In his post-game presser, Coach Clawson came out and opened his comments saying that BG had 3 bad plays in the first half that turned the course of the game, and without those plays it was a close 3-3 game. Obviously, when you are down 17-3, you'd like to think you were the other team's equal for all but 3 plays as opposed to getting your butt kicked all the time, although, candidly, there is absolutely zero difference if it was true, and I'm not sure it is anyway.
Left implied but unsaid was that the first half set the direction for the second half and that the game was more or less under the Rocket's control at halftime. That part is certainly true.
Anyway, the plays he refers to are:
The 66 yard pass for a TD on 3rd and 12.
The Schilz INT.
The blown coverage on 3rd down that got UT to the 2 after the INT.
Before I look at those 3 plays, let's look at the big picture.
Coach Clawson said that BG wanted to stop the run very badly this year and to do so, committed a safety to the box. Let me just say that for all BG's talk about getting stronger and stopping the run, you aren't stopping the run until you can do it in your base defense. If you have to commit extra players to defending the run, then you are just exposing yourself in one area to defend another, and that's not how it is supposed to work.
It worked to an extent. Last year, UT had 268 rushing yards on 47 carries and a 5.7 yd average. This year, UT had only 130 on 39 runs for a 3.3 yard average. However, yesterday UT completed 72% of its passes for 15.3 yards per completion--322 yards on only 29 passing attempts....and you're going to have a hard time winning like that.
In the end, how does it net out? Last year UT scored 28 points on 6.6 yards per play. This year it was 27 points on 6.6 yards per carry.
So, 3 plays.
The 66 yard TD pass on a 3rd and 12 play was a matter of UT recognizing single coverage on Alonzo Russell along the left sideline and executing a perfect throw to him after he killed the single coverage. It looks to me like BG was in two-deep coverage, which is supposed to prevent something like that and that the deep help was late coming over on the strong side and that essentially provided UT with a big play TD to open the scoring.
The second play was Matt Schilz throwing an INT on a slant route. Our West Coast attack calls for a lot of slants and UT was really jamming the slants early and there was a lot of traffic. The ball was probably a little off and the WR probably didn't defend the ball the way he should have, but just when BG needed first downs, it was giving UT the ball.
Finally, the third play...which Coach Clawson referred to as a "blown" coverage on 3rd down that got UT to the 1 yard line. Let's look at the play.
Here is the play as it started. The arrow points to Fluellen, who has run out to the right in motion to empty the backfield. Note that BG has 3 players over there and one safety over the top.
Now, the play is underway. One of the BG players on the left blitzed and the other one is on the 15 with an unclear objective (to me). In the circle, you can see that UT is running a crossing route with Fluellen and a WR who started on the line. You can also see that the corner is going with the WR and no one is going with Fluellen.
And here we have the coup de grace. Both the CB and S are on the WR and Fluellen is far more wide open than anyone should be in the red zone. Busted coverage. I don't know who was supposed to cover Fluellen but I'm pretty sure it was someone and my guess is that the corner should have stayed with Fluellen and left the S to cover the guy coming off the line.
Anyway, those are Coach Clawson's 3 plays in the first half that he feels set the tone and, based on his comments, determined the game. Later, we'll look at some things from the second half that probably had an impact.