Both Arkansas and Texas are looking to end the 2014 season with positive momentum Monday night. Such momentum can mean good things for recruiting and spring practice, as well as program hype heading into next fall. Both teams have strengths on defense, but we wanted to take a look at the Texas offense to get an idea for what to expect in Houston.
Texas on offense has been the picture of inconsistency throughout the 2014 season. Where the Arkansas defense has improved from week to week and march into this bowl game riding a wave of momentum (2 shutouts and holding the #1 team in the nation at the time to 17 points) the Longhorns on the other hand are coming in after a 4 interception blowout loss to TCU. Tyrone Swoopes' play has been as erratic as a drunken rodeo clown and this Texas team goes where he takes them for better or worse.
The ups and downs of any young QB thrown into the fire early as Swoopes was this year, can be extreme, but his play this season sets the bar pretty high/low. Completing 58% of his passes is not terrible but in a system that should allow for short high % throws on a regular basis mixed with easier rollout bootlegs that percentage does not look as impressive and the high int to td ratio is the biggest problem. The main area where he has struggled is taking too many sacks and throwing late over the middle trusting his arm. There are players on the roster who can be dangerous in both the passing and rushing aspect of the game. The offensive line is young and has struggled at times which undoubtedly has led to some of Swoopes' struggles.
Against West Virginia:
Texas racked up 227 yards rushing on WVU, taking advantage of mismatches between running backs Jonathon Gray and Malcolm Brown against the WVU linebackers. Arkansas has played the zone read very differently this year and teams have not had much success. Ole Miss, LSU, and Miss St. all attempted variations gaining few yards.
Bottom line: Texas beat a team that struggled to tackle in space, and shut down WVU's top WR target with double coverage. No threat in the run game allowed Texas to focus on Kevin White.
Texas shot themselves in the foot early with three false starts and a delay of game on the first drive. The offense was still able to move the ball mostly by a good mix of play-action like this play, which is identical to Jim Chaney's go-to bunch passing concept.
The inevitable pick six by Swoopes blew the game open. From that point on his throws were more tentative and Oklahoma controlled the game.
Texas' offensive line struggles have been well documented and they have not overwhelmed anyone other than Texas Tech which Arkansas completely obliterated up front.
Bottom line: Texas was not beaten by OU because of better scheme or talent. Texas lost with turnovers, penalties and mistakes on special teams.
No Jaxson Shipley, and 5 turnovers that led directly to 24 points for TCU. Impossible to win with those mistakes, and if Arkansas can copy that gameplan with pressure early then the Razorbacks could see the same outcome.
Bottom line: Texas was overwhelmed by the swarming defense of TCU and made too many mistakes to have a chance.
Harris is the number one wide receiver for Texas but I think Shipley is the guy that will be the most dangerous match up for Arkansas. Him being out vs TCU changed their whole gameplan and he will be a key part of the Texas gameplan against Arkansas.** They like to use him over the middle on the spot route, deep in, and outside on double moves wheel routes etc. He does not have the speed to outrun the Arkansas corners but has the quickness to find a hole in the zone over the middle.
The Arkansas front will shut down the run game as they have most of the season.
The Hogs will see a lot of pistol, inside zone, outside zone, power and counter, quick passes, and under center one back 2 TE runs. Look for play action on 1st down often.
Swoopes plays well when things are going well, but gets frustrated and makes bad decisions once he makes mistakes. He does not have elite speed, but may be able to escape and pick up an occasional first down. I think Robb Smith will play him a lot like he played Jeremy Johnson and Bo Wallace by sending pressure to crash the edge and force him to step up in the pocket where he is uncomfortable.
He does not excel at reading coverages. He usually has a 1/2 field read with only 1 or 2 progressions and a check down, forces the ball into coverage, doesn't have much pocket presence, and panics when feels the rush. A major factor will be keeping contain on the high number of bootlegs and rollouts. Not necessarily putting pressure on the throw but forcing him to set up quick or look to an outlet.
Swoopes does throw a good deep ball if given time. Strong and OC Shaun Watson will try to max protect and throw deep.
What will happen in the 2nd half, where Texas and Arkansas have both struggled?
Arkansas will get all kinds of pressure on Tyrone Swoopes. He is not Teddy Bridgewater, who excelled at Louisville in the same system. If the Hogs force a bad turnover early, this game could get out of hand by 2-3 touchdowns as they did against TCU and Oklahoma. It would be reasonable to think in a bowl game atmosphere that Strong would try to build his QB's confidence level as the game progressed. The main way he might try to do this is with the zone read or simple QB lead to get him going.
Losing Rohan Gaines and Carroll Washington will cut the depth but also give Henre Tolliver, Joshua Liddell and DJ Dean some valuable experience. I have to think the linebackers and DBs for Arkansas see this as a chance to shine again. The LSU gameplan contained Anthony Jennings and stifled the ground game. Lets hope we see the same performance in a charged atmosphere in Houston for the last game of 2014.