Five Quick Thoughts: Things to remember from the Alamo

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The conventional wisdom going into this game was that 11-2 Utah who always plays with a chip on their shoulders was going to pound disappointing, coordinator-less Texas in the Alamo Bowl. The problem with that wisdom was that Utah has feasted on teams that don’t have the athleticism or skill of Texas and have been able to live between the tackles. Go watch them against Oregon or USC this year and you’ll see something similar to the team that showed up in San Antonio.

Texas did show up, and while they did struggle to move Utah’s 330 pound DTs in the inside run game, they dominated the Utes most everywhere else and made a mockery of their passing game and inside run game with a typical, Todd Orlando-esque gameplan.

The Longhorns out-rushed the Utes 231-128 and out-gained the Utes overall 438-253. Complete subjugation of the foreign invaders, ideally Texas would not play in the Alamo Bowl again in the coming decade. They did go 2-1 there this decade.

Quick thought No. 1: Good gameplan by the reduced staff

This was an easy assignment for Craig Naivar, believe it or not. The Utes used some tempo, motion, and sweeps to generate some leverage and advantages here and there but as noted in the preview, what they really want to do is go downhill with Zack Moss. Well downhill is where Keondre Coburn lines up, and Ta’Quon Graham, and Malcolm Roach. The interior is where Texas’ D is designed to regularly shoot the A-gaps with ILB blitzes by explosive players like Juwan Mitchell. It’s an inhospitable place and if your gameplan is geared towards downhill runs but can’t prevent Texas from shooting LBs through those gaps then you’re going to have a bad day. Sure enough, Utah had a bad day.

What’s more, their passing game was really heavy on play-action sets from protections that weren’t capable of blocking Texas’ athletes on the blitz. Soon Tyler Huntley had his head down and was running for his life and taking shots from all directions.

On offense the gameplan was similarly effective and perhaps a little more impressive. Credit to Naivar for doing a good job and maintaining Texas’ normally effective packages while mixing in their four-down stuff a little more for Ash’s benefit (Orlando may have done that anyways though if he was being retained simply because of the matchup). However, the Texas offense had the tougher task and they had a very good plan.

One of their big wins was the bunch set, playing with the TE in an H-back set like normal but then keeping the slot and outside receivers fairly tight as well. The problem for Utah here was their emphasis on man coverage and the way these sets allowed Texas to create rubs, especially for the RBs and TEs breaking outside. But Texas did some real damage on their normal tight zone play from that bunch formation:

With hard cutbacks by the RBs, Texas could turn the tight zone play into a “Keaontay Ingram/Roschon Johnson vs the CB” matchup in space when they ran that play to the wide side like this. It was wildly effective, accounting for that 49-yard scoring run by Ingram and a pair of 20-yarders by Roschon.

Quick thought No. 2: What a season by Devin Duvernay

Duvernay, the workhorse, turned in a final day of work with three catches for 92 yards and a TD, hauling in a pair of beautiful throws with fantastic over the shoulder catches.

Facing man coverage by the Utes, Texas got into a trips formation a couple of times with Brewer working in space to run a stick route and then Duvernay flexed a little wide and running a slot fade. Utah didn’t really catch on either time Texas ran this set and the result was 40 and 37 yard completions.

He also caught a flag route for a TD with a Ute trying to tackle him before the ball arrived. His final line on the year was 103 catches for 1294 yards and eight touchdowns. Salute to the other senior wideout who proved to be the key one in 2019.

Salute to Collin Johnson as well, who was unlucky with injuries this season but still showed up for the final and caught three balls for 62 yards and a score. Like so many other Longhorns in this soon ending decade, his story has too many “what might have been” chapters.

Quick thought No. 3: Joe Ossai, nightmare on the edge

Because of Utah’s tendencies and formations, Joe Ossai got to play strictly as an edge player in this game.

It went well.

Nine tackles, six of them for a loss, three of them sacks. Unbelievable domination from number 46. I’m sure many will be cursing Orlando forever that he wasn’t allowed to play on the edge all season. Utah was a uniquely good matchup for Texas and I’m inclined to give Ossai credit for doing what he had to do this year, but they definitely should have let him play on the edge more. Spilling the ball to him with Coburn and the ILB blitzes yielded tremendous results.

A play you may or may not have fully noticed though was the 4th and 1 attempt on Utah’s first drive after the half. The Utes ran a zone-read from a double TE set. They read TQ Graham and had BOTH TEs blocking Ossai so that Huntley could win to the edge for the first down. Guess what happened? Ossai got off the blocks and tackled Huntley for a loss.

Ossai will be on the edge full time next season…that could be very effective even if he doesn’t land six TFLs and three sacks ever again.

Quick thought No. 4: Don’t count out Keaontay Ingram

Everyone wants to count this guy out because Roschon Johnson is a really tough runner and consummate teammate and Bijan Robinson is a future star who could definitely execute the bunch set tight zone play diagrammed above. All that said, Keaontay Ingram is pretty good too. He leaped over a man, caught a pass with a hit coming on the throwback (similar to the one he dropped vs LSU only nearly covered this time), and murdered Utah on a quick out from the bunch set as well.

13 carries, 108 yards, two catches, 26 yards, two total touchdowns, nice game. He has some toughness as a runner and his lateral agility hasn’t gone anywhere.

By the way, a reminder that I’ve seen Mike Yurcich’s 2014 playbook and they still had the diamond formation in there that Dana Holgorsen installed when he came to Stillwater and found a bunch of talented RBs and not a lot of depth at other positions. I don’t see any good reason why Texas couldn’t run a diamond formation with some combination of Ro, Ingram, Bijan, and Whittington next season.

Quick thought No. 5: Secure Sam and put this decade in the past

Sam Ehlinger is virtually a lock to come back. He’s waiting on the NFL papers but he’ll get a better grade after his senior year and there’s a long tradition of QBs that stuck in college having better success both in the draft and in the NFL. There’s a lot to be gained by sticking around with Yurcich, continuing to clean up his game, and ideally being handed the keys to calling the shots at tempo.

Tom Herman has proven that he can get this team up for big games and bowl games. Now it’s time to get this new staff together, put together a compelling vision that excites these players and prepares them for another offseason grind, and go have a season where they can plan and prepare well enough to inflict more blowouts like this one rather than giving away games they should win against scrappy Big 12 opponents.

USF and LSU loom on the schedule as the first tests in a new decade for Texas football. This one is finally over.

History major, football theorist.