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Texas Tech Provides Defensive Dilemma for Cowboys

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After Oklahoma State allowed Kenny Hill to complete 67 percent of his passes and throw for almost 230 yards in their 44-31 loss against TCU, many criticized defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer for a lack of aggressive play calling. Spencer often rushed three or four defenders and dropped the rest into coverage, as he has almost always done in his time as defensive coordinator.

As an aside: I think it’s important to remember defensive coordinators, and coaches and players in general, want to win more than fans do considering it’s their job. We as fans and media can often forget that, and it’s easier to think something should or shouldn’t have been done in hindsight.

That being said, I would agree that against TCU it would have been in the Cowboys’ best interest to send pressure and force Hill to beat the defense with his arm.

Even if the Horned Frogs scored off a couple of big plays, the chances of them being able to keep up with the Pokes’ offense is low if Hill was frequently getting pressured and the run game faced a heavy box.

This was also the case in OSU’s game last year against Kansas State. The Cowboys were so worried about the big play that they would often come out in three-deep coverage and the Wildcats ran over them throughout the game. So yes, I agree that OSU should have been pressure-heavy, but solely for TCU.

There isn’t an effective blanket game plan; some strategies work against teams that wouldn’t work against others. Texas Tech is one of those teams.

With Pat Mahomes now in Kansas City and Nic Shimonek at the starting spot, the Red Raiders are a bit more selective with their deep shots. Although they still have deep passing plays, TTU’s offense now leans on efficient quick passes and a diverse run and screen game to take pressure off of Shimonek.

It’s similar to Hal Mumme’s original Air Raid, where he used quick passing and screens as an extension of the run game. Additionally, they operate almost exclusively out of 10 personnel, and they spread out the defense and force it to cover the entire field both vertically and horizontally. When you combine both of these things with tempo, the effectiveness of pressure can be minimized.

On the other hand, if you sit back in three-deep coverage, the offense can spread out and pick you apart underneath with its quick game, just like the Red Raiders did against OSU last year. Against Tech, OSU would likely find the most success with a happy medium.

But right now, there isn’t a medium. The Cowboys did send pressure against the Horned Frogs, especially in their third-down packages. But, as mentioned before, Spencer often favors maximum coverage over pressure. Because of this, TCU was able to run the ball effectively, and its offense averaged over 6.5 yards on first-down plays.

Take their first drive, for example. OSU sent four or fewer rushers on nine of TCU’s 12 plays. Additionally, eight the 12 plays were in zone. The Horned Frogs averaged 6.7 yards on first down, and they only had two third downs.

The Cowboys are in a bind. If you bring pressure too much, you leave your young corners susceptible to getting beat. But if you rush four and sit back in zone, Tech can pick your defense apart. Oftentimes they will have alerts tagged in their base concepts so if the defense does blitz, the quarterback has a deep route (skinny post, streak, etc.) he can throw to.

It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, and OSU likely won’t stop Tech completely. But the one thing the Cowboys can’t do is be static, because if TCU showed anything, it’s that they need to try something different.

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