Texas ground game looks to keep Oregon's defense on its heels

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

As the Alamo Bowl inches closer, we take a look at the Texas offense and see how it could match up against Oregon's defense. Can the Ducks turn things around against Malcolm Brown and the Texas rushing attack?

With all the commotion surrounding the Texas coaching situation, it’s easy to give Texas and Mack Brown a complimentary emotional advantage in the Alamo Bowl. When it comes to actually figuring out which team will win the game, it’s a bit more difficult to give Texas that same advantage.

As we learned yesterday in Kalon’s preview article, the Longhorns will look most similar to Arizona, in that they will try to run the ball to get their offense moving. Texas’ passing offense is also a bit more diverse than Arizona’s. However, on film, it’s easy to see that Texas’ offense isn’t as fluid or "user-friendly" as Arizona’s, and that the Longhorns are not nearly as threatening as the Wildcats on offense.

As opposed to Arizona’s read-and-react triple option offense, Texas’ offense combines the popular no-huddle scheme with a more traditional running game that uses more modern formations to open up lanes for their running backs.

Texas_stretch_medium

In the play shown above, Texas runs a simple zone run play out of the pistol formation. Notice how each of Texas’ offensive linemen gets perfect positioning on the Baylor defenders and use their bodies to create shielded running lanes for Brown, who navigates through the defense perfectly up to the second level.

This became a recurring theme throughout the game against Baylor. The Longhorns will often find themselves running the ball off the left hand side behind their two best linemen, and can really utilize their talent advantages with the zone running game.

Texas_stretch_2_medium

As mentioned before, Texas will use modern formations in the running game as well. In this play, the pistol formation included a lead blocker. The up-back starts some misdirection as he blocks across the formation to the weak side while the zone play is set up on the other side of the line. Texas’ running back Malcolm Brown found the crease and accelerated through the hole quickly for another good gain.

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Texas can also utilize the power play as a nice complement to the zone run scheme. In the play above, notice how the left tackle finishes up his block on the defensive lineman and then moves to the second level to seal off the backside of the defense.

In the game against Baylor, Texas’ passing game is nothing short of anemic. It took quite some time for McCoy to even complete a pass downfield against Baylor, and whenever the Longhorn offense was bumped off schedule by even the slightest margin, Baylor was able to put pressure on the offensive line and force McCoy into some ill-advised throws. One factor for the less-than-impressive passing attack might have been the weather, as frigid temperatures affected both teams’ passing offense.

Of course, the Baylor game was the only film I could get my hands on, so I wasn’t able to pull any good passing plays for the Texas offense. The Longhorns have two receivers of note; Mike Davis, who reminds me a lot of Josh Huff as a speedy and reliable target, and Jaxon Shipley, brother to recent star Jordan Shipley, who had a record 15 years of eligibility at Texas. Both guys are good match ups for Oregon’s top-notch corners. Expect to see Ifo Ekpre-Olomu matched up with Davis, who has been Texas’ biggest vertical threat.

Case McCoy is another one of those mediocre quarterbacks that sort of limits his team. He’s not particularly athletic and isn’t very consistent on his throws, but he’s serviceable, kind of like a toned down version of Kevin Hogan. McCoy is most effective when he isn’t the center of the offense, see games against Oklahoma and Texas Tech, but has the ability to pick at mediocre passing defenses, see games against Iowa State and West Virginia.

The typical remedy for a mediocre quarterback and a decent running game is to load the box and to get after the quarterback at all costs on passing downs.

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On this third down and long, McCoy is faced with a seven man blitz, leaving one-on-one coverage across the board for all of McCoy’s receivers. Texas’ pass protection should have assigned the running back to the unaccounted man that came off the offense’s left hand side. The running back came up to protect the interior of the offensive line for some reason, hesitated when he saw the rush from the flank, and ended up not blocking anyone on the play.

In the running back’s defense, McCoy didn’t handle the blitz well either. Instead of either taking a sack or throwing the ball away, he chucked the ball up, not even "for grabs" but literally to only where the defender could make a play on the ball. Perhaps his receiver ran the wrong route, but in the drives preceding this one, it became obvious that McCoy simply can't get things done alone for the struggling Texas offense.

After watching the defense get shredded by Oregon State, Arizona, and Stanford, Texas’ running game should run a lot of Duck fans the wrong way. McCoy’s job will likely become a lot easier if Texas can soften the interior of Oregon’s defense, and with Oregon’s pass defense already looking for replacements, it’s hard to imagine Texas being held out of the end zone for nearly the entire game like they were against Baylor to end the season.

Unless something has radically changed over the past few weeks for the Oregon defense, it will be up to Oregon’s offense to win the contest. Luckily, the Oregon offense should match up well against a relatively average Texas defense. I expect Oregon to win the game, but like Kalon, I’d take the Texas to cover their +14 point spread in a virtual home game against a recently down-trending Oregon squad.

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