is a counter option, where you see the top blue path of Kendall Moore leading up on the linebacker.  The read Sam has to execute better here is whether to give the ball if the end stays out on him, or pull it if the end crashes.  Now if this wasn’t a called give, it was a really, really bad read.  Sam gives the ball to the dive back, but if he pulls it, Moore is up on the linebacker, and Sam has from the hash to the sideline wide open with no defenders in sight.  I know that he’s not Vince Young from a running standpoint, but this is most likely a 20 yard gain with the right read.





Here’s another shot of it just a tick later, where USC was very conscious early of Chris Warren on the dive.  You can see the Safety with his feet on the hash at the 20 yard line, and most likely if Sam does pull this he scores.  Moore’s block is most likely going to cause the Safety to get caught up in the wash there, and #4 in Red on the bottom hash at the 15 would be the only guy who could have possibly made the play.



A few plays later, the back here just doesn’t see the hole.  We can see the right guard looking inside to the linebacker showing that it’s an off tackle play.  Chris Warren and the tackle have the seam wide open out there for the back to bounce out on the numbers, get behind Collin Johnson’s block on the 18 and possibly score here as well.   If you look across the way from Johnson right on the hash we can see #35 being walled off there too.  Most likely if the back bounces through the hole correctly it’s an untouched score.



This one in particular really bothers me because it’s 4th and 3.  The guard and tackle are pulling around on the counter, and Chris Warren is leading up on #42 at the bottom.  It’s 3 on 3 from a blocker standpoint, and again if this is blocked correctly it’s most likely a score for Texas.



Connor has his guy blocked down, and the guard is filling up in the hole getting ready to lower the boom on the blue path.  For whatever reason, Warren tries to position block this or just wall off #42.  Chris has to blow that guy up, and again if Chris gets anything on that guy, Sam doesn’t have to stop and hesitate.  He most likely takes a quick step outside of Warren’s block and at least gets the 1st down if not a touchdown.  The back’s and o line have to work hand in hand, and until the blocking of the new offense for the backs & getting more reps to see the holes at game speed is going to make the line seem worse than it really is.



After the big goal line stand, Texas decided to dial downtown.  In most cases the D-Line will pin their ears back and come after you, but here the guys did a really good job in the goal line of making a wall for Sam to let loose.  It was a pick on the long throw, but the guys kept em upright and clean with really good protection.



This is a triple option look with Moore coming across with wham block action on our friend ol #42.  Sam has a jet sweep option for the give to Foreman, but gives it on the dive to Kyle Porter.



Kyle takes the give, and hits it up in there on the red arrow path.  He has to see that huge lane out off of Nickelson’s left hip.  If he takes that he’s one on one with the safety and it’s a good gainer.  He just lowers his head though and gets stuffed.  I’m not sure that he jukes the safety, but most likely it’s a 3 or 4 yard gain here instead of nothing.  And if your 200 pound back can break a tackle, he’s got two receivers blocking for him out on the numbers for what could be a big play.



On a very similar look a play later, Foreman bellies back to run the traditional option look.  Moore again is leading on 42, but Porter doesn’t get it on the give this time.  Sam pulls it, which is the correct read, because 98 is coming down hard inside on the dive and Kendall has his lead.



Armanti has to have better “pitch relationship” here.  Sam has no choice but to tuck it, but he should be able to pitch this thing out to Foreman if he’s out where the blue X is for where the pitch could go.  Again it’s a big play with some tweaks in execution.

Finally, I’m of the belief that if Texas sticks with the run game later into the game, it would have paid off.  With some good film study and focusing on the little details, the Horns aren’t too far away from having a run game that’s going to be dang hard to stop.