Sometimes drives don't go exactly as planned. You have turnovers, holding penalties, false starts, and all sorts of other things that can mess up the best laid plans. The mark of a good team is to not make those mistakes. The mark of a great team is overcoming those mistakes on the rare chance they happen. Unfortunately for us, we never really got to see whether we were a good team or not due to making those mistakes constantly.
This week's film room is specifically about overcoming those penalties, mistakes, and jerseys that were very clearly designed by Affliction. In our very first drive against the Oklahoma Sooners, we had around 25 yards worth of penalties, and overcame all of them to put the ball in the end zone.
The first play of the drive is a very stereotypical Texas Tech game opener.
We have a huge tendency to send the running back in motion on the first play of the game to check whether the defense is in man or zone. The trips formation on the right looks like it's being defended by a man defense with extra safety help over the top, but as DeAndre Washington goes in motion we see that scenario isn't the case. The far corner backs off to the safety's level, and the linebacker appears to stay close to the center of the field rather than go directly with Washington.
Mahomes sees this, and immediately looks to Devin Lauderdale on the left side of the formation. Lauderdale presumably has an option route planned, and sees Eric Striker sitting in the middle flat and the safety playing off. He runs a short out to get open in the left flat, and just like that we have a six yard gain. Mahomes could've thrown the ball better to carry him to the outside, but puts the ball a touch inside, forcing Lauderdale up the field, where he takes a big hit from the safety. The damage is done though, and we move on rapidly to the next play.
By this point in the season, everyone knows that we are a reactive offense, basing our next play off of what we have seen in the previous play. Mahomes assumes that Oklahoma will be in their zone again, but they switch to a man coverage. This play is designed to work against the safety presumably playing the deep zone, sending Jakeem Grant deep to open up a pocket of space in the medium range that Bradley Marquez can run a delayed stop route into. The space at medium depth is further opened up by faking the bubble screen with Dylan Cantrell, sucking in the coverage in the flat. The wrench in this gameplan is the switch in coverages, the corner that's supposed to be playing in the flat sticks with the delayed route, and the play is broken up fairly easily.
To emphasize how we want to attack Oklahoma, we run the same style of play again. Quinton White's motion tips Mahomes off that the coverage might be back to that safe zone again. Ian Sadler runs a medium depth in route to pull the safety off the right deep zone a little, White fakes the screen, and Marquez hits the exact same spot that they wanted to the play before. The Oklahoma nose guard gets really good pressure on Patrick Mahomes, who stays calm and puts the ball exactly where it needs to be. The result: a big gain for a first down.
This play had a very good idea that fell short in execution. Our right guard is very far off the ball before the snap, indicating that he's going to pull and attempt to trap Eric Striker. He attempts to cut block him and falls flat on his face, forcing DeAndre Washington to block him instead of the other linebacker. If we execute here, this could've been a very successful play. There is literally no one on the left side of the field to stop Mahomes for chugging along for at least ten yards. Long story short, we have begun shooting ourselves in the foot. The foot-shooting will not stop here either. However, unlike other times, we eventually overcome the foot-shooting and put this sucker in the end zone.
Mahomes once again sends a man in motion to check how Oklahoma will play us on this down. They bring four rushers from the defensive line, leaving a hole in their zone somewhere. Devin Lauderdale runs hard downfield for a couple of steps, bringing the left side safety a little deeper than he needs to be to adequately defend a medium level route on the left side of the field. Ian Sadler runs a route into that vacated area, giving us an easy 8 or so yards. Mahomes hits him on the money, and he falls forward for another two or so. The linebacker in the middle was split by Sadler and another receiver, forcing him to either commit and leave one open or potentially leave both open. This is simply a well designed play that attacks the medium level depth zone coverage from the Oklahoma linebackers.
Here we see another Texas Tech staple: the slip screen. The running back and two linemen "slip" out of the formation to the flat, and hopefully the defensive linemen run upfield and the linebackers are fooled into thinking it's a normal pass play. We don't exactly fool Oklahoma, but we do get some quality blocks, and we get the first down because of it. It's a well schemed play that was met with quality defense from Oklahoma. Fortunately for us, it was just enough we needed to get a first down.
This play is an incredible audible from Patrick Mahomes. From where the linemen are attacking, we can see that this wasn't a designed pass play. It looks as if it's a read option with DeAndre Washington and Mahomes, but the ball ends up thrown to Cantrell. I believe that Mahomes sees the corner playing off of Cantrell, a coverage similar to what was given to Devin Lauderdale on the first play. He pulls the trigger on the play, and we get a quick 7 yards off of a great decision.
This is what our offense is based around. Decisions made in the ten to fifteen seconds between snaps that are the difference between an incomplete pass or a loss of two and a gain of seven yards that puts us ahead of the down marker. In second and three, we can attack anywhere on the field, and if we miss, we have another short down to keep the chains moving.
We end up not taking the chance, and diving straight ahead for the first down. Oklahoma's nose guard gets a great push on Kaster, and takes up one of the blocking backs in our "full house" formation. We get the first down, so it's not a huge deal, but we could've potentially squeezed a couple more yards out of the play. Essentially this is the easiest play to break down ever. Everything minus Oklahoma's nose guard making an exceptional play is very straightforward. Zone blocking, dive run, basic things.
Unfortunately I promised you foot-shooting, and here it begins. The linesman marks the ball one yard short of the first inexplicably, and we promptly turn a relatively easy third and one into a third and six via a false start. Mahomes actually makes a great play in the teeth of Oklahoma's jailbreak blitz, Jakeem Grant just got caught up in some extra contact from the Sooner's corner. If they don't collide, this is six, easy. It's frustratingly close. Especially since we are out of field goal range and are forced to either go for it on 4th down or punt.
Up to this point, we've been torching Oklahoma on the edges of the defense. What happened here is either us lucking into getting the running back open in the middle of the field, or a genius gut instinct call from Kliff. Either way, every receiver runs a deep route away from the middle of the field. As soon as Mahomes sees Striker playing off of White and the other linebacker with his back turned to the middle of the field, he makes his decision. This ball was going to White from the very beginning of the play. Unfortunately, the foot-shooting begins again, as Devin Lauderdale is flagged for a late hit. We get the first down, but we actually only gain one yard.
This play is yet another fantastic play from Patrick Mahomes. Everyone is covered. It happens sometimes when the defense drops eight people in coverage and you have five receivers running routes. He keeps cool, steps up in the pocket, and suckers a linebacker into vacating his zone. Jakeem Grant sees the opening, and immediately moves to it. Mahomes lofts a pass right over the linebackers head into the chest of Grant. a 20-yard gain from a play that was going south very quickly. Another perfect example of how the Air Raid offense reads the defense and takes what they give them.
We'll use this exact same play a week later against the Baylor Bears to great effect, but as for right now it leaves Mahomes scrambling for his life. It's designed to isolate Marquez in single coverage and get a deep route free, but the pressure from the Oklahoma defensive line keeps the throw from materializing. Luckily Mahomes can scramble a little, and he gets a few yards out of the play. We'll look back on this film and see that if we hit this throw that this play can work for real, and utilize it next week.
This is another very simple play. Zone blocking, dive run. The only problem here is that DeAndre Washington picks the hole that has a linebacker in it. He had a lane on the right that was being filled by a linebacker, but the linebacker was slow getting there. We could've ripped off a couple more yards, but ultimately a three yard run isn't bad. This time it's our turn to catch a break though. Oklahoma gets called for encroachment and we get a first and goal.
I don't understand this play call. Admittedly I'll never understand option plays to the short side of the field, but this one is telegraphed from the beginning. The zone blocking, Washington set behind and to the strong side of Mahomes... This formation screams option from the top of it's lungs. Washington's quick enough to get a couple yards out of it, and Kenny Williams gets a good block, but this play was never going to score. It's simply too predictable and read too well by the Sooners. Nothing sort of a herculean individual effort is getting this play in the end zone.
However, we follow it up with a great play call. The motion check, the play fake, slipping Kenny Williams out of the backfield, this is just a fun, deceptive, and well designed play. My only beef is with Ian Sadler here. If he had blocked the safety or released to the middle of the field faster, we might have scored here. There's no one in the middle of the field at all, they're all drawn in on the play fake and motion. Either way, Williams gets us down to the one, where we promptly begin unloading our six shooters into our boots, getting a false start penalty. Fortunately, a little Mahomes scrambling magic puts us in the end zone again.
There are few receivers as lethal as Jakeem Grant on scramble drills. We're running slants with Grant and Lauderdale on the left, while the receivers on the right run interference. The slants go right into the teeth of the Oklahoma zone, and Grant sees this, breaking off his route and heading for the back corner of the end zone. Mahomes steps up in the pocket, drawing the corner in zone coverage forward, making the touchdown connection another easy lob. A solid drive capped off by a great individual effort from both Patrick Mahomes and Jakeem Grant.
We have the capacity to overcome the penalties and the bad situations we put ourselves in. Obviously, it would be nice to avoid those altogether. It's still really nice to know that when our offense is clicking that we can still do some damage even when we injure ourselves in the process.