The strategy we're going to employ against West Virginia tomorrow seems pretty obvious. We're going to run the ball on offense to chew up clock and, on the flip side of the ball, Manny is going to unleash his typical variety of disguises and blitzes to try to confuse Geno and throw off his timing. While I of course hope we are wildly successful, I can't help but think that this might not be the most efficient overall plan given what we've seen not only in the last few games, but the last three seasons. So, with all due humility, and for the sake of discussion with you, my fellow Longhorns, here are a few ballsy strategies I would employ if I were wearing the headset. Look forward to hearing your thoughts and Hook 'Em!
- DON'T BLITZ. The spread was designed to help teams with less overall talent level the playing field by getting the ball out to their playmakers in space quickly. Now, imagine adding both efficient (let alone good and great) quarterbacks who can scramble and surround them with Texas-fast skill position players to that system and imagine what happens. Actually, we know what happens. Vince. Colt. Oklahoma State. And yes, our newest brother, West Virginia. The fact is, with quarterbacks playing off the line and getting the ball out fast it's almost impossible to get consistent pressure just from a schematic point of view. So, I would argue, why try? Why waste a blitzing defending every play, thus opening up a 5-10 radius that he has vacated? My crazy solution, therefore is to only send four on every play, use one LB 5 yards off the line to spy for any QB scrambles or runs, and then go with a Dime that mans up on the outside and goes zone within the tackles. Will it bend? Absolutely. Will it break? Occasionally. But, asking any QB to pass against a blanket like all game is not easily, especially without much of a running game on which he can rely. And, let's be honest, we're not getting a lot of pressure on QB's as is throughout the course of the game, thanks both to our scheme and LB personal. So, let's remove both of those liabilities in one fell swoop. Plus, I have to believe that our Secondary can only get better after their performance last week.
- THROW THE BALL A LOT IN THE FIRST HALF. This is a game where, like our match in Stillwater, you cannot afford far too far behind or you are toast. Keeping that in mind, let's also remember that MB is out and, while Bergeron and Gray are doing well, we are not exactly dominating first halves with our running game. Also, if we learned anything from last year, it's that we can't over-use our backs at the risk or both injury to them and becoming one-dimensional on offense. On top of all of that, while David Ash is coming off of a great performance on the road, it's a lot to ask of him to duplicate those heroics. So, let's not put him in the position again of being forced to hit very low percentage throws without the benefit of having thrown it throughout the game to get his timing and read of the defense down. Again, I'm sure most will disagree, but I think the first half should be a 2-1 ratio in favor of passing and then, if we have a lead, we can chew clock in the second by running.
- GO FOR IT ON 4TH. Fera being hurt, while a huge concern for us and very unfortunate for him, is a blessing in disguise against powerhouse offenses like OSU and WVU. It means Mack can't pucker up with punts and FG attempts. He has two choices get the first or go home. This is yet another game where being scared means you die and, given how little field position means against a team with WVU's ability to stretch the field, let's not even try. Instead, let's employ the best defensive strategy...going for it on 4th to keep them off the field.
- MAKE ASH RUN. Obviously, we need to keep Ash healthy, especially with Oklahoma and then Baylor on deck, but but in order to keep defenses honest and further push his development as a rounded threat, it would be good to mix in a few designed runs. He's an athlete and, rather than a lot of QB's who use the scramble as a last resort, his running ability is an X-Factor and secret weapon that we should not be afraid to start developing before we get into a game where we need it out of necessity. (And yes, at some point that will happen over the next 2 1/2 seasons for him). Just as importantly...let's make Oklahoma have to scheme for it, thus opening up even more downfield passing opportunities.
- PULL A SABAN. I hate myself for saying this, but Nick has an extremely effective strategy that I've seen in basically every game of his during the last three seasons. The first snap his D is on the field they intentionally hit the QB no matter if it's legal or not. If they get a penalty at the expense of knocking someone out or rattling them for the next hour, so be it. It's worth it. I know this is a horrible thing to say, but Manny should turn the dogs loose on his first play and give them one order...hit Geno no matter what. Whistles don't matter. Having the ball in his hand doesn't matter. Then, after that, he won't have to stunt or blitz nearly as much to keep the fear and mis-timing alive and, as I argue above, I don' think blitzing will work against WVU anyway given how fast Geno gets the ball out from the shotgun. But, if you can reframe his mind on play one, that you've already won.