Welcome back to Frogs O' War Video Rewind where HawkeyedFrog has finished watching the Tech game a second and third time so you don't have to. If you do wish to relive the miserable experience, you can find the video to follow along here. Below we'll be breaking down the key plays (the non-penalty ones, which only serve to angry up the blood) both good and bad for TCU against Tech.
What went uncalled: A quick note on Devonte Fields
I did a run through of Tech's offense on second and third and long looking for why Devonte Fields was so ineffective. Some of it was usage, where they kept him in to keep contain, but there was also a whole lot of uncalled holding. A quick example from two plays before what went wrong #1. Fields is working against Clark, Tech's best lineman. He gets off the ball quickly, going upfield to draw Clark out and open him up- this gives him the option of continuing outside to Mayfield's blindside or cutting inside to rush into Mayfield's face while preventing the RB from chipping him.
He turns to go into Clark's chest on the right side, making good use of his hands to force Clark to grab under his shoulder pads- either he's getting by Clark at this point or he's going to be held.
Clark holds in the way that makes any OL coach proud. He takes a grip on Fields' jersey between shoulder and pad and pulls, Fields starts to attempt to reverse inside because he wants the sack and the hold will stop him on the outside.
Fields loses position because of the hold and ends up on his knee, both of Clark's hands are full of jersey. The issue is that it's not clear enough that Fields was held because he started to reverse back inside instead of continuing to fight through the hold and making it obvious enough where it had to be called. Instead on the TV it just looks like Fields got buried when he went inside, instead of making the reason he wasn't getting to Mayfield clear.
This is not an indictment on the refs, as the usual chorus of "holding can be called on every play" breaks out, but rather on Fields making a poor decision. If he continues to fight outside, Clark either has to release due to Field's power and leverage or make the hold blatant- Fields cutting back inside instead means that Clark did his job well, doing exactly as much as he could get away with. You see a lot of this against Tech, and it's a good teaching moment for Fields- when you're being held, move so that it's clear to the refs that you are. That was something Stansly Maponga was excellent at, but Fields still has to work on to make the best use of his extraordinary talent.
What went wrong #1: Missed Tackles
Let's start things off by looking at the opening series disaster, Tech converted on third and long just before to set themselves up around midfield. Tech lines up in the typical Leach/Kingbury-ian spread with two receivers on each side, including the bulky tight end Amaro who is split off the line a bit, and a running back next to Mayfield in the shotgun. TCU is in the 4-2-5 as ever, with the linebackers shifted to the short side.
The play is a basic swing pass to the running back out of the backfield, but upfield Amaro and Marquez switch positions so that Amaro is blocking Kevin White- a mismatch. Since TCU quickly dropped back Tech's running back Kenny Williams has plenty of space to get up to speed, which should turn into an easy 4 yards before contact. Things don't go quite that well though.
Jon Koontz gets out in pursuit well to force Williams outside, and three white jerseys are in the area, including an unblocked Jonathan Anderson who has the angle that looks like Williams will be plastered after about 4. In any case, TCU has numbers that should keep this play from being a first down.
Then disaster, as first Koontz misses a tackle that would have made it a one or two yard gain, while Amaro holds up White just long enough for Williams to get by
Fortunately, Anderson (the unblocked guy at the top right of the screen) has him dead to rights short of the first down, and there's safety help coming down above in case Williams gets free. A little sound tackling and this play is done.
Well, that didn't work out. Still, Anderson is a new starter and they make mistakes. Fortunately Chris Hackett is there to clean up after starting almost all of last season. It's a first down, but it shouldn't be a disaster.
Arrgh. Three failed tackles for the Frogs and Williams won't stop until he's in the end zone. The play could have been snuffed out for nothing, for a medium gain, or for a first down- the scheme is not to be blamed here. Instead the tackling was absolutely awful and those three missed tackles turn into almost one sixth of Tech's total yards for the day. Wrap up and drive, guys.
What went right #1: Why we're mad about the playcalling
Jarrett Anderson took a lot of flak these past two weeks about the playcalling against Tech, and here's a great look midway through the first quarter of why. TCU has three receivers to the left to take advantage of the space out there, with LaDarius Brown alone on the short side. Waymon James is the running back and Boykin is in the shotgun, while Tech is in a nickel look shifted toward the three receiver side. There's a second angle as well so you can look at all the space behind the linebackers, if a run gets to the second level... there is no second level. Tech uses this look a lot, but only rarely do we run at it.
There's a bad snap, but Boykin is able to get the ball up into position while only delaying James for a moment. This is simple power football, which the line does well. James takes the handoff and heads between the right guard and tackle.
There's no one head up on Jamelle Naff, so when the center blocks down on the DT over his right shoulder Naff is free to take on a linebacker and James is untouched for the first three yards of the run- for a short, powerful bowling ball like Waymon James that's tons of time to build up momentum.
James would have been better off staying on the right side where only one Tech defender would have been in position to make a tackle, giving him a better chance at breaking it, but James works the middle and gets six yards before contact, and does his wonderful Waymon James thing to pick up two more despite being wrapped up by three Tech players.
Eight yards, six of which you or I could likely have gotten. A good playcall, to be sure. The problem is that this play was there all night, but instead of continuing to sledge the ball in the middle where TCU's OL has a 10-20 pound weight advantage, the next play was a cute delayed sweep to Brandon Carter that got stuffed for a five yard loss and TCU had to punt. The spread revolution has done a lot for college football, but the simple fact is that if you can run for four-six yards up the middle every time, you will win the game. If they shift over to stack the box, suddenly you have numbers and open men to unleash your screen passes and play action against. One good play can set up a huge number of others, but Anderson doesn't try to establish the running backs as a threat- leading to more runs for Trevone Boykin than Catalon and James combined. Arrgh.
What went wrong #2: Penalties lead to other bad things
TCU had backed itself up twenty yards with penalties, leading to obvious passing situations that left Boykin to scramble for what yardage he could on the first two downs. Then comes third and sixteen and Boykin screws up. TCU lines up in an empty set with three receivers to Boykin's right and two to the left. Tech has three down linemen and will walk up another to try and fluster Boykin- they've made him run on consecutive downs before this, so they don't deviate from the winning formula
Disaster is brewing already, as before he's even completed his drop Boykin has a rusher coming free at him because Joey Hunt screwed up and is blocking absolutely nobody- you can tell who he is, because he's the one not doing anything. At the bottom of the screen Vaitai is also having issues with a speed rush to the outside (in an ideal world, Vaitai is a mauling guard, but TCU's world is not that world right now) so Boykin doesn't have any time to wait for receivers to be open.
Boykin makes the first guy miss, which is something he has become very good at to his credit and keeps his eyes downfield. Meanwhile, instead of finding someone else to block, Joey Hunt is just turned around staring at Boykin- if he heads downfield and picks up a linebacker Boykin may be able to scramble for a first down instead of doing what he's about to do. First rule of being a lineman, Joey: Even if you screw up, find someone to hit.
So our valiant quarterback strides forward with a head of momentum and acres of greenery ahead of him. He's probably not going to be able to run for a first down, but he'd likely get enough yards so that Perry could pin Tech deep with a solid punt and set up nice field position down the line. Boykin has had enough of taking off at this point and decides to throw on the run- which unless your man is very, very open is a very bad idea. Also, Joey Hunt is still looking clueless. Get it together, Joey.
This is the frustrating part, because Boykin doesn't plant his feet- or even have a single foot on the ground when he throws this. Ahead of him is that one linebacker that Joey Hunt should be blocking- no, I'm not letting it go, Joey- and a lot of green, if Boykin runs for the corner he could probably pick up eight yards. As it is, he tries to pass while doing the Michael Jordan Jumpman pose.
Boykin throws it into double coverage, and due to not having his feet set the ball is badly underthrown. A shame because if he gets enough loft on it, Catalon could make the catch and make something happen.
This is a frustrating interception, because Boykin tries to force things. Joey Hunt put him in a bad situation, doubtlessly, but he had two options that were better than throwing this pass- running it himself and trying to make one man miss, or stepping up, setting his feet and hope that Hunt moves down to block the Tech DT the second time around. Do not, under any circumstances, try a Jordan pass again.
What went right #2: Jon Koontz will not be denied
It's not the most important play of the night, or even my favorite (Jason Verrett blowing up Amaro, Tech's huge tight end wins that) but this is exactly the kind of attitude I love to see from linemen, so it gets featured. Third and ten on the Tech 39, Tech is in an even spread with Amaro lined up in the slot as a receiver and a running back to Mayfield's side. TCU is in (shock!) the 4-2-5.
Mayfields eyes quickly go left, while Amaro crosses to the middle of the field underneath the linebackers. Amaro is an absolute nightmare matchup in general, and one hell of a safety blanket. TCU is rushing four and playing coverage, Tech looks like they're keeping the running back in to block. Jon Koontz (at the bottom of the screen) makes a quick move inside and makes contact, shoving the Tech right tackle back, but he sees the running back is coming over to chip him if he tries to continue inside, and changes his tactic.
He uses the step he knocked the Tech tackle back to get outside, the running back runs by to be a safety dump instead. Up top you can see Fields doing the ineffectual dance of being held that you can get an in depth look at up top (it happened a lot), but overall TCU is getting penetration as Mayfield completes his drop
Fields sees that Koontz and Hunter are closing in, so he disengages backwards to contain Mayfield if he tries to run. Mayfield is trying to look for a first down pass, but TCU has it locked down which gives the pass rush time to flush him. I enjoy how much Hunter is beating his man here though, look at him go.
Finally falling down, Koontz has Mayfield in his grasp, but Baker is wriggling free- this is the type of play that you see all the time with athletic quarterbacks that frustrates you.
Koontz keeps his arms wrapped around Mayfield the entire way though, resulting in this hilarious stance from Baker.
Koontz twists and his effort is finally rewarded as Mayfield goes down, but his refusal to give up means that even if Mayfield squirms out he's going to be blasted by Hunter and Pierson, with Fields there as an emergency contain. True effort all the way across the line is always great to see.
The pass rush wasn't that consistent, but it was certainly improved from the first two weeks, even accounting for the Fields effect. It's frustrating that we may be without Fields again for a few weeks, but I think that the TCU DL should be able to get consistent pressure from just the front four against SMU.
Overall it's exactly as ugly as you remember, but to my eye TCU outplayed Tech even with the questionable playcalling. The Frogs outgained Tech, shut down the Raider running game and generally forced Mayfield to throw into tight windows all night. The biggest problem (that TCU can control) was the penalties that consistently forced TCU into throwing positions that Boykin is just not equipped to handle- if the Frogs run the ball more on first and second down I expect we'll see fewer holding penalties and a much better third down conversion rate. You can feel pretty good about beating SMU handily on Saturday and getting home quickly enough to enjoy scouting Oklahoma/Notre Dame for next week- whether you still feel good about it after that will depend a lot on how the OU line handles Notre Dame's three freakish linemen and how Blake Bell looks throwing the ball against a semi-competent defense.
As always, Go Frogs.