I offered the Wildcat game plan in the game preview. So I’m sure none of us were surprised. I don’t think my heart rate broke 100.
Grind, possess, take the air out of the ball. Even though KSU uncharacteristically derailed their own Wildcat ball with three second half turnovers.
They scouted us well and it showed on key downs. Texas won 1st and 2nd more often than not. The Wildcats won 3rd and 4th down. That was the difference in the game.
That written, I didn’t expect Texas to help KSU execute their game plan.
The Texas D didn’t give up big plays. They just gave up constant plays. It was a perfect confluence of bad fundamentals meeting an ill-conceived defensive game plan.
Edge rushers with no concept of containment or key down rushing lanes against a mobile QB, two starting linebackers so lost they were summarily benched, a defensive coverage scheme that played off coverage and allowed Kansas State’s offense the only routes they can execute. Multiple penalties on key downs. Missed tackles. I knew what kind of day it would be when Kansas State scored on their first drive as we compiled 2 offsides penalties on hard counts, a pass interference, got beat on a 31 yard completion in 2nd and long while in off coverage and then let Jesse Ertz run into the end zone untouched on a simple QB keeper.
The Texas defense allowed one unit – the Kansas State offense – to dictate the entire game.
The Wildcats dominated the Texas defense with situational football.
They scored 3 touchdowns in 5 first half possessions and should have had another in their first 3rd quarter drive if not for a fumble in the end zone. After that, they shot themselves in the foot and I’ll let you determine how much of that was our doing or Ertz’s shoulder joint.
They were in no small part abetted by our coverage decisions that turned an injured 52% passer who can’t connect deep and has KSU ranked #113 in passing efficiency into an efficiency machine (74% completions, KSU was 7 of 15 on 3rd and 4th down).
Our game strategy was to concede the short passing game to a ball control possession offense that lacks downfield playmaking and big play potential. Maybe someone should have raised a hand in the coach’s meeting and said that out loud? Is that really the plan, coach? Like, even on 3rd down or when we have them behind the sticks? At some point, you walk up the coverage, constrict the field and make Ertz make plays that he hasn’t made all year.
KSU murdered us with planned QB runs on 3rd and 4th down. Ertz compiled 78 yards rushing, two touchdowns and four money down conversions with his feet on called draws that were blatantly obvious given the down and distance. Our edge rushers have no concept of contain, the secondary is passive in run support and while “hey edge guys, run really hard straight up the field on every down” seems to titillate some of our fan base when it results in the occasional negative play on the offense, it’s bad, easily exploitable football.
We didn’t play the run well on normal downs despite a mediocre Wildcat OL and average RB talent.
Wheeler and Jefferson were both benched and sat several drives down the stretch. They deserved it, but who ultimately deserves blame for their play? They join Holton Hill, Sheroid Evans and Davante Davis on that bench – former starters and supposed preseason stalwarts – who have no idea how to play their positions. I didn’t see Naashon Hughes out there either.
Edwin Freeman made big plays once he got game acclimated – a big INT, part of forcing a fumble – and he’ll be difficult to take off of the field going forward. Tim Cole had a nice open field tackle on a broken play, but was otherwise himself.
John Bonney was picked on in the passing game and running game. He gave up a TD, committed a key PI, missed three tackles and got blocked several times in the KSU short passing game.
I thought the interior of the DL largely acquitted themselves well and I saw some nice things from Nelson and Ford.
The edge players and starting linebackers repeatedly blew it on basic fundamentals.
On offense, we were a miserable 3 of 13 on 3rd and 4th down, despite moving the ball into Wildcat territory regularly.
The catalog of key down conversion errors ran the whole gamut: dropped balls (Dorian Leonard dropped slant 4th and 3, Foreman dropped a TD on 4th and 17), penalties on 4th down (offsides on 4th and 1 on the KSU 45), a couple of tip your caps to the KSU D, a bad call or two and a lot of pressing. That’s really what derailed the offense. If we’d had enough possessions to iron it out and get comfortable, you’d have seen a 21 point quarter. While we can certainly point the blame at our defense for allowing KSU to dominate tempo, an offense can help itself stay on the field by…staying on the field. That mean converting on 3rd and 4th down.
Foreman got his (124 hard yards), the OL played fairly well on honest downs (McMillon solid in Shack relief) and we had big mismatches outside that weren’t really evident until deep into the 4th quarter because of game flow.
Nickelson and Hodges struggled in pass protection on obvious passing downs. Beyond that, McMillon, Williams, Perkins and Vahe all played pretty well from my viewing sans rewind.
As I’ve been arguing for a couple of weeks, we finally ran Swoopes Package out of the power set instead of the spread and got back to positive results.
Domingue missed an easy field goal that would have likely brought the game to OT, but I think our special teams are best encapsulated by each team’s first possession of the game.
KSU gets some clean blocks on their return and start the game at their 32 yard line. They then drive 68 yards for a touchdown. Their first play of the game was a holding call on an OL, but they overcame it.
Texas’ first kickoff return has Foreman pointlessly running parallel, no one gets a block, he’s tackled on the 9, we also manage to also draw a penalty and we start on our own 4. We then gain 56 yards.
If we’d had Kansas State’s return, our drive ends with points. Instead, we’re punting.
If KSU had our return, also given their first play, they’re looking at 2nd and 20 from their 2 yard line.
An illustration of the power of hidden yards.
Texas dips below .500 for the season, sits at 1-3 in an awful Big 12 and Charlie Strong is 1-7 on the road since last year.