Anatomy Of Stagnation: Failed Second Quarter Drive Against OSU

Context

The Buckeyes had just marched on an 11-play drive that ended in a field goal to take a 6-3 with 5:39 left in the second quarter. While the Longhorn defense, as it had done for most of the year, had held near the goal line, momentum remained firmly in the favor of the Buckeyes after controlling the ball for another six minutes, bringing their advantage in time of possession to roughly 17 minutes to eight minutes for the Longhorns. Since the defense had held Ohio State to two field goals, the situation was not desperate, but a sustained drive was at the forefront of every Longhorn fans' mind.

This time, a scary beginning

On the kickoff return by Jordan Shipley, Ohio State senior cornerback Shaun Lane made the tackle, hitting Shipley hard with his shoulder, injuring himself in the process. After a lengthy delay, Lane was immobilized and carted off the field, the type of delay that leaves both teams slightly shaken and away of their football mortality, but mostly out of rhythm.

1st and 10 on Texas 25

Texas starts the drive in 0 personnel, with five wide receivers. The Buckeyes show blitz, but drop into coverage. Unable to get to McCoy, Nader Abdullah reads McCoy and bats down the pass intended for Quan Cosby coming late across the middle of the field. Nice play by the senior defensive lineman.

2nd and 10 on Texas 25

The Longhorns come back with the Oklahoma Special, with OG lined up on McCoy's left, the wide side of the field. The Buckeyes stunt and Lauranaitis hits McCoy right before he attempts the screen pass to OG, which is off the mark. It looks like the secondary of the Buckeyes read the play reasonably well and it would have gone for only a short gain had it been completed. Once again, it was strange to see McCoy so unusually off the mark on an easy throw.

3rd and 10 on Texas 25

The Longhorns split Ogbonnaya out wide left in an empty backfield look. The Buckeyes only bring four and the pocket holds for McCoy long enough to throw a strike to Shipley just past the first down marker, splitting two Ohio State linebackers with the throw. Great throw by McCoy.

1st and 10 on Texas 38

The Longhorns pick up the tempo slightly by going no huddle after the completion. Empty backfield look once again as Greg Davis appears to have completely abandoned the run at this point in the game. No wonder, considering its ineffectiveness early in the game, as the Longhorns had only two yards rushing at that point. Once again, as they do throughout the game, Ohio State shows blitz with two linebackers lined up on the line of scrimmage, before dropping them into coverage. Interesting defensive choice by the Buckeyes, since sending six against the Longhorn five would result in a hurried throw by McCoy. Instead, McCoy stands tall in the pocket and delivers a strike to Quan Cosby, who found a hole in the Ohio State zone defense.

1st and 10 on Ohio State 40

This is where the drive starts to fall apart. Hurrying to the line of scrimmage in an attempt to accelerate the tempo, but look to the sideline for the play call. Perhaps because of the crowd noise, or just because he was a little twitchy, James Kirkendoll rocks in position, drawing a five-yard false start penalty as the Longhorns remain in their empty set. After two long gains and some semblance of rhythm for the first time in the game offensively, Kirkendoll's mistake was drive changing and momentum killing.

1st and 15 on Ohio State 45

Moving Ogbonnaya back into the backfield in their 10 personnel, the Longhorns show the Oklahoma Special for the first time in the drive, with Obgonnaya to the left of McCoy and trips left. Ohio State blitzes, causing McCoy to hit Brandon Collins running the hot route across the middle for a four-yard gain, which would have been acceptable had Kirkendoll not have the false start.

2nd and 11 on Ohio State 41

Back to the empty set, with Ogbonnaya once again split wide left. McCoy changes the protection as Ohio State shows blitz and the secondary backs off several steps. Lauranaitis doesn't come and the pocket holds around McCoy, he throws high, causing Kirkendoll to leave his feet and fail to catch the ball. Uncharacteristically poor throw by McCoy, once again.

3rd and 11 on Ohio State 41

Texas remains in the empty set, as Ohio State zone blitzes, knowing that McCoy will look to his hot route as Lauranaitis comes free on the blitz. Adam Ulatoski completely misses the block as the defensive end drops into coverage. It's surprising that it took so long for Ohio State to blitz Texas in their empty set, especially considering that they could probably run this same zone blitz every time Texas is in that formation and get the same result nearly every time. The idiot attempting to provide analysis for Fox comments that Ohio State simply needs to send more than Texas can block against the empty set. What he failed to realize was that since Ohio State dropped two defensive lineman into coverage, there weren't more defenders rushing than could be blocked. Sheesh.

4th and 7 on Ohio State 37

Out of field goal range and too close to make punting a viable option, the Longhorns make the correct decision to go for the fourth down, especially considering the need to generate momentum and keep Ohio State off the field, not to mention the need to score some damn points. Conservatively, Greg Davis dials up 11 personnel, with Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley split left and Chris Ogbonnaya in the backfield. Ohio State brings seven, with Lauranaitis coming an a delayed blitz, reaching McCoy at the same time Charlie Tanner lets Thaddeus Gibson get by.

The offensive line reads the blitz and adjusts their blocking assignents, with Adam Ulatoski taking the blitzing linebacker. However, Tanner doesn't move his feet well enough to keep Gibson from running by his outside shoulder, leaving McCoy no time to find any of the three Longhorn receivers actually running routes. Before the timeout, the Longhorns had come out in their empty look, but say something they didn't like from the Ohio State front, which I suspect was the same type of all-out blitz they ended up bringing.

Final totals

8 plays for 27 yards, 3:14 consumed. Davis competely eschewed the run on this drive, going five wide on all but two plays and not running the ball at all, with Ogbonnaya lining up in the backfield only once. On the plus side, the tight end only made an appearance on the last play, which I actually agree with considering the likelihood that Ohio State would blitz on the play. I'm not sure if I agree with completely abandoning the run, since Texas found ways to effectively run the ball at times in the second half, but I'll come back to this in a minute.

The verdict

Ohio State did blitz on the play, vindicating Davis' playcalling in that particular instance. Had Kirkendoll not drawn the horrible false start penalty, the Longhorns would have found themselves in a manageable 4th and 2, instead of 4th and 7, and Ohio State would have been more reluctant to dial up the seven-man blitz. McCoy deserves just as much blame for the misfire to Kirkendoll on the second down play after the false start. A completion there makes it third and manageable, likely taking Ohio State out of the zone blitz they ran effectively on third and long, which conceded the hot route to Collins, but schemed to take away any yards after catch.

Ultimately, this drive is an example of the exceedingly small margin for error the Texas offense operated with this season. In other words, if Colt McCoy doesn't complete 80% of his passes to stay ahead of the chains and the Longhorns get stuck in third and long situations, they aren't going to be particularly effective, especially against a good defense like Ohio State. Losses of yardage because of penalties or sacks will kill almost any drive, although, to be fair, sacks will kill just about any drive for just about any team, no matter how good they are offensively.

In terms of not running the ball at all, the blame ultimately lies with the completely flawed scheme the Longhorns run. The Longhorns can't keep defenses off balance with any type draw plays, meaning there is no delayed running game. Beyond that, not giving Fozzy Whittaker a chance during this drive might be a relevant complaint, but I don't think this drive was Greg Davis' fault. Using five wide kept the Ohio State run blitzing at bay and decreased the likelihood of the famous Longhorn running plays for negative yardage.

No, the blame falls on Kirkendoll for the inexcusable penalty and McCoy for actually having the gall to deliver a poor pass. Colt, the Texas offense isn't designed for you to ever fail in your accuracy. Shame on you.

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