Coach's Look: Boring Isn't Bad

Given the choice, most people would like to watch the game that came on before the Longhorns game on Saturday. It was high-scoring, right-down-to-the-wire, back-and-forth football. However, I really take a liking to a game that is so dominating that one team emerges clearly dominant in all phases of the game. That is how the Longhorns looked for the last three quarters on Saturday.

I have kept most of my comments this season to the offensive side of the ball, but I must give a great deal of credit to the Longhorns defense. That was one of the best performances I have seen from this unit in the last few years. And for the last three quarters of the game, the offense was just as dominating. In the end, the Longhorns prevailed in a very boring contest. Hey, boring isn’t bad!

The really key drive for the Longhorn offense was the second drive of the second quarter. Vince Young had thrown two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), and he also had a fumble that resulted in a stalled drive. Three possessions had resulted in seven points, and those seven points were for the Buffaloes. The question in my mind was "How will Young and Greg Davis respond to this adversity?" To both of their credit, neither one hit the panic button. The Longhorns went back to their bread-and-butter formation.

I’ve said time and again in this column that misdirection or confusion for the defense can be accomplished several ways. You can run different plays from the same formation, the same plays from different formations, or different plays from different formations. The Longhorns went back to their basic formations, and they ran their basic plays. In the end, it was an eleven-play, five-minute, momentum-changing drive that resulted in seven points for the Horns. Let’s take an in-depth look at the drive that knotted the score and switched the momentum…

Play 1 — 1st and 10 from the Texas 9

Texas goes back to the shotgun formation with Cedric Benson aligned to the weak side of the formation. Texas runs the counter play to Benson for 14 yards. This has really developed into a short-yardage or high-confidence/1st and goal play for the Longhorns. Colorado is starting to be more run-conscious.

2nd Play — 1st and 10 from Texas 23

The Longhorns realize that they have single coverage on the weak-side with Limas Sweed. Vince Young completes an easy pass to Sweed for six yards. This is the type of pass Young needed to get some confidence going again. The Longhorns run a different play from the same formation as the first play.

3rd Play — 2nd and 4 from the Texas 29

Once again, using the exact same formation, the Longhorns run their favorite play from their favorite formation: the zone read to the strong side. Benson doesn’t get touched for the first few yards, and he completes a nice run for 18 yards.

4th Play — 1st and 10 from the Texas 47

Identical to the 1st Play of the drive, except this exact same formation was flipped. Benson gets four semi-tough yards.

5th Play — 2nd and 6 from the Colorado 49

The Longhorns change the formation slightly. It looks like the same front, but now Benson has moved from the weak side of the formation to the strong. Texas runs one of this year’s new wrinkles, the QB stretch play. Young gains thirteen yards, and Texas begins to run some of their plays out of this set.

6th Play — 1st and 10 from the Colorado 36

Texas goes back to their favorite play from their second favorite formation. The Horns run the zone read to the weak side with Benson going for seven yards. The blocking is the same for the linemen, and that is the beauty of this offense. The linemen really only have to perfect three or four main blocks. They use those blocks constantly, and let the runners find the space in the zone blocking scheme. It is a very simple scheme to teach, but a very difficult scheme for a less-talented team to beat.

7th play — 2nd and 3 from the Colorado 29

Texas runs the same play above but Young keeps it for 5 yards. If you haven’t noticed, the Longhorns are doing a great job of switching plays and formations. It is difficult for the defense to stop, but simple for the offense to learn and execute.

8th play — 1st and 10 from the Colorado 24

Greg Davis keeps it simple once again. There is another minor change, though… Young is under center and the back is moved back to a classic one-back position. The Longhorns and Ramonce Taylor gain some nice yards on the strong side speed option. This is a play that most Pop Warner teams have in their playbook, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. Teams play their best when they know what they are doing, and they play their fastest when they know where they’re going. I really like the addition of this play to Davis’ repertoire. Taylor picks up 9 yards.

9th Play — 2nd and 1 from the Colorado 15

The Longhorns keep it simple again, running the Belly give to the fullback. This has really emerged as the Longhorns’ premiere short-yardage play in the last two games. Will Matthews does exactly what needs to be done. He hits the hole hard, and he becomes his own blocker.

10th Play —2nd and Goal from the Colorado 9

Texas runs the same play as the 6th play of the drive. Benson gains 8 pretty easy yards to set up the QB sneak by Vince on the 11th play.

When things get tough, Greg Davis needs to go back to the plays and formations that have been successful. The familiarity will calm the players down and give them the pre-snap confidence that is critical in football. The uncertainty should dwell in the mind of the defense, not the offense.

From this drive on, the rout was on. It’s good to see Texas simplifying things and letting the Longhorn athletes play ball. Offensive football doesn’t have to be complicated at the college level. If your athletes are better than the other team’s, and you can create confusion in the mind of the opposing defense and coaches, you will win a lot of football games running simple plays.

Mark Kissinger has coached high school football in Texas and Tennessee, coaching OL, TE, WR, DT, DE, and serving as both an offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. In high school, he was coached by the legendary G.A. Moore. Mark recently retired from coaching and received his M.B.A. from Rice University and is in his third season of writing for IT. His 'Coach's Look' column appears after each game during football season on InsideTexas.com.


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