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'Coach': Despite missed tackle, KU dials 'exactly correct call' on Rice's fourth-down conversion

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For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."

This week, I wanted to look at Rice's fourth-and-four conversion in the fourth quarter of Kansas' 25-24 loss to Rice on Saturday.

Though it initially looks like a bubble screen for the tight end, Coach says that's not the case because the receivers aren't blocking for the tight end at the bottom of the screen.

"They're running a combo route here, having all their receivers get to the sticks to try to get a first down," Coach says.

Routes

Routes by Jesse Newell

"This slot receiver (red arrow) is going to be the outlet receiver. (The quarterback) gets pressure, so he ends up having to throw to the outlet receiver, probably before he wants to."

Coach pauses the video at six seconds.

Six seconds

Six seconds by Jesse Newell

"That's an absolutely great picture if you're the Kansas defense," Coach says. "Both the KU defenders have an angle on the receiver. They just need to close to the near hip and not over-run it. They just need to make a tackle."

After that, everything breaks down.

The first man up is safety Dexter Linton, who was in following an injury to starter Lubbock Smith.

Coach says Linton's biggest mistake here isn't missing the tackle. He actually does the right thing by trying to tackle low against a bigger tight end.

Instead, Coach says it's the angle that he takes to the receiver.

Many coaches say, "Use the sideline as your friend," and in this case, Coach says that's what Linton needed to do.

By going "inside-out" on the tight end — starting inside and forcing the receiver outside — Linton would not only have a better chance at getting him out of bounds, he'd also have the added benefit of getting help from cornerback Greg Brown behind him.

Linton overruns the play, though, and misses the tackle while also allowing Vance McDonald to get back to the inside.

Linton

Linton by Jesse Newell

Though Brown also overruns the play, Coach says his positioning on the outside might be based on his expectation that Linton is going to force the action outside.

In that case, Coach says KU would have had play bottled up from both sides, with one defender on the inside and one to help clean up the tackle on the outside.

"It kind of looks like that's what No. 5 (Brown) is doing," Coach says. "He thinks 23 is going inside-out on it, so he's going to go to the outside and keep No. 88 in between both of them to make a definite tackle and get it on the ground before the first down."

Brown does end up making the tackle, but McDonald is able to keep his balance for two big steps before falling forward for the first down.

"That tight end does a good job of making a play, cutting back to the middle of the field and not giving up on the play and saying, 'I'm down,'" Coach says. "Going up and getting the first down ... that's an excellent job."

Coach says the missed tackle masks the fact that KU did a lot of things right on this play.

For one, the Jayhawks get almost immediate pressure on Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue.

That starts with defensive end Josh Williams, who uses a "Jet" technique — jetting straight up the field — to get pressure on the QB.

Williams

Williams by Jesse Newell

Notice also that, just a half-second before the play, it doesn't appear that KU is blitzing.

Coach says KU linebacker Tunde Bakare does a great job of timing his blitz, coming just before the snap to catch Rice off-guard.

Bakare comes inside of Williams and also helps bring an immediate pass rush.

Bakare

Bakare by Jesse Newell

Pressure

Pressure by Jesse Newell

"Those two really did a good job right there to get pressure on the quarterback, force the ball out," Coach says. "That's exactly what you'd like in short-yardage situation ... get the ball out of the QB's hands in a hurry, then let's go make a tackle."

Coach also says this is a good call by defensive coordinator Dave Campo.

KU brings five on the play — three linemen and two linebackers — which leaves KU with a single free safety to help cover the middle of the field.

Cover 1

Cover 1 by Jesse Newell

That leaves all KU's other defenders in man-to-man.

"A little bit of a risky coverage, but when you blitz, you absolutely have to get pressure," Coach says. "KU does get pressure right here. They get the ball out quick like we said. The ball's caught two or three yards behind the line of scrimmage. They have exactly what they want. They just have to make a tackle.

"KU dialed up the exactly correct call right here. You just have to execute."

Coach says there are times in football when a coach makes a poor defensive call, putting his team in a bad situation.

There are other times when a coach makes a good call — putting everyone in the right position — but a player just doesn't make a play.

"Both times are very frustrating for a coach," Coach says. "Actually, the first one not as much frustrating as the second one."

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