(One of my favorite articles to read each week … Randy)
From the Stands
|TEXAS VS. OKLAHOMA STATE|
|If there was a worse performance than that train wreck in Manhattan Saturday night during the Mack Brown era of Texas Longhorn football, I’d like someone to tell me what it is. The blowouts to ou, the loss to Arkansas, the loss at Stanford, the loss at K-State in ’98 … I can’t think of one that rivals this one. None.
Literally from the opening kickoff, Texas was outplayed, out-hustled, out-efforted and out-coached. I don’t see any phase of the game that gets a passing grade, from the staff to the walk-ons. If the effort and performance on Saturday night decided who got to ride home on the plane, I think Mike Davis and John Gold might have been the only people on there with Sam Acho flying standby waiting to see what happens.
Albert Einstein said Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I saw insanity to a level I haven’t seen at Texas maybe ever. I saw guys not getting off blocks, missing tackles, dropping passes, holding, and interceptions. Oh, the interceptions.
Now Texas is 4-5 and must win two of the last three to make it to the post-season. Otherwise, it will be the first time Texas misses a bowl since 1997.
TEXAS 14 KANSAS STATE 39
Honestly it wasn’t even this close. K-State came out and ran a junior high offense, and Texas seemed totally unaware of how to defend it. It was that or they were totally unable to defend it. I don’t know which one is more troubling. Doesn’t matter, because in the end running back Daniel Thomas and backup quarterback Collin Klein, a wide out last year, did exactly what everyone on the earth knew they would do, which was run the ball.
I’m not spending a lot of time on this because everyone stunk. EVERYONE.
I’m tired of my weekends getting ruined. On with it.
Offensive Line: Worst rush defense in the world and Texas fails to get a first down running the ball on a 3rd & 2 on their opening drive and failed to get a first down running the ball on 3rd & 2 on the opening drive of the second quarter. However, they get somewhat of a reprieve because, apparently, if you get up on Texas by two plus scores, Texas will completely ignore what it is the other team does poorly. Look no further than Texas throwing the ball every single down like it was an Arena League game. Need proof? K-State goes up 17-0 and Texas finishes the half with 21 straight pass plays. The one run was a scramble on a, you guessed it, pass play.
A holding penalty negated a long touchdown pass in the first half, but all in all I thought they did a decent job considering two starters were out — Huey last week with a season-ending knee injury, Hix this week with a helmet-to-helmet — in pass protection, but the run-blocking was just good enough when the game was still a game.
Running Backs: Fozzy Whittaker looked good, until Texas decided to never ever run the ball again ever.
For yet another week, the opposition’s running back outshines Texas’ backs by making plays while Texas does not. And once again a big name in the Texas rotation was hurt.
Wide Outs: James Kirkendoll had an awesome touchdown reception and run called back on that holding penalty and generally looked good, and Mike Davis was the best player on the Texas offense with a Texas freshman record 11 catches for 109 yards; but I saw the SAME MISTAKES again. Drops, bad routes — at one point James Kirkendoll didn’t even know the ball was coming to him and killed a drive with an offensive pass interference penalty. Guys didn’t break for the ball and while Gilbert had time, they couldn’t get open. Remember, the best thing this defense did coming in was ranked No.47 (pass efficiency), too bad that’s ten-fold better than most of the Texas wide outs right now.
They don’t seem to be on the same page with Gilbert until its panic mode. Why is that?
Quarterback: So the two punt returners have botched four punts (ones they caught and dropped) in eight games and they get replaced, yet the quarterback throws five interceptions in one game and gets a pat on the head and comes back out for the next series? I saw Jordan Hicks get a personal foul late in the game and get lit up on the sideline, where he sat for a good while. Yet GG had a MILE to run (a touchdown or at least toward the end zone, as Texas had timeouts left) at the end of the half, but instead he threw a terrible pass behind Mike Davis that was picked off in the end zone. The first pass of the second half was equally as bad and picked off, leading to the energy-killing touchdown and a 31-0 K-State lead. He gets a head set and a water and gets ready for the next series. Huh? I think GG is the future of this team, but sometimes you just don’t have it and he didn’t have it Saturday night. You run the risk of ruining a guy psychologically that way and it sends a terrible message to the guys that are getting pulled for bad play.
Too many times (FAR too many times), Gilbert throws the ball into tight crowds and right now he has little touch on his passes. So that means if the coverage is tight on the outside, the ball isn’t dropping into the bucket (the receiver’s hands) where only he can catch it. Instead it whizzes out of reach going 1,000 mph. Over the middle it means he isn’t leading them with it, throwing where they are going to be. Instead he’s throwing where they are when it leaves his hands, and it inevitably ends up behind the receiver, which is dangerous. Those are the passes that get picked off. And they did get picked off. A lot.
His legs are a threat, but too many times the staff and/or GG are unwilling to use them as an offensive weapon. I wish I knew why.
I am certainly not advocating a change at qb, but I think it’s insanity that Texas doesn’t at least give McCoy/Woods a possession to change it up and let Gilbert watch from sideline and see what’s going on. Look what it’s done for A&M with Ryan Tannehill.
Defensive Line/Linebackers: I’m lumping them together because they don’t deserve their own section. Absolutely awful. Absolutely. Awful. They couldn’t get off of their blocks; they couldn’t figure out what this fancy new offense called the option was and didn’t make any plays. I saw the same thing I’ve seen the last three weeks — guys in burnt orange and white unable to control the line of scrimmage and unable to find the ball carrier in the zone/option read. They’d get blocked; guess the wrong gap, miss the tackle or stand flat-footed as quarterback Klein or tailback Thomas broke outside and around them to daylight. … But you already knew that because, like I said, it has been the same thing for the last three weeks.
Quick, give me an example of when the Texas front seven forced the K-State offense to go 3 & out when the game was still a game? Right. They didn’t.
Secondary: Four passes from K-State. The nine yards passing will look great on the stat sheet for the secondary, but what I remember is the inability of anyone in the secondary to tackle one of the two guys that comprised the ENTIRE Kansas State offense. Blake Gideon looked like he had never seen the option before. Christian Scott missed a tackle, and Daniel Thomas scored and, just like above, they did nothing to stem the tide of the K-State ground game.
And remember, one of those two guys that comprised the ENTIRE K-State offense was the backup quarterback who was a wide receiver and special teamer last year.
Special Teams: A 62-yard kickoff to start the game … a fake field goal that Justin Tucker dropped and actually gave K-State an extra 10 yards as he stumbled around chasing the ball … a fake punt on 4th & 10 that looked like the Keystone Cops and didn’t work AND had a holding penalty to ruin what did happen … DJ Monroe dropping a kickoff, bouncing it off his knee out of bounds at the Texas 13 … Marquis Goodwin running backward on his kickoff return … Marquis Goodwin’s blatant roughing the punter penalty … The blocked extra point the K-State kicker scooped and ran in for two points…
I have no words.
OKLAHOMA STATE (8-1/4-1) @ TEXAS (4-5/2-4)
This is a red-hot OSU team coming to Austin to play a polar-opposite-of-red-hot Texas team. The Cowboys are the biggest surprise of the conference this year and control their own destiny in the Big 12 South race. Texas is not exactly in the same position. On paper Oklahoma State should manhandle this Texas team; but these games aren’t played on paper. If they were these records would be reversed.
The centerpiece to this offense is quarterback Brandon Weeden. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound junior is mature. I don’t mean “mature for being a junior.” He’s 27 and was a second round pick of the New York Yankees in 2002 and pitched in their minor league system before retiring and coming to Oklahoma State in 2007. He has a big arm and is your classic drop back passer. On the season he has 2,982 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine picks while completing 67.2% of his passes. He makes good decisions with the ball and if given the time he will shred the defense. Under duress he isn’t nearly as accurate or lethal.
His favorite target is Justin Blackmon. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound sophomore has exploded on the scene after a nondescript freshman year in 2009 and earning a redshirt the year before that. He isn’t the biggest guy on the field, but like his mentor Dez Bryant he has big hands, blazing speed and the ability to adjust when the ball is in the air. On the season he has 1,285 yards and 15 scores on 75 catches, averaging 160 yards per game. While Josh Cooper and Michael Harrison each have three touchdown receptions and Cooper has 466 yards receiving, Blackmon is the guy. In fact the rest of the team — and I mean everyone with a logged catch and yard — totals 189.47 yards per game. And that 1,285 and 15 includes the one game he missed for a DWI two weeks ago. The kid can ball and if he gets loose in the secondary it will be trouble. While guys like Harrison, Cooper, Bo Bowling and others will make plays, Blackmon is the top dog.
A guy that will make it easier for him to make plays is running back Kendall Hunter. The 5-foot-8, 200-pound senior from Tyler is one of the most underrated players in the nation. He was First Team All Big 12 in 2008, but an ankle injury all but shut him down last season. He’s back and healthy now, totaling 1,240 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns and averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He’s short, powerful and extremely quick with the ability to burst into daylight after hiding amongst the trees at the line of scrimmage. As defenses focus on Blackmon and shutting down the OSU passing game, Hunter has the ability to take over the game. Freshman Joseph Randle will sub in at times, but the running game is pretty much all Hunter.
As is the case with every single game at every single level, the success of this offense is squarely on the shoulders of the offensive line. They replaced four starters from last year, including now-Seattle Seahawk Russell Okung. So far on the season they haven’t really missed a beat, paving the way for the high-flying offense. They run block well, they pass block well and they don’t make a lot of mistakes. They are fairly anonymous, but they do their jobs and do their jobs well.
I see Oklahoma State coming and putting their foot on the gas from the start. They are going to run Hunter up the middle and make Texas show they can stop him. They will work Blackmon deep and run others underneath and see if Texas can cover him or if they ignore the other wide outs. I expect to see Weeden, who is deceptively athletic, running the ball on quarterback draws and keeping on the zone read in the hopes of catching Texas focusing on Hunter. They watched what the backup-wide-receiver-and-special-teamer-turned-eigth-grade-quarterback did to Texas last week and they know their skill guys are far better from top to bottom than K-State’s are. Watch for the quarterback to run the ball and try to open up the offense for Blackmon and Hunter.
As I’ve said on multiple occasions this season, the defense facing Texas this week is not very good. The Cowboys rank 89th in total defense (413.33 yards per game allowed), 76th in scoring defense (28.44 ppg) and 57th in pass efficiency defense (124.33). They are better in rush defense, ranking 45th and allowing 141.33 yards per game on the ground, but are horrid in pass defense as they allow 272 yards per game, which 113th nationally.
They run the classic 4-3 and are built to defend the run with a big defensive line and physical linebackers. While they are impressive looking, they don’t have a ton of speed up front, evidenced by their lack of sacks and inability to consistently pressure the quarterback. They seldom blitz, but that might change this week. The two names on the front seven that stand out are defensive end Ugo Chinasa and linebacker Orie Lemon, both seniors from Texas. Chinasa is tied for the team lead in sacks with three and Lemon leads the team in tackles for loss (7) and total tackles (86). At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Chinasa is physical enough to handle the run and shows flashes of pass rushing ability with his three sacks and one interception. Lemon, back from an injury last season, is the classic middle linebacker at 6-foot-1, 243 pounds. He’s big and physical and likes the contact inside the tackle-to-tackle box. If there is a knock on him, it will be in coverage and when OSU gets teams in obvious passing downs, they will pull him for a nickel back. Everyone else is solid if not spectacular in the front seven, but I don’t see anyone that you have to game plan around.
I do see nine interceptions from the starting four in the secondary. I also see a unit that gives up a ton yards and 12 touchdown passes. They take chances and sometimes they end up picking it off, but it seems plenty of times they do not. Cornerback Andrew McGee is probably the best cover guy in the secondary with his four interceptions, but if you are allowing 272 yards per game, 11th in the Big 12, I don’t think anyone can be considered “good”, right?
I see OSU coming in and being very confident that their front seven can defend the run against Texas for two reasons. First, the Texas offense has shown no ability to do anything consistently well this season. Second, they know their own offense is as potent as it gets and they know Texas will simply give up on running the ball when/if they get behind. The bigger issue for OSU is going to be defending the pass, which is not something they do very well. I expect them to play coverage and hope their front four can get to the quarterback. They want as many of their opportunistic defensive backs in coverage as possible to take advantage of any errant throws for GG. And from the film they have seen, there will be some errant throws. I don’t see much blitzing unless Texas starts moving the ball and scoring points through the air.
They are the third best punting team in the nation, averaging 41.3 yards per kick. They only average about 9 yards per punt return and 21 yards per kickoff return, but they do have a touchdown on each. Kicker Dan Bailey is 18-19 on field goals this season and perfect on 51 extra points. Quinn Sharp is terrific at getting touchbacks with his kickoffs, totaling 43 on 75 kicks. They kick the ball well.
Now let’s pick a plan and go with it this week, shall we? Let’s not abandon it and panic at the first sign of trouble. I think I have that plan. Texas is likely without the services of two starters on the offensive line with Kyle Hix (head) mostly likely joining Michael Huey (knee, and done for the year) in streets. That means the youngsters are playing, so that means Texas will probably roll Gilbert more to avoid the pass rush. That is a good thing, and here’s why.
The best Texas has looked offensively this year has been when GG runs the ball and forces defenses to account for him. I expect to see that this week as Texas gets him outside against a fairly large, fairly lumbering defensive line and forces the secondary to either cover the receivers or come up in run support. Texas has an opportunity here to get some big yards dragging guys like Darius Terrell, DeSean Hales, John Chiles and Mike Davis over the middle and making the defense choose. I see Marquis Goodwin and Malcolm Williams sneaking behind them as they focus on Gilbert running and the crossing receivers and being open downfield. I also see plenty of opportunities for flairs to the running back on wheel routes on the other side of the field as the defense flows to the ball. … Of course this is contingent on Gilbert making good decisions with the ball. He needs to run when it’s there, and he needs to throw it when it isn’t. He needs to understand that sometimes touch is necessary and a 200-mph fastball is not the best way to get it there. I’ve seen him do it so I know he can, he just needs to play within the game plan and not try to score on every single play. The only thing this defense does well is pick off passes, so he needs to not put his team in places where that can happen. Force their hand, GG. If you have 15 yards, take it. If someone is covered, throw it away. Smart decisions against this defense, just like against Nebraska, will only mean good things for Texas.
If they can get him loose on the ground it opens everything else up, and I think they do that by getting him out of the pocket and pressuring the defense outside with run/pass options. Play smart.
It’s gut check time. No, the offense has not been very good. Yes, the special teams have been a Titanic-like disaster at times. So what. The leaders and the playmakers on this team are on the defense and it’s time they started playing up to their reps and their titles. The talent is there and it’s time to show us why everyone thought so highly of you this summer. Let’s see it.
They need to get after Weeden. He is a big guy that has doesn’t like to run very much, although I expect some designed attempts to catch Texas off guard. I don’t see him scrambling for 15 on 3rd & 12 too often, so Texas will not be rushing cautiously to contain him. They will pin their ears back and try to knock him around, because when he gets hit he has a tendency to throw bad passes (who doesn’t?), and there will be opportunities for turnovers. Texas will blitz some, but I don’t see that happening a ton, because the wide outs are talented, Weeden has a cannon and Texas is down a starter in the secondary. It’s a pretty basic game plan to me — defend the run, man on Blackmon and get after Weeden.
Look for more Jared Norton in the middle to handle that OSU ground game and look for some plays made from both Blackmon and Williams outside.
The Cowboys are terrible at covering kicks, but the Longhorns are the worst in the conference at returning kicks (17.5 per return). How is that possible when you consider who the return men are? Find a way to get it going this week. FIND A WAY. The chance for something big is there.
What an awful night that was.
Look for Texas to take the ball on the opening kickoff this week to try and jump out in front. I see Texas focusing its entire game plan around run/pass options to keep the clock rolling, the chains moving and the Oklahoma State offense on the sideline. They need something great to happen on the opening drives (first offense, first defense) like it did at Texas Tech and Nebraska, where early momentum set the tone for the game. The talent is on the team to beat anyone, they just need something good to happen to kick start it.
Don’t worry about the fans, or the media, or the potential for a bowl game. Worry about this week. Wrap up on tackles, stay on your block, catch the ball and follow your reads. Create that “something good” early in the game and turn the mental warfare on Oklahoma State, which comes in as 6.5-point favorites, Big 12 South favorites and with a ton of Texas players on the roster. This is unfamiliar territory for them and they don’t exactly have a stellar record against the Horns.
A good start could lead to good things. Let’s see what happens.
No. 9 NEBRASKA 31 IOWA STATE 30 OT
No. 14 MISSOURI 17 TEXAS TECH 24
No. 11 oklahoma 19 TEXAS A&M 33
This Week in the Big 12
IOWA STATE (5-5/3-3) @ COLORADO (3-6/0-5) 12:30 pm FCS
KANSAS (3-6/1-4) @ No. 8 NEBRASKA (8-1/4-1) 6 pm FSN PPV
No. 20 MISSOURI (7-2/3-2) @ KANSAS STATE (6-3/3-3) 11:30 AM FSN
TEXAS TECH (5-4/3-4) @ No. 16 oklahoma (7-2/3-2) 2:30 pm ABC