Postgame React: Texas A&M

Before I start: congratulations to Texas A&M. The Aggies were the better football team today and earned the win. They were better prepared. They played better football. No question about that.

The outcome was: Worse For Mack Than For The Fans. When you're the author of a site like this one, writing every single day, usually multiple posts per day, your work is going to run the gamut. Some posts will be crap. Some will just pass along information. Some, you hope, hit the nail on the head.

In thinking about how to preview this football game, two things were clear. First, that Texas A&M was a football team that Texas should beat. Even on the road, even though it's a rivalry game. That was clear to everybody. But second, the more I thought about the game, the more I thought that a loss would be an absolutely devastating one for Mack Brown. That's why I wrote such a long piece setting the stage for the game.

Because it's not so much that the loss today wrecks the 2007 season (which was wrecked with back-to-back losses to open conference play). It's that the five-game winning streak over Iowa State, Baylor, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech was either going to represent a hollow rally or a more encouraging turning of the corner.

And we lost. And we lost painfully. And Texas fans are rightfully pissed off. And when I say that this loss is worse for Mack Brown than it is for the fans, I mean it. We're still gonna go to the Holiday Bowl, which is fine. It should be a fun game, and selfishly, it works out quite nicely for me, as I'll be with my family in southern California anyway.

But for evaluating a head coach, Texas fans rightfully believe there exist only four meaningful prizes: 1) a conference title, 2) a national title, 3) wins over rivals, and 4) a season that shows some sort of big breakthrough for the next year or two. (On Mack Brown's list, 10 wins is a prize. On fans' list, it is not.)

So we close out the 2007 season missing out on a conference title. We're nowhere near a national title. We lost the only three games of the year that mattered (KSU, OU, and A&M). And with the loss to A&M that confirmed all the worries that have dominated fan talk throughout this season, we're not left feeling like there's been any kind of breakthrough. Mack needed to win this game to avoid a lot of heat from this fanbase. He did not, and he will not.

The Offensive MVP was: Jamaal Charles. The kid can play, and we're lucky to have him. At season's end, he's the one game-changing player on the Texas offense, and if you're brave, I dare you to think about how poorly this season might have gone without his heroics. It was a hell of a year for a great player who labored through some trying midseason struggles. When folks like me were wondering if he was going to return to being a great player for Texas, he brought forth his best. I'm a huge, huge fan.

The Defensive MVP was: I can't think of anyone. The closest anyone came to having a great day on defense was Muckelroy, but even he had his breakdowns. This is the worst Texas defense in some time. Sad to say, but true.

The offensive Offensive Player Of The Week was: Colt McCoy. He's had some gutty, great efforts for this team in 2007. But overall, it's just not been a good year. And it was not a good day today. He didn't have a ton of help - not from his line, from his offensive coordinator, nor from his receivers - but he also made too many mistakes that were his own fault. Whether he's had an off year or he's not good enough to lead Texas to something better than this is a question for another day. All we know is that his level of play in 2007 isn't going to be enough for Texas to be a great football team.

The offensive Defensive Player Of The Week was: Duane Akina. Stephen McGee threw the oblong, leather object to receivers for plays that totaled nearly 400 yards. The conservative, one-dimensional, can't-break-a-big-play-to-save-their-lives Aggies took a look at the Duane Akina-led Texas defense and said, "You know what? Even we can do this."

Michael Goodsen? Good bye season slump! Jorvorskie Lane? Feast on some shoulder tackling! Receivers I've never heard of? Have a career game! Also: Stephen McGee. Nearly 400 yards passing. Stephen McGee. Passing. 400 yards.

Ladies and gentlemen: the 2007 Texas defense!

I'm sorry to be such an asshole, but let's call a spade a spade. We've been grousing about personnel and scheme problems from day one of this season. Reckless blitzing. Graduate assistant linebackers getting the starts. Excuses from coaches about why the young, athletic guys can't play. (Seriously, when it's clear to everyone on the planet that this defense needs athletic linebackers out there, don't tell me they aren't quite heady enough to be out there - that's your job to make sure they are.)

When Mack Brown is thinking about what he needs to do to rally this program, he needs to look long and hard at himsef, first and foremost. He needs to ask himself if he's surrounded himself with the people who will help him get the most out of his football teams. He needs to ask himself if he has a staff of comfortable friends who do things he knows, and whether that mentality is good for his goals. Perhaps, if the goal is only to win 10 games, it is. He should not be surprised if we vocally disagree.

John Chiles Watch: Did Not Play. If Colt McCoy were playing so well that the Texas offense needed to be left 'as is' to avoid unnecessary disruption, this wouldn't be an issue. Obviously, that is not the case. Texas struggled offensively in each of the following games (Colt note in parentheses):

ASU (McCoy 220 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT)
TCU (McCoy 2 first half INT)
UCF (McCoy 5.5 yards per attempt)
KSU (McCoy 19-34, 1 TD, 4 INT)
OU (McCoy played well, 324 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, but 4 sacks)
BU (McCoy 1 TD, 2 INT)
NU (McCoy 180 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT)
OSU (McCoy 1 TD, 3 INT)
A&M (17-32, 229, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 fumble)

The Longhorns can say they played good offensive football against Rice, Iowa State, and Texas Tech. In nine other games, there were issues. In eight of those games, McCoy was either average or less than average. McCoy played well against Oklahoma, and, at the end, well against Oklahoma State. He was good in the second half against TCU. But that's far, far too many quarters of uninspiring quarterback play.

The only real question is how to apportion the blame. A chunk of it has to go to Greg Davis. Some to Mack Brown. We should note that the absence of Limas Sweed has really, really hurt. But there's also no way of escaping the fact that McCoy hasn't had a good year.

Maybe most frustrating of all, however, is that there's been no attempt whatsoever to use John Chiles to supplement this mediocrity. We're out Limas Sweed, learning how to run the football sans Vince Young, and dealing with real issues on the offensive line. More than that, we're a year removed from a season in which the coaches loudly pronounced that they'd never make the mistake of underutilizing their backup QB again.

And yet, that's exactly what we did once again in 2007. And lest anyone object "But these games were all so tight! We needed to keep our more experienced guy in there to make sure we won!", I humbly remind you of the following:

--We're 9-3, with three losses in the only games that matter.
--We're not going to the Big 12 title game.
--We're not going to a BCS Bowl.
--We've absolutely wasted the freshman season of one of our most exciting offensive recruits.

Not only is it largely irrelevant which Not Big Bowl the Longhorns attend, but there's a damn good possibility that this kid could have helped the offense. Can he pass worth a lick right now? Who cares? Arkansas uses their tailback at QB half the time just because he's such a freaking menace. Especially because this Texas offense lost its explosiveness when Limas Sweed went down, the inability to try to regain some explosiveness by using Chiles creatively remains the biggest disappointment of 2007.

Vondrell McGee Watch: 3 carries, 8 yards. McGee is rightfully behind Charles and will have to wait his turn. I'd still like to see him used on kickoff returns.

Arizona State Fear Factor: 10 out of 10   (5) is the baseline. (+5) for Stephen McGee just threw the football for almost 400 yards. That is not a typo. Whomever we play in our bowl game, odds are they're going to feast on this Texas defense.

Heading into next week I feel: Morbidly Curious. Is this the lowest point in the Mack Brown era? I'd guess that it is. I'm actually kind of curious to see how he handles this. I know the popular opinion is that nothing will change, forever, Amen. And believe me, I know how slow things are to change when Mack thinks things are on track. But this is as far off the rails as the 'Horns have been in some time. At least that's the feeling I've got. I'm curious to see if Mack feels the same way, and curious to see if he makes any indication that change is forthcoming. Mack Brown is a sneakily resilient man, and though I'm as disappointed as anybody right now, I've learned better than to put him six feet under prematurely.

It's going to be interesting to see what happens next. Things are as broken as they've been in Austin in some time, but the cupboard is stacked for 2008 and '09. Will we see any meaningful change before then?

Stay tuned...

--PB--

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