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Charting The Houston Game: It Was... Basically Exactly What You Thought.

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I went back and watched every play of the Houston game. It’s not just one thing, but so many of the problems could be helped from better play design.

NCAA Football: Houston at South Florida Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry I’m just getting to this the day before the UConn game, but this job pays really terribly unlike the other ones I do. I watched every play back of the Houston game from the ESPN feed. Watching football film on TV is the worst way to do it as there’s some things the tv cameras miss, and line play is very hard to diagnose, but it’s better than nothing.

And maybe someday our friends at the American Conference will make it publicly available as we’ve asked them to do for a subscription price many times. Some conference is going to get ahead of the curve on this, and when they do I hope they call me because a friend of mine and I have a plan for this ready to go tomorrow.

From the Houston game, here’s what I found:

USF by personnel:

10 (1 RB, 0 TE, 4 WR): 18 plays

11 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR): 55 plays

12 (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR): 18 plays (including entire final possession)

14??: 1 play (TD by Johnson on 4th & 2)

Empty: zero

WR alignment:

Stacked receiver plays: 6

Strong side to boundary: 11

Note: Video lies. Glad I mentioned this before. Previous part about 10 guys on the field on a play deleted. He was completely covered up by the tight end by the sideline camera.

Note: we’ve already said enough about this on Twitter and podcasts, but snapping the ball with 16 seconds left on the play clock on third down on the last possession is a failure to do the most basic thing anyone that’s even looked at a joystick much less shoulder pads knows what to do. Especially when you lose the game with 11 seconds left. It’s malfeasance, no matter what Coach Strong says after the game about that’s not why they lost and 4th and 24. It’s horrible process, and that’s something they can control.

These camera guys were brutal for finding patterns downfield, as they kept the shot pretty tight on the pocket in passing situations. But that doesn’t hurt in finding one thing, which is: where’s the checkdown or safety valve for Quinton on all these throws??

I know everyone loves Four Verts, but one of the staples of that play is the running back heading to the flat, either directly or after chipping a pass rusher, to give him a place to put the ball if the pocket collapses. Most of the time on USF’s long-developing deep pass plays, the back is asked to stay in and block. Both Tice and Johnson do this well, but they might be even more effective taking the pressure off as a guy that can catch a dump pass and run forever in space. Even more so when you specially consider Quinton’s ability to deliver strikes from the pocket.

Or hell, use a TE that stays into block in that half-fullback position and have him be the valve. Both Wilcox and Dillon can catch, and are big enough to run people over.

The other issue is: when do guys go over the middle? USF lines up tight ends both on the line and as virtual fullbacks, but one of these guys going over and sitting down in a zone might help keep some of the pressure off Quinton as well. So many of the pass patterns start outside the numbers and stay there.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught two passes more that five yards downfield between the hash marks that I saw, including his 33-yard haul to set up the final TD. And that’s it. So much of what USF does is from the numbers out, which certainly doesn’t play to Quinton’s strength as a quarterback unless it’s finding man coverage and throwing over the top on go routes.

Saturday was a ton of hitch routes, stop routes, curl routes, and lots of underneath stuff to the field side. The same stuff we’ve seen all season. If you went through every play in football and asked “what is the worst thing I could have Quinton Flowers do while quarterbacking my team?”, besides a steady diet of jump passes or the West Coast Offense from under center, I can’t think of much that plays to his talent less.

Even though we knew this but calling it a dive play over and over is funnier, but USF does do a few different things out of those repeated halfback handoffs. Sometimes they run power out of it, pulling a guard (usually Jeremi Hall). Sometimes they zone block it and it’s just a zone read. Sometimes they use misdirection with the fullback-tight end going one way and the ball the other.

But they don’t get on the edge with it a lot, especially with the personnel they have. To be fair in this particular game, Houston flies to the ball effectively, and there were some stretch concepts where the TE would miss a block and give time to the rest of the Coogs to pursue while Tice or Johnson ducked the first guy.

And I did check: if you don’t count bubbles or tunnels... Not. One. Screen. And you have D’Ernest Johnson on your team.

“Hello sir here is a brand new MacBook...”

“NOPE GONNA USE THIS TYPEWRITER INSTEAD GET ME MOAR RIBBON!”

It makes absolutely no sense. I know Marlon Mack isn’t here anymore, and that’s the reason a lot of people give for the Bulls lack of oomph this year... but Mack wasn’t on the field when DJ was last year. And USF found a way to make huge plays with Johnson because he is such a versatile piece. Why can’t they do that now??

I was hoping this was going to give USF fans a lot of data they could use and maybe see some of the method behind what’s happening here. But on the whole: your eyes ain’t lying.