Despite rampant rumors that had him either departing Stillwater or at least moving over from the play-calling duties with the Cowboys offense, Yurcich was in Stillwater on Monday, arriving a little late as he has the last three weeks, to talk to the media about the upcoming game.
The embattled offensive coordinator isn't catching much of a break from a number of fans, and he isn't making excuses either. He did not throw either the offensive line or his quarterback under any bus and just said that they need to work hard to find a game plan that will work against the 4-2-5 defense.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson is often credited as the father of the 4-2-5 and I agree with that. The defense which employs a nickel personnel package with three safeties is really a very versatile scheme where the safeties can either assist with matchups in coverage or creep into the box and attack the offensive backfield as blitzers.
"They apply multiple looks from a coverage standpoint. They're very versatile and very athletic," Yurcich said already with tired eyes that looked like they had watched a lot of video. "They run very well as an overall defense. They pursue the football well. They're a very physical defense and they have athleticism. Obviously, they can bring pressure with multiple linebackers and defensive backs. They're all willing and able."
It may have been lost on Oklahoma State fans but we have been reporting that head coach Mike Gundy has coached as aggressive the last month or so as we have ever seen him since he was the offensive coordinator himself. Gundy has taken an avid interest in offense and special teams.
On the offensive side he has really spent time with the offensive line and the offense as a whole. Head coaches have that prerogative. Gundy was asked to review the offensive line from Saturday at Kansas.
"We’re just trying to get a little bit better each week. We introduced Mike Wilson last Saturday. We got some quality work out of him," Gundy explained. "He should improve a little bit this week. We get Crabtree back, maybe he’ll be far enough along that we can roll those guys and give them a little bit of a break. We just have to keep pushing forward and try to play better than we did last week and give ourselves a chance to win the game."
While it seems the offensive line is the root of all the offensive inconsistency and problems, both Gundy and Yurcich pointed to Daxx Garman as well. Garman is just four and three-quarters into his college career and is not a two-year starter.
"Well, he’s played pretty well except he needs to understand the depth of safeties in certain times when he’s throwing the ball," Gundy said. "Daxx’s ability to improve each week will be based on us running the football because if we are not able to run the football, then you play pass, and when you’re playing pass, it’s hard to throw a pass.
"Defenses are much faster and defensive linemen nowadays are much better in pursuit of the quarterback than they were five or six years ago. In my opinion, if you have a difficult time running the ball, you’re going to have a difficult time throwing the ball."
Kansas did show more and more varied blitzes, and out of the 4-2-5 you can expect TCU will run some interesting blitzes. Yurcich said Kansas did a really good job of mixing things up for Garman to look at including changing the way their safeties played.
"They did a nice job against us," Yurcich explained. "They mixed up their looks against us and they played very aggressively. They were ready to play. Their coach did a nice job of getting them ready. We have to do a better job protecting him."
Again, that is the same TCU defense that did allow Oklahoma 461 yards of offense and the dynamic Baylor Bears a whopping 782 yards of production.
"There’s two things there. The first thing is the two offenses they played were pretty good," Gundy said. "The second thing is that when you run the style of offense that they run, their defensive statistics are going to go down because you’re not using the clock. They’re playing fast. They either score fast or they’re off the field fast so the defense is on the field more.
"It’s very similar to what’s happened over here the last six or seven years. People have not been happy with the defense, but the defense stays on the field a lot. When we’re having success on offense, the defense is on the field a lot because you’re scoring fast. I would guess – and I could be wrong – that they could play as well as they have played in the past and their defensive statistics will go down because there’s more plays on the field."
Gundy and Yurcich have to be concerned Saturday with offensive production. The Cowboys will need to find a way to stay on the field, knowing that the TCU offense is capable of the same tempo that OSU is capable of running, and the Horned Frogs offense has been much more productive in recent weeks including the 58 points in a losing effort last Saturday at Baylor.