Week 2 didn’t have a ton going on across the Big 12 and what good matchups there were largely went sideways for the conference. In a major reversal of years of tradition, LSU came into DKR and put on a clinic for modern spread passing offense. I’ve really only seen a handful of Big 12 QBs play as well as Joe Burrow did that night, although the Texas defense certainly didn’t give him the best fight.
The Longhorns did their part to represent the potency of Big 12 spread offense as well with Sam Ehlinger going for 461 yards and 5 TDs while leading his squad to 35 points against an LSU defense that was worn down and chewed up. Texas scored on every single second half possession.
West Virginia also drew an SEC opponent and got blasted by Missouri. The Mountaineers couldn’t stop the run on defense and couldn’t do much of anything on offense. The rest of the league overpowered weak competition, except Kansas who managed to lose to a Carolina directional school 12-7. Pooka Williams was held to 99 yards on 22 carries and then caught two balls for 10 yards. Yikes.
Picking on the Jayhawks
In a single offseason, Chris Klieman has restored the grit and physicality that defined the better Bill Snyder teams and was missing from the 2018 squad for most of the season. I’ll relate that I’ve heard a few behind the scenes stories to suggest that Klieman was probably aided by the departure of the 2018 senior class, which evidently wasn’t bought in on “grit ‘n’ grind” football. Exempting Dalton Risner of course, who was as physical and good an OL as I’ve seen at K-State.
Watching some of their Bowling Green game I’ve noticed five or six different players line up in the FB/TE positions. Some of them I recognize, like the lanky Blaise Gammon who started at “ancillary” for K-State last season or Mason Barta whom I recall breaking down as a HS recruit. Then there’s another dude named Logan Long, who’s a 6-4, 281 pound walk-on from Oklahoma who’s built like an oak tree. Finally, there’s Jax “the Destroyer” Dineen.
That’s A-gap power, the heart and soul of Klieman-ball. No one accounts for the backside LB which limits the damage the play inflicts but you do see Jax take the frontside LB on a ride.
Here’s the play that really caught everyone’s attention:
Split zone with Adam Holtorf (phenomenal blocker, often pulls around for some of their outside zone schemes) dominating in the A-gap and helping the LG (Evan Curl) get to the second level for James Gilbert’s benefit. Jax can be found blocking the backside where Bowling Green sent an overload with two defenders. Jax blocks them both.
Then, how badly do you think Kansas could use this sort of scheme for Pooka?
Outside zone with Jax leading on the edge and physically cutting his man to the down? With Pooka benefitting from the open edge?
At Kansas, #29 is also worn by a fullback. His name? Ben Miles. He transferred in as a walk-on after initially going to Nebraska, then transferring as a walk-on to Texas A&M, then leaving Jimbo Fisher in the lurch to come play for dad at Kansas.
Here’s Ben Miles blocking on power:
And on outside zone:
Those are both actually decent blocks, he’s in good position and even if he doesn’t bring the reckless power Jax employs the problem on these plays is along the OL. Btw, as a reminder, this is Coastal Carolina they’re failing to block here.
Clearly the Jayhawks could use more physical blockers to mix into their roster. If you watch the play of their TEs in that game you wonder if a double FB set (if one could play on the line now and again) would have been the better bet. There’s also the fact that Dineen’s older brother Joe made 142 tackles for Kansas last year while other older brother Jay is already in the rotation on defense.
Les Miles is in a crunch with the need to rebuilt his roster and use as many scholarships as possible but he let a valuable player slip away when he asked Jax to greyshirt and then really boosted his immediate in-state rival. When it became clear that the Dineens weren’t interested in sacrificing scholarship funds for the good of the Jayhawk program (uh, who can blame them?) Miles should probably have tried to include Jax in the mix. They only signed 14 players, after all, where are those extra scholarships showing up?
Who lost week 2 in the Big 12?
Running backs and Todd Orlando. I’ll have a lot more to say about Todd Orlando later this week over at Inside Texas but suffice to say that the beating that LSU put on him chased by his decision to bring a zero blitz on 3rd and 17 when the Longhorns were about to get the ball back down six points with 2:30 or so left in the game and an offense that hadn’t been stopped that half…that wasn’t a good indicator that’s he’s gaining any kind of mastery on anti-HUNH philosophy.
But running backs are another big loser in this era. LSU has pretty good running backs and their lead man Clyde Edwards-Helaire turned 15 carries into 87 yards and a score. Solid production but his job was to help move the chains and throw change-ups at the Texas defense to keep them honest and then to run smart and hard in short-yardage. Good job by CEH.
Texas went into the game with their main RB Keaontay Ingram a bit dinged up and then a recently converted QB (freshman Roschon Johnson) ended up getting a lot of snaps at that position. Do you think Texas missed having a top line RB (Ingram is probably that when healthy) in this game? Not really, they were at their most dangerous when playing in empty sets. Roschon is a smart and tough player that knew how to pass protect and could fight for tough yards, that was enough.
RBs are role players at this stage in modern offensive development. You want your best skill players to be WRs because you can do considerably more damage by throwing to your best athletes than handing them the ball. Ask LSU and Georgia’s coaches to look you in the eye and answer which method is best for attacking the Texas defense.
Who won 2 in the Big 12?
Flyover football did, consider some of the events of the weekend.
LSU installs a HUNH spread offense with input from a former Joe Moorhead assistant who then spent time with Sean Payton, then their grad transfer QB from Ohio State throws for 471 yards at 12.1 ypa on the road against Texas.
Clemson went up against A&M at home and ran this defense a fair amount:
That’s the Iowa State, 3-safety look from 3-down. Clemson of course used it to bring a wide variety of pressures while allowing some of their solid tackling but iffy covering safeties like Tanner Muse and Nolan Turner to sit on routes from depth. Notable that Kellen Mond did not see this one coming at all and he had a Y-stick combination to the other side of the field with some release valves available.
Well timed blitzes and run fills from this conservative base look are really effective. As a side note, Jimbo Fisher’s decision to bring back last year’s “pro-style” and run-centric approach did a huge disservice to the A&M roster and Kellen Mond in particular. Mond should have been getting offseason reps in running the pro-spread system that brought Jimbo his sole National Championship with Jameis Winston. In most every season since, Fisher has been trying to build off the run game. It’s truly remarkable to witness. Like if Sugar Ray had followed up “Fly” with another nu-metal record instead of the triple-platinum 14:59. Jimbo is Mark McGrath in an alternate universe.
My new book, Flyover Football, examines how the HUNH spread offense took over the Big 12 and is now taking over the rest of football. The concluding chapter mentions the counterstrategy of Iowa State’s inverted Tampa 2 defense that Clemson seems to have borrowed in the offseason. In the book I noted that it was inevitable that Iowa State’s scheme would take hold nationally.
In Chapter 7 of the book I break down the 2009 Texas vs Alabama game and explain how the Longhorns nearly won the day for the HUNH spread back then by mounting a furious comeback against Nick Saban’s fledgling Alabama with spread passing sets. But Texas had to do it with true freshman Garrett Gilbert rather than Colt McCoy, Alabama prevailed, and for the next half-decade or so everyone was convinced that Alabama’s way was “the way.” In reality, the HUNH spread had Saban licked back then, it gave him a few Ls over the next few years, and then Clemson adapted it and surpassed him.
Now Alabama’s bitter rivals and frequent victims, the LSU Tigers, have adapted it as well. This is going to be a fascinating season. If you read my book, you’ll be well caught up on the bigger picture story that’s unfolding: