As interesting as this game was as a whole, the highlights are pretty boring. As you'll see, both teams took turns beating each other with the same concepts.
This game was the greatest evidence yet that the defense — or at least the pass defense — is improving. It held an offense that was averaging almost 6 1/2 touchdowns per game to 4, and one of those came after the offense gave the ball away at the Texas 37. Tech averaged 6.87 yards per play all season but was held to 4.82 ypp. But beyond the numbers, Texas executed a game plan requiring patience and discipline, something it couldn't have pulled off a few weeks ago.
Unfortunately, "highlights" mostly means "touchdowns," so there's only one positive example to start with.
Someone Finally Comes Down With an INT
It was only a matter of time before Mahomes threw a pick. Texas' secondary nearly had at least four interceptions before Boyd caught the game-clincher.
This was the story of the game: With just three rushers (mostly Roach, Hager and Poona), the Longhorns were able to get Mahomes scrambling, and every time he fled the pocket, Malik was there. On this play, Mahomes sensed Poona bursting free on the inside and Roach caving in the right side, so he flushed to his left. Hager and Malik were on him immediately, pushing him back and making him throw off-balance.
The second element is the disciplined play in the secondary. There's a Tech receiver standing by himself inside the 20, but the Texas DBs know that with so little time left in the game, he won't beat them — the receivers in the end zone will. And I'm pretty sure Boyd is still levitating in that end zone.
Last week, Texas shut down Baylor in the red zone with Cover 0. For whatever reason, Kendal Briles refused to adjust. Here's one type of adjustment he could have used.
If a defense is playing true man coverage and not passing off switch routes, it's generally a bad idea for two DBs to line up next to one another at the same depth. One player will have to go behind the other anyway, so why not start at different depths and avoid the risk of a collision? That's not what happened on this play, though, and although it was well-executed by the Tech receiver, they could have been penalized for offensive pass interference. But no one ever seems to look for that, so bravo on the playcall and execution.
Notice how Bonney and Haines are lined up at different depths. There's no doubt that Tech should have been penalized for this one, but Haines should also be able to make this tackle — the receiver leaves his feet to make the catch, and Haines has the sideline to use as a second defender. Charlie and Vance would do well to work with the DBs on "banjo" coverage (if the receivers switch places, the defenders switch receivers) for these red-zone situations.
This play is more bubble screen than pick, but it still forces a defender (in this case, DeShon Elliott) to navigate traffic to make the tackle. The real mistake here is made by Davante Davis, who seems confused about the coverage before the snap. All he needs to do is force the ballcarrier inside to his help, or, better yet, use his 6'2" 197-pound frame to shed his 5'9" 175-pound blocker and make the tackle himself. Hell, just nudge the ballcarrier out of bounds. Yes, he was probably held, but he's expected to fight through that or, better yet, keep the smaller receiver from getting in on his body to where he can get away with a hold.
The Hager Tax
Texas may not have been able to win this game without Hager getting after Mahomes like he did. But with young guys, you take the bad with the good.
For much of the fourth quarter, Hall and Locke switched roles. Recall that Locke played safety last season, so it's not a big change for him. The reason for the change seemed to be to use Hall as a blitzer without having to spin down a safety.
As for the play itself, it's hard to tell from this angle, but the D-line is slanting left and WHERE IS HAGER GOING? Check out the confused RG, who is determined to block a linebacker who is determined to go to the sideline. By the time Hager realizes he screwed up, there's a gaping hole that maybe NT Chris Nelson and Haines can fill. Except Hager overcorrects and tries to get inside the guard, creating a cutback lane in his original gap and preventing Haines from making a play. Oops.
Again, not much variety in the highlights. Much of it is D'Onta ForeHEISman doing D'Onta ForeHEISman things and the left side of the OL caving in the defense. Texas did, however, add a fun new red-zone play.
We finally got to see the Collin Johnson we've been waiting for, and ho-ly $#@!.
This is a nice red-zone or short-yardage concept against man coverage. The two outside receivers run short in routes, and the #3 receiver (Johnson) runs a corner route. The pressure is on a safety to cover the 6'6" Johnson by himself on an entire half of the field. Buechele made two great throws, and Johnson made two phenomenal catches.
Same thing. Now that this is on film, defenses will be discouraged from playing man coverage against trips sets in the red zone. I guess they'll play Cover 2 to the trips side, which opens up more space for Foreman to run. Not ideal.
Speaking of Foreman
Though only one of them showed up on the scoreboard, Foreman scored two touchdowns on Counter-H. It makes sense to look briefly at the anatomy of the play.
There's really three major components: the down block by the playside guard (McMillon) and tackle (Williams), the trap block by the backside guard (Perkins), and the lead block by the H-back (Beck). Any time the down blocks are getting as much movement on the DT (identified by the #1) as they are here, it's really bad news for the defense. And this is important: When Texas runs the 18 Wheeler — or really anytime they need a few yards — they run a concept to the left with the left side blocking down. The reason is that it's easily the most dominant block for this offensive line. They destroy everyone. We'll look at the problems later.
Safety #38 had a bad day trying to tackle Foreman. He ran himself completely out of the play on this one. And yeah, it's Cover 0, so Tech has an 8-on-6 advantage. They had more success with Cover 0 later (it's part of the reason the run game slowed down in the fourth quarter).
Here's another — also Counter-H — where #38 just whiffed.
Williams seals off the backside linebacker and Bluiett pops the playside linebacker, leaving safety #38 to make the play. He can't do it. (I guess Foreman does have some wiggle, huh, Tech coaches?) Gfycat only allows 15-second clips so I had to cut this one short, but unless the Tech player who ended up with the football decided to hold the ball next to Foreman's left arm for a while before running off with it, Foreman had possession of this football beyond the goal line.
To be continued...