I'm one of those dullards that watch the offensive and defensive lines; you know the dancing bears inside rather than the gazelles who run around shushing the crowd and mock eating things. The game starts up front, regardless of what you think of your favorite quarterback, running back, or receiver, they aren't surviving without those big beautiful beasts up front. For every cornerback that wags his finger at anyone who dares to throw at him, there's a fire hydrant two technique absorbing double teams and making life easier on his linemates. That's why from the opening two series of the UTSA/Texas State game the Roadrunners were going to run night. They were that good up front defensively.
A little background, UTSA took the opening drive and converted a field goal, a win for Texas State. On Texas State's first drive, Damian Williams lost the snap, regained it and lost the handoff and Josiah Tauaefa and that Pert Plus hair ran it into the end zone for a 10-0 lead and the nachos weren't even cold.
We'll pick things up with Texas State backed up on the next series, inside their own six-yard yard. The Bobcats need to stop the bleeding, get a first down or two, and get into a rhythm. Spoiler alert, they did. They drove the football 94 yards for a touchdown. The capacity crowd was excited and should have been, but I'll bet Zach Kuhr and the coaches in the booth were going down their play sheet marking through options because the Bobcat offensive line wasn't going to win the war up front.
Here's exhibit A.
Every defensive line coach emphasizes reestablishing the line of scrimmage, the same way every offensive line coach emphasizes that his charges fire off and move the line of scrimmage downfield. On the first real offensive play of the game, Texas State's offensive line was on skates. It's never good when your back makes a great run to get back to the line.
Here's second down:
Watch Kevin Strong Jr. from his defensive tackle position, and see what not fair looks like. Strong gets his hands on the guard's pads, turns him, whips through and blows up the play. The loneliest feeling for an offensive lineman is running back towards your quarterback as your man gets a free run. We used to call those "lookout blocks."
Now here's a positive play for Texas State, a great throw under duress on a crossing route, the key is under duress. Damian Williams might be the most qualified to run Texas State's offense because he can make plays in a dirty environment. We wrote about this last week, but we're also trying to make clear that the old "go make a great play" strategy isn't sustainable. It wasn't Saturday night.
Again, the result is great, but look beyond the result to the foreshadowing, Williams is on his back foot, the right tackle is dusted, and the right guard gets beat again off the snap. That's not an in-game correction. That's a physical mismatch. Anytime you see an offensive lineman's numbers on a TV broadcast; things aren't going well. Notice the left side of the line, holding up very well using three to block two, but the right side is the wrong kind of on fire.
Last two clips, merged into one:
Take your kids out in the backyard, if you don't have children borrow some, have them run an in route and count to two Mississippi, that's what Williams dealt with all night, and his feet were backpedaling off the snap by the third series. The second clip on that sequence shows a quarterbacks nightmare, a free rusher off the blind side, and as you roll to buy time your right tackle is chasing his responsibility. You can yell lookout all you want; it ain't helping. Strong Jr., Marcus Davenport, and Eric Banks made a living manhandling Bobcat lineman on Saturday night.
That's not a fluke, its nuance, but watch Davenport at the .26 second mark of the second clip, from the end zone camera, he uses a great armbar to disable the tackle and create space. That's not something he had in his bag a year ago. Credit coaching and Bo Davis for that growth and the reason UTSA is a favorite to win CUSA West.