Coach's Look: Silencing Critics

For the last five years, it seems that Mack Brown and Greg Davis have been those kids at school walking around with the "Kick Me" signs on their back. Often laughed at by the media, criticized by their fans, and targeted by barbs from other coaches, they have endured punishment from friend and foe alike that many of us wouldn't have the patience or heart to endure.

Most of the criticism thrown Mack Brown’s way over the past few years has been indirect criticism of Greg Davis. Davis has had games where he has done a fantastic job of coordinating the offense, and he has had times where there seemed to be no coordination at all. Many Texas fans have grown tired of Davis, and, subsequently, have grown tired of Brown not firing him.

Well, gentlemen, breathe a little easier…you both did a fine job Saturday night in Columbus.

The overall results are clear. The Horns walked into one of the toughest environments to play college football, and walked out victorious. They played one of the five toughest teams in the country, and they outplayed them all over the field (except, of course, in kickoff coverage).

But it took till the third or fourth time that I watched the Ohio State game film to come to the full realization that I was watching a really good offensive football club. Granted, there were several mistakes. Obviously, there was the struggle of the offense to put points on the board after the first quarter, partially due to false starts by veteran players, poor decisions by the star quarterback, and a fumble by a veteran running back. But, you have to consider who the Longhorns were playing, and where they were playing. The offense wasn’t as bad as the mistakes made the team look.

Actually, the offense was downright beautiful to behold. While not perfect, the offensive game plan and play calling were excellent.

To be a successful offensive coach you have to be able to line up in several formations and run the same basic plays, or you have to line up in the same formation and run many different plays. Somehow, you have to keep the defense guessing. Think back to the days of the Wishbone at Texas. You had the same basic formation, but you had many different plays. You could have the QB keeping it, you could have the dive back getting it, or you could have the pitchman getting it. You also had straight dives to the fullback, power sweeps, leads, etc. You had many different options from one formation.

Although the times have changed (and the formation has, also), the same principle still exists at The University of Texas today. For the most part, the Longhorns lined up in this basic formation:

Now, the receivers would sometimes move around, and the running back would flip from the tight end side to the split end side, but over 80% of Texas' plays came from this formation.

From this Texas ran the zone read play, a QB sweep, a QB lead play, play action to the slot running a slant, play action to the split end running an out, screens, and an attempted reverse. It was really a sight to behold.

On the first drive, the Buckeyes' defensive ends kept crashing hard, and the QB keep on the zone read play was there every time. The Buckeyes knew they had to adjust or Vince Young would kill them. Instead of keeping the defensive end outside and letting the offensive line and the running backs kill them on the zone read give, the Buckeyes would bring a safety up on the outside to take away the QB keep on the zone read. The end would still crash (taking away the give), and the safety would play the QB from his up position.

However, every time you blitz or scheme to take one thing away, you give up something else. By moving the safety up, they gave up the play-action pass to the slot receiver over the middle. When they walked the safety up to the tight end side, they gave Texas a look like this:

Either, they would try to play man with the safety on the slot, or play a 3-deep zone with a linebacker walked out on the slot. Either way, the Longhorns have a huge advantage in the passing game. When they Buckeyes tried to take away the slant or skinny post pattern, the Longhorns had a lot of success with hitting Jamaal Charles in the flats or Limas Sweed on the out route.

Greg Davis did a great job of calling plays, and, more specifically, taking what the defense gave him. Though it was a big game for the players, it was a big game for Greg Davis and Mack Brown as well.

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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