MGN Film Room: Turnovers vs UTSA

I rewatched the game.

I certainly did not start out my evening intending to do this. I watched the Spurs lose to the Jazz, thought about how those self-inflicted mistakes cost them in a game they had every chance to win.

There are obvious parallels here. I went to CUSA.tv with the aim of grabbing clips of the four turnovers. Thanks to a combination of laziness, a comfy chair, a lack of fine grain video controls, and momentum I rewatched the entire game.

Summary:

  • Our OL got owned, particularly through the A and B gaps on the left side
  • After a slow start, the offense did some nice things with 20 personnel
  • The defense played well but still had a problem on 3rd down

This game has been bothering me for a little bit, not because of the Rivalry, or the Lost Opportunity, but because it was so winnable. In the recap I wrote about the importance of the turnovers and the run game problems. Having watched this game a second time, I am even more confident in that assertion. Really, the worst two turnovers were the 3rd Qtr one. Wilson’s fumble was unlucky, but given the time I do not know if the the team is getting even three points there. The Mason Fine throw-fumble was a gut punch, because it killed the second half excitement in the team. Mason Fine had just ran 80 yards, the defenese pushed UTSA back 5 yards and the sideline was hyped. After that one-play turnover, the defense still was solid, only allowing a FG after a 6-play 20 yard drive.

Then Mason Fine got cooking, everything was looking good and NT looked to be having the kind of drive they were all set to have. Then he over threw Jeff Wilson on the screen. The defense gave up a 2nd-and-18 31-yard completion and then UTSA ran the ball in for a TD a couple of plays later.

By this time NT had a high defensive pitch count. The next defensive drive was also a TD drive, the longest of the day for them. The D was a bit exausted, and the pass rush was slow.

None of these are excuses. I am sure Ekeler and Reffert have higher expectations than ‘good enough’. Still, I am a reasonable guy and want to have reasonable complaints. I cannot blame the defense for those last two TDs, as UTSA is a good enough team to score against even the best CUSA squad.

Now that the scene is set, let us analyze those TOs:

The first came with NT down 14, having done very 2016 NT offense to that point — holding on the very first play of the game for example — with four punts on the first four possessions. There were overthrows, stuffed runs, slips, and bad execution mixed with some good defensive line play from UTSA.

Two things from this: 1. It is hard to see over 6′ 4″ lineman as a generous 5′ 10″ player. So I can possibly see how he did not see Thadd Thompson sitting pretty, wide open. 2. Do not throw that pass to our RB, like that. It was first down and 10, NT had just got the offense moving. That was the time to toss it out of bounds and move on. Freshman mistake.

The defense really stepped up here, and prevented an early blowout. This is a big difference from last year. UTSA managed only 4 yards on the next 7 plays over two drives (sandwiched around an NT 3 and out for 0 yards)

We’ll skip the fumble, but lets note that was a great drive sparked by throws to the RBs Wilson and Ivery. Run game was stuffed throughout this thing.

The second TO was right after the Mason Fine 80 (!!!) yard TD run, and subsequent defensive stand. Things were looking good.

Wut. Just bad luck I guess.

Then next TO was awful particularly because this play was destined to get YARDS. NT still could not get yards with the backs but Mason had a 20 yard run on 3rd and 2. NT was at the UTSA 39 … and then threw that pick.

Before the video, look at this blocking set up.

Two OL and a WR for two LBs

Two OL and a WR for two LBs

Two blockers for two UTSA guys, a blitz on so you know that this was going for some YARDS (unless Jeff slipped like he did in the second quarter).

Maybe this gets chalked up to Mason Fine getting hit, or being tired from running 100 yards in this quarter. Maybe it was just adrenaline. Maybe, it was just an overthrow at the wrong time, the way Army had all the bad luck last week. Maybe maybe maybe. That is what is so frustrating about this game. While the first TO was a bad read that can be corrected, the throw-fumble and this pick were simply bad luck?

How do you correct that?

Things like this can be corrected. Do not throw late over the middle.

This is why I mostly point to the run game. While we cannot reasonably expect 8.5 yards per carry from Jeff Wilson, we can hope the offensive line creates some push to give him a chance. We saw what he could do when he had space to make plays. He was being met in the backfield often, or running into walls. When he had some room, he usually made someone miss and got more than he should have.

Some Notes

NT Alumnus Don Harris called the game along with another local guy named Chuck. I want to root for Don for obvious reasons but they were bad. They called an inside zone run that went to the A gap an ‘off tackle’ run. They called a designed short pass a ‘check down’. Chuck called Jenkins Rutherford, because did not notice the double number situation going on. Non good.

The raw broadcast is on CUSA.tv, where you can find the random talk they have on hot mics. They also noted that Jeff Wilson hustled back to save the day on the goalie fumble. “It is probably not worth mentioning because this is not a North Texas broadcast but look at that hustle!”

Other random things:

  • “Are you going to protest” — Don to Chuck, before the anthem.
  • “Ooooh Say” – Chuck singing at the start of the broadcast.
  • Hector Ledesma not making a case for sideline reporters as reporters.
  • You can see the Scrappy stomp there.