Anatomy of Success: First Touchdown Drive Against Wyoming

The pin and pull springs Malcolm Brown. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

The Context

Following a three-and-out on the first possession by the Longhorns, the Cowboys marched down the field on a methodical nine-play drive, but eventually had to settle for a field goal inside the Texas redzone. It wasn't an ideal start for the team, so the offense needed to respond with some positive production to gain some early momentum.

A good return from senior wide receiver Marquise Goodwin on the ensuing kickoff gave the ball to Texas at the 32, on a play that Goodwin nearly broke across the field for an even bigger gain.

1st and 10, Texas 32

Texas starts the third overall drive of the game in 11 personnel, with the tight end to the short side and two wide receivers on the field side. David Ash is in the pistol with Malcolm Brown behind him and Jaxon Shipley offset. Wyoming has nine players in or near the box, running up a safety to the field side just before the snap. Shipley goes in motion in that direction and the Longhorns have two blockers to account for the two Wyoming defenders.

Ash hits Shipley on the quick pass while Davis locks up the Wyoming cornerback, sealing his opponent to the outside. Shipley makes a questionable decision to cut outside instead of hitting the crease inside Davis, so the cornerback makes forces him out of bounds for only a short gain.

2nd and 7, Texas 35

Texas stays in the same personnel grouping, with Brown lined up behind Ash, but slightly offset. Wyoming again puts nine defenders near the line of scrimmage, with a linebacker wide of the box again responsible for the short passing game. The call is Power left, but Wyoming defensive tackle Mike Purcell pushes center Dominic Espinosa back into guard Mason Walters, who is attempting to pull on the play. Both end up on their backsides and the play is blown up at that point, especially since the other guard, Trey Hopkins, wasn't able to hold his block. Probably lucky the play didn't go for a loss of several yards.

3rd and 6, Texas 36

On a crucial third down, Texas is in the shotgun, with Brown beside Ash and tight end DJ Grand flexed out to the wide side of the field with two other receivers. Wyoming brings a defensive back on a blitz and the right side of the line does a good job in protection, with Cochran taking the blitzer and Walters helping out with the defensive end, the type of coordinated effort with which the 'Horns struggled mightily in 2011.

Ash shows strong pocket presence by stepping up to allow the rushers from his right side to work past him, while keeping his eyes downfield. As a defensive tackle gives chase, Ash flattens out to remain behind the line of scrimmage to hit Davis on a crossing route. The throw is a bit against the grain, which isn't normally recommended, but it was a short pass and a pretty safe one. Big conversion to keep the drive alive and one of the best plays of the game by the starting Texas quarterback.

1st and 10, Texas 47

In the pistol again, Texas has three wide receivers to the wide side, threatening the screen pass out wide. As a result, Wyoming has to commit a few more resources outside than they were earlier in the drive, leaving only seven players in the box. Texas is still outnumbered at the point of attack, but not by two players.

It's the pin-and-pull play to the weakside (described with typical brilliance by LonghornScott), with Walters and Espinosa pulling and putting crushing blocks on both Wyoming defenders coming up in run support. As a result, Brown only has a break an arm tackle that had no chance.

2nd and 1, Wyoming 44

The Longhorns go to a heavier personnel package with two tight ends and two receivers wide on the field side, with Ash in the shotgun and Brown offset a bit behind him. Wyoming again puts eight defenders near the box, again leaving a major cushion on the wide receivers.

On the snap, Texas shows Power action on the line, pulling a guard to freeze the linebackers, as Ash hits Shipley on a wide receiver screen. Davis tries to cut the cornerback and misses, a death knell for any hopes of a significant gain on the play.

3rd and 1, Wyoming 44

Texas again puts three receivers to the wide side, in the pistol again. Wyoming has seven in the box, sending two linebackers into the B gaps on a run blitz. It's a zone play and left tackle Donald Hawkins seals the edge well with a handful of the defensive end's jersey, allowing Brown to once again bounce the play outside, staying in bounds to deliver a hit to a defensive back roughly 15 yards downfield.

1st and 10 at Wyoming 23

The coverage cuts back to the play right after it starts, so the formation is tough to discern, but it's a pin-and-pull again, with Walters and Espinosa getting out in front of the play. Texas again outflanks Wyoming and Brown picks up heavy yardage before hit.

1st and goal at Wyoming 7

Texas goes heavy with fullback Ryan Roberson entering the game, along with a tight end, and two wide receivers to the wide side, once again. Joe Bergeron into the game. It's Power right with Hopkins pulling, played well by Wyoming, but a tough run by the Texas power back.

2nd and goal at Wyoming 3

Same play again -- Power right. Again, little room for Bergeron.

3rd and goal at Wyoming 1

Jumbo again with a fullback and Bergeron has to cut back against the grain since the hold isn't open, but the pursuit gets there before he can find the endzone.

4th and goal at Wyoming 1

Jumbo look one more time for a necessary, but still relatively gutsy fourth down call by the Texas coaching staff. The widest blocking surface possible, except for

Final totals

11 plays for 68 yards, 4:09 off the clock. Ash 3-3 for 14 yards. Six consecutive running plays to end the drive, with Brown picking up 37 yards on two carries and Bergeron finishing it with four carries for the final seven yards, all yards, all earned the hard way.

The Verdict

Texas needed a strong drive to stem momentum, as mentioned above. They got it, working the edges in the wide receiver screen game with Wyoming outnumbering the Longhorns near the line of scrimmage, a quick adjustment by Bryan Harsin that didn't net a lot of yardage, but was a smart decision nonetheless.

And besides the zone play that Brown bounced outside when the 'Horns caught the Cowboys in a run blitz, the pin and pull play was particularly effective for opening up the perimeter run game, which Texas exploited later on jet sweeps. If the Texas offensive line struggles on the interior getting movement against the better defensive tackles on the schedule, look for this type of gampelan to come into heavy use during the season.

Teams committing significant resources to the middle of the field will likely suffer a similar fate as Wyoming, and that is is something that the offense can hang their hat on.

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