Through the first five games, the Texas Longhorns offensive coaching staff has tried to decrease the number of called running plays for junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, but used zone follow to good effect against the West Virginia Mountaineers last Saturday in Morgantown.
With the Red River Showdown in the Cotton Bowl looming this Saturday, it’s a play that could provide a changeup to the quarterback sweep that the Horns used in short yardage against the Sooners last season.
The most effective zone follow play call against the Mountaineers came in the fourth quarter with the Horns up 41-24 and driving with a little over three minutes remaining. On 3rd and 3, head coach Tom Herman dialed it up in an effort to get a first down. Not only did Ehlinger pick up the first down, he ran 23 yards virtually untouched into the end zone.
Blocks from 52, 2, and 18 clear the way for 11 to seal the game. pic.twitter.com/5AWn5W58VU— Joe Cook (@josephcook89) October 8, 2019
The best way to conceive of the play is as a faster-hitting, zone version of quarterback draw with a lead blocker.
With freshman tight end Jared Wiley lined up to the field and sophomore left tackle Sam Cosmi, the play is designed to go to the left and negate the overhang player just outside the box.
The execution here is, basically, a blackboard play — Texas executes all of its blocks at a high level to spring Ehlinger into the secondary.
Senior left guard Parker Braun seals his defender inside while Cosmi climbs to the second level. Wiley uses his big body to get his own seal and freshman running back Roschon Johnson shows nice footwork to get enough of his defender on a key block.
Ehlinger did the rest — his quickness isn’t exactly elite, but his acceleration can make defenses pay for overcommitting in hopes of getting a stop in short yardage. By the time the ball is snapped, the two deepest players are only four yards off the line of scrimmage.
“They got into it where they were running the clock out, and they ran that zone follow play,” West Virginia head coach Neal Brown said. “That’s a really tough play to defend. I’ve had a running quarterback and used it a bunch, too. It’s a really tough play to defend, so they really hurt us with that.”
Entering the game, Brown was more concerned about Ehlinger scrambling on drop backs and West Virginia limited those plays, in Brown’s estimation, but gave up a game-sealing touchdown on a call that Oklahoma’s defense needs to be ready to stop on Saturday.