The reaction from Temple running back Bernard Pierce upon watching film of the WYO run defense. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The Big Picture
Entering the New Mexico Bowl against Temple, the Wyoming Cowboys had to know that Steve Addazio's team was going to come out running the football. After all, Temple featured star running back Bernard Pierce, who was the 84th pick overall in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Beyond simply having Pierce, however, the Owls hung their hat on the run game, finishing seventh in the country in yards per game with 256 per contest, and 14th in the country in yards per carry, gaining nearly five and a quarter yards per attempt on the season.
Meanwhile, the Wyoming defense was terrible against the run in 2011, finishing 115th in the country in pure yardage allowed per game and giving up roughly five yards per carry.
Doesn't take a rocket scientist to start guessing what Temple planned on doing to start the game, does it?
Temple started the game off at their own 10 yardline after their kick returner let a short kick bounce over his head in a play that nearly resulted in a turnover.
1st and 10, Temple 10
The Owls start off the game with a tight end and H-back on the field and two wide receivers split to the right. Wyoming has two safeties deep, with one linebacker playing contain on the back side of the Temple formation. Power-run look. They run Power O left, but a defender blows up the pulling guard before he can get to the hole and Pierce has to run into the left side of the Wyoming line for a solid gain given that the play was essentially stopped before it could really begin.
2nd and 6, Temple 14
The Owls switch into a spread look with four wide receiver (trips right) and the quarterback in the shotgun. Wyoming keeps three linebackers on the field and plays the cornerbacks deep with 10-yard cushions on the receivers. It's a quarterback draw as the linebackers get into their coverage drops. The interior of the offensive line gets a strong push against the Wyoming interior and the weakside 'backer misses the tackle coming up against the Temple quarterback, allowing him to pick up first-down yardage.
1st and 10, Temple 21
Temple goes back to the one tight end/one H-back personnel package, with the running back lined up to the left of the quarterback in the and two wide receivers split out to the right. It's a play-action pass down the sideline, but the Wyoming defender has good coverage and the ball lands out of bounds. Temple tests the discipline of the Wyoming linebackers and secondary. The linebackers bite hard on the play fake.
2nd and 10, Temple 21
Temple is now in 11 personnel, with a running back flanked to the left before he motions back to next to the quarterback in the shotgun. Temple runs a draw play to the change-of-pace back, 5-5 Matt Brown, who makes a little something out of about nothing.
3rd and 8, Temple 23
Temple goes empty with the quarterback in the shotgun. Wyoming drops eight in coverage, but when quarterback Chris Coyer scrambles, none of the linebackers or defensive backs can get to him in time before he picks up 11 big yards on the run, beating two defensive linemen to the corner. Big first down keeps the drive alive.
1st and 10, Temple 34
The Owls get two tight ends back in the game, then motion the running back into the backfield from the X position, leaving two receivers to the wide side of the field. It's inside zone, with the quarterback faking the zone read (though no defenders were left unblocked), and Pierce finds a small crease and picks up six yards on a nice run.
2nd and 4, Temple 40
Pistol look with an H-back this time (same personnel grouping) and the two receivers to the wide side. Inside zone again and the Wyoming defensive line wins the battle. Minimal gain.
3rd and 2 Temple 42
Short-yardage package for Temple with a fullback and no wide receivers. Power O left, and Wyoming once again sniffs it out, blowing the Owl offensive line up at the point of attack and holding Pierce to a one-yard gain.
4th and 1 Temple 43
Same formation, same play except to the other side of the line and this time senior linebacker Brian Hendricks misses his fill a little bit, hits Pierce at the first-down marker, and gets dragged several yards downfield.
1st and 10, Temple 49
For the first time, Temple splits their wide receivers, one on each side, with two tight ends on the line of scrimmage and the running back slightly behind the quarterback in the shotgun. It's a play fake, and the middle linebacker bites hard, while the outside linebacker and safety playing in a linebacker alignment freeze, making them late getting into their coverage drops. The tight end on the left gets vertical up the seam, but the safety Tashaun Gipson doesn't carry him, keeping his eyes in the backfield instead. Coverage bust. There's no safety in the middle of the field, either, so it's an easy pitch and catch for Hoyer and the tight end picks up 40 yards.
1st and 10, Wyoming 11
The camera misses the start of the next play, but it looks like Temple is in a tight-end heavy look with no apparent receivers on the field. A lineman and tight end pull into the middle of the play, while the fullback kicks out a defender. One Wyoming player has a chance to make the play in the hole, but whiffs on the arm tackle as the line moves the line of scrimmage well downfield, allowing Pierce to pick up a head of stem. Nine-yard gain.
2nd and 1, Wyoming 2
Power O to the left again from the goalline formation, played well by the Wyoming defense outnumbering Temple in the hole. Pierce does, however, pick up a first down.
1st and goal, Wyoming 1
After some issues running Power O left, Temple goes back to the right, as they did earlier on the fourth-down play, finding similar success. Pierce has no particular issue finding the endzone from a yard out.
13 plays, 90 yards, more than six minutes taken off the clock.
The major damage here was clearly the long pass play, which was set up by the successful running game. Other than the scramble, Wyoming didn't give up big chunks there -- at least not on this drive -- but the inability of the defensive line to make plays was a bit glaring, and there was some poor tackling that showed up in other parts of the game as well.
This drive wasn't necessarily illustrative of Wyoming being flat-out awful defending the run, as there was other evidence of that in this game, but more about the combination of lack of discipline and some poor tackling, which combined to allow such a long, methodical drive.
It was also a vanilla game plan by the Wyoming defensive coordinator -- no blitzes of any variety, no disguised coverages, the cornerbacks and safeties playing deep to avoid giving up the big passing play, which happened anyway because of the bust by Gipson. Overall, the linebackers didn't do a great job of reading their keys to avoid biting on play-action fakes.
It was a unit as a whole that did not appear to be well coached in any sense of the word. And the Texas offense will look similar to the multiple looks presented by Temple, though the quarterback run game won't be as big of a threat with David Ash as it was with Coyer.
More on the other breakdowns that happened in this game later, but at the risk of spoiling them, the thought here is that Texas will be able to physically dominate at the point of attack against Wyoming in the running game, which will open up those same possibilities for play-action. It's pretty basic, but there's film evidence that the Cowboys were poor at defensive that type of gameplan last year.
The only real question is whether new defensive coordinator Chris Tormey has managed to correct all those issues. The guess here is that he hasn't. He may, at some point, but it's hard to install a new scheme, all while teaching up players who clearly lack in fundamentals like defeating blockers and making tackles.