The man, the myth, the mullet, Mike Gundy is coming to DKR! Whether Mike wears a shirt or not, I don’t know. That may be a game time decision. Keep that in mind before you decide to take a date to the game, you never know. Losing to Oklahoma sucks. Losing to Oklahoma State the week after sucks worse. Only the best rocket surgeons in the world can engineer a win for this Texas team, against a fierce ‘paper tiger’, mostly on offense. I write that half-jokingly because all but one of the defenses OSU has played against have been bad, save for TCU, their only loss. OSU also happens to be a 7-point favorite per Las Vegas, meaning they think OSU is 10 points better than Texas, wow! Those odds are correct, on paper. What happens in DKR this weekend will involve a lot more than computation. Let’s take a brief look at how these teams stack up.
Again, on paper, Texas doesn’t measure up. They didn’t measure up to USC or OU either. What you’ve seen to this point indicates that this team can compete with anyone. What you’ve seen also indicates that the team is a extra stop or score more away from beating ranked opponents. As Tom Herman stated, ‘This team cannot play it’s B-game’. I agree with that assessment. There is little wiggle-room, but wiggle they must!
Explosiveness is where this defense suffers. I think it’s time for damage control. OSU likes to take deep shots and counts on a large enough percentage of them ‘hitting’. Passing is also what they do best, though they are very balanced. If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re wondering how Orlando intends to prevent big pass plays after what you’ve seen ‘on tape’. Don’t worry, I’m right there with you. The question I ask, who do you win with? Let’s talk about that.
Defensive Line – The strength of the team, if Texas is to win this game, the bulk of the responsibility should rest on the defensive line. Orlando’s begun healthily rotating these guys. This helps keep guys fresh for critical downs. It’s my opinion Texas’ 2-deep along the defensive line can consistently win this Saturday. Count on Omenihu, Ford, and Nelson to lead the way, not to mention Roach and Wilbon.
– Slant: Zone is OSU’s bread and butter. Other defenses have had success against it by slanting the defensive line away from the back’s alignment. This often forces the offense to change the aiming point or the back to redirect, slowing him down.
– ‘X’ Concept: Slanting creates ‘natural’ opportunities for linebacker ‘stunts’. E.g. If your weak side defensive end is slanting outside the tackle, the outside linebacker (B-backer) can stunt into the gap inside the tackle and vice versa, the end can slant inside the tackle and an inside linebacker can stunt outside (think gap exchange). What you want is for the back redirect straight into a slanting or stunting defender. This will also challenge the offensive linemen’s blocking angles. The Texas defensive line is formidable on its own. Let’s ratchet that up a bit.
– Rush: OSU’s tricky in that they also run out of pass sets. This is where slant and ‘X’ come in handy, they are both gap sound and provide the front with the ability to attack the back first, then Rudolph. Rudolph is less tricky than Darnold or Mayfield, though he’s mobile enough to step up, slide in the pocket, or pick up yards on the scramble. 3 and 4-man rushes should aim to squeeze the pocket, deny vertical escape, and enable chase laterally. Orlando needs to be careful with pressure against OSU. 5 to 6- man blitzes should be disguised and surprising, rare.
Malik & Co. – It starts with Malik. This game will require coverage from the 2nd and 3rd level. Players will be in run-pass conflict so their jobs must consistently be simple. The overhang defenders to the field and boundary will be counted on to read run or pass and react accordingly, often quickly bracketing inside receivers and matching underneath routes (Hook/Curl, Drag). Let’s build on this.
Let Them Run – Encourage the run and screen game outside the scoring zone. OSU’s run game is good, but it’s less explosive and ruinous than the pass game (deep shots). By funneling the ball to the sidelines as much as possible, Texas’ speed in pursuit can be used to limit bigger plays. You want to inspire anxiety and impatience. Again, you’re leveraging the defensive front to win.
N.B. Rudolph isn’t a great runner. It’s easy to see Orlando scheming to make Rudolph keep some read-option runs.
Run-Pass – Orlando’s defense is ‘match-quarters’, that is the base. From there, a safety can be added (Cover 2 Robber) or taken away (cover down, blitz). The linebackers are especially important. Either the B-backer or Mike will be asked at times to play as ‘overhang’ defenders. Read pass first, then react to run. A strategy to spill most runs allows the overhang more time. This also includes the Nickel, Locke should figure prominently in this game, especially matched-up with OSU’s ’11’ personnel.
Hang’Em High – Deep shots are danger. Keeping 2 safeties high and utilizing a bracket or two makes it more difficult to attack deep. It also encourages the run. Texas will likely stick with some quarters coverage against ’11’ personnel, but expect soft spots to be offered and gamed. Against ’10’ personnel, opting for Cover 2 may be the best option. Again, encourage the run and screen game over the drop back pass game, where OSU can hurt you the worst. From there, you can pick and choose opportune spots to apply pressure. Once the scoring zones are reached. More quarters, Cover 1, and Cover 6 should be expected. Again, alter and game the soft spots to buy the front time to sack Rudolph.
This offense is dangerous, but if Texas welcomes the Cowboys with brutal physicality and a hornet’s nest of mayhem, they can give Rudolph and company fits. Herman stated something very important this week. He doesn’t care if defenders get beat by great play. It’s the unforced errors you eliminate that matter. To that I say, fail successfully. Nail your job with no fear. Good things will come.
The Texas offense resembles the inverse of the defense. Explosiveness is lacking and finishing drives for points is also a problem. Note that a key stop or extra score would have changed the outcomes in two losses. The Oklahoma State defense presents some challenges. They are right between the ISU and KSU defenses in terms of performance to date. Texas will have its opportunities to create more big plays. To do that, simply execute the basics just a tad better. Sustaining blocks a split-second longer, win, get in the way instead of whiff, win, focus on the catch then run, win. Everything counts in small amounts (music reference).
Ehlinger – Protect the football and make good decisions. Sam’s number will be called, no doubt, but expect Beck to get the ball out of his hands early more often. Sam needs to oblige and let his teammates carry more of the weight, especially outside. Lastly, the deep ball. Protection is not great, but Texas does need to take shots downfield. This typically involves getting Sam on the move. If you saw him in high school, his deep ball was good. Settle down and nail a throw or two.
Run Game – OSU utilizes a 4-man defensive front (even), 3-man (odd) on passing downs. The linebackers are solid and not particularly fast. They also tend to pursue aggressively based on offensive line movement, to fit gaps. Teams have had difficulty working up to the 2nd level to block, but have had success when inserting a blocker. The OSU secondary plays ‘soft’ to the outside and the safeties are disciplined. Glenn Spencer’s defense is usually a study in risk aversion. They don’t do anything great, but do everything good with a focus on preventing big plays (one can wish, lol).
N.B. Don’t forget Quarterback Draw, run from Empty or ’10’ personnel, including Lead Draw.
– Brewer & Humphrey: Playing these two more often allows for multiple formations. If you remember, both were utilized in Broken Diamond Pistol sets against ISU. The Texas offensive line should be able to handle the even front well-enough, but insert blockers will help target problematic personnel along the front. From there you can execute base runs (Zone & Counter), use shifts and motions to gain match-ups, and something else I’ll address below.
– Attack The Nose: Where the Nose is, there is usually an opportunity for a guard-center double-team. Texas runs Inside Zone, Outside Zone, Power, and Counter. Make like Toucan Sam and follow the Nose, double him, create a seal and use a puller or insert to hammer runs through, up to the 2nd level and beyond. Adding to Brewer and Humphrey, Warren can also be utilized as a lead blocker for Porter or Carter. There is big play potential with Carter’s speed.
– Motion: This doesn’t get old, does it? OSU’s defensive structure is often static. This makes for easier targets pre-snap. In OSU’s case, I like 3X1 sets with motion to the ‘trips’ side, creating a 4-man surface to the field. I also like 2X2 sets with motion to the boundary, creating a ‘trips to boundary’ element. Beck can set up Sweeps, Screens, and even run the motion out to the sideline for the 3rd Fix.
– Speed Option: You likely read the last Focal Points post. The Speed Option series is something I expect the staff to build on. You can scheme blocks different, reverse plays, and play-action pass plays. It also helps get the back out on the perimeter and if Sam’s making good reads (he does), one of these could spring big.
Pass Game – OSU is disciplined in their coverage. They are a bit ‘soft’ on the corners with good safety play. On standard downs they can rotate to single-high safety, stay in quarters, or play Cover 6. On passing downs, late down and or distance, they also play Cover 2 Robber, a coverage difficult to throw against, as it typically means throwing to 4 or 5 against 7, not good numbers.
– Soft Corners: When it’s there, throw it and motion or swing the back to take advantage of the high safety and off corner. If he steps up, you have the occasional fade (Inside-9) route option quick-strike down the sideline. The receivers also need to be bullies here. Again, squeeze out an extra split-second out of every block across the board and the offense is in business.
– 2-high: The beauty of Beck’s pass game, it’s streamlined and designed to attack Big 12 defenses, nothing more, nothing less. That said, beware because OSU likes to rotate to 1-high and can play Cover 1 Robber or spring a 3-deep zone blitz. Up to now, Sam’s been okay throwing the ball, keeping it away from coverage. The hope is, Texas can remain balanced throughout the game. That requires the defense’s help too. In any case, The concepts you’ve seen week to week should suffice.
– Play-Action: Everything listed in the run game, especially Speed Option, play-action needs to be carefully schemed to take advantage of safety run fits and linebacker flow. They don’t need to be deep shots, but you will see 3-Level and I’m hoping Hitch-Corner (outside in). This is another reason I’d like to see Brewer and or Humphrey in the backfield. Keeping 8 or 9 guys in creates man-coverage opportunities outside. They can single-up an outside threat and max protect. Also, using Lead and split-flow in the run game should open up quick pass opportunities and get Brewer or a back isolated against a linebacker, 3rd Fix!
This is another winnable game. Surely, the staff is working overtime to get this team right, both sides of the ball. Neither side of the ball is currently good enough to carry the team. That said, strength is weighted toward the defense. On that side of the ball, the defensive line and front are the strength of the unit. That’s where I’d currently place the most trust and challenge the players to win the game. In OSU’s case, Rudolph is key, along with Washington and Hill, the back. Rudolph isn’t the same challenge as Darnold or Mayfield. He’s also prone to errant throws, which is why I want a risk-averse strategy on the back end. Lastly, unlike the SC game, when pressure is applied, make it count. Please let me know if this post is too long and as always, let me know what you think in the comments.