FROM THE STANDS
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT UT SPORTS
With Trey McLean
•The University of Texas Longhorns are bowl eligible. Everyone all together now — YAY! That means everything. EVERYTHING. It means Texas gets another month of practice, and that practice for bowl games isn’t used entirely to prepare for that bowl game; instead Texas Longhorns will use many of those practices like spring practice, getting young players more reps and trying guys at new positions. AND, we get to see the ads and promos involving Texas in a bowl game, and we get to see Texas in a bowl game. We will get into that at great length as the bowl season approaches, but for now — yay!
•It sure looks like this team is coming together. It’s easy to dismiss the gaudy numbers against Kansas (like I did), but Texas did it again, both offensively and defensively, against a (almost) bowl team. That cannot be ignored or dismissed.
•Texas is sick with running backs. SICK.
•David Ash is your starting quarterback going forward.
•The Texas defensive ends finally got here. That’s bad news for the last four opponents.
•“Wild Fozz” is my new favorite term.
•1,111 yards rushing in the last three games for Texas with 880 coming in the last two.
•13 rushing touchdowns in the last three games for Texas with 11 coming in the last two.
•The LSU/Alabama game was the most exciting no-touchdown game ever.
•Everyone exhale in Stillwater. A national title game-bound team usually has a few games that they just need to get out of alive, and Saturday was one.
•The TV guys are in love with ou backup quarterback Blake Bell. “Look at the Bell Dozer!” they said. A lot.
•Again, we are going bowling!
Let’s get to it.
TEXAS TECH 20 No. 21 TEXAS 52
Texas took Texas Tech’s lunch money, gave them a wedgie, and stuffed them in a locker. It was a stomping from pretty much the start and Tech’s only answer came when the game was already over. The Horns made a statement on Saturday: We know who we are, and this is what we do. See if you can stop us. And the statement was made all over Tech’s face. Here’s what I saw on Saturday:
Quarterbacks: Excellent. He made plays, both with his legs and his arm, and kept the offense chugging along. Tech took the opening series and went right down the field to take a 3-0 lead. David Ash responded on the ensuing drive, hitting Mike Davis for 24 yards on 3rd & 5 to extend Texas’ drive and get them the game-tying field goal. On Texas’ second drive with the game tied at 3 and facing a 3rd & 4 at his own 26, Ash found no one open when he dropped back to pass. He took off, and 47 yards later he had the longest run from scrimmage for Texas this year. He ran up the middle, saw a crease and hit it, then made a nice move to juke a defender down field and pick up more yards, setting Texas up at the Tech 26. Four plays later it was 10-3 and it was on.
On the day Ash was 4-7 for 125 yards with four carries for 59 yards. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but he made plays when he had to and didn’t make any mistakes that cost Texas. He missed on one deep ball to Mike Davis and bobbled a snap inside the red zone, but other than those two things he looked very good. I said a few weeks ago that Ash needed to get the clock in his head and realize if no one is open, it’s time to go. He did that on Saturday consistently and looked confident the entire game.
Good on you, Mr. Ash. It is clear he’s the No.1 guy now and today he looked the part. Case McCoy had a great drive (95 yards) and a nice touchdown pass to Darius White later in the game, and I thought he looked dialed in and focused, but David Ash is the man at quarterback.
Running Back: So Texas loses their true freshman workhorse and probable Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year to turf toe before the game, and all that happens is the other true freshman goes off for 191 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries, and if he doesn’t cramp up at the end he’s easily over 200 yards for the day. Amazing. Joe Bergeron was a beast; Fozzy Whittaker continues to show his value in certain packages, most notably the “Wild Fozz” with 10 carries for 83 yards and two scores, and you see what DJ Monroe brings to the table with his speed outside, scoring out of that formation on a sweep from Tech’s 12, but he would have scored from his own 1 on that play. Brown sat and Bergeron blew up, and now Texas has yet another weapon in the backfield for opponents to deal with. OUTSTANDING.
I know there will be some worries about splitting carries with all this talent, but this isn’t the NFL. In the NFL running backs make millions and coaching staffs need to get them on the field for that ROI. These guys are all getting the same scholarship money, so everyone is equal, and if you produce you play. Expect to see more rotation, fresh legs and big games from this unit.
A++++ from everyone.
Wide Outs/Tight Ends: The other candidate for Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year was out as well. Jaxon Shipley sat out with a knee injury, but the Horns were so good on the ground it didn’t matter. Mike Davis had some big plays early when Texas needed to move the ball and finished with two catches for 72 yards, both huge, but Texas didn’t need them to win today. I loved, LOVED seeing Darius White make a play, which he did on his touchdown catch, and I hope there is more of that to come. They blocked well and made plays when asked, which made it a good day.
Offensive Line: OUTSTANDING. Texas rushed for 439 yards and at no point did Texas Tech ever look like they were going to be able to stop them. I said this was an o-line game and they needed to take over, and they did. More of that, please. OUTSTANDING.
Defensive Line: I also said that if Texas were to win this game, they simply had to have pressure from the defensive line. They did, as Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat were everywhere Saturday afternoon. The two combined for 13 tackles including five for loss and three and a half sacks. They harassed Doege all day, forcing him to move around and punishing him when he held on to the ball too long. It was more than just those two, because the entire d-line was awesome. Tech had 30 yards rushing and got absolutely nothing out of the draws and off-tackle stuff that was so devastating against ou. Kheeston Randall owned the middle with seven tackles and the other tackle spot was solid, too, eliminating anything Tech wanted to do inside. That’s two weeks in a row the defensive line has shown up and taken over. More of that, too, please.
Linebackers: EAcho led the team in tackles with 11 and Keenan Robinson added nine more. They, along with Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks, never let Tech’s running game get loose and didn’t allow them to get anything underneath consistently.
Solid day from the lb’s.
Secondary: You have to hang on to the ball when it hits your hands. At times this secondary reminds me of the “Oven Mitts” group from 2008, who just couldn’t hang on to anything. With that critique aside, I thought they were fantastic. I don’t care what numbers Seth Doege put up, at the end of the day Tech had two touchdowns, both coming very late when the game was already over. I saw balls getting knocked down, jarred loose and excellent open-field tackling that limited Tech when the game was in the balance. Well done, guys.
Don’t look now, but the Horns are about to have the best cornerback duo in the Big 12.
Special Teams: I said last week Tech would have to work very hard to win this phase, but Texas absolutely shut them down. There were no big kickoff returns, no big punt returns, no big fakes, nothing. Texas locked them down on each kick while Quandre Diggs set up the offense with a short field on a great punt return.
Well done. Justin Tucker is money and the Horns are very good even when they don’t score touchdowns.
The Horns handled their business and now they must hit the road against a wounded Missouri team that has shown flashes, like Texas Tech, of doing some special things.
No. 16 TEXAS (6-2/3-2) @ MISSOURI (4-5/2-4)
Saturday, November 12th
This is probably the last time we see the Missouri Tigers unless it’s the post-season, because they are off to the SEC. It’d be easy to look at the record and think the Tigers are done, but dig a little deeper and you’ll see they should have beaten Arizona State, played K-State, Baylor and ou off their feet on the road and were right there with Oklahoma State for the majority of the game. Sure, 4-5 is not great, but this a battle-tested team that obviously plays up to the level of competition and the Horns will no doubt get their best effort; but there are some issues. The Missouri fans probably don’t like Texas, but a 4-5 record and an 11 am start will temper some of that emotion. And even when they are playing well, their fan base isn’t usually rabid, so the odds of their crowd being a factor are not as great as they would have been after the win at A&M. Texas has the opportunity to take them out of this game early if they play well. But Mizzou is fighting for bowl eligibility and will leave it all on the field. Let’s see what each side wants to do.
Gone are Blaine Gabbert and a host of guys in the NFL, but the Tigers have some talent. They do a decent job of stopping the run, not nearly as good a job of defending the pass and do a good job creating turnovers. They lead the conference in rushing and have the 10th ranked total offense in the nation. So what will they do against Texas? Here we go:
Four names will jump out when talking about the Missouri Tiger offense: James Franklin, Henry Josey, TJ Moe and Michael Egnew. Tailback Henry Josey leads the Big 12 in rushing with 1,149 yards and nine touchdowns. He isn’t very big at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, but the sophomore is very physical and has excellent speed when he hits the corner. The plan is to get Josey going to loosen up the coverage for wide out TJ Moe and tight end Michael Egnew. As with most teams that run the ball well, one of the biggest offensive weapons is the play-action pass and Mizzou is no exception. Tight end Michael Egnew is an All-American and will be making a lot of money in the NFL next year. At 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, the senior is a mismatch nightmare for everyone in the secondary, and the way he sells the block before releasing into a route makes him as dangerous as anyone on the Missouri offense. On the season he has 42 catches for 432 yards and two touchdowns, which equates to roughly five catches and 50 yards per game. He will need to be accounted for on every play. The other receiver is TJ Moe, the former Missouri High School Player of the Year was a running back that moved outside in college and it has paid off. Still a running back size-wise at 6-feet, 190 pounds, Moe has the agility, ability, and athleticism of a running back outside. He leads the team with 547 yards receiving on 44 catches with four scores and has big play ability with great hands, good routes and good speed. There are plenty of other weapons like Wes Kemp (233 yards, scores), Marcus Lucas (293 yards, 3 scores), and L’Damian Washington (271 yards, 3 scores), but throwing to Moe and Egnew is what Mizzou wants to do.
And the key to that will be quarterback James Franklin. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound sophomore from Dallas has some crazy skills and I’ve seen him take over at times, like at Texas A&M and at times against ou. The problem is, as with all young qb’s, he’s struggling to be consistent. He’s a big kid that is very athletic and can run, evidenced by his 599 yards rushing and a team-high 10 rushing touchdowns. He can move with the ball in his hands, either by design or when the pocket collapses, but he isn’t as polished throwing the ball with 2,195 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven picks. Surely the staff would like to see that interception total down, but just like Texas they are playing with a new starter who is still learning and growing. He’s raw, very athletic and will make some plays; but he’ll also make some mistakes, especially under pressure when he tries to throw.
It will be up to the o-line to make sure that he isn’t throwing under duress on the run. This is a solid offensive line that starts three seniors and all three have a shot at the next level. They know their jobs, know where they are supposed to be, and usually handle their business. With such an athletic and mobile quarterback, they don’t protect him as well as you would expect, allowing nearly a sack and a half per game. That’s probably as much on the qb holding onto the ball too long sometimes, but it seems there will be opportunities for the Texas pass rush against this unit. They are terrific run blockers, so if they get Josey and Franklin running, it won’t matter how well Texas gets to the passer.
This is going to be an interesting game, because as good as Mizzou is at running the ball (No.12 nationally), Texas is just as good at stopping the run (No.9 nationally). And Texas is nearly as good at defending the pass (No.11 in pass efficiency defense) when they have to. So what does Mizzou do? I think the plan will be to spread Texas out with multiple wide outs and a single back, and then to use bubble screens to Moe and the rest of the unit and run Josey and Franklin with the zone read. The zone read with an NFL-ready tight end to catch passes in play-action passes is hard to stop, because there are so many variables. The hand off, the keeper, the fake, and the pass to the tight end, the bubble screen to the wide out off the fake, the draw, the fake and the slant, etc. … It’s the same offense Texas ran with VY back in the day and when you have a great running threat at qb, it makes it hard to defend.
But I think Texas will be OK, because for everything James Franklin can do with the ball, he doesn’t throw it consistently well and I expect the Horns will have some chances to make some plays.
This defense isn’t very good. They aren’t terrible, but they aren’t very good. They don’t stop the run particularly well (149 ypg, 60th nationally), but they do that better than they stop the pass (267 ypg, 103rd nationally), and they allow 418 yards per game total (89th nationally). They have forced 15 turnovers and average nearly eight tackles for loss a game, but they still allow nearly 27 points per game. They have some talent and it has shined at times, but they just don’t do it consistently.
They have a solid four-man front with Brad Madison, Jacquies Smith, Terrell Resonno and Dominique Hamilton. Resonno and Hamilton are a pair of 300-pounders inside and Smith and Madison have seven sacks between them. They are definitely big enough to handle the running game, but they have shown the ability to make plays against the pass, too. They do a decent job of keep the linebackers clean to make plays, which is just as important.
Middle linebacker Andrew Wilson leads the team with 72 tackles and will backer Zaviar Gooden is third with 58, so they make plays. But still, the numbers don’t lie and there will be breakdowns. Mizzou runs a 4-2-5 defense, so both linebackers are used almost exclusively to defend the run, attacking the line of scrimmage. I’ve seen them make plays, but I also see what they allow on the year.
Last year the Missouri secondary was very good, but this year they allow 267 yards per game and have given up 16 touchdown passes. Two starters are NFL types in safety Kenji Jackson and cornerback E.J. Gaines. Gaines isn’t huge for a corner at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, but he’s physical and talented. He’s second on the team with 58 tackles and leads the team with two picks. I’m not really sold on the other three, but what do I know? I know they give up a lot of yards, both through the air and on the ground, and they better eat their Wheaties this week.
A simple plan: Stop the run. Mizzou will crowd the line of scrimmage and try to force Texas to throw the ball to win. If they can do that, their ends can make some plays on the quarterback, and their secondary can take advantage of some errant passes. If they can’t, they lose.
They are terrible kicking field goals. Gary Pinkel broke his kicker at Arizona State, and now he’s hurt and out and the new guy is 2-3. They punt the ball very well and kick off pretty well and don’t give up much on returns. EJ Gaines has a touchdown on a punt return and averages 15.2 per return, so they will do what they can to get him loose.
I see Mizzou playing conservatively on special teams, but that’s no guarantee. They don’t kick field goals well and that lack of confidence may show up on a fourth and short. They can’t let Texas break anything to blow this open.
The Horns are 6-2 and I’m glad it’s a road game this week. The road will make the team focus and get them dialed in. I sure don’t want to see all the good work the last two weeks come undone because they are not focused on Missouri. The access to friends and family and back pats and belated well wishes for the stomping of Tech will be at a minimum on the road, which is a good thing. Here’s what Texas does at Missouri:
Nothing changes this week. Texas will run the ball until Missouri makes them stop, and I don’t know if Missouri is going to be able to make them stop. The Horns are supremely confident in their ability to own the line of scrimmage and for good reason … they do. This is another attitude week where Stacy Searle’s boys can take this game over and win it by opening holes and controlling the clock. I think that’s exactly what they do.
I think you’ll see some big plays from DJ Grant and Blaine Irby this week, as the entire Mizzou defense must deal with the Texas running game, and as long as the Horns hold on to the ball again, good things will happen.
A healthy Malcolm Brown reminds us all why he was the most sought-after back in the nation last year.
Stop the run with assignment football. James Franklin and Henry Josey can both run the ball well, and Texas needs to make sure they read their keys and not let one of them sneak by while focusing on the other. They also need to tackle well in open space, because Josey and Franklin like to get outside and a missed tackle outside could be disastrous. I think of it like the option, where you need to worry about your job and trust your teammates to do their job. That goes for the passing game, too, as the linebackers and safeties must be aware of Michael Egnew in play-action passes and not let him burn them deep as they focus on the run.
Texas is going to have their hands full with this Mizzou offense, but I like the pressure the ends are getting right now and I love how the interior and freshman lb Steve Edmond stop the run. The ends might not get sacks with Franklin’s mobility, but they can bottle him up and make him throw it before he’s ready, which has proven to be costly for Mizzou at times this year.
The Tigers are going to make some plays with the talent and athleticism they have, but there will be opportunities for the Texas defense to make some, too. CATCH THE BALL, boys.
The Horns are fundamentally sound across the board in specials and while Mizzou doesn’t make too many mistakes, Texas will put some serious pressure on them to be perfect and they won’t be. The lack of a proven kicker for Mizzou and the terrific Justin Tucker for Texas might be the difference in this game. The Horns have to contain Gaines and limit his return ability on punts. If they do that, they win this phase decisively.
IT’S ON …
Texas is playing well, and when you’re playing well you want to keep playing. Texas is confident and things are headed in the right direction: the quarterback is in place, the personnel packages have solidified, everyone seems to be playing for each other and they all know their role. I think that continues this week as Texas wins a tight one on the road. Maybe. I could also see Texas stomping a mud hole in Missouri. Waffle much?
LAST WEEK IN THE BIG 12
MISSOURI 39 BAYLOR 42
This is why I could see Texas opening up a can on them. Baylor had 697 yards in the game? My, gosh. Maybe Mizzou is just done. Or maybe they have one last bullet in the chamber. We’ll see on Saturday.
KANSAS 10 IOWA STATE 13
You know what was better than this game? Everything. One more win, ‘Clones.
No.19 KANSAS STATE 45 No. 4 OKLAHOMA STATE 52
What a game. K-State gave Okie State everything they wanted as Collin Klein and The Purple were on the goal line as time expired. Kansas State looks a lot like Texas to me, and I can’t wait to see how that game goes. Hey, Justin Blackmon, feel free to wrap up the ball at the goal line after fumbling into the end zone AGAIN. This Oklahoma State team seems special.
TEXAS A&M 25 No. 7 oklahoma 41
SEC! Goodbye, sooners! Hah, only up by 3 at half! We will win this game in the second half with our SEC talent. You are Big 12 soft! Equal revenue sharing! SEC Champs! Here we go, second half kickoff! Aggies! Ag… Ouch. Don’t hit me, sooners. Ouch. OUCH! Stop it or I’ll … Ouch. STOP IT! PLEASE! STOP! LEAVE ME ALONE! It hurts! Please, I’m sorry I made fun of you and your conference! Uncle! Uncle!
THIS WEEK IN THE BIG 12
IOWA STATE (5-4/2-4) IDLE
No. 7 oklahoma (8-1/5-1) IDLE
Saturday, November 12th
No.25 BAYLOR (5-3/2-3) @ KANSAS (2-7/0-6) 1 PM
Baylor might get 10,000 yards in this game. I’m not joking. 1,760 yards is a mile. Baylor might get there and they get bowl eligible.
TEXAS A&M (5-4/3-3) @ No. 14 KANSAS STATE (7-1/4-1) 2:30 pm ABC
Okay, so … You guys are not in the SEC, right? You are not applying to the SEC, right? You are not in the near future thinking about applying to the SEC, right? Are you sure? OK. Whoop! SEC Football! Less money and we have to share it the Vanderbilts and Kentuckys! Whoop! SEC Champs! We will show you how we play football in the SEC! SEC power coming… Again, you aren’t going to the SEC, right?
No.2 OKLAHOMA STATE (8-0/5-0) @ TEXAS TECH (5-4/2-4) 11 am ABC
Beat down is coming. Oklahoma State can smell it and they are very, very close. I don’t see them losing this game, but I didn’t see Tech beating ou, either.