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X’s and O’s: What went Right... What went Wrong: Texas Longhorns

We continue with “a little football film” Part Four

NCAA Football: Texas at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Football is back, that means some film, right?

From the first X’s and O’s:

We all see the highlights of the games, and to a certain extent we understand, however very few take a deep dive into the complicated world of X’s and O’s. Through breaking down some of the biggest games from last season, we’re gonna to try to show you what USC players and coaches watch so closely and what they see every second of every game.

We started with X’s and O’s of the Alabama game, followed by the film session on Sam Darnold’s stellar performance in the Rose Bowl against Penn State, and concluded the offseason with X’s and O’s of the Notre Dame game.

This year we continue with:

vs Texas Longhorns

The Good: USC proved to excel during crunch time in all three phases of the game (offense, defense and special teams)

The Bad: Their season was almost derailed by an unranked opponent at home.

Let’s take a look at the key plays that went right and wrong for our beloved Trojans.

Best Offensive Play: Deontay Burnett 25 yard OT TD catch

Sam Darnold sits in shotgun with a RB to his left to provide pass protection. To the short side of the field is one wideout (QB’s left #10), while having three receivers to his right, one in the slot and a tight end lined up next to the Oline off the LOS. Longhorns line up in nickel (4-2-5), they drop back a defensive end who bluffed rushing and send a delayed MLB blitz thru the A-gap. The play design works to perfection, forcing a mismatch of MLB on RB as opposed to the center/guard, however Rojo holds his own long enough to give Darnold time.

Texas defensive backs are playing man coverage, and as the announcer says above, offensive coordinator Tee Martin calls up a beautiful double post to confuse the safeties. Both safeties bite on the shallow post, and the defensive back on Burnett thinks he has help over the top. Little does he know, the safety is gone and Darnold has all the space he needs to make this easy throw.

Worst Offensive Play: DeShon Elliott 38 yard Interception Return TD

Trojans line up in shotgun with a four receiver spread, three to the right, one to the left. Longhorns are running a similar defense to the one they ran above (nickel, 4 man rush, MLB delayed blitz). Trojans do a much better job picking up the blitz, giving Sam Darnold ample time to deliver a good throw. He hits his receiver in stride, the ball just slips through his hands.

The two safeties are covering the tight end running the seam route down the field, free safety reacts fast to the location of the throw, just in time to intercept the ball and he’s off to the races. It’s a perfect read from Darnold, given the MLB blitz the middle of the field is wide open, just lack of focus and bad luck costs them six points.

Best Defensive Play: USC 2OT strip

Texas began to utilize designed quarterback runs late in the game and generated good push up the middle (ran same play right before the strip). The Longhorns pull their right guard (down blocking their center), aiming to get both guards into the second level to meet and block the four Trojan linebackers/safeties. They generate good push against the Trojan defensive front and while the Trojans front does a good job of limiting Ehlinger, the play is still relatively successful for Texas, until of course, the strip. With Ehlinger swallowed up, Christian Rector shows perfect technique in a perfect situation and provides a huge defensive stop needed to win the game.

Worst Defensive Play: Sam Ehlinger’s last minute 17 yard TD pass

Ehlinger sits in shotgun with a five receiver spread, two to the left and three to the right. Trojans have four down lineman to begin, then line up two MLBs over the A-gaps. Both linebackers blitz while the defensive ends drop back into coverage.

Texas Oline does a great job of pass protection, Trojan secondary has a solid five seconds of coverage (which should be good enough) but Ehlinger is able to scramble and find an open receiver at the last second. It is hard to tell whether the defensive back covering trips on his own feet or on the receiver he’s covering, but we are just happy this did not end up being the decisive score.

And now, to end this article the right way.