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How good is Sonny Cumbie? A deep analysis of the TCU offense vs Baylor, Overtime

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HawkeyedFrog returns from hibernation to write way too many words about TCU’s offense.

Duggan was in
A dive for the finish and controversy, but was the Frog offense put in the best position to win?
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

And so we come to the climax of the game and to the last of our data points before we start to analyze. The TCU offense has had one decent half which was a few hairs away from being great and one decidedly poor half thus far, but with the right breaks here, no one in purple will remember or mind any of what came before. So onto Overtime, and Baylor takes its first lead of the game on the first TD scored by either team thanks to some admittedly clutch play by their QB. Now trailing for the first time and needing a score, time to be a bit more aggressive? (Here are the links if you missed out on part 1 or part 2,)

Play 66: 1st and 10, Baylor 25. TCU trips right TE left, back right. Baylor 3-3-5 LB shift left.

Twice TCU has gotten this close to the end zone, but each time they came away with three points. The thing I notice first on this play is again the Baylor NT, I paused it at 18:26 and before the snap has even reached Duggan, the NT has his hands on our center. I don’t know if there was a tell that let him jump the snap, but even so he’s the first one on either team to move despite the frogs knowing the snap count. Thank goodness he graduated. Quick playfake, and Duggan gets time but is looking at the middle of the field for the TE instead of over at the trips side where we had a nice concept that popped a receiver wide open for five yards + YAC, but Duggan never makes it there in his progressions and instead tries to thread a needle with four bear defenders. Unwise. Play +1, Execution -1

Play 67: 2nd and 10, Baylor 25. TCU trips right, back left. Baylor 6 rush stance, 4 man 1 deep.

The Bears show heat to try and force a quick throw and a third and long. The Frogs counter (literally) with the GT counter again, and again it’s effective, Baylor’s heat means that Duggan essentially gets to zone read and freeze both defenders coming from the pull side, giving the frogs numbers at the point of attack. This would be a first down and possibly more if the LT doesn’t totally whiff on his downfield block, though, and the LG didn’t get a solid lick in either. Play +2, Execution -1

Play 68: 3rd and 5, Baylor 20. TCU Trips left, TE right, back right. Baylor 3-3-5 Wide DEs.

Straight dropback, Duggan looks at a mesh from the TE and closest receiver trips side, but doesn’t like it and Baylor brings a delayed blitz, knowing Duggan likes to hold onto the ball and the TCU OL have a tendency to wander in pass pro. The LG in particular is turned all the way around looking at someone who is and was not his responsibility, leaving Duggan nowhere to go when the LT gets beaten, when if he’d just been facing the right direction he could’ve either picked up a blitzer or helped with the NT, both of which would have been very helpful. Duggan gets flushed, chased and run down. I like mesh here, but Duggan seems to need more reps at it to make that read quicker. Play +1, Execution -2

Play 69: 4th and 9, Baylor 24. TCU trips right, back left. Baylor 6 up 4 man 1 deep.

It took to overtime, but we finally see a fourth down play from Cumbie. Baylor brings five, but the Frogs pick it up and Duggan is only ever going one place with this one, lofting it up to the end zone where Hunt makes an incredible grab and manages to get a hand down in the end zone. For one glorious play, everything clicked. It’s not necessarily a masterpiece of a playcall, but Cumbie set up the match up he wanted and it paid off. Play +1, Execution +3

It took 69 plays, but the Frogs finally score a TD and it’s a spectacular one. No time to rest on laurels though, it’s overtime, go do it again immediately.

Play 70: 1st and 10, Baylor 25. TCU even spread, back right. Baylor 3-3-5 two tight DL, wide LBs.

Baylor shifts their DL to have strength toward the presumed run side, but instead it’s a toss to Anderson that sees him with more space than he’s had all day. Reagor seems a little frustrated by this point here and his block isn’t the best, but this is exactly the sort of play you’d draw up for a shift like that. Play +2. Execution +0

Play 71: 2nd and 2, Baylor 17. TCU even spread, pistol back. Baylor 3-3-5 two tight DL, wide LBs.

Again Baylor’s lineup invites a run, and again the Frogs oblige, this time with the basic zone read, but with a minor tweak that pays major dividends- knowing that the DE in front of him is the read man, he doubles the NT and the center is able to feel it and pass off the NT while the center climbs to the second level. It’s not exactly a Stanford OL complexity, but it’s something the Frogs had not been doing well to this point, and when Duggan’s stare freezes the DE, Anderson bursts upfield untouched through the line of scrimmage for what seems like the first time today and gets nine yards. Not sure who to plus for finally making that adjustment, but it’s the first time I’ve seen all the OL seem like they’re doing a good job on one play. Play +1, Execution +2

Play 73: 1st and Goal, Baylor 8. TCU trips right, TE left, back right. Baylor 3-3-5 tight.

Baylor’s backers are spread out, but the safeties are close enough for run support against an interesting red zone formation from the Frogs. Pre-snap I’m thinking TCU will attack the left side perimeter with an outside zone sort of play, but instead it feels a bit like a hedging your bets situation as it’s a modified zone read. Baylor’s DE is the same they read last time, and this time he attacks the mesh point with no hesitation, causing DA to be dead to rights, while also being able to play QB when Duggan pulls out of necessity. Duggan gives ground and gets the DE off balance, but the WR blocking is less than stellar and Duggan manages to get to exactly the line of scrimmage before being slammed hard by three converging bear defenders. Again, repeating plays is not a good idea, and it’s made worse if you’re reading the same man twice. Play -2, Execution -1

Play 74: 2nd and Goal, Baylor 8. TCU double tight right, twins left, back right. Baylor 3-3-5 overload right.

Absolute scads of space to the TCU left as both coordinators bust out non conventional red zone looks. If Duggan has half a second longer, this is Reagor’s touchdown- he’s has a ton of space and Duggan just has to loft it out and keep it in bounds. Instead the RT is beaten cleanly (despite a hold at the end) and Duggan decides on another keep- to his credit, he bounces off the first tackle and gets down to the two. Give Duggan a plus for getting what he got out of it, give the RT a minus for the whiff, and give Cumbie a plus for a nice concept for Reagor. Play +1, Execution +0, Refs +1

Play 75: 3rd and Goal, Baylor 2. TCU overload right, back right. Baylor Goal line D.

There are just under 46k watching in Amon Carter stadium, counting the folks on each sideline, the band, TV crews and such, and every one of them knows what’s coming here. Sewo has checked in. Cumbie has a bit of a reputation of “getting cute” in situations like this, and I have certainly not disagreed with that assertion at times, but this is give the ball to Mr. Olonilua time- no read, no delay, just one cut and go- and that’s exactly what we get here. Sewo gets to the line with momentum and just a linebacker in front of him, which is all you likely need to hear. Play +1, Execution +1

Baylor goes 5, -1, and 0 on their first three plays of 2OT, setting up a fourth and sixth with the game on the line. Sadly Denzel Mims makes a juggling catch and Baylor knots it back up and then secures another contested catch to put the bears back in front. TCU stops the two point conversion, so TD and two wins, TD grants another OT. I believe this is the sequence that sticks out most in fans minds when they think of this game, so let’s have a look.

Play 76: 1st and 10, Baylor 25. TCU overload right, pistol back. Baylor 3-5-3.

TCU again brings out the beef, an interesting decision on the 25 and with Anderson instead of Olonilua, but there are interesting things you can do out of a formation like this. And wouldn’t you know that interesting is exactly what we get. TCU blocks outside zone right, but pulls the TE around to set up a convoy for a Reagor reverse the other way. Honestly, it might have been better if Anderson kept it, as the blocking is very solid to the right, and Reagor seems to think that too, cutting it back up toward the middle right and getting a solid gain of six. Play +2, Execution +1

Play 77: 2nd and 4, Baylor 19. TCU even spread, back left. Baylor 3-3-5 “46”

Baylor is clogging the center and overloading the short side, leaving a ton of space on the left. Instead it’s GT counter right, which the Baylor NT completely explodes by knifing past the center before the tackle can pull around, leaving just the guard to lead block against three unengages bears… of which he manages to block none. Anderson puts in a determined effort to only lose one. Poor damn DA. I don’t hate the playcall, but is it a play we can only run right, not giving Darius all that space? Play +0, Execution -2

Play 78: 3rd and 5, Baylor 20. TCU trips left, back left. Baylor 3-2-6 wide DL

The Bears are betting heavy on the pass here, or at least that they can stop any internal run for less than 5 yards, despite being outnumbered in the box. And they bet right, with the pressure initially shown from the LBs instead rolling over toward the three receiver side. The Frogs run a spaced crossing route combo, which would pop open if not for an egregiously blatant grab on the receiver in the middle of the field that should have flags flying from all areas, but the umpire is not looking at his cue. Instead he’s looking at the backfield, where Duggan powers through a tackle attempt by the end and takes off. The troublesome NT is walled off from pursuit by both the center and LG and if this were a feel good sports movie, this would be the play that leads to a climactic two point conversion, as the various nemeses of the day seem to be slain all in one play as Duggan books it toward and up the sideline, pirouetting out of tackle attempts but seemingly managing to lunge for the end zone. But this is real life, and instead of a climactic two point conversion, we’re looking at first and goal from the 3 as Duggan is ruled to have stepped out. I’ll give the play call a +1 as it would have at least resulted in a first down if properly officiated. I’m not going to make this into a gripe about indisputable video evidence to overturn the call on the field, but there is zero excuse why there was no defensive holding flag. Play +1, Execution +3, Refs -2

Play 79: 1st and Goal, Baylor 3. TCU double tight right, twins left (with motion), back right. Baylor goal line.

Reagor motions across on a fake fly sweep, which does its job in drawing and freezing three bear defenders away from the handoff to Sewo. That little delay before the handoff is enough to give the Baylor safety time to loop around the end of the line, however, and he wraps Sewo’s legs up mid-cut to make a game saving tackle. Half a yard. Play +1, Execution -1

Play 80: 2nd and Goal, Baylor 3. TCU double tight right, Reagor right, back left. Baylor 3-5-3.

All eyes on Olonilua once again, but this time the center’s attempt to pass off the NT to the RG is not clean and he barrels through into the backfield, forcing Sewo to cut up to avoid disaster and instead lose just one. Fortunately for our heroes, Baylor commits a penalty. Play +0, Execution -1

Play 81: 1st and Goal, Baylor 1. TCU double tight right, Reagor right, back right. Baylor goal line shift left.

This looks like a zone read, in that there’s an unblocked man and it takes a while to develop, but Duggan isn’t looking at the unblocked man- only Sewo is. So Sewo has to attempt to change direction with no momentum built up yet and it’s disaster. I don’t know how much the play call has to do with this, honestly, but Sewo needs momentum faster. If there was ever a “Wild Frog” situation with Sewo receiving the snap, this would have been it. Play -1, Execution -2

Play 82: 2nd and Goal, Baylor 4. TCU double tight right, twins left, back right. Baylor 3-5-3.

Anderson is in, which I don’t necessarily hate, especially if we were going to do that toss play again, it looks like you could have an excellent lane to the end zone here. Instead it’s a straight dropback and Duggan is only looking one way on it, toward Reagor. Baylor’s Grayland Arnold grabs hold of Reagor to prevent the release for a split second, but Duggan way overthrew it so there’s no flag (rightly or wrongly). I would’ve preferred a more shallow outbreaking route to Reagor, but that concept is one that I actually run in situations like this. Play +1, Execution -1

Play 83: 3rd and Goal, Baylor 4. TCU double tight right. Reagor right, back left. Baylor 3-5-3.

Anderson is still in, which I like less here. Either the center has a tell, or the Baylor NT should go into fortune telling instead of football, because again he’s got two hands and a shoulder into the center before anyone else on the field has twitched. The Frogs fake a counter with the H coming across, but it appears to fool no one and honestly if the H had stayed and just blocked straight ahead this would have been a touchdown (called back). Apparently someone informed the refs that holding is still a penalty after that last play, and so they call it here and point in the unfortunate direction. I don’t like the slow handoffs or slow developing plays here, everyone is too close to the line of scrimmage to be fooled for long. Play -1, Execution -1

Play 84: 3rd and Goal, Baylor 14. TCU Empty trips right. Baylor 3-1-7

Noted third grade gym teacher lookalike Matt Rhule decides that it’s more unlikely that TCU will make 14 yards in two tries than they would make 3 in one, which… checks out from what I’ve watched so far. Straight dropback here, it looks like Duggan is reading right, but gets flushed before he can get a good look at anything. Duggan takes off toward the far corner and might just make it as Hunt’s block on that side is in perfect position to slow the pursuit of the safety, but the DE that flushed Duggan from the pocket takes a falling swipe at the legs and cause Duggan to stumble and flop forward after a pickup of just one. Play +0, Execution -1

Play 85: 4th and Goal, Baylor 13. TCU trips right, back left. Baylor 3-1-7

Sewo is back in here, presumably for pass pro. Duggan drops back and looks trips side with plenty of time, but throws way too high one last time and gets picked off in the back of the end zone. No camera angle of the route, but Duggan did find one on one coverage with a decent cushion, he just flat out missed. There aren’t many plays in the playbook for fourth and goal from the 13, but this one at least seemed to have potential. Play +1, Execution -2

And so the good guys get their hearts broken and evil words like “Baylor could make the playoff” are spoken for one more week (before having their hearts ripped out in Norman in a deeply satisfying fashion). Who’s to blame for the overtime result?

Play total: +12. Ten +1s and two +2s against two -1s and one -2.

On a per play basis this is probably Cumbie’s best period, breaking out a bit of sizzle and putting together some consistent finishes that were decidedly lacking in the first four quarters. The counter to this is that if you show some of that sizzle earlier in the game and make Baylor’s defense have to think about it, this one may well not have gone to overtime at all. Still I wouldn’t put too much of the blame for the OT period on Cumbie, Solid B.

Execution total: -8. Two +1s, one +2 and two +3s against eight -1s and four -2s

When you consider that for the only time this game I gave the offense a +3 this period, and I actually did it twice, to be this far in the negative is not great. Duggan flubbed some plays that could not be flubbed, the OL continued to get beaten and wasn’t communicating well and the little mistakes just kept adding up.

So, before we look at the overall point totals, but the two things that stood out the most to me watching this were firstly that for a school that (rightly) touts itself as an NFL OL factory, this was an abysmal showing. Baylor’s DL controlled the line of scrimmage all game, and that matchup was so lopsided that nothing came easy for the Frogs all game- when you’re getting significant pressure from a 3 man rush and can play 8 in coverage, it spells a long day at the office. The second thing that leaps off the page is that Duggan did not have a good game when it came to the whole “throwing the ball” part. Less than 50% completion rate, 140 total yards and a 36.8 quarterback rating are all bad, and from actually looking at it from a snap by snap basis, this was not generally a case of the wideouts letting him down. You can definitely see flashes of brilliance from Duggan, but you also see why some fans were so hopeful that Matthew Baldwin was going to be the savior of the offense this next season. Seeing how Duggan develops next year will be a big part of evaluating the job Cumbie is doing as well, but in the meantime we have point totals to analyze.

Our final totals:

Play total: +33. Twenty seven +1s, twelve +2s and two +3s against fourteen -1s and five -2s.

So overall we’re cranking out about two points to the positive for every one to the negative in our admittedly subjective scale, which is pretty decent, but honestly you’d expect a fairly positive ratio from an offensive side when you’re not just in a total talent mismatch (See: TCU v Grambling, 2012). Cumbie had some good ideas and playcalls, just not enough consistently in a row to put a touchdown on the board during regulation to put the game out of reach. Still, it was better than I expected it to be from my memory of watching the game the first time. The bigger culprit is...

Execution total: -34. Eighteen +1s, eight +2s and two +3s against twenty six -1s, seventeen -2s and two -3s.

Baylor’s defensive gameplan was fairly simple, don’t give up the big plays and make a young quarterback execute over and over in coverage to beat you. As we mentioned earlier, this strategy paid off, as Duggan was off all game and consistently throwing high if he didn’t get ideal pocket conditions. Coincidentally, Duggan very rarely had ideal pocket conditions because the Baylor DL just flat out whipped the TCU OL, despite being outnumbered 3:5, and while there are always plays to attempt to go around one particular mismatch, there are not a lot of plays where you can scheme around your OL just getting beaten.

So, what’s the final verdict? Overall I think I’d give Cumbie a C+ in this one. He wasn’t dealt the best hand (unpopular opinion: With Shawn Robinson at QB, TCU wins by 10) but there were some definite nicely designed plays that attacked Baylor’s tendencies, and there were a few secret weapons for key moments. There are three areas I felt Cumbie could have improved on that may have made a difference in this game: First, Reagor did not need to wait until Overtime number two to have his name called in the run game, particularly when Reagor beat essentially this same Baylor team almost single handedly (from an offensive standpoint) in 2018. Reagor needed to be more of a focal point, either as a weapon on short throws to create YAC opportunities, or even some wildfrog business. A weapon like Reagor must not be limited to two touches in a game like this. Second (and relatedly) I don’t feel like the Frogs used motion enough in this one. Motion is a great friend to a young QB as it greatly simplifies some of the pre-snap read by watching how the defense adjusts, while also giving some play possibilities for speedy players in space- and using it to set up a screen or shovel pass might have helped slow down that hyper aggressive Baylor NT. Finally, while Cumbie did show some decent (and admittedly some mediocre) design sense in run plays, there was not a lot of connection between them and how they were run. I’ve always been a believer that plays and formations are best when they’re complimentary- Power and Counter being the classic examples, but while I mentioned GT Counter as a play the Oklahoma Sooners run a lot, OU actually runs the play in a large variety of different ways, including various RPOs so even when you’re looking at a very similar play, there are a number of ways that it can attack a defense. While I think Cumbie has a good idea about this in the passing game, too often the variations in the run game were running the same zone read play (often back to back) with just slightly different formations. The reads were the same, which meant that the defense plays it the same each time, the only difference is who is lined up where. To take the next step as an OC (and remember how young Cumbie is, he’ll continue to grow) Cumbie needs to diversify the run game with more complimentary plays- if zone read is going to be one of the base running plays, work in plays that are compliments to the zone read like arc read or split zone so that you have ways to punish defenses that identify zone read after the first few attempts. So not just rock, but paper and scissors as well. And when the run plays start complimenting each other and the defense starts to have to overthink what they’re looking at, that’s when play action becomes a real threat instead of the relatively token play action that TCU ran a lot in this one. So while I don’t think Cumbie lost this game for us, neither do I think he was necessarily putting our talent in the best position to win it for us. Cumbie’s gifts as a recruiter and QB coach are certainly commendable, but in order to take the next step as a coordinator, Cumbie needs to diversify the playbook with a few more complimentary options. If Cumbie can manage that and keeps recruiting at the high level he currently is, he may well become the best playcalling OC TCU has had since Fuente, and perhaps even a possible worthy heir apparent if the day ever comes that coach P ties his shoes on the sideline for the last time. (Snyder it, Coach.)

Frog on, Hawk out.