The offensive line and the offensive scheme are slowly killing this season. I hope you weren't looking for something more surprising or earth-shattering.
There's not much to be done about the line.
-A player who was supposed to start last season is still not back from injury
-Another player who started last season is also not back from an injury suffered at the Cotton Bowl
-Two players with eligibility decided to hang it up, including the starting center
-One of the five best offensive line coaches in the country jumped ship
-The departing coach left the cupboard a little bare for incoming recruits
-Another player got their first start today, replacing an injured starter
Offensive line is a tough position to play without experience and stability. No other position group is as dependent on each other for their success as this bunch.
Which is why, as a coaching staff, you should devise ways in which to relieve the pressure on this group.
And right now, the coaching staff is NOT doing this.
Either Gundy and Yurcich are hiding what feels like 90% of the playbook, or they are combining their inadequacies into one great big bag of incompetency.
They played spotty football, but managed a 20-7 lead on a decent defense (#44 in FEI Index). They should obviously play better after the break. After all, Gundy is famous for adjustments.
Or maybe not.
After showing a few signs of life in the first half, the second half drive chart looked like this:
Here are the 27 plays run by OSU after the break:
- 1st and 10 on OSU 22...quick pass to Ateman on the left side for about 7 yards.
- 2nd and 3...handoff wide left to Roland for 4 yards.
- 1st and 10...A flea flicker to Glidden that Garman held on to way too long, then slightly under threw. Still, Glidden should have hung on.
2nd and 10...blitz forced Garman to throw too early for the receiver, but they got bailed out by defensive holding.
- 1st and 10...Garman rolls right, then overthrows Seales deep, who had a step.
- 2nd and 10 (diamond)...handoff wide right to Roland for 5 yards.
- 3rd and 5...quick throw right for Washington and a gain of 9 yards.
- 1st and 10...this is the type of play that infuriates me...and they wonder why they are having trouble getting Hill the ball in space. It resulted in a 3 yard loss and Hill never had a chance. I'll talk about this more in a bit.
- 2nd and 13 (diamond)...play fake, deep right to Seales. One of the few times Garman has mistakenly thrown into a safety over the top. Interception.
- 1st and 10 on OSU 3...handoff left to Roland for 2 yards.
- 2nd and 8...quick pass left to Sheperd, but Garman is off target badly and Sheperd can't hold on.
- 3rd and 8...another pass left to Sheperd, this time a little deeper. Good throw, but Sheperd drops it with a little pressure from defender. Initially ruled a catch, but overturned on replay. Punt.
- 1st and 10 on OSU 25...play fake, Garman gets hit from behind just as he is throwing and it is ruled a fumble. A little controversial, but the ball was loose before his arm went forward, sending the ball down field. Veteran Daniel Koenig got torched by the DE who knocked the ball loose. Fumble.
- 1st and 10 on OSU 36...handoff left to Roland for 1 yard.
- 2nd and 9...Sharp throw right to Washington for 8 yards.
- 3rd and 1...jet sweep left to Hill who performed a minor miracle to get about two yards and the first down. This play gets blown up because of two poorly executed blocks. First, Roland doesn't approach his block aggressively, which allows the defender to encroach on Hill's direct path, forcing him to circle back a bit. Meanwhile, Glidden completely whiffs on his block, and that defender forces Hill further wide, allowing 3 other tacklers to close. Hill finally just plants and darts forward, somehow getting past the markers.
- 1st and 10...quick pass left to Sheperd for 6 yards.
- 2nd and 4...pass deep left for Sheperd is overthrown and out of bounds.
- 3rd and 4...handoff wide for Roland for no gain. Once again, Koenig gets blown up, forcing Roland back inside. Doesn't really matter. The play was so poorly blocked that Roland really had no place to go, even if Koenig had held his block. Punt.
- 1st and 10 on OSU 37...handoff straight ahead to Childs for 5 yards, but a facemask against KU gave OSU another 15 yards.
- 1st and 10 (diamond)...handoff left to Childs for 4 yards.
- 2nd and 6 (diamond)...play fake with a slight roll right for Garman. Seaton gets beaten badly on the edge and Garman is sacked.
- 3rd and 12...Three Stooges Theatre. Garman drops back, and in shuffling to avoid pressure, stumbles and falls. Punt.
- 1st and 10 on OSU 27...handoff straight ahead to Roland for a yard. OSU now in total conservative mode.
- 2nd and 9 (diamond)...handoff straight ahead to Childs for 10 yards.
- 1st and 10 (diamond)...handoff straight ahead to Childs for 4 yards.
- 2nd and 6 (diamond)...handoff straight ahead to Roland for 2 yards.
- 3rd and 4 (diamond)...handoff straight ahead to Roland for 2 yards.
This last series got me going, and I think is a microcosm of the offensive scheme as a whole. All it would have taken after Childs' 10 yd run was a little misdirection of some kind. Kansas was packing the box for the run, assuming OSU would play conservative. Absolutely no creativity shown in a moment where only a tiny bit would have likely sealed the win. Instead, the ball is given back to the opponent, who has had plenty of success in the 2nd half against a defense that is showing some wear, with plenty of time on the clock.
Now, about that aforementioned pass to Tyreek Hill.
When you have a player that basically the entire defense is afraid of, and therefore keying on, YOU CAN'T RUN PLAYS FOR HIM THAT SAY TO THE DEFENSE "HEY, WE'RE GIVING THE BALL TO THIS GUY AND THIS IS THE DIRECTION WE'RE GOING."
Every play run for Hill is like this.
The jet sweep was another flaming example, but I will need a straight jacket if I have to examine two of these plays.
If the defense is going to behave this way, then design plays to take advantage of that. Get the ball to Hill BEFORE the defense has a chance to react. Put the defense in conflict by running away from Hill's motion or position. We've seen this result in several "big" plays this season already, where Gundy admitted to it.
Here's the pass play, pre-snap:
First...you've got TWO defenders lined up right over Hill, one short and one deep. This would be a prime example of an opportunity to use Hill as a decoy. Remember the play against Florida State that resulted in Glidden's wide open 50+ yard reception?
Here's the look a full count after the snap, and EVERYBODY watching knows where this is going:
Defenders 1, 3, and 4 know what's going on and are already breaking on the play AND THE BALL HASN'T EVEN LEFT GARMAN'S HAND. The play is cooked right here, sans a missed tackle. Imagine if Hill had the ball now and Glidden was blocking down on Hill's defender...
Now let's go to the moment of reception, a full 2 seconds post snap:
I'm not sure if this is by design, or a poorly thrown ball, but Hill turns to receive it rather than catching the ball in stride. Either way, it's part of what destroys this play.
Hays does a good job of taking his man upfield, then tying him up. Glidden has the option of tying up his man, or going for the knock down block. He executes the knock down splendidly, but unfortunately the timing of this play is so screwed up you will see his defender pop up in the next shot in time to cover the sideline before Hill has a chance to get turned upfield. Hill's defender is now closing at full speed. Here's where Hill made an instinctive error.
If Hill had cut back to the inside after catching the ball (and he was in perfect position to do so, facing that direction when he caught the ball), he had a chance to break the play. Instead, he turned and carried his momentum to the outside and couldn't escape his defender. Three and four are in excellent position to back up one.
I truly don't understand the difficulty in figuring out how to properly leverage this guy's skill set. It's not that complicated, and how lucky is OSU to have a player like this in a season where the offensive line needs the help?
As stated above, every single play to Hill is like this, with all the offensive flow tipping defenders to the play. It's almost as if the staff is trying to set up for the misdirection, but they don't put it to good use.
Up to this point in the season, the Cowboys' offense has shown virtually no creative thinking in play design. Gundy and Yurcich have spoken often about "keeping things simple." But they've also spoken often about how many touches they want Hill to get. Four offensive touches is ludicrous for the best offensive player on your team (and it's not even close). He's no Barry Sanders, but imagine if Sanders was only touching the ball 10 times a game. That's what this feels like.
You have an offensive line that is struggling to grow, but you do virtually NOTHING to assist them. No misdirection plays of any kind. The only trick play you have is the flea flicker and that doesn't work because nobody's afraid of your running game. The short passing game seems to be effective, but you quickly revert to deep sideline throws. Running plays are straight ahead or slow to develop.
We have yet to see a reverse utilizing Hill, either as the runner or the decoy. We've seen almost no plays running or passing away from him, whether static or in motion. A jet sweep counter would seem to be a logical option.
Let's go back to the first shot of the play before the snap. Humor my amateur play calling desire for a moment.
If Garman whips the ball to Glidden....
fakes the throw left and, in one motion (ala Statue of Liberty style), hands the ball to Childs behind him going right. Decoy or a little creativity, neither of which is risky or complicated.
That's my two cents. Right, wrong, doesn't matter. When your offense, a group that possesses easily double or triple the talent of your opponent, gets out-gained by over 100 yards, there is something wrong with the system, and you don't get to blame it all on inexperience or the offensive line. Here were the offensive/defensive matchups based on FEI Index rankings going into the game:
OSU off (43) vs KU def (44)
OSU def (39) vs KU off (125)
We guessed that the KU defense could potentially slow down the Cowboys, but how is it that we didn't see what would have been predictable in that moment, like we saw against Iowa State? Articles this past week spoke of how OSU's speed could wear down the opponent, yet the performance got worse as the game progressed.
Gundy is either hiding the playbook for the home stretch, or the scheme is broken. Either one exposed the Cowboys to what could have been a disastrous loss.
Gundy has done a great job recruiting talented players that will allow the program to compete for championships on an annual basis.
It's time he did the same with his coaching.
Welcome to armchair coordinator central....