It might not have been pretty in the traditional sense, or at least 'pretty' in terms of what we've been accustomed to seeing, but sandwiched between Notre Dame and Texas it was probably foolish to expect anything less. Not to be ignored, Gary Patterson is one hell of a football coach and that was very clearly evident in TCU's disciplined and impressive defensive performance Saturday night. I think most of us expected this to be a tough, hard fought game and that's exactly what we got.
For this edition of our 'Film Study' series there are a several points of emphasis coming out of the game. The first being the play of Blake Bell and whether his hesitancy to get rid of the ball was as a result of stellar coverage from TCU, indecision on his part, or some combination of both. Perusing the message boards and such, I've seen people make the argument for both. Also want to focus on the play of the front six/seven both because of the absence of Jordan Phillips as well as their effectiveness generating pressure on the quarterback. In addition of course to all the other little details we tend to sniff out in this process every week.
* Charles Tapper gets credit for this sack on TCU's first drive, but it should really be credited to the TCU o-line and their failure to adjust to Julian Wilson coming on the blitz. Wilson comes clean, but leaves his feet when Boykin pump fakes leaving the sack for Tapper who, to his credit, had beaten his man to the outside.
* Couple things before we get too far into this thing. Without the 'All 22' camera angle, it's probably going to be difficult to truly assess Bell's supposed indecisiveness. Simply because the angle typically shown on the broadcast will not show all the receivers down the field and whether or not they were actually covered. That said, what we saw Saturday night was something rumored during spring and (more so) fall practices that led to him initially losing the starting job. With the word being that Bell looked like he was playing not to make a mistake, similar to what I feel like we saw Saturday night. I'm not definitively saying that's what it was as much as offering up a possible theory.
I remain convinced that a lot of what we saw Saturday was a result of TCU's secondary, but it's also probably not fair to absolve Bell entirely. Even thinking back to last week on the TD pass to Lacoltan Bester, Bell initially misses him on the slant route and looked hesitant to make that throw into a tight window.
* You (or at least I) can't help but laugh at the complete 180 degree turnaround so many OU fans have made regarding Brennan Clay. Making plays will do that for you. And he's done exactly that in some pretty big spots these last couple years.
* 1st Qtr, 6:28 - 1st & 10 OU from the TCU 36. This play goes for a loss as Damien Williams is hit in the backfield almost as he's taking the handoff from Bell. And in the game thread I put the blame on Adam Shead for missing his block. Rewatching the play now, it looks like Gabe Ikard makes the initial block then releases him to Shead. Except Shead evidently doesn't realize that's the plan and winds up blocking no one on this play.
I don't know what the issue is though I suspect it's injury related to some extent, but Shead just doesn't look right out there. He's had some pretty significant struggles, to the point where I think you have to seriously consider starting someone else at left guard. I hate to say that, especially if he is playing through an injury of which he certainly has a history of, because as a freshman he looked like a future star at guard. And most of us hate to call out individual players for poor play, but at this point I just don't think the coaches are doing themselves or Shead any favors by continuing to throw him out there.
* 1st Qtr, 4:46 - 4th & 1 OU from the TCU 28. Sticking with the overall them of the game and things not being pretty is this fourth down conversion. OU rolls out the old school 'Belldozer' package and even lines up Nila Kasitati as a tight end on the strong side of the play.
Bell actually makes a sneaky good little move to avoid the middle linebacker who came through somewhat unblocked (looks like Shead didn't get around on his pull quite in time, but does make him take enough of a poor angle) then just powers his way past the first down marker.
* 1st Qtr, 4:20 - 1st & 10 OU from the TCU 24. On the very next play, Saunders actually beats Verrett on a double move. This is just a poor throw from Bell. He has a little pressure coming up the middle, but not enough that should have caused an overthrow like this one. Should have been a touchdown, but instead OU has to settle for three points after a sack on second down and a Bell scramble on third that is well short of the first down marker. 3-0 OU
* Safe to say Eric Striker was able to time TCU's snap count. There were several instances in which I was surprised he wasn't called for offsides and they did get him for one in the second half. But when he timed it right and with his quickness, the TCU tackle was lucky to even get a hand on him.
* 1st Qtr, 0:40 - 2nd & 9 OU from their 22. This is one of TCU's sacks on Bell and one in which it appears as though Bell holds on to the ball for too long. Frankly, this just looks like a very odd play. From what I can tell, Bell's initial read is Durron Neal who is matched up in press coverage against Verrett (i.e. not open). He appears to recognize that, come off it, and look to Saunders who is running a short option route out of the slot. All the while it sure looks like OU is setting up some kind of a flare screen to Sterling Shepard with Bronson Irwin releasing out to block in front.
Not helping things is Tyrus Thompson getting beat much too easily to the inside allowing Bell not nearly enough time for this apparently multi-faceted play to develop. Way too much going on with that play, in my opinion.
End of the first quarter, OU leads 3-0.
* Not a great night for Jed Barnett. Looked very similar to the spring game in which he really struggled punting into and/or with the Oklahoma winds.
* Redshirt freshman corners aren't supposed to be as good as Zack Sanchez has been through five games. They also aren't supposed to make the kind of reads he's making. I know some aren't happy that he's been unable to haul in some interceptions these last couple games, but I have to believe that will come. And at least he's in the position to even be able to make those plays in the first place, right?
* 2nd Qtr, 10:51 - 1st & 10 TCU from their 29. This is a little thing, but I think worth mentioning. Colvin comes on a corner blitz here and has a free path the the QB. Boykin sees him just in time to make a quick little move that sends Colvin sliding past and you're thinking "Oh great", but a couple things happen here. (1) Good coverage from OU down the field. (2) Solid pursuit from Dominique Alexander who beats the TCU right tackle. (3) Most importantly Colvin doesn't quit on the play, so as a result of No. 1 & 2 he is able to run Boykin down from behind after missing that initial tackle.
* Just two plays later, another "little thing" with Ndulue recognizing a slip screen from TCU and abandoning his rush to get out in space and make the tackle on the wide receiver. That was a play you love to see from your senior.
* I can't really say that OU is doing anything different up front on this soon to be touchdown drive, other than maintaining their blocks much better than they've done to this point. Heupel did go with some hurry up which seemed to have TCU on their heels a bit, but once OU gets near midfield that stopped and not coincidentally the drive sputtered a bit then as well.
* 2nd Qtr, 3:39 - 4th & 3 OU from the TCU 32. This is just your standard 'pick play' on the outside with Shepard rubbing off Neal's man and opening up an underneath route off that. Credit the o-line for giving Bell a perfect pocket from which to pass and Bell for stepping into this throw and delivering a strike. Really big play there on fourth down.
* 2nd Qtr, 2:34 - 1st & goal OU from the TCU 8. Trey Millard's lone touch in this entire game and woudn't you know it goes for a TD. The funniest part of this play though is the TCU safety who is completely unblocked, but wants absolutely no part of trying to tackle Millard. He dives at Millard's ankles, apparently being unfamiliar with what will forever affectionately be known as the Jump Truck maneuver, and the nimble big fan easily sidesteps that then scoots into the end zone. Quality read from your fullback as well to bend it back outside after things got clogged up in the middle where the play was designed to go. 10-0 OU
* Oh and by the way, then Millard comes back and makes the tackle on the ensuing kickoff coverage. He's good.
* 2nd Qtr, 1:31 - 3rd & 7 TCU from their 27. I mentioned this in my recap of the defense, but it was so damn impressive I feel compelled to do so again here. Just watch Charles Tapper on this play and, if you can, appreciate the fact that there are probably five-to-ten defensive ends in the sport (not just college, the sport) who could have made this play.
What little angle he has on this play, the fact that he's actually held by the TCU offensive linemen (plural), and that it's an athlete Boykin that he actually chases down . . . I mean, just wow. That, my friends, is what you call special.
* Fantastic job from Neal to adjust to a deflection and still haul in a pass on the sideline for a first down.
* You have to like that OU takes a shot into the end zone before settling for the field goal to close out the first half, but WTF are you thinking throwing a fade to the guy Verrett is covering?!?
End of the first half, OU leads 13-0.
* Man, Shead is just getting abused here early third quarter. Sorry big man, not trying to pick on ya but this is getting hard to watch.
* Frank Shannon has a unique talent to hide behind his defensive line on run plays while reading where the play is going, using them to avoid blocks, and leaping out at just the right time.
* 3rd Qtr, 6:26 - 4th & 6 TCU from the OU 18. Nothing fancy here, just your standard pick play. Julian Wilson has to go over instead of under with his coverage and TCU makes a 4th & 6 conversion look much easier than it should have been.
* I'm a fan of Striker rushing off the edge, but at some point you have to think teams are going to start running at him (1) because of his size and (2) because he takes such a wide angle on his rush it typically creates a natural run lane.
* Hard to call this onside kick anything other than unlucky for OU. Granted, Brannon Green does a pretty poor job of even attempting to field the ball, but the TCU kicker couldn't have possibly put it in a more perfect place.
* Rewatching the play we now know Corey Nelson's season ended on and it's about as clear as day what happened. He's coming full speed at Boykin who is scrambling then puts a cut back move on and Nelson goes flying by with this left arm fully extended. Just a case of his momentum taking him too far and with that arm extended it cause the pectoral tear. Kind of a fluky deal which makes it all the more unfortunate.
* You don't see Aaron Colvin get beat very often, let alone to the point he has to blatantly grab the receiver so as to prevent a possible touchdown pass. Two pretty rare sightings between this and Millard missing a block earlier.
* 3rd Qtr, 0:14 - 2nd & goal TCU from the OU 2. This is one reason to be worried about Dominique Alexander who with the loss of Nelson will now have to play a much more significant role in this defense. Here, he makes a pretty smart play reading the QB option early and following it down the line of scrimmage without getting caught up in the wash.
He pretty much meets Boykin head on in the hole at the three yard line, but he gets completely overpowered and taken for a piggyback ride into the end zone. Needless to say, pretty concerning true freshman or not.
End of the third quarter, OU leads 13-10.
* Still don't think the penalty on Striker when TCU tries the backwards pass to Carter in a modified flea-flicker. They never really show a good replay and in real time I can understand why they made the call as it did look bad and/or close enough. Just never personally liked that the mentality has to be to throw the flag by default.
* Loving this OU defense when they line up with maybe one, sometimes none, guy with his hand in the dirt. Caused TCU all kinds of problems in this game as it's very difficult to tell who/where the pressure is going to come from.
* I wouldn't go so far as to say Bell has happy feet here in the fourth quarter, but it seems fairly evident he's aware of how often he's been hit and not all the eager to step into the pocket and/or some of his throws.
* 4th Qtr, 5:43 - 3rd & 3 TCU from their 42. Only fair to point out a positive Alexander play after criticizing him earlier. Here he makes a very good read breaking on a quick inside slant to Carter and I believe gets a hand on the ball helping to bat it away. It's a pretty poor throw from Boykin and considerably behind Carter, but Alexander still deserves credit for making the read and then having the speed/athleticism to get in to position to make the play even if it was likely to be incomplete.
* 4th Qtr, 4:53 - 2nd & 3 OU from their 24. It probably seems obvious to put all the of credit for this 76-yard TD run on the guy who made it, Brennan Clay, but when you watch it a couple times it become even more obvious (if you'll pardon the redundancy).
You truly appreciate Clay's vision on the angle from the end zone and behind the play. The play is designed to go off left tackle, but TCU d-line crashes in that direction and the play immediately looks like it's going nowhere. But to his credit, Clay instantly recognizes this and bends it back to his right where there is an enormous cut back lane. He's aided by a horrible angle taken by both a TCU linebacker (No. 1) and a safety (No. 6). Looks to me like both underestimated his speed quite a bit. And wow, when Clay puts his foot in the ground on that cut back he really turns it on like I've never seen him do before.
* Looks like Colvin gets caught cheating a bit on TCU's ensuing drive allowing David Porter to get behind him as Boykin is flushed right after pressure from Shannon.
* I'm not going to be "that guy", but the holding on Boykin's second TD run could not have possibly been more blatant unless he flat out tackles the guy.
* As much as the FOX broadcast showed Gary Patterson in the face of his players, I kind of can't believe he didn't murder his kicker for putting this late kickoff out of bounds.
* Blake Bell's keep on the zone read to ice this game really was a thing of beauty. Just ask TCU's Sam Carter (No. 17) who gets absolutely trucked by the OU quarterback.