HOU: Complete Offense Breakdown!

Okay, I found a copy of the entire game so I was able to properly break down the offense. I broke down 38 plays, ignoring ones that didn’t matter to the outcome of the game (and a couple of tempo plays that took advantage of the defense not being totally ready).

There were 15 running plays (includes run/pass and run/screen options) and 23 passes.
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RUNNING GAME MISCUES

Of the 15 running plays, there were 12 mistakes by the OL. But some of those mistakes were on the same play.

The worst offender was Dalton the RG with 4 mistakes. Dalton’s problems are his ability to not be beat, pushed backward, or pancaked.

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Dalton also got pushed back pretty bad the first two passing plays of the second half. I’m pretty sure we are going to see someone else playing RG the next game, most likely Samia.

Ford at LG also had 4 mistakes, but they were small mental mistakes that weren’t that concerning. One play there was a pretty tricky stunt and he took too long figuring out who he needed to block.

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Another play he pulled and didn’t notice a LB unblocked so he blocked the first man he saw (which meant helping the RT block his man).

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It’s kind of unfair to expect a first time starter to be able to do that. Another play he was supposed to block the DT with the center, but both let him go and ended up going upfield and blocking each other. Clearly Ford was at fault here.

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The last miscue he had was not being able to stay with the DT, but that is an incredibly difficult block due to how far away he was. In that case he just needs to do a better job not allowing him to go around him and chase the play down.

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Samia didn’t have any miscues and Brown only had one. Alvarez did miss a snap early in the game that caused Baker to get the ball too late to hand off to Perine (14:14 1st Q).

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Otherwise he seemed to have done pretty well at center!

There were two additional plays where the OL was at fault, but I couldn’t target any specific individual. One was a combo blocking scheme that had 4 OL combo blocking 2 DL and none of them were able to get off the block to pick up a LB. The other play was a busted play where at least 2 of them were running the wrong blocking scheme (12:33 4th Q).

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It’s possible Alvarez may have missed a call, but it was a disaster!

Both Flowers and Mixon are to blame for one play each (more on that later) and Baker was at fault twice due to making the wrong decision. One of those was the option play (3:17 2nd Q), but it’s possibly the scheme that really deserves the blame.

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The play simply cannot work unless Baker pitches the ball. Now, if Baker is supposed to just run an option look to draw the DE and then pitch (not uncommon), then he made a dumb mistake not pitching it. Had he pitched it, they would have picked up the first down. Now, if the RT had gone out to block the LB instead of backing up attempting to prevent penetration (The OL was also blocking for a possible hand off to the flowers going the other side) the QB and RB could have run a true option.
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PASSING GAME MISCUES

Of the 23 passes, there were only 6 mistakes by the OL. (Samia twice, Dalton twice, and Brown twice) That’s pretty good. Mixon’s struggles pass protecting in the 3rd quarter were just as much of a concern.

5 or 6 of the bad passing plays were Baker’s fault. One of those might have been Flowers’ fault, it’s hard to know. Either he was overthrown or Flowers should have kept running and caught it over his shoulder (10:08 4th Q).

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I went over Baker’s issues in more detail in the last post.
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COOL NEW PLAYS

Riley unveiled some really awesome new plays in this game! My favorite by far is a play with both Perine and Mixon in the backfield.

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The OL blocks for a stretch run to one side while the playside back fakes like he’s going to block the backside end, but then continues out to the flat and dips back behind the LOS for a screen pass. Baker can either hand off to the other RB running the stretch play or fake the hand off and then roll out to the backside and pass to the RB on the screen. Because he catches the ball behind the LOS the receivers can block downfield and clear the way for RB to make the catch. It’s a wicked play and we ran it a few times (like the first play in the 2nd Q where Perine got injured). The only time it didn’t work is when Baker chose to hand off when he very obviously should have passed it. (2:08 3rd Q)

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Another cool play is actually the first play of the game.

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The RB swings out to one side and the OL pulls both the G and T to the other side and the QB can either pass to the RB or fake it and run the ball himself to the other side.
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SO CLOSE!

There really was no reason to stop running the ball. The defense didn’t really do anything differently after the 1st quarter, we just started making mistakes. And a few of the runs that didn’t work very well were ALMOST really big plays (like 13:11 1st Q and 9:52 2nd Q)

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Contrary to what I’ve heard, they didn’t start run blitzing or anything like that. Their defense is just really aggressive vs any kind of run action regardless of how many times we’ve been running it or how successful we’ve been. I can see why Riley would want to just try and take advantage of this with a bunch of play action (like he did in the 3rd Q). Why not? Unfortunately, our execution fell to crap and kept us from being able to take advantage of it. I also think the play action plays we ran weren’t really best.

Their LBers are aggressive into the line which leaves them really vulnerable to outside runs, something we tried to take advantage of (and did early on, like in 13:36 1st Q).

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Eventually they started really overreacting to any stretch blocking we did, which left them vulnerable to plays that fake the stretch. In the second half we called several plays that did this, to mixed success.

In the end, we should have kept running the ball. We would have worn them down and popped a few big runs eventually. I think the two short yardage stops that happened right after Perine got hurt made Riley tentative. In both those plays Dalton was overpowered and Ford made a mental mistake.
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HOUSTON’S FAVORITE BLITZ

Houston didn’t really have all that many blitzes they ran. Their favorite was to have the 3 DL slant to one side and have two LBers blitz on the outside opposite the slant.

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By having two LBers blitz on the same side it makes it difficult for blitz pickup and can really mess up runs to that side. By having the DL slant to the other side it can make it difficult to run away from the blitz as well.

One awesome blocking scheme we unveiled in this game is perfect to combat this. It’s almost like the offensive version of the same scheme.

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The G and T both pull to the playside while the center and other G block the two backside DL. So the T, G, and C on “slant” and block the DL while the opposite G and T “scrape” around the other side to block any LBers in the hole. So if the DL is slanting toward the playside, then that makes the T, G, and center blocks easy! The pulling G and T block the two blitzers and the RB runs off tackle inside of their blocks. If the DL is slanting AWAY from the play, the blocks on the DL will be difficult, but since they will be running away from the play they are essentially taking themselves out of the play.

The first time we ran this was Mixon’s long 60+ yard run (11:53 1st Q). Also critical to that play busting loose was Baxter who faked a screen before blocking, tricking the safety to moving outside.

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This allowed him to basically block two defenders.

For some reason, we never ran that play again. We ran that blocking scheme a couple more times, but not in the same play. I think we were supposed to be running this blocking scheme on the play where the OL really messed up and half of them were running something completely different. We also used this blocking scheme on the play action pass trying to replicate Mark Andrews long TD pass that didn’t work (I talked about this in the last post).
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FLOWERS WAS A BIG LIABILITY

This was a shock to me, but a big part of the reason behind our running struggles was Flowers not being strong enough to block the Houston Nickelback (or OLB if they weren’t going to a nickel personnel). The Nickel really gave us problems all day, and I think the formations Riley chose played a big role in that. Take the first run of the 3rd Quarter for example.

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The formation had two receivers split wide to one side, a FB who lined up just outside the OT on the same side and a single receiver split out on the other. Any time you have a slot receiver you are going to have a nickel on him. If the nickel plays inside of the slot receiver then he can react to run action and cover the run in the box and it’s very difficult for the slot receiver to block him. If you are going to run to the side of a slot receiver you have to have a way to block the nickel or use a run/pass option where the QB reads the nickel and either hands off or passes to the slot depending on what the Nickel does. (This is why Baylor splits their receivers so wide). Flowers could have blocked the nickel but they had him crossing to the backside to block the end man. It’s possible Mixon was supposed to run to the backside, in which case he made a mistake because he could have been successful running that direction. But, he cut it to the strong side and the nickel tackled him.

They tried several times to have Flowers block the nickel, often trying to kick him out as he run into the backfield. But Flowers wasn’t strong enough. Take the run at 9:52 in the 2nd Q for example.

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It should have been a big play, but Mixon couldn’t tell whether to go inside or outside of Flowers’ block because he was kind of being manhandled (although to his credit, he always stayed with him). Mixon ended up running right into Flowers and ended up no gain. Everyone else was blocked and there was a bunch of room if he was able to get past that block. Mixon struggled getting past Flowers a couple different times in the game.

Another example is the screen pass at 4:21 in the 2nd Q.

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Flowers has to block the nickel who is lined up over Mark Andrews in the slot. If he can make this block, Westbrook gets at least 10 yards. But, he can’t and the play goes nowhere.

In the last post I talked about the second time we ran the play Mark Andrews got his big TD pass on. The first time we ran it ( 8:53 2nd Q) Flowers blocked the blitz from the outside in and allowed Baker to roll out to the backside.

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But, the second time we ran it ( 8:59 3rd Q) Flowers slides to the inside and lets the LB get outside of him. He chips the LB and then goes out for a pass. That allows the LB free into the backfield and prevents Baker from rolling out.

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THE VERSATILITY OF THE FIRST UNIT

We really had success on a wide variety of plays in the first couple of drives. It was a great thing to watch. The versatility that having Mark Andrews and Flowers along with two receivers and Perine gives you, at least on paper, is quite special. Do you go big to try and stop the power run game with the TE and FB? Or go small to combat the spread formations since both Flowers and Andrews are good receivers? However, for this to work on the field, Flowers has to be able to block OLBers and Nickelbacks!
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MARK ANDREWS STRUGGLES BLOCKING DOWNFIELD

This is kind of surprising given his size, but Mark Andrews seems to struggle blocking downfield. Defenders seem to be able to get around him too easily. Again, for the versatility of the first unit to really work, he has to be able to block the perimeter when spread out.
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BOTTOM LINE

The poor execution in the second half is very worrisome, but the fact that it isn’t anything that Houston did differently that made the difference between how great we looked in the first half and how horrible we looked in the second is good news. At least we know we CAN execute correctly. Some things need to be changed. Dalton was overpowered, which might be from him being to hesitant or uncomfortable. I hope that’s the case.

The OL did not look as bad as I feared, despite having a lot of mistakes. Those things are correctable, though (assuming Dalton’s problem is tentativeness and not lack of strength). I don’t know why they aren’t corrected already, but it can be corrected.

Really, I didn’t see anything with the receivers that made me think they were part of the problem. There were a handful of plays I couldn’t tell because they were off the screen, but most of the time I could see them and they weren’t the issue. That’s a good thing as well!

I’m also pleased to see how good the gameplan was. I was afraid the issues were schematic. Riley definitely made some mistakes, but a lot of them were understandable given the situation. And he also had some exciting new additions to the offense.

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HOU: Breakdown of the 3rd Quarter Offense

First off, due to some programing issues with Fox Sports I was not able to get any tape of the first half of the game. I did get almost all of the 3rd Quarter, however, which I think is the most important.

I’m VERY concerned about our offense, not just the players, but the offense in general. It was not just one thing that caused the issues. It was a whole lot of different issues from a lot of different players. It’s very similar to our first game last year, but remember, this was a new offense they were learning. Now, there’s no excuse.

The execution is very poor, and that is a VERY serious problem because Riley’s entire system is based on perfect execution. He doesn’t use many plays. The defense will know what we are going to try and do, but the idea is to execute it so perfectly that it won’t matter. When the defense knows what you like to do, the margin of error is razor thin.

The idea is to practice the small number of plays/concepts so much that through repetition the players perfect execution. So, for the execution to be this poor two years in a row is a huge problem. Something isn’t working. Even before Riley set foot on campus, and I assumed our execution would be very precise, my biggest concern was whether or not this offense would be successful against really well coached defenses with similar talent level. The margin of error is just so incredibly thin against those teams I still fear it’s just not realistic to expect to be that precise. But, with such poor execution overall…that’s a REALLY bad sign.

QB ISSUES

As I’ve said before, and showed on the breakdown of the bowl game (which you can see for free on oubreakdown.com now), by far the biggest issue with the passing offense vs Clemson was Baker. Really, it wasn’t even close. I’m very disappointed to see these same problems in this game.

He’s very illusive and is special when it comes to avoiding the rush. However, many of those plays he is applauded for are actually plays where he shouldn’t have been scrambling at all. Either he takes off when he needs to just stand in the pocket where the protection is, or he flat out doesn’t see wide open receivers literally right in front of him. This is a huge problem, and without Shepard to bail him out, it will be magnified this year.

He can be very accurate, but his comp % is very misleading. As are his lack of INTs. Baker simply does not throw the ball unless a receiver is wide open. He doesn’t try to throw receivers open or use his accuracy to put the ball in tighter windows. This simply isn’t going to be enough against really well coached defenses with comparable talent. As I said, the margin of error is razor thin. Receivers aren’t going to be wide open and you can’t rely only on really safe throws (like comebacks).

Another big problem is something I talked about last year. In RIley’s offense the fade route (especially the back shoulder throw like we saw UH complete a few times) is critical. Especially with a QB who struggles seeing things inside, it’s vital to be able to attack the outside of the defense. It’s probably the most used concept in the offense, and many plays utilize it in order to create space in the middle of the field. If the defense doesn’t have to worry about that pass, it really handcuffs the rest of the offense.

Take that long pass to Mixon in the first half. That is a play that they tried to make work last season and boy is it a good one. Both sides of the field have a smash concept. The outside receiver runs a 5 yard hitch route and the inside receivers run fade routes. This forces the two safeties to split toward the sidelines, leaving the deep middle open. The RB is now covered by a LB, and with a RB that has the speed and hands Mixon does makes that a slam dunk. He just blows by the LB right up the middle of the field and there’s nothing they can do about it.

But, without the threat of the fade route, the safeties don’t have to react so strong to cover the sidelines.

MIXON PASS BLOCKING

A few times in the 3rd quarter, Mixon was relied upon to block a rusher. Most of the time it didn’t end too well. Not that he’s bad, he’s just not very good. And at times they had him blocking a DL instead of a LB which is a bizarre choice. If he can’t block better than this, he needs to just go for the legs like many RB’s do so that the QB has an extra second.

OL ISSUES

The OL definitely struggled and is much more of a factor than Riley thinks. But, it’s not as bad as some believe. At least, not when talking about the passing game. The running game is a different story as I only saw one run in this entire 3rd Quarter.

In the 17 plays in the 3rd quarter, only 5 of them contained OL problems. And 2 of them were on the same play. Dalton looked really bad in the first two plays of the second half, getting dominated (including being pancaked). Brown got beat twice and Samia once. I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone else get some snaps at RG pretty soon.

THE BREAKDOWN

1. (1st and 10) Dalton gets pushed back and beaten, forces Baker to roll out. Pass interference called on the Defense.

2. (1st and 10) Run/Pass option. Baker makes correct read and tries to pass, but O. Brown isn’t sure which blitzer to block and both get into backfield quickly, blocking the passing lane. Baker scrambles and gets a few yards. Dalton is pancaked.

3. (2nd and 5) Play action with Mark andrews slanting into the middle. If Baker can have one more second to throw it’s probably a TD. Defense rushes 6 players. But Samia gets beat around the edge and forces Baker to pump fake and pull the ball back. Mixon also tasked with blocking Ed Oliver which is bad design. He stands little chance. Sack.

4. (3rd and 7) Play action WR screen. Big play.

5. (1st and 10) Another WR screen to Westbrook. It should not work as they have a big numbers advantage, but Westbrook makes them miss and the defense overruns the play. 8 yd gain.

6. (2nd and 2) PLay action pass deep to Westbrook who is one on one on a deep post in the end zone. Defender interferes with him but isn’t called because the ball is uncatchable. The reason it’s uncatchable is because Baker’s arm gets hit. It gets hit because Mixon can’t block the LB. They only rush 4 and we have 7 blocking.

7. (3rd and 2) Both slots run quick out routes. Good play call, but the outside receiver gets jammed at the line and can’t get off in time. So, he’s right where Baker needs to throw the ball. He wisely pulls the ball and scrambles for more time. However, he has both Perine right in front of him open at the the 1st down line, as well as a slot receiver who came back inside just past the 1st down line. Both open right in front of Baker. He sees neither (actually it looks like he sees Perine and even pump fakes to him which is bizarre). So he takes off running. Barely gets the 1st down thanks to a last second stretch out of bounds.

8. (1st and 10) Play action quick stick route on both sides (might be a run/pass option). Both stick routes are open. Baker does not notice the slot defender blitzing on the short side, which means the stick route is wide open (stick route just means the receiver runs a few yards straight ahead and stops for a quick pass). Baker has to recognize this! The perfect play against this defense. The blitzer gets to Baker and he can’t make the quick pass to the other side, despite it being open as well. Sack.

9. (2nd and 16) empty backfield, screen to Mixon. Play had no chance of working. Desperately needed to change the play. Houston had a 4 on 2 advantage on that side. Absolutely no chance of that working, especially given that none of the OL are even used to block downfield. Loss on the play.

10. (3rd and 18) This is the same play Mark Andrews had the big play on previously. The play really doesn’t make much sense. All the OL block like it’s a stretch play one way and the QB fakes the stretch to the RB but then rolls out to the weak side. Andrews runs a crossing route deep. What doesn’t make sense is that there’s no one to block the backside for the QB roll out. Flowers initially heads that way like he’s going to block, but just gets a chip on the defender and then goes out into the flat. Now, if he would block legitimately for a few seconds and do a delay release that would make sense. But this is more like a naked bootleg which on 3rd and 18 makes absolutely no sense. The big target on the play is Andrews, and the only way Baker has enough time to get the ball to him is if by chance the defense decides to rush the backside and drop everyone on the playside. The chances of that are not great, but it worked out perfectly the first time we ran it. Literally any other type of rush and the play is doomed. Baker scrambles all over the field for his life and ends up throwing it away.

1. (1st and 10) Don’t have this play

2. (2nd and 8) Mixon pass blocks and they only rush 4. Baker has plenty of time and a great pocket. But Baker does not stay in the pocket or step up. Instead, after 2.5 seconds he sprints outside which allows the outside rush to get to him. What’s even stranger is that he has an open receiver on a shallow cross right in front of him that would be a guaranteed completion with probably at LEAST a few yards gain if he was being pressured (which he wasn’t). Thankfully he avoids the rush and gets a deep pass to Baxter who “fumbles the ball”.

1. (1st and 10) Don’t have this play

2. (2nd and 8) 7 guys block 4 (corner blitz) and Baker stays in the pocket, so he has plenty of time. Gets it to Andrews on a comeback style route for a 5 yard gain.

3. (3rd and 2) Excellently designed play action screen play from the Mixon/Perine package. Perine fakes like he’s blocking and then releases into the flat on the backside and comes back behind the line for the pass (making it a legal screen so the receivers can be blocking downfield. This is a wicked play to have to stop in short yardage situations!

4. (1st and 10) Don’t have this play

5. (2nd and 10) We finally run the ball. It’s also a corner blitz. Flowers kicks out the left side DE while LT blocks the OLB (because the DL is slanting to that side they wisely swap responsibilities) and the other 4 OL combo block the other linemen. Mixon just has to find the hole based on what the defenders do. The corner blitz forces Mixon to have to go to the side of Flowers’ block. The blocks are good, Mixon just has to bounce outside the line (and inside of Flowers’ kick out block). For some reason, Mixon is afraid to go inside Flowers’ block and makes another bounce back deeper into the backfield to get around OUTSIDE of that block. Because of his speed and quickness he is able to do it and get to the outside where he makes a good run, just shy of the first down. Flowers’ block was good enough, though, and he could have hit outside a lot sooner.

6. (3rd and 1) Not sure why we didn’t try to run the ball here on 3rd and short. It’s right in that area where we might have gone for it on 4th down, though, so maybe he was wanting to maybe steal a deep pass when they aren’t expecting it, knowing he could always power run it on 4th and 1. Who knows. Most all the receivers go deep with Mixon running a swing route. The defense blitzes the LB to that side and Baker does the right thing and passes quickly to Mixon who gets the first down. I don’t think this is a designed screen, since the receiver to that side is running deep instead of trying to block the LB or even running a short in route and no OL are blocking. The swing route only works if they blitz the LB to that side.

7. (1st and 10) Beautifully designed trick play. Fake stretch run to the right, Flowers fakes block to the left (which would be the backside of the stretch run) and then sneaks out deep. After faking the handoff, Baker passes to Westbrook like a WR screen. The run action pulls the LBers right and the screen action pulls up any defenders on the left. This leaves Flowers wide open! Unfortunately, Westbrook can’t get the pass there. To be honest, only a small percentage of these trick passes I’ve ever seen get completed. Way more often than not the pass is not caught. It may work in practice, but even QBs often have trouble being accurate in the first few passes of a big game. All that adrenaline surging, it just doesn’t end up being a very accurate pass very often at all.

8. (2nd and 10) O. Brown gets beaten badly to the inside and the DE forces Baker to try and scramble but ends up fumbling the ball. Essentially, game over.

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ANNOUNCEMENT

Unfortunately, due to things happening in my personal life I am not going to be able to do OUbreakdown this season. I’m really sorry about this! All auto-renewing accounts have been set to not renew so you shouldn’t have to worry about it.

So sorry!

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Bowl: Why We Couldn’t Stop the Run!

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Bowl: What Happened to Our Running Game!

Since the Texas game our running game has been really good. But, Clemson absolutely shut our running game down cold! What happened??

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Bowl: Why Our Passing Game Wasn’t Good Enough!

While our running game was shut down to almost nothing our passing game did a bit better. But it was still nowhere near good enough. What was the problem? Was it the OL like so many allege?

Actually, the answer will probably surprise you!

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