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The Film Room: Anatomy Of A Fast Start

It takes a fair bit of coaching and skill to start fast. Let's revive an offseason article for the bye week and look at how that goes down.

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Even though we were beat by Oklahoma State, the way we started that game was nothing short of incredible. A series of play calls on the fly combined with solid defense helped us jump out to a 14-0 lead in less than 5 minutes of game time, and likely 5 minutes of real time as well. Let's take a look into how all of that went down.

Right off the bat, we get a dose of DeAndre Washington, which is never a bad way to start a game.

The formation we're in right here is commonly called 2-back Gun. A pretty typical Texas Tech first play is to run a "trap" with a lead blocker and hope that DeAndre can churn up around 6-8 yards so that we can get the no-huddle going with some momentum. This works almost perfectly for us here. OSU is lined up in their basic 4-3, with the wide linebacker to the strong side of the formation, i.e. the side with the most wide receivers. If that linebacker isn't over the strong side, this play might have been six.

DeAndre barely has to make a cut because of the blocking of Jakeem Grant in the slot (who kinda got pushed back a tad", and Brad Pearson out of the backfield. The backside linebacker gets plugged up by the "trapping" guard, and the middle linebacker has to respect Patrick Mahomes's ability to run. Devin Lauderdale gets a couple of blocks down the field, and this drive is already off to a rolling start. Our scripted plays are working against OSU when they line up correctly. This is a huge bonus for us.

On the next play we aren't as lucky, OSU is well prepared for what plays come with what formations.

Right here we're in a "Pistol Strong Right" look, with Brad Pearson acting as de facto fullback. We like to run a zone scheme out of this formation. Essentially, a zone blocking scheme means that every blocker has a zone to block, and the running back finds whatever hole the defense gives him. Unfortunately, OSU doesn't give Washington much. The backside DE plays off the cutblock well, the strong side LB seals the edge to the right, and the interior of OSU's defense holds steady. If DeAndre doesn't make a great move, we lose yards on this play.

It isn't really important that we lost yards here. That will happen. What is very important is how we react to it, and boy we found an opening very quickly on the next play. Kliff saw on the first play that OSU is going to declare their strong side to the receivers, opening up a gap in the deep weak side.

With the strong side linebacker being the outermost player, we have a chance to run a little pick route and get Justin Stockton open for the touchdown. Instead of throwing to a 4 on 3 coverage situation, we throw to a 2 on 2. The weak side linebacker doesn't see the route coming right at his face from Lauderdale, and gets caught up in traffic. The OSU corner sticks to his man, and now Justin Stockton has the seam he needs to take it all the way to the house.

I call this score a coaching victory because of the speed with which the call was made. Wether it's scripted or not, it's not luck. It was entirely premeditated by Kliff and company based on the coverage system of Oklahoma State. If it is a sideline call, then it was seen by the staff and adjustments were made in 30 real time seconds. That's incredibly quick to diagnose a weakness in a secondary and exploit it.

Okay, so we scored fast. Yay. Hooray. We do that. Part of starting fast is stopping the other team too, which is something that... well... we just don't do. Well in the first quarter of this game, we played the way we're capable of playing.

There really isn't much to write home about on this play. Zach Barnes makes a great play by engaging the trap block and forcing the RB to make a decision, Dakota Allen plays downhill and comes off of a block to make the tackle for a 1 yard gain. Originally I thought that Allen was out of position, because normally you want to squeeze the hole down as much as possible so that your defense can rally to the ball, but then I saw Jah'Shawn Johnson on the edge and realized that it was fine. Jah'Shawn is Tech's edge player in this scenario, and Allen is right where he needs to be.

We kinda shot ourselves in the foot here. This is a basic slant play, only we blitzed the guy who normally covers the slant. JJ Gaines comes in a little flat footed, and Rudolph makes a great throw into traffic for the gain. We eventually pick him on one of these, so we sort of get the last laugh, but an ill-timed blitz might have just cost us an early 3-and-out at this point.

Credit the defensive tackles, especially Rika Levi, in shutting this play down. Fehoko makes a minor error by defeating the block to the outside, but Rika Levi actually ends up setting the edge here. He engages, takes control of the block, then rips upfield, forcing the RB back inside where Dakota Allen and Micah Awe are waiting. Awe and Allen don't do a half bad job getting off of their blocks themselves. This was just an all-around good play. If Pete doesn't get cut blocked bad, we could make this play in the backfield, but I think all of us are just ecstatic with a running play for no gain at this point.

Rudolph goes on to make a couple of bad throws and a couple of good ones, and later on in the drive we find ourselves in an all-too-familiar scenario: 3rd and 8. Thankfully, Rudolph chooses this moment in time to screw up pretty badly.

Yeah Rudolph derped here. But who's to say that we wouldn't have gotten the stop? We pick him off on a very similar play on the very next drive. Regardless of how it came, the defense held, and we have a chance to go up two scores before double digits transform into single digits in the first quarter.

That's how quickly it can happen with us. You start to play and boom, it's 7-0 and we have the ball and we're driving again. It's a coaching triumph too. Those windows for Rudolph slim down so much in the red zone. Unfortunately, we couldn't keep this pace up, but ultimately it's still more or less exactly how you want to start a game: fast.