The Film Room is the observations of a former player, and is not meant to be taken as gospel.
With the momentum that the Mack Brown era brought to the recruiting of the Texas Longhorns, it's pretty safe to say that they'll always have athletes on the field. While Brown was not the best X's and O's coach in the world, or even the best at developing his talent, he sure could get it at Texas. The fact that Brown won a national championship and played in another can't be forgotten as well. All of these things have culminated in at least solid if not outstanding recruiting tradition in Austin.
So, the Longhorns will have the raw ability. They have the clay, and it remains to be seen if Charlie Strong is the potter that can mold them into something functional. For Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders, taking what national scouts and recruiting pundits have deemed the less pliable clay and molding it has become a unique tradition in of itself. Every piece of the clay is used, because that's what you have to do when going up against players who are typically bigger, stronger, and faster.
So how do we do this against Texas, who has an obscene amount of young talent? You give them a choice. You make them doubt a little. You make them pick between upwards of two options, which is exactly how Kingsbury began to attack the Texas defense.
Right here, we see that Texas is in man coverage through the motion of Ja'deion High causing the corner to shift slightly with him. With this motion and the safety being so far over the top, Mahomes knows that he's got two receivers manned up with a good playcall, a little rub route. The receivers cross paths, High taking the deep route, and Ian Sadler settling in the outside flat. Texas elects to blitz all of their linebackers, so any mistake by the secondary will be magnified on this quick-hitting play. The Texas defenders don't switch off, Sadler has plenty of space, and hey that's a good, quick first down.
The next play is a quick toss to Jakeem Grant that nets two yards, and then we go directly back to the pass.
The third play isn't exactly the same, but it holds the same concept. The three receivers to the left of Mahomes make like they're going over the top, the slot bends in towards the middle, Lauderdale stops on the curl, and the middle receiver angles himself at Lauderdale's defender. Mahomes sees the safety come up in man coverage, and knows from the space Texas is giving his receivers that Lauderdale is open. The middle receiver denies any kind of pressure from Lauderdale's defender, and it's an easy pitch and catch, and another first down. This play was audibled to, but it was a quick audible, the kind that comes from something that's in the playbook for this game.
Texas Tech is already making Texas choose what to defend. They're going to zone off a half of the field and force the Longhorn secondary to crash on the outside short routes, or get beat over the top and middle.
Another quick running play, and now we have Texas sufficiently baited.
Once again, the choice is the secondary's: let Texas Tech chip away at you underneath or let them beat you vertically. It's not the same play, but it's the exact same concept. This is a big "if", but if I'm the Texas defender, I'm already recognizing that they haven't thrown out of the pistol formation yet, and they haven't ran out of the normal shotgun yet (pistol plays not shown).
Regardless of keying on formations, the nickelback crashes on the swing pass to Jakeem Grant that the strong safety is already covering, and Lauderdale is left to roam vertically with the free safety on the opposite side of the field. Signaling man coverage from the beginning of the game has already hurt Texas, and Texas Tech is capitalizing on the Longhorn's unwillingness to mix up their coverages. Yes, they've blitzed. Yes, this is also a mistake from the nickel. But without the nickel's mistake, Texas Tech is still getting 7-10 yards out of this due to the speed of Grant and the absence of defenders in his area. It's a one-on-one matchup across the board, forcing Texas to take a chance, or make a choice. They can't sit back and let this happen.
Texas Tech didn't score on this drive, but it set them up for some major points later on.
To their credit, Texas doesn't, at least not for the whole game. Even with the Texas adjustments, this play is hard to stop.
We all know this play. If we're all honest with ourselves, this isn't how it should've gone down. It definitely should've been intercepted. However, the bubble screen receiver is wide open. Devin Lauderdale is wide open. If Mahomes doesn't underthrow the pass, it's likely six points regardless of immaculate bounce or not.
Here, we see that Texas has finally gotten their crap together and figured out how to defend a pretty basic route combination. The Longhorn secondary has held long enough for the pass rush to catch up to Mahomes. To his credit, Mahomes gets a first down out of the busted play, but the play still did not go as intended.
Now, there are many factors that went into each play, but there is one constant between the last four. They've all come out of the trips formation, with the exception of the Sadler rub route in play 1. No matter what, Texas will declare to the trips formation for the rest of the game.
Watch, as Texas immediately brings the safety 3 yards from the line of scrimmage as soon as Texas Tech motions into trips. They're willing to take their chances deep with a 3-7 yard advantage for their cornerbacks. They're still in man coverage, but the staggered distances make it easier for the Longhorns not to run into each other. With Texas's speed in the secondary, it's a smart move. If made earlier, it could've saved the Longhorns a bunch of yards and a touchdown. Texas Tech will continue to use the same routes out of twins, but for now, Texas has solved one problem. Declaring like this will leave the Longhorns vulnerable in other spots, though.
When Texas Tech hits a rut, they just overload one side then hit the weak side. Textbook playcalling. Lauderdale doesn't score on this play, but he gets pretty dang close. This drive ended in a field goal.
If you also recall, Texas Tech had struggles in the red zone. As the the field shortens, the window for the downfield option diminishes. Texas Tech had to switch its strategy, and Texas had prepared for all of the Red Raider's red zone plays.
Playcalling matters. A lot. It arguably cost the Longhorns this game. It gave Texas Tech a serious advantage in the open field. A huge benefit of having Kliff Kingsbury as the head coach comes with his experiences calling plays. The right call at the right time can make or break the game, and it ended up breaking Texas many times.