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Scouting Report: Patience in Justice Almost Pays Off in TCU Loss

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More than 35 percent of Justice Hill’s carries came when Oklahoma State was trailing by 17 or more Saturday.

“The clock was working against us,” coach Mike Gundy said. “You want to be as patient (as you can), and I thought Mike (Yurcich) and them were pretty patient, being as far behind as we were. I thought they did a nice job of not panicking.”

Outside of an absolutely inexplicable double pass that ended in an interception, patience was the name of the game, and it almost worked in the Cowboys’ 44-31 loss. OSU found itself down a touchdown with 3:03 left and two timeouts in its pocket. Of course the Cowboys couldn’t get a third down stop, as it couldn’t almost all day, and instead gave up a 42-yard touchdown up the gut.

But they had a chance, and despite how ugly the game was, Hill had his second best game of the season. Here is this week’s breakdown and how Justice took full advantage of Yurcich’s patience.

Moves

A few times Saturday, Hill pulled stunts that made the game bearable.

First, maybe the most impressive of the day, Yurcich called a direct run (no run-pass option) with a little over 11 minutes left and OSU down 20.

Hill grabbed the handoff, blasted through the hole and handed out a stiff arm similar to the one he gave a Tulsa defensive end. The rest was speed to get around No. 7, and it should have gone for even longer (had the referee not blown his whistle even though Hill didn’t step out of bounds).

Hill’s upper body strength has been overlooked since the win over the Golden Hurricane in the season-opener, but the next two runs served as a slap to the face, or for TCU, a stomp to the heart.

At the right angle here, Hill must have looked like he was playing that Hole in the Wall game running full speed. Step two was ripping through a linebacker’s leg tackle, and step three was the strong finish that knocked the safety’s head back about six inches and his body back three yards.

A few plays later, Hill was loose again. The most impressive part of this run was the finish. Maybe his most improved aspect of his game, surging for a few extra yards makes my eyes open a little wider every time.

This 16-yard scamper was no different. Just hold on to the ball.

Many of Hill’s runs were, as Gudy put it, “one block away” from busting off a long one. There were plenty of example of that.

Think back to the Cowboys’ first third down conversion. Hill got the ball on a draw and looked gone for at least a dozen yards. The edge rusher dived and grabbed Hill by the ankle, and it turned into a gain of six.

“When you slip off a block against good tacklers, you get a six-yard gain,” Gundy said. “If you slip off a block vs. a team that’s not as athletic as (TCU), you get a 60-yard gain.”

Directional

Because of the design of the Cowboys’ run-pass option plays, it’s hard to determine whether a run is meant to be more like a sweep or off tackle or in the A and B gaps.

What’s easy is watching where Hill takes it. As you’ll see, the OSU offensive line creates a kind of shell or bubble, and though one hole is supposed to be hit, he takes the ball wherever he wants.

Hill almost exclusively tucked it through the tackle box. In fact, of his 25 carries, only two went outside to the right, and none went around the left side. And when you see these stats, you will see why.

The OSU O-line might not have protected Mason Rudolph too well, but Hill found an average of 4.1 yards of success.

Run Type

OSU ran three distinct run types: Slam, draw and the RPO. Of course there were some variations to all of those, but those were Yurcich’s core calls, and there was a decent deal of success in each branch of the Hillitary.

A lot of reporters asked Gundy, Yurcich and the like about why the running game didn’t perform well, which I thought was misplaced. When you look at the Cowboys’ 4.2 average by the running backs, that would be good enough for 70th among all FBS teams if it was OSU’s season average. Not great, but not awful either.

To contrast that, Rudolph came into Saturday averaging 11.6 yards per attempt. Against the Frogs, he hit just a 9.7 clip, and when you delete James Washington’s 86-yard touchdown (which I realize is unfair), Rudolph’s average dropped to 7.8/per.

Either way, Hill was pretty good at times, and OSU tried to ride him. Gundy expected more, though, and noted that OSU really needed its running backs to shine.

“We didn’t run the ball as effectively so it’s simple,” said Gundy. “When they play off, we’ve got to run the ball, but if we aren’t going to run the ball when they play off, we’ve got to be really good on the underneath stuff.”

Run Type Carries Yards Avg. TDs
RPO 12 41 3.4 0
Slam 10 49 4.9 1
Draw 3 12 4 0
Total 25 102 4.1 1

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