The Texas Longhorns gained 406 yards on the ground during Saturday’s 56-0 win over San Jose State, while allowing only 42 yards on the ground.
When a team can outgain thier opponent on the ground by a margin of 10:1, 56-0 scores are the result. After the Maryland game, many began to question if Texas was really tough enough in the treches to win. While the opponent was not USC or Oklahoma, this team’s performance in the trenches on Saturday shows that they have the capability to win in the trenches.
Offensively, there were a few differences in performance that led to the results on the field.
The first is that the offensive line was getting off the ball. During the Maryland game, it seemed as though the line was slow off the ball on multiple occasions, resulting in Maryland getting the first contact off the line. This caused the Texas linemen to be on their heels, obsorbing the contact, resulting in little push on the offensive line. There was no issue getting a push against San Jose State, as the offensive line was routinely gaining one to two yards with push, sometimes being as much as five-to-seven yards down the field.
When the back can gain seven yards simply by line push, the results of the play will are going to be very good for the offense.
The second change we saw offensively for the Horns was less use of an in-line blocker at tight end. While the tight end was still a big part of the blocking in the run game, the ‘Horns used power, counter, and the split zone to create better blocking angles for the tight end group. These angles allow the tight end to use physics to their advantage, while using the momentum of the defensive player to assist the tight end in there block.
These techniques are much more easily executed for an undersized tight end, especially one with minimal in line blocking experience.
Additionally, the communication and vision of the offensive line was much better on Saturday. This is made clearly obvious when considering the fact that offense did not give up one sack. The offensive line did recieve some help from Sam Ehlinger, who was able to scramble and gain positive yardage on many plays, but there were no free blitzers comming at Ehlinger during the game, which is a clear improvement from the Maryland game.
The difference here is that the offensive linemen kept their eyes up while assisting other linemen in their blocks, allowing them to see the blitz, come off the initial block and pick up the blitzing linebacker or defensive back. This gave Ehlinger time to examine the field and either find an open reciever or get out of the pocket and gain some yards on the ground, or as a last result throw the ball away.
On the defensive side of the ball, the fact that San Jose State gained only 42 rushing yards speaks for itself.
Texas allowed only 1.8 yards per rush against San Jose State one week after giving up 6.1 yards per carry to Maryland. The defensive linemen simply refused to allow San Jose State to get any push, and occupied the offensive linemen allowing the linebackers, who in this case were attacking the line of scrimmage, to make plays. More notably, 18 of the Spartans’ 42 yards came in garbage time against the second team defense. Oustside of that 18-yard run, Texas didn’t give up more than 10 yards on any single rushing play and didn’t give up a play of greater than 20 yards for the course of the game, although, this metric was aided by a dropped pass and another overthrow for recievers who were wide open due to busted coverage.
While the play in the trenches on the defensive side of the ball was much-improved from the Maryland game, Texas will need to continue these improvements if they are going to compete over the next month and a half against opponents like USC, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State (oh and did anyone see the West Virginia offense yesterday? Ouch). The Texas defense, which ranked fifth nationally with 41 sacks in 2016 has only two sacks through two games. In fact, Texas only garnered one tackle for loss on Saturday from its first team defense with the second team defense picking up a sack and two tackles in the backfield during garbage time.
Aside from the one sack, when Texas was able to break free and pressure the quarterback, they were unable to contain him to the pocket. The defense must improve in this area if they hope to compete with Sam Darnold and the USC offense, who love to create big plays outside of the pocket.
The defense also only generated one turnover, which was Holton Hill’s pick-six — he leads the Longhorns in scoring with his third touchdown on the season. Creating turnovers begins with the defensive front making the offense uncomfortable, which generates opportunities for fumbles and interceptions. In order to be successful against the upcomming high-powered offenses on its schedule, Texas will need to create havoc and confusion in the backfield of their opponents, solidify their coverage to avoid the explosive play, and create turnovers.
All in all, this was a good win for the Longhorns. The offensive line was dominiant in the trenches and the defensive front was much-improved from last week. The game was not perfect, however, which will provide many learning opportunities for the team in the coming week, making the matchup Saturday night with USC an interesting one.