The score was very close to what many people were predicting but I’m sure this game was played out unlike many had predicted. After and abysmal first half, the Longhorn offense woke up as David Ash rallied the group to a late score on a touchdown pass to a streaking Marquis Goodwin. Though it was ugly in the beginning, this win was important for the Longhorns in order to show improvement from last season and enter the off-season on a positive note.
1. David Ash says “What QB Competition?”: This quarterback has been a guy that has been a roller coaster to watch all season long. He messes with my brain and I don’t like it. Ash has physical tools that allow him to have success at the college level. But the knock on Ash is his inconsistent mentality and confidence. When it’s there, he plays well: Good enough to lead an offense and make plays. But when his mentality and confidence are off then he is way off and plays very poorly. One big positive tonight was how David Ash rallied his team to victory over the Beavers. Tonight he showed that he has the ability to bounce back from a poor performance early in a game. But tonight was also the first time he wasn’t benched in favor of Case McCoy. I’ll be very interested to see if Major can connect with Ash and get him rolling in a way Harsin couldn’t.
Before tonight’s performance I was confident in saying the Longhorns should have another QB competition to find the guy who can lead the team, complete the passes, and make the plays necessary at the QB position. But now I’m hesitant in saying that. Sure it’s 1 game, but the fact that Ash was able to pick himself up after a poor first half and lead his team late in the game is a big step for the young quarterback. We should also remind ourselves that Ash was just a sophomore in his first year as the full time starter. Of course there would be growing pains for a young QB. Aside from Ash, I also wonder what Mack will want to do. He has been clamoring that this next season is the season his Longhorns will finally have the success they should be having. So with that in mind, will Mack actually risk putting the offense and team in the hands of a new starter? Especially after that starter just won him a bowl game in a come-from-behind victory? Had Ash played poorly tonight I would have thought there was no doubt that there would be a QB competition, but now I’m not so sure. With all of that said, I still think the Longhorns should have another QB competition and at least see what the other guys bring to the table because I think back to the games which Ash struggled in, like against OU, and cringe. I also look around the nation and see young quarterbacks having more success than what Ash has done. But David Ash definitely has the advantage over the other quarterbacks right now, there’s no question about that.
2. Major Applewhite: In his first game calling plays for the Longhorns Major won in Major fashion. He got snubbed early on in the game by the Beavers defense but he didn’t quit and came back and called some great plays in order for his offense to rally and win the game in the end. Whether he had come away with a good game or not, this game should not really be used as an assessment of Applewhite’s offense at all. I liked what I saw in the second half but he will need the entire off-season to really put his influence into the offense and mold it the way he wants it to look like. I’m definitely glad he got the win and am really curious to see if he can connect with Ash in a way Harsin couldn’t. Who knows, maybe Major’s personality is exactly what Ash needs from an offensive coordinator.
3. Marquis Goodwin: I have asked this question hundreds of times this season and not found an answer. Why was Goodwin not a larger part of the offense? (D.J. Monroe and Daje Johnson as well). Tonight Goodwin, the Alamo Bowl Offensive Player of the Game, showcased his skills by scoring a 64-yard touchdown and also had 4 receptions for 68 yards and a game-winning touchdown catch. I cannot figure out why Harsin/Mack did not utilize Goodwin more during the season, but Major figured it out in 1 game and unleashed the Olympian on the Beavers. This is another case of Texas confusing me by not using a player more than I would think they should. Hopefully Major will carry this change into next fall and use Daje Johnson in more ways where Harsin failed to. Great game by Goodwin though, and we will also be seeing him on Sunday’s in some fashion.
4. Where was the running game? Maybe the O-line knows: If you would have only told me the rushing stats for both teams tonight I would have thought Texas had lost this game for sure. Marquis Goodwin led the stats in yardage with his 1 64-yard touchdown run. Behind him David Ash was second with 22 yards and a touchdown off of 7 carries. The running backs totaled 37 yards of 19 carries and 0 touchdowns. Joe Bergeron didn’t even punch one in. I blame this performance largely on the poor play of the offensive line. They struggled to open holes all night. It also didn’t help that Texas was playing from behind for much of the game and had to throw the ball a lot in the second half. But a large reason they were playing from behind is because they couldn’t establish the run early on in the game. The offensive line is another area that needs major work this off-season. It’s great to have a handful of talented running backs and playmakers on offense that can move the chains but they become very handicapped without an offensive line that can block for them, let alone get a push off the line. This is another area of the roster that confuses me. Texas should be able to get the biggest and nastiest linemen in the state of Texas each year. There’s no reason why this group should be playing at this low of a level as a unit.
5. Defense got by but still needs improvement: Tonight the defense played well enough for Texas to win, and luckily the Longhorns got the win. But the performance wasn’t spectacular and they still have a lot to improve upon. If I were the defensive coordinator for the Longhorns my priority would be improving the ability of my unit to stop the run. The interior of the defense has been weak against the run all season long and it’s a big reason why the unit has had its struggles. Storm Woods ran for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns tonight. He deserves credit, but it’s not like Oregon State’s QB was really a threat to throw the ball so I’m frustrated Texas STILL could not stop the run. When teams can move the ball on the ground then it opens up their playbook and allows that team to have good control of the game. I think players will need to be shuffled around in the interior and the scheme needs a bit of a change as well. I’d start Malcolm Brown at DT and then have a competition for the DT that would be playing next to Brown. And Santos and Edmond are not the answers at middle linebacker.
6. Alex Okafor: 9 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and a forced fumble… Okafor just locked himself into the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. That performance was icing on the cake of the great season he has had. The Alamo Bowl defensive player of the game has been show casing his pass rushing skills all season long. In one sense I’m disappointed Okafor’s great season has been over shadowed by poor play of the defense as a unit. But you have to love how Okafor brought it each and every week, regardless of how the unit plays as a whole. We will be watching him on Sunday’s.
7. Steve Edmond/Dalton Santos: All season long I’ve been hoping one of these guys would take the next step into becoming more of a presence in the middle of the defense. But all season long neither has. Sophomore Steve Edmond and freshman Dalton Santos have great size and aren’t afraid to tackle anyone. But the problem is both lack the necessary speed and ability to read the plays in order to get to the ball carrier to tackle him. If I’m the defensive coordinator I immediately open the middle linebacker position up for a competition. My first thought would be to possibly move Kendall Thompson to the middle because I love having Tevin Jackson and Peter Jinkens on the field at the same time too. Texas has some other young guys to look at as well. But as of now I don’t think Edmond or Santos should be the starters in the middle. I want someone who can get to the ball carrier faster before he gets up field.
8. Justin Tucker, you’re needed back in Austin: I don’t exactly know why Mack hasn’t done more in recruiting to address this or why he didn’t have a better plan for the ‘Post Justin Tucker Era’ but what Texas currently has at the kicking position is not good. Kickoffs are fine, but if Texas ever has to kick a field goal over 40 yards to win a game then they are screwed. And I also don’t know why Anthony Fera has disappeared as a kicker once he got to Texas. The guy was pretty good for Penn State but he has done next to nothing while at UT. And Nick Jordan makes me nervous every time he attempts a field goal, and he doesn’t have the strongest leg either. Alex King has been killing it all season long punting the ball, but he is a senior so Texas will also need to find a replacement for the golden leg of Alex King.
9. Mack Brown can take a breather: It’s been somewhat easy to tell that this season has been unlike any season Mack has had at Texas. He has shown more stress and frustration than in any season before. But after tonight’s win, Coach Brown can take a breather and relax. He did a great job handling the situation with McCoy and Hicks earlier in the week and didn’t let that distract his team. I liked the energy from the team all night and Mack did a great job regrouping his team at half time and leading them in the second half as they rallied for their 9th win of the season. Sure the team isn’t back where Mack wants them, but I’m glad he got his bowl win.
10. Resilience: What happened tonight is something that had seemingly disappeared from the Longhorn football team for the past few years. Tonight the team was faced with a challenge in the second half and rallied together to succeed and win the game. I’m sure many fans thought Texas would eventually turn belly up and stall out in the second half to lose the game, but the Longhorns had something else in mind and fought to the very end to win the game. It was great to see and definitely a positive to build on going into the off-season.
Wow, what a season it has been. Before the first game was played there were all kinds of speculation as to what type of year the Longhorns would have. Some of the expected scenarios happened, like the roller coaster ride at QB. And some unexpected scenarios happened, like the underachieving play by the defense. In the end the team did end up improving on their play from the previous year by finishing the season with 9 wins, 1 better than last year’s total. But this group still has many steps to make in order to bet back to being national contenders. There are a lot of question marks all over the roster. And as usual it will be fun sifting through the roster and learning about the new recruits to see how everything falls in place in time for kickoff next fall. Though I think I experienced every emotion possible with this Texas team, it’s what makes sports unique and fun, and I’m still proud to be a Longhorn and a fan of Texas.