The 4-0 Texas Christian University Horned Frogs are in prime position to contend for the Big 12 Championship and a potential playoff berth. Head Coach Gary Patterson returns to his winning pedigree following a losing season:
Gary Patterson after losing years:
2004: 5-6, 2005: 11-1
2013: 4-8, 2014: 12-1
2016: 6-7, 2017:
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) September 23, 2017
A factor which makes this 2017 team very competitive is the redzone offense. Scoring seven points rather than three in that area is often what separates the great teams from the solid. Admittedly it is just four games, but TCU’s .895 conversion percentage on 19 trips is impressive. That figure is made more remarkable by their schedule; which has featured victories over Arkansas and Oklahoma State.
One key element to the RZ attack is the wildcat formation led by Sewo Olinilua. It has proven to be an effective way of finishing drives, with defenses unable to stuff the downhill power running in the short field.
With 2:11 remaining in the fourth quarter of their matchup with Arkansas, TCU lead 21-7. Facing a 1st and 10 with the ball on the 13-yard line, the offense looks to drain the clock by running ball.
They line up in a wildcat twins formation, with quarterback Kenny Hill (#7) lined up as the outside receiver. To the field side, they have in-line tight end Gabe Merrigan (#44), wingback Cole Hunt (#81) and fullback Dythan Davis (#38).
The defense responds with a 3-4 okie front. By bringing their safety down, they have eight run defenders in the box.
Pre-snap, slot receiver John Diarse (#9) motions into a wingback position. His new alignment has him facing outside—an advantageous position for sealing the run. Opposite him, the other wingback Hunt will also seal the run by attacking his edge defender. Davis, at fullback, is the lead blocker for the running back taking the direct snap, Sewo Olinilua (#33).
Post-snap, the defensive front does a poor job reacting to this play. The nose tackle allows himself to get pinned by right guard Matt Pryor (#64), plus weakside inside linebacker Dre Greenlaw (#23) is slow downhill to fill his gap, and then hesitant to block disrupt the pulling guard.
Offensively, pulling left guard Austin Schlottman (#51) gives Olinilua another blocker to run behind in addition to Davis. Hunt immediately seals the run against the edge defender, outside linebacker Randy Ramsey (#10). Davis works his way to the second level force defender, defensive back Kamren Curl (#2), and gets him outside.
Tight end Merrigan executes a fantastic drive block on 5 tech defensive end McTelvin Agim (#3). The block fully occupies Agim, who is unable to disengage. Merrigan is initially aided by right tackle Lucas Niang (#77), who then moves from his combo block to stopping the strongside inside linebacker from filling his gap. Schlottmann, when getting downhill, helps to fully open the seam for Oilinilua by joining Merrigan’s block at the crucial moment with a chip.
The blocking gets the running back one-on-one versus safety Santos Ramirez (#9). This is exactly what the offense wants. Olinilua runs through Ramirez and gets skinny through the gang tackling. Crucially, he puts his pads low and drives his feet. Schlottman, center Patrick Morris (#58) and Davis do a fantastic job pushing the pile for the touchdown.
For TCU, this was the exact same play and formation as their score with 10.45 left in the first quarter.
Winning 27-17 versus Oklahoma State, TCU decided to line up in the wildcat for the first time. It is second and goal with the ball on the 1 yard line. There is 4:39 left in third quarter. They had previously run a quarterback power from a shotgun formation, making this counter a logical play call.
The offense has a tight end, fullback and wingback to the strongside fieldside. Quarterback Kenny Hill (#7) is isolated to the boundary, and there is another receiver—out of shot—to the field side. Olonilua (#33) is taking the snap again. They will run a counter play.
The defense is in a 5-3 stack goal line formation that in this situation places nine defenders in the box. The formation is heavily weighted to the strongside, and they are selling out to stop the run.
On this occasion, Austin Schlottmann (#51) is at right guard. He aligns further back than is typical, helping him pull behind the center. At left tackle, Joseph Noteboom (#68) and left guard Cordel Iwuagwu (#70) lay a fantastic mauling combo downblock, pinning playside defensive end Jordan Brailford (#94) inside.
The overhang defender, safety Ramon Richards (#7), is cleared out by wingback Cole Hunt (#81) running across formation. However, the fantastic immediate penetration from 3 tech DeQuinton Osbourne (#91) threatens to destroy the play. He manages to avoid the cut block from right tackle Matt Pryor (#64). Submarining his way deep into the backfield, Osbourne shoots his gap and takes out lead-blocking fullback Dythan Davis (#38).
Olonilua keeps the play alive brilliantly. He skilfully side-steps the initial pressure following his counter step. Yet, without his lead blocker, he must run through outside linebacker Gyasi Akem (#9) who does well to run through Noteboom’s block. Akem is left free to make the tackle as pulling guard Schlottmann sees Noteboom making the block and therefore moves to block the overhang defender Richards.
Olonilua does get tackled, but he has enough of a hole to reach for the goalline. It is a risky play that could result in a fumble, but after official review the ruling on the field stands. Touchdown!
The wildcat is a nice alternative to more pro-style goal line formations. It enables the runner to build up a head of steam and have multiple lead blockers. In the Arkansas game we only saw power, whereas in the Oklahoma State game we saw a counter. In the future, expect TCU to run a different play from the formation.
All of this is ideal when you have a 225lb, 6ft 3 running back in Sewo Olonilua. Combined with the option and end around game in the redzone, plus some creative run-pass options, TCU has some great ways to finish when inside the opposition’s 20-yard line.