This game means more than you’d think because of last season’s demeaning loss. Yes, you’ve all had to live it down for a year, the ‘Texas lost to Kansas’ jokes. Surely, there’s no way Texas can lose two years in a row to a bad Kansas team, right? I’ll let you ponder that for a second. Are you finished? Good, let’s dig right in. Today’s Game Week won’t be as long as the others because the approach to Kansas should be similar to that of TCU. Only, KU is like a cheap knockoff version of TCU, in the color that nobody wants. Ouch, was that bad? KU runs a similar 4-2-5 defense, not anywhere near as well as TCU does. Also, they now have TCU’s former uber-successful offensive coordinator, Doug Meachem, who is now uber-unsuccessful. How does that work, I wonder? Let’s get to it, shall we?
Five Factors (per footballstudyhall.com)
As you can see, KU’s not in a good place. They are terrible in nearly every category, minus Explosiveness on offense. That happens to be where Texas struggles some, but I doubt it yields much fruit for the Jayhawks unless the Texas defense collectively loses their minds. On the other hand, you see just how much the Texas offense struggles, Efficiency, Explosiveness, and Finishing Drives continues to plague the Texas offense. The bright side, the KU defense is one that Texas should find success. As far as KU is concerned, it’s bleak.
The general approach remains the same as last week. Shane Buechele will be asked to manage the game, protect the football, and nail his reads against a usually poor performing defense. What you hope for is physicality, steady execution, and more aggressiveness. Expect Herman-Beck to be a bit more attack-minded this Saturday, I know I’d be. Texas simply has better athletes at the skill positions. The major weakness here is the offensive line, will they turn a corner? You expect them to perform better against a major step down in talent and performance.
Attack Deep – The purpose is not to throw deep often, but to stretch the field vertically and force the safeties to help over the top. Routes down the sidelines, up the seams, and deep crossing routes come open quick and if not, help to create space for routes breaking underneath. Vertical concepts can be run from formations with 3 in the backfield to isolate outside receivers or 2X2 and 3X1 spread formations.
Screen & Quick – The offense’s strengths are Buechele’s arm and the receivers outside. To augment, package Screens and Quick Pass concepts. This plays to the team’s current strengths and also gets the ball to the offense’s most talented players. This can be executed out of the aforementioned spread formations and Empty sets. Finding more simple ways to get the ball to your best players is all I’m asking here.
Run-Pass Options – Insert the tight end using Lead and Split Zone and give the backs a two-way read. The ‘tackle pull’ scheme can be used in similar fashion, using the tight end to kick, arc, and or release to the flat. Create more RPO’s for the tight end. Shane typically makes good reads, this helps win numbers in the box as the tight end releasing upfield or outside is typically the job of a box defender, why not POP or Slip? Also keep in mind, Shane (or sideline) can check to protection and pass if the KU defense decides to bring more defenders closer to the ball (Attack!).
Motion – I harp on this all the time. Motion gets a player to the flat with pace pre-snap. When there’s a leverage advantage, throw it. It also helps the quarterback diagnose coverage, especially to the weak side, where the weak safety’s alignment can be targeted by a single receiver or Twins set. Lastly, when running Jet Sweep with Zone blocking, use the tackle to pin inside and pull the guard around him. Too often, the guard is being asked to reach an end that’s too far outside of his play side shoulder.
Personnel – Meachem deploys multiple personnel, from multiple tight ends to traditional 4-receiver spread sets. Orlando can match all sets with 3-4, 3-3, or 3-2. Texas’ personnel really sets it apart from other defenses in the league. Don’t forget the new additions, Antwan Davis at Nickel (physical last week) and field corner. Both Davis and Thompson will get looks. This game represents a great opportunity for both players.
Run Defense – KU has a surprisingly multiple run game. Texas will need to be prepared for Zone, Counter, Power, Dart, and Draw. Texas will need to mind it’s numbers and alignments against the KU run game so that they don’t find themselves a gap short to either side. Texas has seen these schemes before (OU & TCU), they should be well-versed. Texas likes to spill runs and so long as the overhang defenders are playing pullers correctly, it allows pursuit and support time to properly fill runs.
Coverage – This depends on the personnel groupings. Much like the other Air Raid teams, you have to match 5. Meachem likes to formation the tight ends in the backfield and split wide. When in the backfield, Cover 4 or 6 works great because the safeties fit based on the outside linebackers (or Nickel). When split, expect Orlando to soften the corners (field) and use the Mike, Nickel, and field safety to work against the split tight end surface. Also, Orlando can match the Elliot on the tight end and play Cover 1. If the front does its job, Texas will find itself in 2nd or 3rd & long situations. That’s where Dime comes into play and Orlando has all sorts of fun mixing and matching outside using 2 high safeties. This time, Texas needs to return the favor and turn KU over 6 times.
Quarterback – You had to be unhappy with some of the scramble conversions last week. Though KU’s quarterback isn’t Mayfield or Hill, he still moves well. All the great coverage on the back end does nothing for you if your 3-man ‘contain rush’ allows the quarterback to slip into defensive no-man’s land for first downs. Perhaps it was the stomach bug last week, but I expect that to be cleaned-up and there to be plenty of sacks.
Texas needs a game like this. There’s no doubt Kansas will come to compete. However, in my opinion, they won’t be able to hold on very long, not unless Texas has another turnover marathon. Texas needs to use its current strengths to begin moving the ball with more efficiency. If they can’t do it inside, it’s time to move the ball outside. They’ve already started doing this. Last week they had mixed results and ultimately failed against one of the nation’s best defenses. This week, the competition level takes a big step down. What you don’t want is a counter-reactive letdown. Maintaining intensity shouldn’t be a problem though, as the whole team remembers exactly what happened last season in Lawrence. As always, let me know what you think in the comments.