Dissecting The Frogs: TCU works together to roll over the Sooners

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By David Beaudin
Frogs Today staff writer

After a 55-24 dismantling of Oklahoma that included an uncharacteristically unsound Brent Venables defense, there are a great deal of plays to choose from for this week’s Dissecting The Frogs. 

Rather than focus on the Sooners’ woes this time around (it is likely we will visit this later in the year), the following two plays continue our thorough examination of the schematics making these Horned Frogs successful up until this point.

Play 1

Quarter: First 

Down and distance: First-and-10

Possession: TCU 

Game Clock: :12

Before this 15-yard touchdown scamper from running back Kendre Miller, the Frogs already led 20-10 before the final seconds ticked in the first quarter.

TCU lined up in a “trips” formation to the left and a “nub” tight end to the right (Jared Wiley being the last man on that side of the formation, with no one split wide to the right).

Horned Frogs offensive coordinator Garrett Riley dialed up a pretty basic “GT Counter,” meaning the guard and tackle both pull while the right side of the line all blocks down or are all angled stepping to the left.

Coincidentally, this is the exact play that was modernized and made in-vogue throughout the Big 12 from Lincoln Riley and the Oklahoma Sooners as an answer to the backside 4i technique by defensive tackles. This is the base alignment for the “tight front” that has become popular and is now run by TCU (the commonalities are endless).

The following illustration is if a basic zone play to the tight-end side was called, and the Sooners circled in purple lined up on the inside shade of the tackle (4i) is the problem with the zone play.

Clearly, you can see how the left tackle Brandon Coleman is out leveraged and it would be a tall task to get inside and “scoop” him, as the zone would require.

In the Air Raid world of the Big 12, zone running was all the rage. This 4i technique was used to combat tha,t and as the history of football is cyclical, the resurgence of the “GT counter” was born.

While nothing new, as Joe Gibbs and his what-was-once-commonly-referred-to as the Washington Redskins (Gasp! Before you clutch your pearls, this was their name at the time) ran the “counter trey” play to perfection. Just ask John Riggins. I wonder if he’ll be in Lawrence, Kan., to watch his alma mater this weekend. I digress.

Back in the ’70s and ’80s and the time of pulling the guard and tackle often, you had more of a counter-action in the backfield than you see now and there was a player, usually a tight-end type on the backside of the play to cut off the defensive end.  Of course, all of this started by taking a snap underneath the center. 

As the play modernized, it is not always counter-action in the backfield and a lot of times the quarterback adds a read to the unblocked outside linebacker on the backside of the play.  As you can see above, there is no overhang to the left because of the trips, as the Frogs manipulated the defense through formation.

Now that you have gotten a brief football history lesson, back to the play at hand and a time where Washington simply has a “football team,” or do they have a new name now?  Anyhow, let’s take a look at how this touchdown run was blocked by the Frogs.

While these are the basic assignments for this play before the ball is snapped, the Sooners defense moves post-snap and the Frogs have to adjust on the fly.  The best way to do this for this play — and this offense executes it flawlessly — is for the offensive line and tight end to simply “run their path.”  Meaning, their initial aiming points don’t change, while the defenders they block may.

On the right side, Wiley and right tackle Andrew Coker are tasked with “building a wall” and not allowing anyone to get over the top of them to the right side of the offense.

The combination of the Sooners running themselves out of the play on a stunt and Wiley beautifully “bumping” the defensive tackle over on the way to his aiming point (the backside linebacker) allows the Frogs to “block” three defenders with two players.

Here you can see the video stopped at the point where Wiley “throws” the defensive lineman down the line and continues on his path.  Because the Sooners dial up a cross blitz with their two inside linebackers, the playside linebacker takes himself out of the play and Coker astutely comes off his block to bury him down the line of scrimmage. As Wiley continues, he is able to build that aforementioned “wall” and takes the backside linebacker.

With the two inside linebackers accounted for, this means the two pullers, Steve Avila and Coleman, are left with only two players for Oklahoma, both of them in the secondary. First, Avila kicks out the Sooners’ cornerback. While this cornerback attempts to “box” this pull from Avila and force the run back inside, the defensive back is just no match for the future NFL’er.  This leads to an even bigger running lane for Miller.

Coleman is responsible — on the white board, at least — for the playside inside linebacker.  However, with this linebacker stunting inside and getting picked up by Coker, Coleman continues his path as well and ends up on a Sooners safety.  Two offensive lineman on two Sooners defensive backs.  If we knew nothing else about this play except for the previous sentence, one would make a safe bet that this is a successful play for the Horned Frogs.

With the newfound success of quarterback Max Duggan in the quarterback-called run game, Duggan is able to hold the backside of the defense by carrying out his fake after the handoff to Miller.

From here, Miller does the rest. The junior running back is continually running with high knees, often looking like pistons in an engine.  No one wants to tackle a strong running back with their knees high and the Sooners are no exception.  The Oklahoma defenders that show up late slide off of Miller as he finds his way into the end-zone.

Miller is responsible for five rushing touchdowns on the season and is currently averaging 7.4 per carry in his career.

Play 2

Quarter: Third

Down and distance: Third-and-3

Possession: Oklahoma  

Game Clock: 11:29

If you listen to enough football coaches, you’ll often hear them talking about having a “hat for a hat,” particularly in the run game. Meaning, enough blockers on offense for every defender in the play they are trying to run.  In this case, the Sooners have a hat for a hat on this quarterback sweep on third-and-3 from their 43-yard line toward the beginning of the third quarter.

While the game was virtually out of hand at this point, the Sooners needed to convert on this drive to have any chance to crawl back into striking distance.

Let’s take a look at how the Sooners intended to block this play for backup quarterback Davis Beeville.

On the front side of this play, the Sooners attempt a “pin and pull” with their right tackle and right guard. However, as the right tackle attempts the “pin” portion of this, Frogs defensive end Caleb Fox has other plans.

Stepping with his inside (right) foot first, Fox has tremendous “get off” as the ball is snapped. He is able to set this defensive stop in motion by penetrating and getting up the field in a hurry, making the Sooners’ right tackle completely whiff on his assigned block.

Remember a hat for a hat?  Well, sometimes you just need to be a good football player on defense and make plays regardless. Fox does this and he begins his chase of Beeville from behind.

Next, Dee Winters takes on the puller, fitting the run on the inside, and therefore nixes the chance of Beeville cutting into the next gap outside of Fox.  Oftentimes, it is not about getting blocked as a defender, it is about where you get blocked and how you take that block on. For Winters, he made sure to engage the pulling guard with his outside shoulder, forcing Beeville to continue to bounce the play.

With the TCU defense playing complementary football and each player understanding his job as it fits into the full defense, safety Mark Perry is responsible for run support whiel playing “quarters” coverage on this call.  This means he triggers as soon as he reads the run.  This is important, but — again — where he fits is even more critical.

The diagram above shows Winters spinning out of the block from his inside position, Fox chasing the Sooners quarterback after getting up the field in a hurry, and Perry fitting this perfectly, ensuring that his outside shoulder and arm are free to make the tackle.

All of this amounts to big-time team defense, with each Frogs player making sure they do their respective assignment.

The outside wide receiver to the Sooners’ right was being played man to man by the cornerback.  The corner was doing his job by keeping his eyes on his receiver.  The receiver “ran off” the corner, meaning since his eyes were on the receiver, he was able to run up the field as if he was running a route.  While the corner does not make the play here per say, he is doing “his job” by sticking with the receiver in man coverage.

This could hurt the Frogs on this play if any other defender did not execute his specific job.  Fortunately for the Frogs, they are able to have a tackle for loss and put the Sooners in fourth-and-4, leaving little hope for Oklahoma to get back in this game in any meaningful way.

Offense and defense are continuing to perform at a high level, but when you peel back the onion, you notice each individual taking care of his responsibilities.  This individual accountability has led the Frogs to collective success.

They look to continue this trend in Lawrence, Kan., on Saturday, with an 11 a.m. kickoff against Kansas.

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