STORY OF THE WEEK: Clint Chelf Is The Man For The Job
As if it wasn't clear enough after he led the Cowboys to a huge road win over Texas Tech two weeks ago, what Clint Chelf did this Saturday should cement his status as the rightful starting QB for the Pokes in the minds of everybody. A down game against Kansas prompted doubt about his ability to lead this team to a Big 12 Championship, but the Choo Choo train got back on track this weekend and ran right through Austin, demolishing any hopes of a miraculous conference title for the Longhorns and leaving skid marks all over Darrell K Royal as he helped hand the Longhorns their worst home loss of the Mack Brown era - and their last.
Chelf played what was easily the best game of his season and what was likely the best game of his career given the circumstances, helping the Pokes throttle the Longhorns 38-13. Aside from an ill-advised throw into the middle of the field against a single high safety in the first quarter, Chelf played a flawless game. Sure, he did get a lucky bounce on his touchdown to Tracy Moore, but I thought Chelf did a tremendous job of getting Oklahoma State in favorable situations while making some of his best throws of the season as well.
Chelf was 16-of-22 on the day, making it the most accurate performance on the year for an OSU QB outside of J.W. Walsh's monster outing against UTSA. Other than his showing in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Purdue, this was the most accurate Chelf has ever been, checking in with a 73% completion percentage. 197 passing yards may not jump off the page because of what we've become accustomed to, but Chelf averaged nine yards per attempt, which is the highest mark of the season in conference play for the Cowboys.
And then there are the wheels. Chelf rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns in this game while racking up just under 10 yards per carry. It was just the sixth time since 2000 that an Oklahoma State quarterback rushed for 95 or more yards (Walsh and Zac Robinson are the only other two) and just the third time that a QB had done so along with two rushing touchdowns. Chelf has proven to be very good at running the heavy dose of inside zone read options that Mike Yurcich is prescribing, and the QB draw has all but become his signature. When he snaps the ball and sees man coverage and the middle of the field parts like the red sea, he plants his foot in the ground and gets up the field quickly.
Oklahoma State made it a point to attack Texas with the QB draw early on in this game. For those folks that wonder why OSU throws so many swing passes and curse at the TV when one goes for a loss, it's plays like this that make the swing route a necessary part of the offense. Watch how OSU motions Roland out of the backfield, sucking the middle linebacker out of the middle of the field and opening up a ton of running room for Chelf right up the A-gap.
The Cowboys ran a very similar version of the same play later on the drive on a big third down. Here Jeremy Smith is motioned out of the backfield while Kye Staley is used as a lead blocker. Staley is in great position to lay somebody out, but with Texas in Cover-0 (bringing the house) and the safeties pulled to the boundaries by out routes, Chelf is able to walk into the endzone.
Chelf has gotten better each and every week since he's become the full time starter, and it's clear that he's the best quarterback on this team. What I love most about how Chelf has played these past few weeks is that he never seems to get out of his comfort zone. Neither an interception nor his long touchdown scamper against Texas Tech changes his mood. He always seems to be even-keeled.
While it was Walsh that garnered all of the praise for his intangibles, that fiery style can tend to backfire. It's why Johnny Manziel makes more mistakes than Marcus Mariota. Chelf always appears to be under control. That doesn't mean that he is going to make every play or that he isn't going to make mistakes, but it's how he responds to each big play - good or bad - that makes him such a good leader.
It's a stark contrast to what we saw out of Chelf on those first few drives against Mississippi State, when his nerves seemed to be costing him the starting job, but the Choo Choo train has been impossible for opponents to derail over the past few weeks. And heading into the biggest game of the season against the undefeated and top-5 ranked Baylor Bears, having a quarterback that won't be struck by the moment is integral to success.
And if Chelf is able to keep his cool and if the Cowboy defense dismantles Baylor's high powered offense in the same fashion that they did in 2011, then there will be a lot of people across the country looking to the hitch their wagons to the Oklahoma State locomotive.
A TWO-BACK SYSTEM?
One thing that has played a large role in Oklahoma State's offensive revival over the past few weeks (specifically against Texas Tech and Texas) has been the commitment to a two-back system. I'm not talking about Roland splitting snaps with Rennie Childs or Jeremy Smith, I'm talking about the inclusion of a sixth blocker - either Kye Staley or Jeremy Seaton - in their formations by putting a fullback in backfield for most of their offensive snaps. While the Pokes are still using their classic 4-wide sets out of 10 personnel, they have been inserting that fullback into the line-up far more frequently than we are used to, and it's working out extremely well.
Here's an example of what I call the 'Wings Weak Offset' formation with Staley lined up to the weakside offset from the QB.
The Cowboys are going to run an inside zone read with Staley pulling to seal the edge, and it works perfectly (the receivers do a really nice job on this play, too).
Here is a similar play on Chelf's second rushing touchdown, only out of the 'Wings Trips Offset' formation this time, with Staley aligned in front of Childs and offset from Chelf.
Staley is going to block down on the OLB/NB and seal the edge for Chelf to mosey into the endzone.
The Cowboys are also running some inverted read options (veers), which means that the quarterback is looking to attack the middle of the field while the running back is heading for the edge. OSU may have had something here, but Seaton failed to set the edge to allow Smith some running room.
These formations are kind of like a middle ground between the Diamond formation and OSU's usual spread personnel sets. It gives the running game a lift with an added blocker (this works so well schematically on the read options) and it allows OSU to have three wide receivers on the field rather than the two that the Diamond allows. It's a nice way to present defenses with different looks and to help set the edge on runs to the outside, which is something that the Pokes struggled mightily with earlier in the year.
PLAY OF THE WEEK
Remember this beauty?
ROBERT WHETSELL'S DIAMOND WATCH
On last week's podcast I mentioned the possibility of the coaching staff holding off on showing off the diamond in games against Kansas and TCU in hopes of keeping it off the tape for this important home stretch. While a handful of snaps is hardly some elaborate revelation, we did see more of the diamond in this game than we did earlier in the season, and, surprise surprise, it brought positive results.
Here on second and 12, the Cowboys run a play-action fake to Staley, who then chip blocks, with Seaton pulling to cut the edge rusher and Jeremy Smith leaking into the flat. The play is designed to get Marcel Ateman one-on-one coverage on the outside on his post route, and with the playfake occupying the underneath linebacker enough to open up a throwing lane, Chelf makes a pretty good throw. Pass interference was initially called on this play but the flag was then picked up.
The Cowboys ran the same exact play later in the quarter, only this time Chelf is going to target Charlie Moore on his deep in route. The play-action fake is to Staley once again and the blocking schemes are the same. Moore is in a one-on-one situation but there is a safety over the top. But because Moore runs such a crisp route and doesn't sell the in cut at all, the safety can't undercut the throw and Chelf throws a dart right on the money for a big gain.
One last Diamond play that I will highlight came near the end of the first half. This time the play-action fake will be to Desmond Roland and all three backs will be available to pass protect here, although they aren't called on to do so as the Longhorns only rush five. This is a two route play with Seales running a corner to the wideside and Moore running another dig route to the nearside, so having six defenders in coverage is somewhat problematic, particularly because the play-fake didn't create that large of an advantage. But once again Chelf throws a bullet and fits it into a really tight window to Charlie Moore. I love the duo of C. Moore - a technician of a wide receiver - and Seales - a big play threat - out of the diamond because it opens up a lot of possibilities.
We can only hope that we see more of this formation, particularly the running aspects. The QB wraps and read options out of this formation is what won OSU the Mississippi State game and there are still a lot of running possibilities out of the Trey package that we've yet to explore.
JOE WICKLINE IS AWESOME
I have no clue if this was intended, but one way to prevent defenses from batting Chelf's passes down at the line is to pull off synchronized cut blocks.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
@ESPNMag #CaptionContest I should have thrown it to someone else #CaptainHindsight— Clint Chelf (@Cchelf10) November 18, 2013
Seriously, Clint Chelf is awesome.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Get hyped. (Language NSFW)