Here we are again, the Red River SHOOTouT! Forgive my political incorrectness, I’m not sorry. I hope your hate week’s been great thus far. We’re here to talk about that team from north of the Red River. They happen to be pretty good, at football that is. Hey, they also have a new head coach! ‘Liddle’ Game Lincoln, hat tip to Cody Owens for the name and The Donald for the spelling. That team is coming off a home loss to none other than Iowa State. The Cyclones managed to blow that team away in the 2nd half last Saturday to win the game, the game I dubbed the ‘Red Wedding’. I hope at least some of you are Game of Thrones fans. That’s a tough ‘L’ to take at home with a new ascendant head coach, in new all-crimson uniforms, and in front of thousands of adoring fans, ouCH! ‘Liddle’ managed to crash the Ferrari, into a flag pole from what I hear. How much confidence do you think that team has now? I’d say it’s pretty low, but you know what they say about the ‘RRS’, records don’t matter. Texas, on the other hand, is coming off an incredibly close contest, out-lasting a road-grading K-State team. It was ugly, it was beautiful, all at the same time. How much of a chance does Texas have in this one? I’ll answer that for you in closing. Let’s get to it, talk about that team that’s 5th place in the Big 12. Ha!
Image courtesy of footballstudyhall.com
Image courtesy of footballstudyhall.com
What do you think? That’s a confidence booster, right!? It’s not all bad, is it? The biggest difference, that team’s offense. Statistically, it remains the best unit in the country. However, was the ‘Red Wedding’ 2nd half the beginning of a slump or a random aberration? The positive, that team’s defense doesn’t match its offense. They give up big plays, bad field position, and don’t finish drives, bad! Meanwhile, Texas suffers it’s own maladies. On offense, Texas is fairly efficient, non-explosive, and fails to finish drives. The defense is efficient, gives up big plays, bad field position, BUT creates stops. Will these things matter this Saturday, maybe. One thing’s for certain. There will be big plays.
I’ve written extensively about this unit. There are good things, there are bad things. Every week, the bad shrinks. Sam Ehlinger also emerged as a viable starter. That’s no knock on Shane. For a struggling offense, the dynamism Sam brings to the run game is just what the rocket surgeon ordered. What’s interesting? That team defends the run pretty well. It’s the passing game where they struggle most. That team’s defense is structured in a way that is run-focused. It often forces them to be ‘soft’ against the pass. Count me as very curious, just how ‘Heck’ plans to attack. Some ideas follow.
Breaking The Box – That team’s 3-4 keeps 7 defenders in the box almost every down. With Ehlinger, ‘Heck’ utilizes more ’10’ personnel (1 RB, 0 TE), because Sam himself presents a unique surface and run threat. The defense must honor that. If you remember your box-counts, ’10’ personnel against a 7-man box means you’re outnumbered. Even the read-game allows a free defender for the back. How do you even up the numbers or create more space for the run game?
Screen Game – Since that team likes to keep 7 as close to the ball as possible, it creates space on the perimeter. Expect a healthy smattering of running back and receiver (Jet & Orbit motion) ‘Swing’ screens. You may see more Bubble and Stop screens than usual because of numbers, space, and testing the physical willingness of the opponent outside. That team simply hasn’t held up well in this respect. Last week, they were ‘bodied’ up. This brings me to my next point.
Motion – As mentioned above, Jet or Orbit motion forces the defense to quickly adjust for the extra number. This adds another player to the box, one that can be used to help ‘freeze’ the overhang defender to the motion side. Also, you can utilize the motions as a pre-snap RPO. If the overhang doesn’t expand with the motion, throw him the ball and block. Lastly, Stoops’ bunch like to blitzes off the edge with 1 or 2. ‘Heck’ can use motion from the receiver positions or from the backfield out to the flat to diagnose and remedy pressure.
Be The Bully – While the Texas offensive line is inconsistent, one area they should not be lacking in is nastiness. It’s very likely that Herman knows this is more a street fight than anything else. Let the mean streak come out, finish blocks, stay on defenders while they’re down, block them all the way up field or out of bounds, and make sure no defender is comfortable, all game. Most importantly, the reason I bring this up, the receivers have the biggest opportunity here, to bully the hell out of that team’s defensive backs. Do that, you may just win the game.
Pass Agression – Like last Saturday, Texas made an effort to attack down field. They still haven’t hit the 3-Level deep route, frustrating! Maybe that changes this Saturday. What they did show was the ability to pick on zone defense, to the sideline and past the 2nd level. That team will offer space outside and in the alley, Texas can take advantage of that with the quick pass game, the quicker the better, as that team pursues pretty well. Also, it wasn’t hard for teams to force them to rotate to 1-high coverage via motion across formation, Jet or Orbit. This is advantageous because it allows more predictable ‘pictures’ for the young quarterback. Everything Texas works on is to beat Big 12 defenses. Sam finally breached the 60% completion rate mark last week. He does that again along with gaining timely yards running, Texas may just win the game.
What to say about this unit? It’s been up and down, starting with an abysmal home-opening performance. Since then, they’ve proved they can be efficient and finish drives. It’s the big plays that plague Orlando’s unit. A positive, Orlando’s seen this offense before, just last season. Only, last season that team had Perine, Mixon, and Westbrook. Now, the Riley offense lacks those stars and is building new ones. Both the Texas defense and that team’s offense will be well-studied and ready for action. The biggest factor in all of this is Baker Mayfield. Stop him and the whole thing falls apart. Don’t get me wrong, to get to Baker, Texas will need to deal with that team’s run game and catching him, easier said than done. Orlando’s done it before.
The Double-Team(s) – Both Ford and Nelson will be expected to not only ‘anchor’ double-team blocks, but split them, especially in Ford’s case. Orlando’s defense has faced good run games this season, but Riley’s is a bit more tricky. It’s much more angular in nature and also includes heavy doses of Counter GT, a scheme Orlando will have the front ready to defeat. Both schemes involve double-team blocks. Keep an eye on those.
Counter GT – This involves a double-team play side with both the backside guard and tackle pulling, one to kick-out the edge player and the other to seal the linebacker filling between the kick-out block and the double-team. Making certain the 2nd linebacker gets over to the play side is the difficult part. That’s why the double team is so important. If the backside linebacker is ‘walled-off’ by the double team, the back can fit outside or inside the seal block. You want to spill this run, so the edge defender needs to stay outside the kick-out, the play side linebacker needs to take outside leverage against the seal block, and the backside linebacker needs to occupy the vertical lane inside the seal blocker. Orlando can also ‘game’ the front against the Counter, by bringing a safety into one of those critical points. Consistently shut this play down and Orlando will find life much easier this Saturday.
Run Baker – Baker isn’t the best run option for that team. With that in mind, scheming a few keep reads for Baker wouldn’t be a bad idea. You can play him with a Cloud corner to the boundary, the Nickel or safety to the field, or a scraping Mike linebacker. This shouldn’t be the main plan, but why not give the defense a crack at Baker? I know, it’s sinister and you love it, don’t you. Take down Baker!
H-back – Much like the K-State plan, the H-back (#36) is highly active in Riley’s offense and they too will poke and prod for POP pass opportunities. You see it time and again. This guy must be accounted for and taken out. With this in mind, he should be treated like a pass threat every down. Do not allow him free releases past the 2nd level, no matter what!
The Pass Game – While defending the run game, Texas must also prevent big pass plays. It’s going to be tiring. Riley’s offense is balanced. You can’t just take one thing away and expect good things. Though the run is a priority, the combination of Riley’s RPO’s, quick passes, play-action passes (shots), and Mayfield scramble plays makes for a difficult time. This is not a game you want your defensive backs having a bad day. They will often be counted on to man-cover a fast receiving corps. Similar to K-State, expect coverage that allows for underneath defenders in the hook-curl and low-hole zones. They’ll be needed for Mayfield. Other than that, stick to your man. You never know when the Baker scramble is on!
Squirelly Baker – How do you catch a squirrel? You trap it! Baker is a real headach, both on and off the field. A few things. Baker likes to hold on to the ball, mainly because he’s so good at extending plays. Furthermore, Baker is experienced, there’s not much he hasn’t seen. If the Texas defense does its job creating 3rd & long situations, applying pressure to Mayfield becomes a whole new game. A combination of man-blitzes and ‘max-coverage’ concepts can be used to keep Baker indecisive, not only about throwing, but scrambling.
– Quarterback pressure: This must be well-orchestrated and doesn’t need to always ‘hit’ fast. Often, slow pressure works better, especially with a quarterback who likes to hold on to the ball. Pressure should cut-off escape to one side and make available a chaser and ‘spy’. This often involves stunting a defensive lineman ‘around the back’ of the rush to flush the quarterback. Then a rush maintaining proper spacing and depth can pursue up toward underneath coverage. It’s important to settle with Baker, not dive in. Also, never leave your feet in pursuit and if he extends his arm, tackle the arm. Bring him down, period!
That’s all I have for you today. What I may do is talk about some of this stuff via Periscope. Let me know if that is something you’re interested in and I will try to schedule it. Texas faces a bear on offense this Saturday. On the other hand, the Texas offense has an opportunity to create big plays and finish drives against a lackluster defense. The puzzle pieces fit quite well to make this a spectacular game. If you’ve been watching both teams, you’re concerned. I can tell you, that teams’s Brainiacs are not confident. They just don’t see the polish nor the mindset in Riley’s first team. On the Texas side, there is confidence, not so much in the win, but in the idea that the team will be ready to fight. If Texas can Be The Bully on offense while stemming the offensive onslaught, they can win this game. It’s a matter of making that team uncomfortable on a constant basis and testing their resolve, to survive. You know Texas will be ready, good or bad. Will ‘Liddle’ Game Lincoln’s team be ready? As always, leave your thoughts in the comments and I hope you enjoyed the post, HOOK’EM!!!