Oklahoma State's offense was the worst it's been in in quite a while. Coincidentally, the only offensive performance in recent memory that was worse than this one was when they played in Lawrence just two years ago. The question here is why. Why was the offense so bad? Why couldn't they string together a decent drive? Although this a loaded answer, we will discuss a couple of factors that contributed to such a disappointing offensive performance, and how it can only get better from here.
Since there's a lot to talk about, this post is a bit lengthy. You might not finish if you get distracted easily, but there are some pretty pictures. Let's get started -
Going into the season, I was expecting some lineman struggles, but I never expected it to be this bad. Not to be negative, but a JV team might get a pass rush against this group. Still, it's not completely their fault, as they have a bunch of youth upfront; in fact Micheal Wilson, who started for the injured Jach Crabtree, has only played 13 snaps before the start of this season. When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter how good or bad the play-calling is - if the line can't block, you will not have success. Now, some of it is still to blame on the coordinator.
I don't know if you've figured it out by now, but Mike Yurcich isn't the most popular coach for Cowboy fans. I have mixed feelings about Yurcich; for every great play-call, there seems to be two or three questionable ones. He actually diversified the passing game, using plays like shallow, double china, etc. The problem was that the quarterback never had time; this isn't his fault, it's the line's.
How to Help
You know from this point forward, defensive lines are going to be very aggressive in trying to get to the quarterback, since they know that they have the advantage. Knowing this, Yurcich can help out his line by adding certain concepts to take advantage of their aggressiveness.
Concepts like the stick draw:
Or a nice misdirection screen:
All three of these plays used to be a huge part of their offense when they had so much success. By bringing them back, they can get some easy completions that could spark a solid drive down the field.
These things can help the offense move the football when their line can't pass-block consistently. OSU has actually had most of their passing success on called run plays, with Garman taking advantage of the routes within their run plays. Until this line learns how to pass-block, that might stay the same. Still, that doesn't mean that you can't try and help the offense along.
The Run Game
As I have just said, the problem with the passing game was that the quarterback never had time, so for that I will not fault Yurcich. What I will fault him for, however, is his stubbornness in the run game.
It's become obvious that Oklahoma State has had trouble running the football. The Cowboys refuse to run the football up the middle unless they have an extra fullback or tight end in the backfield. The problem with this concept is that it brings an extra linebacker into the box. Additionally, the spacing between the lineman seems to be fairly average, with each lineman being fairly close to each other. With a team as youthful as this, you would rather have a spread out 5-on-5 than a tightly-packed 6-on-6 or 7-on-7.
Take a look one of OSU's base run plays, a simple Y-trips inside zone with a back-side curl and a slot bubble.
On any inside or outside zone play against a nickel or base defense, there will be at least two double teams. A double team is where two offensive lineman both block one defensive lineman while watching the linebacker above him. If the linebacker flows to the right, the right lineman peels off of his double team and climbs to the linebacker, and same for the left side. The OSU lineman have not been able to consistently block the linebackers off of a double team. This can be attributed to the lineman blocking blind, which means that they're not watching the linebacker and do not adjust accordingly, or they do not peel off quick enough.
How to Help
A good offensive coordinator could help aid an ailing ground game in many ways. First of all, increase the splits of your lineman. You do not need to pack the lineman in as tight as you can to run the ball effectively - this is not the early twentieth century - no one runs the flying wedge anymore. If your lineman have good lateral movement, bigger offensive splits can not only open up holes in the run game, but it can also help in pass protection (although this is a discussion for another day).
By lengthening the splits, you force the defensive front to cover more field. If they try to squeeze the gaps, it gives you the advantage on the perimeter. If they spread out, it gives you big holes on the inside. With the lineman being widely spaced across the field, you create creases in the defense automatically, which could help a struggling line. Many of you (happily) watched the TCU-OU game last week, and you might have noticed the huge splits by the TCU lineman. In some instances, it looked like the offense was in a punt formation. This not only caused confusion by the OU defense, but it led to some big plays late in the game - yet another reason why Meachem should be the OSU OC, but again, that's for another day.
Another possible solution is to find an inside running game in a 10 personnel. There's a common misconception, like I alluded to earlier, that in order to have success up the middle you must pack the line with as many bodies as possible. This is not the case. Rather, a successful run game is all about numbers. One must try to get a hat on a hat to have success in the run game, unless you're using a read option, triple, etc. OSU has been hurting themselves in this category, as many of their run plays end in an unblocked player making the tackle.
How difficult will it be for every defender to be blocked. You have two fullbacks who's job is to go through the line and block the outside linebackers. Not only is this difficult, but it is extremely impractical. Those linebackers could squeeze through the A gaps, they could avoid the blocks by the two fullbacks, they could do a number of things to make the tackle without being blocked. It is almost impossible for this play to end with a blocker on each front-seven defender. Finally, this play has a very limited outcome. There really aren't any alternate options, and it would be easy for a defense to shut down this play.
Now take a look at this:
The Cowboys are yet to run this play (for some reason), but they run something like it. Against Kansas, they ran an outside zone to the weak side out of this pistol trips formation. Why they're running to the outside without a tight end is beyond me. Most college offenses will use a tight end in their outside run game to help set the edge, but nothing stops Yurcich, not even logic.
Anyway, by widening the splits and using a 10 personnel (one back no tight ends), it opens up the box with five-on-five. You don't have to worry about double teams, since the center would only chip to the play-side nose tackle and block the mike linebacker directly. Theoretically, using a 10 personnel and wider splits, you should have success on the ground, since you get a hat on a hat upfront. Additionally, by continuing to use packaged plays, you have an answer to every defensive adjustment. If the defense plays base, you have five-on-five upfront. If the defense brings a nickel defender in the box, it leaves the bubble open. If they bring either safety down, it leaves the lone receiver isolated on the outside. If they can combine their packaged play mentality with a simple downhill run game, it should help their struggling ground offense.
At the end of the day, the blame should be spread around everywhere. The offensive line has had their troubles, Daxx targets his receivers too much, and Yurcich occasionally forgets the importance being a coherent play-caller. To that note, though, I think his conservative play-calling has been influenced by an outside source, because I've watched the tape when he called games at Shippensburg, and it looked nothing like this. This would leave me to believe that someone else has a say on how they call plays, but that is neither here nor there. Either way, it doesn't help when your receivers drop balls, it doesn't help when your quarterback makes bad decisions, and it certainly doesn't help when your lineman can't block. This is going to be a long season if they can't fix those issues, because even as good as he is, Tyreek can't bail you out of every game.
Who's your dream offensive coordinator? Post your answer in the comments below.