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Texas A&M Football: Notes From the Film Room

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Lots of good, some bad, and many questions still unanswered

Northwestern v Texas A&M Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

After doing some much closer watching of the Texas A&M victory over Northwestern State, I wanted to just show a few little things that stood out.

OFFENSIVE LINE MISMATCH

What struck me in specifically watching the offensive line’s performance was just how superior A&M was physically. It was so easy to block the NW St. interior line, it was almost too easy.

In particular, focus on Aggie center Erik McCoy on all of these plays. Great plays by McCoy? Absolutely. But it’s kind of like LeBron James dunking on some random dude at the rec center. The talent gap is so wide, it doesn’t prove anything.

Here are just a few of the times McCoy destroyed the undersized opposition.

Again the point of all that is simply that yes, McCoy and the line played fantastic. But they simply weren’t challenged. How will the run game work when the defensive tackle doesn’t get pinned to the ground like a kid being bullied by his older brother? I still consider the offensive line to a huge question mark.

ROUTE CONCEPTS

Next is a route concept that A&M ran a few times. It’s a two-man concept and the Aggies completed the pass to both the inside and the outside receiver. On all three of these, the Aggies run it to the boundary side of the field and NW St. is in man coverage, with one deep safety, blitzing. Mond recognizes that and puts the ball on the money to Jace Sternberger for a big gain in the first clip. This was one of the better plays of the night by Mond, in my opinion.

Later, A&M runs the same concept, just on a mirror image, this time at the bottom of the screen. Once again there’s a blitz with man coverage and one deep safety, and honestly Mond could have hit either receiver but he went ahead and hit the underneath route.

Once more for fun, again, to the short side of the field, again facing a blitz, and again Mond hits Ausbon.

I spoke with one coach today who said that a lot of teams will play a Cover 6 variation with man coverage to the boundary when they see a single receiver and a tight end attached to that side. A&M likely game planned that very thing and knew they would get man coverage. And of course now the cat and mouse game between Clemson and A&M begins, as Clemson has seen that play and knows A&M likes to run it in those conditions, and of course A&M then will no doubt have a counter that they hope will work against however they think Clemson will defend it. Something to watch for.

Here’s another route combination A&M ran a few times, with a slight variation. The normal route concept from a three receiver side is where #1 and #2 run short in-routes, and the #3 receiver, closest to the quarterback, runs a corner. Every passing team does this and A&M has scored myriad touchdowns on that concept in the last several years. Here are just a few.

Those are all from four wide receiver sets, at different spots on the field, so there is variety in how they look, but if you pay attention, it’s the same route concept, and it’s what A&M used for its first touchdown pass to Jace Sternberger.

In the Sumlin era, that #3 receiver almost always ran the corner route, although I do remember seeing it altered to a corner-post at least once. What I think A&M is doing now though is making it an option route for Sternberger. Two other times in the first half, A&M ran what I believe is the same overall concept but Sternberger feels the defense and breaks to the inside rather than outside.

It’s a documented fact that Jimbo Fisher has a lot of options for his receivers and quarterbacks and post-snap adjustments based on coverage. Judging by the way Sternberger often simply went away from the defender’s leverage, I assume he has the option to run to open space wherever he sees it on a lot of these. Another thing to track as the season progresses.

MISSED BLOCKING ASSIGNMENTS

With about 11:00 left in the 2nd quarter, A&M gave up a sack when an untouched blitzer got to Mond. It was one of a handful of free rushers that came through Thursday night, which has to be somewhat concerning with Clemson looming.

I chose this one because it highlights just how confusing blitz protection can be. Before the snap, there are seven potential rushers, all at the line of scrimmage. A&M is sending three wide receivers out, so they do have seven blockers.

At the snap, all seven defenders momentarily come, but there are two problems. First, A&M as a blocking group never even considered the the bottom defender was someone to account for, which can be seen by the fact that Sternberger never even looks that direction.

But secondly, counting from the bottom rusher, watch the third, fourth, and fifth linemen for NW St. They run a stunt and the two defensive tackles drop back into coverage, so technically they only rush five. But with the stunt confusing A&M’s front, and the failure to account for the edge rusher, A&M ends up using six blockers to block three defenders, including three blockers for one defender while one runs free.

The bunch formation A&M was using compresses the field and brings more defenders in close which can make it harder to identify who is and is not a potential rusher. This type of thing is among the issues that A&M will be working to clean up in preparation for Clemson.

NW St. blitzed quite a bit, and brought several corner blitzes, especially from the boundary. Generally, A&M did ok on that side, but there were multiple misses in the A gap (right up the middle) and a couple others here and there. For A&M to compete on Saturday, they’ll need to limit the self-inflicted mistakes as much as possible. (Thanks, Captain Obvious!)