clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Anatomy of Success: Out of Halftime Against Tech

The Context

After a first half that saw the Texas offense only manage a single solitary field goal, the Longhorns found themselves going into halftime with a 10-3 lead thanks to stout defense and Jordan Shipley's punt return for a touchdown. With passes sailing on Colt McCoy throughout the first half, the Texas quarterback headed into halftime still feeling ill from a bout with the flu earlier in the week. The solution? A PB&J sandwich and some Pedialyte. The result? Well, just read on to find out. DJ Monroe took the kickoff 33 yards out to the Texas 34 yardline with a nice burst up a wide seam before being brought down to give the Longhorns good starting field position.

1st and 10 Texas 34

Texas opens up the second half with their best personnel group -- 11 personnel with Buckner as a flex tight end and Tre' Newton as the running back, with John Chiles, Jordan Shipley, and James Kirkendoll as the receivers. Even though Texas Tech only has six players in the box with two deep safeties, the Longhorns elect to throw the football. Despite Dan Buckner being open in the flat on McCoy's right, he checks down to Newton in the flat for a three-yard gain after the Tech cornerback passed Shipley off to the safety over the top and closed on the ball to make the stop.

2nd and 7 Texas 37

Texas goes into "jet" tempo and under center after hurrying to the line of scrimmage. Everyone in the stadium knows it's going to be a running play -- the Texas tendency is virtually 100% in that direction. Perfect time for a play-action pass? One would think. Well, apparently Tre' Newton was the one person in the stadium who didn't know it was a run and McCoy ends up throwing the ball out of bounds on the busted play -- probably Newton's first major mistake as a Longhorn.

3rd and 7 Texas 37

The Longhorns go empty in their 11 personnel grouping and McCoy hits Chiles on a slant in front of the safety for a first down and an 11-yard gain, taking advantage of the attention paid to Jordan Shipley, lined up just inside Chiles at the top of the formation.

1st and 10 Texas 48

For the second time in the game, the Longhorns go to the WildHorn formation with John Chiles lined up behind center and DJ Monroe in the backfield with him. McCoy splits out to the top of the screen with Greg Smith lined up at tight end on the short side of the field with McCoy. Shipley and Kirkendoll split out to the right of the formation. Chiles hands off to Monroe on the counter and the speedy running back manages to the take the edge on the linebacker Ulatoski was supposed to block but couldn't get to. Monroe picks up five yards on the play even though the timing was a bit off -- Monroe didn't take a counter step and that kept Ulatoski from having the time to get to the playside linebacker who eventually made the stop -- a perfect example of how the Texas running game often lacks proper timing. If Ulatoski can make his block, the play is set up perfectly for a huge gain, as both Texas receivers on the playside executed their blocks perfectly.

2nd and 5 Texas Tech 47

Texas keeps the same personnel package, but McCoy returns under center. Monroe takes the handoff on the counter once again and Ulatoski whiffs on his block against a linebacker in the hole and Monroe goes down for a one-yard gain. Tech had six players in the box on the Longhorns can't gain more than a yard despite being able to account for every Tech player who could make a stop near the line of scrimmage. Pathetic.

3rd and 4 Texas Tech 46

Thankfully, Davis decides to remove the Extra Blocking Surface from the game on third down and returns to the 11 personnel package, though it's difficult to tell which running back is on the field as the Longhorns go empty -- it looks like DJ Monroe. Shipley runs an out route against a linebacker and McCoy delivers the ball on time and on target for a first down and nine-yard gain. McCoy has been staring down Shipley way too much this season, but when Shipley is up against a linebacker the play will almost certainly end in success.

1st and 10 Texas Tech 37

It must have been Newton on the field on the previous play because the Longhorns go jet and hike the ball from under center. This time everyone in the stadium does know what's happening, as Newton takes the carry up the middle for a four-yard gain. Well blocked by the Longhorn offensive line, but the Tech safety came up from his deep position to stop Newton before he could gain big yardage. The offensive line looked good drive blocking, as they managed to move the line of scrimmage about two yards down the field.

2nd and 6 Texas Tech 33

Newton comes out of the game and Cody Johnson enters, with the Longhorns staying in their jet tempo and under center. Play-action pass! Holy Toledo, it's in the playbook. McCoy bootlegs to his left, but Dan Buckner, who stayed in to protect for McCoy on the bootlet, looks at the linebacker, then turns back towards the line of scrimmage, ostensibly to deal with a defensive lineman who read the play. And yes, the linebacker that Buckner was supposed to block made the play. One yard loss for McCoy. If the play design has Buckner going out in the pattern, he probably pulls the linebacker with him, leaving only a defensive lineman chasing McCoy, leaving plenty of room for him to complete a pass or pull the ball down to pick up yardage. Not sure why the play is designed that way, but it didn't work.

3rd and 7 Texas Tech 34

Texas lines up in 11 personnel with Newton in the backfield once again while Ruffin McNeil, forgetting the lessons from last season and early in the game, decides to go with a three-man front and blitz two linebackers from the weakside of the formation. The Texas offensive line picks up the blitz well and McCoy, looking to the vacated side of the field, finds Shipley on a slant in front of the cornerback, who had provided a significant cushion. Another strange aspect of the play -- the Tech blitz comes against the left side of the Texas line, but Colby Whitlock, lined up as the nose tackle directly in front of Chris Hall, attacks the right guard, leaving Hall and Tanner to easily pick up the two blitzers. Strange call by McNeill and had Whitlock engaged Hall, the play might still have worked because McCoy got rid of the ball so quickly due to the cushion provided by the cornerback, but shouldn't Whitlock engage Hall there to leave two blitzers against Charlie Tanner? And shouldn't the cornerback play press coverage to take away the quick throw? Perhaps McNeil was afraid of Shipley getting behind the cornerback for a big play, but that still doesn't explain Whitlock.

1st and 10 Texas Tech 26

The Longhorns get to the line of scrimmage quickly, forcing a timeout by Texas Tech, which could have been critical had the game been within one score late. Texas comes out after the timeout in 11 personnel with Newton in the backfield and Buckner in the flex. Texas runs the counter to the left side, with Huey and Hix pulling. Newton had a nice hole that closed quickly because Hix missed his block in the hole on the Tech linebacker on what looked like simply a poor effort. Newton picks up seven yards, but it could have been a substantially bigger gain.

2nd and 3 Texas Tech 19

Staying with the "jet" tempo, the Longhorns get to the line of scrimmage quickly and good God, Greg Davis, don't call another horrible play-action pass. Those clearly never work. (Note the sarcasm.) In all seriousness, Davis dials up the perfect call, with the Texas offensive line blasting a tired Tech defense off the ball, as Charlie Tanner and Michael Huey both getting good blocks downfield and Newton made a nice cutback behind Huey's block, as the right guard left his feet and got another good block from Jordan Shipley on one safety as the other took a terrible angle and barely got a finger on Newton's ankle on his way by for the 19-yard touchdown run.

Final Totals

Eleven plays for 66 yards, 3:36 expired. Three carries for 12 yards by DJ Monroe. Three carries for 30 yards by Tre' Newton. One carry for a loss of a yard by Colt McCoy, who completed four of five passes for 41 yards, with the only incompletion coming on the throwaway after the busted play with Newton. Three third-down conversions on the drive, with two catches by Shipley and one by Chiles. One missed block for Ulatoski and another for Kyle Hix. Excellent blocks by Hall, Tanner, Huey, and Shipley on the touchdown run by Newton.

The Verdict

There's a reason that Mack Brown always defers to the second half and this is why. Mike Leach wanted the ball first and it cost him, as the Longhorns marched down the field, running 11 plays really quickly and wearing out the Texas Tech defense, as well as firmly securing second-half momentum by going up two touchdowns. While Tre' Newton did not have to do anything spectacular on the drive and made a major mistake on the busted play, he did show his ability to quickly hit the hole -- the Texas running game will continue to be about the ability of the offensive line to make blocks. The bad news is that Monroe isn't a great fit for the counter play because the lack of a counter step and his pure speed makes it difficult to set up the blocks.

What would be a great fit would be the jet sweep for Monroe out of the Wild Horn formation. Still, the formation proved effective on the drive, with Monroe picking up five yards on the only play and giving the Tech defense something to think about. The formation is already much more successful than the Q Package of last year and Texas should be able to consistently pick up yards using it.

McCoy looked much more comfortable after his PB&J and Pedialyte, making accurate throws on each of the third-down conversions and only staring Shipley down when he knew that he had a match up to exploit. That's a major improvement over the second half of the Wyoming game, when nearly all of his incomplete passes came after staring down Shipley.

Overall, this possession illustrates the value of increasing the tempo and keeping a specific set of defensive personnel on the field -- it makes properly executing blocks much easier and pays dividends later in the game. If the Longhorns can get the safeties to bite on the run under center in the jet tempo, the play action pass might become much more effective. The drive also illustrates that the Longhorn coaching staff is still trying to figure out how to properly use DJ Monroe in the running game -- the counters take too long to develop for someone with Monroe's speed -- he needs to get the ball more quickly and in space. Texas doesn't pass much with Monroe in the game due to his protection issues, but if they can complete a pass, get to the line of scrimmage, and install a rocket pitch play to him, that might be one of the more effective ways of getting him the football. Stay tuned.