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10 Thoughts From the Texas vs. Oklahoma Game By: Wes Crochet Where do you start with this game? This was the worst loss I can ever remember the University of Texas football program having. This was more of a practice for OU than an actual game. The Longhorns looked like a 2A high school team trying to play against the Sooners. I said it earlier on Twitter, but this game alone will force a change to the program, and the change will be significant. The change could be one of two outcomes, if you ask me. Either the team, specifically the defense, turns things around and starts playing really, really well, or a change is made to the coaching staff and, if this is the case, I think the first to go is Manny Diaz. Regardless, this game was embarrassing to say the least and it still makes be absolutely sick. These are in no particular order. 1. Manny Diaz: Let’s start where I just left off. Manny Diaz was brought into the Texas program to replace Will Muschamp as the defensive coordinator for the Longhorns. When he was first hired on as D-coordinator, I honestly had not heard much about him. But as I read and learned more about him, I started to think this could be a good hire for Texas. Last season his squad had up and down performances but a lot of that was just chalked up to be the result of implementing new schemes, plays, and a new coaching style into his defense. This season, the defense is not only bad, but they have actually digressed from how they were playing last fall. There are only two options for Diaz. Either he somehow gets the defense playing at a high level where everyone thought they were capable of playing and at the standard expected at the University of Texas, or he needs to start looking for a new job. And I don’t think the first option will happen, especially with some unlucky injuries plaguing Diaz’s squad. But giving up 63 points and a total of 677 yards against any team, especially against the Longhorns’ biggest rival, is an easy way to get yourself a one way ticket out of Austin. And if anyone is crazy enough to debate this opinion of mine then go check out these numbers I crunched. http://www.hornsports.com/forums/burnt-orange-board-bob-57/number-crunching-stats-should-not-ever-happen-against-ut-1568/ 2. Defense is plain bad: Sure, the defense has played some of the top offenses in the nation the past few weeks. But before the season, there was a ton of hype about how good this defense could be. Well, after six games, it’s evident that this squad is plain bad. There’s no other way to say it. They have been one of the worst units in the Big 12 and I’m not sure that will change much this season. Manny Diaz should take a lot of blame for his poor schemes and strategies he’s been implementing, but the players have also been playing at a very poor level and have yet to find any consistency or strength in their play. They continue to make poor decisions, give up big plays, play flat-footed, and underperform. This group needs to turn things around to salvage what’s left of the season. The problem is I’m not sure they are capable of doing that anymore. 3. Tackling: Diaz’s failed scheme and the defense’s poor play leads me to my next point. The players on this squad continue to be out of position, slow, and as if they have completely had the concept of tackling erased from their brains, especially in the secondary. There is not currently one player in the secondary, other than maybe Quandre Diggs, who understands the concept of tackling. Even the defensive linemen and linebackers are struggling, and this is unacceptable for a program like Texas. Tackling is something you learn how to do when you first start playing football. I remember I understood the concept of tackling in 6th grade when I played Pop-Warner football. It’s not hard. And if 6th graders can understand this concept, then I’d expect players recruited to the University of Texas to understand how to tackle as well. I think now this has become more of a mental problem than anything else. They approach ball carriers with hesitation and take terrible angles. And they usually have more contact with their own teammates by running into one another than they do with the other team. I really am dumbfounded at their inability to take opponents down in open space. It’s terrible. 4. Adrian Phillips: I’m sick of watching Phillips play. He is the poster child of how not to play defense and how not to tackle. I almost couldn’t believe what I saw this weekend when OU’s Trey Millard broke open a 70-yard touchdown pass out of the backfield (A big play? Against Texas? That can’t be right…). During the play not only did he hurdle over Mykelle Thompson (who I had actually praised a week earlier…), but he also managed to stiff-arm and knock down Adrian Phillips while in mid-air. Below is a photo I cropped of what play I'm referring to. You’d think that normally the guy in mid-air would be the one getting knocked down to the ground. Oh no, not when Adrian Phillips is in hot pursuit! I’m ready to see some other defensive back take his place. Also, is it just me or has anyone noticed that Carrington Byndom has a knack for running into his own players? He’s done it so many times that you’d think it was his job. [ATTACH=CONFIG]148[/ATTACH] 5. Offense, or lack thereof: This game wasn’t lost just because the defense played terribly. This game was also lost because the offense actually forgot to get off the bus. This was the worst offensive performance the entire season. Texas ended the day with a total of 289 yards, much of these yards coming against OU’s second and third string players when the game was already over in the fourth quarter. It was also embarrassing to watch. I was talking with my dad earlier this week and he brought up a great point. If you take away the 8 points scored by the defense/special teams from the blocked extra point and the pick-six and if you take away the 13 points scored in trash time during the fourth quarter, you’ll realize the offense was outscored 56 to 0 when starters were playing. Wow. I never could have guessed that margin would have happened last Saturday in a million years. Add that to the fact that the offense gave up 3 turnovers, was 4 of 13 on third downs, 0 for 1 on 4th down, and did not receive their first 1st down of the game until the second half and you have yourself one of the worst offensive performances I’ve ever witnessed. But I’m not as low on Harsin as I am on Diaz. And that leads me to my next thought… 6. Offensive Line: I’ve harped on this group all season and, yet again, they have upset me. This could be one of the most frustrating offensive lines I’ve watched at UT in a long time. Before the season started, I did a rundown of each position and the players that would form the depth chart. I was excited to see many of the offensive playmakers, especially the running backs. But one of the last groups I previewed was the offensive line, and when I previewed them, I stated that they would be key to the offense’s success. And that was as true as ever last Saturday. You can have all the talent in the world on offense but if you don’t have an offensive line to block for the playmakers then your offense becomes stagnant, and trying to figure out plays that will work becomes that much harder. This is why I’m giving Harsin a little leeway with last Saturday. Don’t worry; I have a bone to pick with him too. But as I was saying, this offensive line continues to struggle. It’s most evident in the run game. The Longhorns accumulated an abysmal 74 yards on the ground. And when you are a balanced offense, like the Horns, an inability to run the football can easily lead to a poor offensive outing overall. Just ask my Houston Texans how that went last Sunday night against Green Bay when their running game was slower than normal. The Longhorns’ O-line cannot seem to get a push or open up holes consistently, and I’m not sure they have the talent in place to improve much on that. I like Hawkins and Walters, but aside from those two guys this line is average at best. 7. Playmakers: One of the strengths of this offense was the fact that there were many playmakers at Harsin’s disposal. Well, here’s a run down of the touches each player I consider a playmaker received against OU: Shipley – 1, Monroe – 0, Goodwin – 0, D. Johnson – 5, Davis – 5, Gray – 8, Bergeron – 4. The fact that Jaxon Shipley, D.J. Monroe, and Marquis Goodwin combined for ONE TOUCH on offense is unfathomable, unacceptable, and unexplainable. Shipley alone should touch the ball at the very least 5-10 times a game. And then to add that two of the Longhorns’ fastest players, Goodwin and Monroe, failed to get their hands on the ball at all on offense is beyond confusing to me. It’s a no brainer why Texas had its worst offensive performance of the season; the best players on offense barely touched the ball, if at all. Are you kidding me? Terrible. 8. David Ash: The biggest concern I had for Ash coming into this game happened. He choked, again. Last season this game was one of his worse performances. And, though he had been playing well (especially as of recent), I was very curious to see how he would handle being back in this hostile environment where he played poorly last year. Well, once again, he struggled. Ash threw for 113 yards, 0 scores, and tossed 2 interceptions before he was forced out of the game with a bad bone bruise in his non-throwing hand. Other than the fact that this was his worst game all season, this is also a reality check for all of us fans. Though Ash had played well before this game, he is still a young player continuing to develop and come into his own. There are still going to be growing pains with his play on the field and bad games here and there. The biggest, most important thing now is to watch how he responds after this game against another tough opponent. Poor performances on a national stage against a rival, like last Saturday, can really rattle players, especially younger ones. Mack knows this, that’s why he has been harping on having a positive attitude all week like a parrot that has been taught to say that. Luckily for Ash, he gets to take on one of the worst defenses, if not THE worst defense, in college football Saturday when he plays Baylor. Even with an injured wrist, this game could be another big confidence booster for him. 9. Mack Brown: There have been countless cries for Mack’s job and for the university to move in a new direction. Well whether you want Coach Brown gone or not, it’s not going to happen right now. And I’m not even really sure it would happen at the end of the season. The only way I see it happening at the end of the season is if Texas continues to lose and ends up 7-5 or worse. At 8-4 or better, you may see position coaches or coordinators go, but even then, I think Brown will remain as the head coach. Aside from whether it’s time for the University of Texas to go in a different head coaching direction or not, last weekend’s performance of his Texas Longhorns really makes me believe he doesn’t even know what team will show up on a week to week basis. And that’s scary. But I also hate how Texas has come into this game very flat, timid, and without a killer instinct more times than not. And that is something that Mack Brown should be held responsible for. I remember growing up watching the Texas/OU game when OU had another one of its winning streaks, and I remember hearing and reading that Texas was playing “not to lose” rather than playing to win. I touched on this before the game and Coach Brown could not get his players as fired up as Bob Stoops got his players. This has been one of Mack’s weaknesses as a head coach and I’ve never been able to figure out why he’s had trouble getting his players pumped up for arguably the biggest game on the Longhorns’ schedule each season. After listening to his press conference this week, it’s easy to tell that Mack Brown knows his team is dangerously close to losing many more games and that his team is walking a fine line between a disastrous season and one that can be salvaged. He has continued to emphasize being positive, staying the course, and getting mentally prepared for Baylor and the second half of the season. But a loss like this is often hard to shake. And the game right after a loss like this, in many cases, is a game that can impact the rest of the entire season in a positive or negative manner. Currently, the Longhorns are on a 2-game losing streak. If the Longhorns lose against Baylor this Saturday, then that will be 2 home losses and a blowout rivalry loss all in a matter of 3 weeks. For a relatively young team like this one, a 3-game losing streak like that could completely derail the rest of the season and also cause confidence, leadership, and mental problems that would he hard to correct. There’s no question Coach Brown is very aware of the impact this game could have and knows his season could ride on the way his team plays Saturday and if they bounce back from the worst loss I can remember Texas having in football. 10. Alex King: The rest of the team may have played some of the worst football I have ever seen, but starting punter Alex King kicked the crud out of the ball all game. He had 8 punts (another sign of Texas’s poor offensive outing) for 397 yards. That’s good for an average of 49.6 yards per punt (two of which landed inside the 20) and his longest punt was for 65 yards. But he didn’t just play well this game, the transfer from Duke has been playing well all season long and deserves some recognition. What happened last Saturday was the worst possible outcome that could have happened for Mack Brown and his Longhorns. It was embarrassing, frustrating, inexcusable, unexplainable, and not even close to the standard that any Texas Longhorns football team should play at. The West Virginia loss was tough to stomach because Texas was in it until the very end. This game was tough to stomach for a completely different reason. From the very beginning of the game, Texas was terrible and they got beat like a high school varsity team scrimmaging against the 9th grade B team. It was ugly and something I never want to witness again for the rest of my football life. According to Mack Brown, the game “is what it is” and that rubbed me the wrong way. Saying “it is what it is” is like accepting defeat. I understand that he wants his team to move on to focusing on Baylor, but I want him to show some tenacity and anger for how his team played. Do you think Muschamp or Saban would say “it is what it is"? They absolutely would not. But those two coaches consistently have that killer instinct and tenacity that seems to be inconsistent in the Longhorns' program. However, Mack also knows the importance of this game against Baylor. He knows he must quickly regroup his team and get them thinking positively or the season may be lost. Coming off this loss, Texas is 4-2. What’s important is the Longhorns can still finish the season strongly. But improvements will have to be made starting this Saturday against Baylor. Though Baylor’s offense is another prolific offense, their defense is one of the worst in the NCAA. That being said, Texas may have a fighting chance this week. Hook’em Twitter: @WesKCrochet Email: Wes.Sports@hotmail.com
Here are 5 things Iâ€™m interested in most for this game. (No particular order). 1. Defensive Line: If OU wins this game it could have a lot to do with the defensive line not getting to Landry Jones. But I doubt that will be a problem. Last week the big boys up front on defense did a great job getting pressure on Geno Smith by sacking him, pressuring him, and even causing him to turn the ball over via fumbles. Factor in the fact that OUâ€™s offensive line has been a work in progress (sound familiar?) and that fact that Landry Jones is not nearly the running threat that Geno was and you have yourself a recipe for another big day from Okafor, Jeffcoat and crew. Sure, Stoops has also been preparing for this as well but Diaz is one of the best in college football when it comes to adjustments and he should do well finding creative ways to rush Jones all day. 2. The injuries: As of now Malcolm Brown and Jordan Hicks are both listed as â€œquestionableâ€. Honestly I doubt if either play. If they donâ€™t play then that means the reserves will have to step up again this week. This should be highlighted because a few of the players who could fill in for these two starters are freshmen and this game can easily give freshmen jitters. This is the freaking Texas/OU game weâ€™re talking about. The game that sometimes sways recruits decisions by itself. So the younger players being nervous and anxious more so than any other game on the schedule is almost expected. At running back freshmen Jonathan Gray and Daje Johnson will be called upon to pick up some of the carries left by Brown. And at linebacker Dalton Santos could see some playing time. Heck, even Demarco Cobbs, Kendall Thompson and Steve Edmond are all rookies for as far as this game goes. These players filled in pretty well last week but Iâ€™ll be watching to see how well all these players react and play in one of the craziest college football atmospheres for their first or second times. 3. David Ash: We all, unfortunately, know what happened in last years Texas/OU game and how Ash performed. For those who need a refresher, he completed just 11 of 20 passes, for a whopping 107 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 terrible interceptions. But this is a new season with a much-improved David Ash who is not only playing very well but also emerging as the leader of the offense. If Texas wants to win then he will need to play just as he has all season. Avoiding turnovers, making throws when he needs to, and even carry the team if the run game stalls out, for whatever reasons. Playing West Virginia on your home field was one thing. But going back to a hostile environment against your biggest rival where you didnâ€™t play well and trying to win that game is a completely different task. Iâ€™m still confident in Ash, and Harsin for that matter, as this offense continues to call games well and move the chains. But this is another big test for Ash and another opportunity to prove he is the right guy to lead the offense and the team. 4. Offensive Line: I continue to get disappointed after each game with the offensive line play, specifically with their run blocking. They actually have done well giving Ash time to make throws. But with so much talent in the backfield, the offensive line continues to struggle with opening up holes and creating running lanes for the ball carriers. And unfortunately OUâ€™s defensive front is much stronger and better than WVUâ€™s. This game will be all about time of possession, ball control, and moving the chains. If this offensive line requires extra tackles or tight ends to help block then that could really limit what Harsin will want to do. And for the love of God, Espinosa, please do not snap the ball early againâ€¦ Thatâ€™s the last thing the Longhorns need in this Saturday. 5. Secondary: How could I not bring up the secondary? The same problems that plagued them in week 1 are still problems that havenâ€™t been fixed, and itâ€™s almost half way through the season (already? This is flying by). I think inserting Mykelle Thompson into the starting lineup will help as he adds solid tackling and doesnâ€™t shy away from getting physical. But as I pointed out earlier, sometimes this game can get to guys mentally who havenâ€™t played significantly in it before, and Thompson fits that criteria. But at this point Iâ€™d much rather have Thompson starting than Adrian Phillips. Regardless, I still canâ€™t put my finger on exactly what is wrong with this secondary other than they are still not playing with discipline and the basic fundamentals of tackling and pursuit angles. Maybe this is just the game to finally turn things around. Either way, avoiding the big plays in this game is huge. The problem is the secondary, and the defense for that matter, have given up multiple big plays in each game this seasonâ€¦ That canâ€™t happen in Dallas. And you better believe Mack and Manny will have them fired up more so than anytime this season. Bonus Notes* Fera: Last week we got to see the Longhorns starting kicker who transferred from Penn State. This kid has a great leg and drilled a 38-yard field goal. But later in the game Fera missed a potential game tying field goal from 41 yards out, against a great opponent, when Texas really needed the points, in front of a packed stadium, in a prime time game. Look I didnâ€™t see Fera kick much last season, and I was very excited for the Longhorns to snag him away from Penn State because he has a great leg and has won multiple awards in college. But all Iâ€™m saying is that I hope he got over his miss last week and comes to Dallas mentally ready for what he may be called upon to do, or should I say to kick. He too has never played in this game and will only know what itâ€™s truly like when he steps into the stadium and onto the field. Last weekendâ€™s game was tough to stomach. Texas had multiple chances to take the lead late in the game and come out of the prime-time match up with a win. But a botched snap, a missed field, and a poor defensive effort on WVUâ€™s last drive contributed to the 3 point lost to the Mountaineers. Texas should already be over this loss and geared up for the game in Dallas on Saturday. Both these teams have 1 loss, respectively, to strong Big 12 opponents. Both of these teams have question marks floating around their depth chart. And both these teams want nothing more than to answer the questions marks and show the nation that they are the real deal and are still strong teams in this conference. With all of that said, I still feel good about the Longhorns this weekend. The fact that they were even able to compete with West Virginia shows you how far they have come from the past two seasons, and I like where they are headed. This game is like no other game on the schedule and but coming out of this game with a â€œWâ€ would be a big step in improvement for the Longhorns. One of the biggest factors to watch for is how the freshman and inexperienced players perform this Saturday in the Cotton Bowl. Watching this game is one thing. Attending this game is another. But actually playing in it is something only the players who stepped onto that field can truly understand. And the mental strength of this team will be just as important as the physical strength of this team this weekend. I do not want to Longhorns playing to avoid a loss. Rather, as Herm Edwards once diligently said, â€œYou play to win the gameâ€¦ HELLO!â€ And thatâ€™s exactly what I want to see from the Longhorns: Playing to steamroll the Sooners. Hookâ€™em The game on Saturday will be played in Dallas, Texas. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:00 A.M. (CT) Notable Injuries: LB Jordan Hicks (Questionable), RB Malcolm Brown (Questionable) Join in on the conversation. What will you be looking for? Twitter: @WesKCrochet E-mail: Wes.Sports@hotmail.com