I'm sure a lot of us watched at least 2 games on Saturday. Horns vs Nebraska and Florida vs Alabama. In those games whose style play dominated the game? The Alabama/Florida game, Alabama used a ball control offense and it strong defense to limit the Florida offense from being on the field enough to smoothly execute it's offense. In this way Alabama forced Florida to play a game that favored Florida's weaknesses.
The Texas - Nebraska game was similar in this way. Nebraska's defense dictated the flow of the game by forcing the Texas offense into game situations that favor the strengths of the Nebraska defense and are weaknesses for the Texas offense.
Contrary to most posts, I don't blame the Texas offensive line for the offesive problems. What I was appalled at was the offensive coaches for Texas were consistently putting their team in positions where they were bound to fail based on the play of the Nebraska defense and through out the game lacked the understanding on how to break up that pattern. One good thing is as opposed to the Alabama-Florida game where Alabama offensive control of the ball facilitated the Alabama defense to control the Florida offense, Nebraska's total domination of the Texas offense had little impact on how the Texas defense played. As much as Nebraska's defense had the Texas offenses number the Texas defense did not let that effect their executing their defense and completely shutting down the paltry Nebraska offense.
In the case of the Texas-Nebraska game only one part of the game was a failure, the Texas offense vs the Nebraska defense. Was the failure because the Nebraska defensive players were bigger, stronger, smarter, better trained the than the Texas offense? I doubt that. The difference was the Nebraska had a better plan on how to use the resources they had to not let the Texas offense carry out their plan. You have to expect that every once and a while the other guy is going to look at all the tape of all the games, especially towards the end of the year and come up with a plan that uses his players strengths to render your plan unusable. Then what?
That is the place the Texas Offense was stuck the entire game, then what? Many the normal things the Texas offense does to execute an a consistent drive down the field to score were disrupted. In any game you have a certain amount of offensive possessions to score with. A defense wants to do things that put the offense in the position that breaks up that consistency. It's harder to keep a drive going if the team constantly has to make first downs with 3rd down and long yards for the first. The more 3rd and longs during a drive the greater the chance of not making a first. So a defense wants to disrupt the consistency of offensive play. This is what Nebraska did so well.
As an offensive coach you have to expect this is what you are going to face. It the case of Texas it seemed Nebraska did quite a few things that OU did to break up the consistency. What is shocking to me was the coaching staff's utter inability to recognize that problem and find a solution for it.
So much of the Texas offense depends on reading the defense that one very easy way to disrupt it is just change the looks enough to add uncertainly to the reads. Since the offense is reading aka reacting to the defensive formation it neutralizes some of the inherent advantage the offense has in knowing when the play starts and where it is going. As a defensive coordinator all you need to do is study which plays an offensive can consistently execute and at the appropriate down and distance insert a formation that looks like it will counter the types of plays the offense tends to use successfully at that down and distance. A offense that reads the defensive formation will see that they will counter their play will change to a play that may be less successful for those circumstances . On a long drive of a dozen plus plays it only needs to be successful a few times.
What was so effective about the Nebraska defense is they did that every 2nd or 3rd down so that Texas's possession only lasted one or two sets of downs. They did that by controlling the line of scrimmage. Texas rushed for 38 times for 18 yards. McCoy rushed 17 times for -20 yards on top of that he was sacked 9 times and lost 52 yards. So 26 plays went for -72 yards because of the defensive line play. Texas only ran 74 plays the majority of the 1/3 that McCoy had the ball were loses. That amount of disruption by the defensive line effected McCoy on the plays when the offensive line did do it's job. Most of those time the defense dropped back 7-8 and even with 4 receivers the odds are not good to complete a pass. The hard part to understand is how the offensive play calling ceded the advantage so willing. Texas never adapted what it was doing to try to disrupt what the Nebraska defense was doing. A big advantage that the offense has is since it knows when the plays starts and where it is going the offensive player will waste slightly less energy to execute. You see this is ball control games, the defense tires at a slightly faster rate than the offense. One way that to slow down a rush is to tire out rushers by speeding up the game. We didn't really see that more than once or twice half heartedly by the Texas offense but something else it would have done is not allow Nebraska the luxury of setting up comfortably the type of formations they wanted. If the Nebraska defense was rushed, chances are they would have made more mistakes. There is synergy to this also, if you make the defense chase say on a roll out then on the next play the offense gets back to the line and starts the next play as fast as possible. Do this enough and the defense cracks. As far as I could tell Texas played a slow and deliberate game, that was exactly the type of game Nebraska was going to be good at.
All year we have seen one style of running game from Texas, the running back gets the ball and runs behind blockers waiting for a hole. Lots and lots of pulling of slow, fat linemen (No disrespect to the linemen that's what they should be) with some incredibly fast running backs slowed down waiting for a hole. In this scenario a mediocre linebacker is going to be as fast as the best tackle, guard or center and he is not going to be behind the play. On some plays a fast defensive end or outside linebacker is going to run down the plays from behind because the offensive line are going to be the slowest men on the field. By running to one side or the other,the offense can gain an advantage, they can get numerical superiority, 6 blockers on 5 defenders. Most of Texas run plays are so slow the defense has time to catch up and they never have that advantage. In effect all that has happened is the line of scrimmage is shifted to the right or left half a dozen yards. This happened with Nebraska, the Texas run plays only work if every offensive lineman gets a good blocks since they get no numerical advantage . If 1 or 2 line fail to get good blocks the play fails. Nebraska had defensive linemen good enough to fight off blocks and since the plays are so slow it makes no difference where on the field they are, the defense always catches up. What is the use of having speedy running backs if they are forced to follow the slowest men on the field? You are giving up a big advantage! Against a team like Nebraska or Alabama you need fast backs running fast plays to give them a chance use their speed out run the ends and linebackers, and the defense then has to rely on the cornerbacks to make the play. Odds are they can't do it consistently. If you run your plays at the speed of offensive line you are not going to tire out the defense but make them chase some really fast running backs they are going to get gassed and will need to substitute more. In that case the defense plays with less competent players more often and if you speed up the game they won't be able to get subs in and set the correct defense. All advantages to the offense.
The Texas pass attack was and is pretty predictable. Is any wonder Nebraska figured out how to stop it? Of course Nebraska has two really excellent pass rushers in Suh and Crick but it helped that Texas is not very audacious. If like Nebraska you can get good pressure with just intelligent use of your front 4 then you drop 7 in to coverage. Texas did Nebraska a favor by running all these shorten up patterns because of the rush and 7 men in the secondary they could pretty much blanket the first 20 yards. No amount of complicated crossing patterns is really going to change that. A lot of damage Nebraska did was in the first 3 seconds. Pack the zones in the first 20 yards means nobody is open, means Colt holds the ball, giving the rush more time. The whole game McCoy had a hard time finding an open receiver. When it 7-8 on 3-4 it going to be hard to find anyone open no matter what the patterns are. Nebraska packed the short and medium zones hoping that the rush cut down on the time Colt had to hold the ball. There was a easy answer to break the back of Nebraska. Put the real burners like Goodwin on the out sides send then deep, McCoy pumps short and goes long hanging the ball up. They tried it once and Kirkendoll dropped a sure TD. Looking at the stats there wasn't any other passes longer than 15 yards. If you send to outside receivers deep it going to take at least three of the secondary with them then you leave 3-4 to cover the same 20 yards much harder to do considering 1-2 of those are linebackers. One other part of this puzzle is that receivers are not consistent blockers, Why bother? send them deep and have them take at least 1 or maybe 2 defenders away from the play, if the defenders stay then you have 1 on 1 or even better none on 1 deep, and a good chance to score.
What astonishes me is that Texas never really threw deep till the fourth quarter and it would have worked if the ball wasn't dropped. They should have put the test to the Nebraska secondary on the second drive. Even if it doesn't work Nebraska would have to respect deep throws since they don't have an offense to respond in kind. The game would have been over in the first half if Texas had thrown long 4-5 times, 1-2 of those would have connected just by the fact that Texas receivers are faster than Nebraska's secondary and they were also packing the line and were suckers for the pump to the short routes. It would have made the Huskers more cautious and have to play from behind which would have made them desperate seeing how badly the Texas defense dominated their offense.
Speed the game up and throw deep, that's all Texas needed to do break down the Nebraska defense. The good thing is it's pretty much all they have to do to Alabama to win. Slow methodical teams will only win slow methodical games. Texas can play that way but Alabama is defiantly better at it and would beat Texas if they play that way. Florida was forced to and they got beat. So what if Ingram get 175 yards, If Texas throws deep early and gets 300-350 yards in the air, it's 4-5 TD will beat Alabama's 2 TD's and 4 field goals. It is this simple; Texas wins a horse race, Alabama wins a tractor pull.