Houston suffered a rough afternoon against Texas Tech this weekend. The Cougars ran into a shockingly competent defensive buzz saw in David Gibbs' rebuilt group. We charted all 48 of Kyle Allen's dropbacks to see what happened to Houston's passing offense.
Before we get in depth, a few baseline particulars, Allen completed 24 of 39 attempts for 217 yards, a touchdown, and two picks. The Cougars benched him just into the fourth quarter for Kyle Postma as Houston struggled, down seventeen.
Here's Allen's passing chart:
A few observations:
It's easy to generalize what happens on any given Saturday overly. For Houston, the narrative is that Allen struggled and therefore the Cougars couldn't move the ball. While that's true, if we drill down a bit, there's more to the story.First, David Gibbs' defense did an excellent job varying coverage, bringing pressure, and disguising. The Red Raiders would show blitz, then drop eight or nine into coverage. At the outset Tech dropped a ton of traffic into zone coverage and clogged passing lanes, then the Red Raiders transitioned into more man principles. Gibbs two-plus year rebuild looks completely on track.
If nothing else, Gibbs put Houston off-track and off-schedule from the beginning. Allen and the rest of the offense never looked comfortable. The Cougars offense then reverted to swing passes and 50/50 balls, hoping for a missed tackle or for someone to make a play. Hope isn't a strategy.
In 44 dropbacks, Tech pressured with five or more just four times. Near the end of the game, those numbers didn't matter; Tech pressured with as few as two. Numbers didn't matter because Tech twisted and shifted and physically beat the Cougar offensive line. Houston lost the battle on the line of scrimmage, in particular from guard to guard. Tech's defensive tackles prevented Houston from getting any push-up front. Last season the Cougars could rely on Greg Ward Jr. making plays with his legs to augment the run game, Allen doesn't give the 2017 Houston offense that option.
By the second quarter, Tech's offense ran 37 plays with Houston's only having run 17. The Cougars seemed to make a concerted effort to run the football, if for no other reason to keep Houston's defense rested.
Houston receivers dropped four passes, not counting a couple of 50/50 balls they had a chance to bring down. Allen missed the target on seven passes, including three throws aways. Allen's first pick came on a Gibbs' zone drop. Dakota Allen dropped into his middle zone and stepped right in front of the pass. That pass came on the second attempt of Allen's afternoon and seemed to set a tone for the day. In Allen's first ten passes he completed five but only two beyond the line of scrimmage. Texas Tech never brought more than four rushers but rattled the Houston offense.
Allen wasn't hit too much in the game, eight times in 44 drops or 18% of his dropbacks. That's pretty good and highlights the point that Gibbs' strategy was to confuse Houston with coverage. As a bi-product Allen struggled to find open throwing lanes and Houston's offense derailed.