Late in the third quarter, Arkansas had driven down the field and were posed to score and potentially tie the game at 28. But the Texas Tech defense held on and forced the Razorbacks to kick a field goal, and from this point on, the Hogs couldn’t make up the deficit.
3rd and 3
The Hogs were facing a crucial third down inside the 5 yard line. Tech was able to force this 3rd down by another outstanding play by Rika Levi, who fought off an obvious (but uncalled) holding penalty to drop the running back in the backfield.
With a short yardage situation, Arkansas manned up and went into their jumbo package, saying all but “we’re running it right at you. Try and stop us.” And Tech did.
The formation included three tight ends and a fullback. The third tight end motioned into an H-back position behind the guard and acted as the first lead blocker, with the fullback following behind. You would think that when Arkansas wants to pick up a few yards, putting in three tight ends and using two lead blockers that they would be able to get the few yards the need. But here we see how Big 12 speed can defeat SEC power & size.
Size vs Speed
The action in that gif happens so quickly. Let’s look at a few screenshots to breakdown what was happening.
Almost surprisingly, Tech didn’t substitute here to matchup with the big formation of Arkansas. If you look across the line of scrimmage, you’ve got (top to bottom/left to right) Tevin Madison, Pete Robertson, Dakota Allen, Rika Levi, Breiden Fehoko, Branden Jackson and JahShawn Johnson. Behind them are Keenon Ward, Micah Awe, JJ Gaines and Malik Jenkins.
After the snap, you can see that the backside tight end attempts to cut Jackson but only slows him down a step. Johnson flies off the edge unblocked, but he’s coming from the backside. The playside tight end has Madison locked up, the right guard and tackle have doubled Allen and has him moving backwards. Rika Levi is one of the only linemen NOT double teamed here, which makes no sense if you’re Arkansas, as he’s the one blowing through his lineman. The first lead blocker has Robertson, but look at Ward, who’s standing on the first down line. He sees the hole opening and is flying in.
The full back picks up Ward, almost, but Johnson is still screaming in off the edge. You can see Levi fighting off his one offensive lineman and Jackson is back up on his feet, trailing Johnson. The fact that the two lead blockers don’t blow through the line and open up a huge lane here has me optimistic that Tech is improving their run defense. Sure, Fehoko is being buried, but he’s a true freshman taking on a double team.
But by the time the freshman running back has the ball (also, why wasn’t Collins in here?), Johnson is only a couple of steps away and the running back doesn’t have a lane to run through.
At this point, Johnson has grabbed the running back a good two yards behind the line of scrimmage, Ward is beating the fullback and Jackson is right there in case the running back somehow comes free. Madison has also beaten the tight end at the top of the screen, which is impressive on its own.
After giving up seven yards on first down, the Tech defense held a power running team to 0 yards on back to back carries in big formations, inside the five yard line.
Finish the Game
Kingsbury spoke to the athleticism of Johnson in the Monday press conference, saying that in high school, his team would line Johnson up 7 yards off the ball and just have him chase it down. Gibbs employed a similar tactic here and let him come screaming in off the edge. Had Johnson been somewhere else or gotten tied up along the line, I think Tech would still have held Arkansas from getting the first down, but they may have gotten close – close enough to maybe thinking about going for it on 4th down. But as it was, Arkansas sent out the field goal unit for the 3 points. On the ensuing Tech possession, they drove down the field and scored a touchdown and put Arkansas down two scores for good.