Buechele Is Growing
At this point we have a decent idea of Buechele's limitations, but he did a couple of things this week to challenge that idea. First, it turns out he can throw slants on RPOs.
I wondered whether he could see over/through the line and find his receiver in traffic. He struggled with it against Cal when they first tried it, and I believe there were a couple of other examples since then. There aren't any obstructions on this play, but there is a great example I'll post later. On this play, you can see how the run action holds the linebacker in the box, then how distracted the defense is by the short route to the flat. The slant is such a simple route, but Texas has the skill talent outside to turn it into a big gain, especially against man coverage with one or no deep safeties. (That's what they were trying to do on the interception on 4th down later in the game)
Another thing Buechele has struggled with, especially against OU, is what to do if his first read isn't open.
Texas likes to throw these hitch routes to the short side of the field, but Iowa State took it away. Many young quarterbacks might throw it anyway, which goes to show where Buechele is in his development — it would have been a surprise to see him force that throw. Instead, he works his way back to the complete other side of the field and finds Armanti Foreman open. Now, it took far too long for him to reset and locate Foreman, but the important thing is that he didn't panic, stayed in the pocket and kept looking downfield. The speed should come with repetition.
Devin Duvernay scored on this concept against OU, and it's still causing problems for defenses.
Iowa State's playing Cover 3. Buechele looks to his left initially (he's looked off safeties before; that's not new), pulling the safety that way. That leaves a hole for the skinny post, but the offense isn't there yet. The coverage means the nickel has to run with Duvernay, but he doesn't seem to grasp the gravity of the situation. You can't keep your eyes in the backfield and expect to run a 4.38. The corner plays it pretty well but isn't fast enough to flip around and still cut off Duvernay.
Here's the same idea against Cover 3 again.
Note the difference in Iowa State's pre-snap alignment (looks like two-deep safeties) and the coverage (Cover 3). It's well disguised, but it doesn't matter. D'Onta does a great job picking up the blitz, and Buechele steps up and slides to a clearing like a vet. You can see the moment the safety realizes he screwed up and Heard is streaking down the sideline by himself.
How Not to Play Defense, Continued
I'm still trying to figure out what Iowa State was trying to do here. I think it was some sort of zone blitz gone wrong.
They leave two gaps uncovered, though RG Perkins and C McMillon get so much movement on the nose tackle that it's more like one huge gap. RT Nickelson also makes a key block, walling off the DT. Foreman is too good to be handed opportunities like this.
Usually this section is reserved for lowlights, but since there weren't any touchdowns, we'll have to settle for positive plays.
This is a fun pass-rushing package: McCulloch, Roach, Hager, Malik and Wheeler all huddled around the line of scrimmage. The only big man is Poona, who also happens to be a pretty good pass rusher. Iowa State slides the protection to the right, leaving a true freshman running back to block the true freshman McCulloch. They're separated by only 19 pounds in the programs, but this clearly isn't a fair fight. McCulloch drives the back and makes it look easy tossing him aside while changing direction.
Where Has This Naashon Been?
Naashon Hughes may be the most gifted player on the team who rarely plays like it. His game may have benefited some from being challenged by Hager and Roach, because he made some nice plays in this one.
The first thing to point out: press coverage on Iowa State's best receiver with a safety over the top. This is the sort of common sense solution to defending a team's most dangerous player that I feel like Bedford was having trouble finding. By the time the quarterback completes his drop, Hughes has already blown past the right tackle. He turns the corner and then shows the quickness and change of direction that would have NFL scouts buzzing if he would just play this way all the time. Give the opposite end, Omenihu, credit for fighting through an outrageous hold to get in on the action.
Here's Hughes again.
It's another simple four-man rush but this time Hughes is going to twist inside. The coverage is solid, but Hughes is at the quarterback so quickly it almost wouldn't have mattered if it wasn't. Let's hope these are the signs that the light has come on for Hughes, but I wouldn't count on it just yet. He still has another year of eligibility, though, and sometimes that's realization that time is almost up is the last push guys need.
Defensive Story of the Night
As you can see, the defensive line dominated all night. Here's a quick example against the run game on 3rd & 1.
Things go wrong for Iowa State right from the start. The center isn't able to get to Jordan Elliott even though he's not lined up particularly wide (looks like it may even be a 2i-technique). On top of that, Hager is upfield before the pulling guard can trap him. The final straw doesn't appear to have anything to do with what Texas does — the LG just gets tripped up and doesn't make it to Wheeler, who ensures that the quarterback can't fall forward near the first-down marker. Iowa State made loads of mistakes, but they also just couldn't deal with the quickness of Texas up front.