Morning Coffee Goes Tiger Hunting

Gregory Gazelles Gig Aggies. What, there are other sports going on right now besides football? What's that you say, baseball? Never heard of it. Oh, and volleyball, too? Wow. Quite an education I'm receiving here. Well, big ups to the Gregory Gazelles, the fine ladies of the Texas volleyball squad, who beat the Aggies in College Station last night, 3-1. The win pushes their record to 7-1 in Big 12 play and was highlighted by 20 kills from viciously swinging vixen Destinee Hooker and the absolutely perfect Lauren Paolini, who had an error-free performance for the fourth time on the season. You go girls.

No "I" in team. However, there is a "me" in team. Which has always make me hate that particular cliche. But hey, the bold leads in Morning Coffee are for cutesy cliches. Onward to the point: This iteration of Texas football is a team. I ended the last Morning Coffee by saying that it's time to believe. My reasoning? Like I said, this is a team, with everything that entails. Senior leaders like Brian Orakpo have pulled the team together and worked to foster camaraderie between upperclassmen and younger players.

Accountability became the buzzword leading up to the Holiday Bowl and during spring practice precisely because there hadn't been any in 2007. Orakpo recalls that the older players didn't identify with the younger ones, and what's worse, didn't try. Recalling as well the close-knit group in 2005, Orakpo and other seniors like Roy Miller demanded teamwork, taking it on themselves to police their teammates on and off the field. It wasn't all tough love, though, as seniors organized team social activities to foster team unity. The results are apparent on the football field, and even though the OU game is the only real adversity the team has faced this season, responding to every OU score with one of their own gives a serious glimpse into the inner workings of this team. It is one in every sense of the word.

What if Daniel was one of us? That's the game played by Columbia Tribune writer Dave Matter, who wonders what would have been had Chase Daniel de-committed from Missouri and come to Texas. I find that type of speculation irritating and pointless, particularly with the incredible play of Colt McCoy this year. Mack Brown talks about it a lot: With 350 Division I players coming out of Texas every year, the vast majority of them go to other schools. Some of them are mad at Texas because they weren't offered. Some of those mad players happen to be excellent football players. To channel my inner Donald Rumsfeld here (didn't know it existed), "You play with the football team that you have, not the football team that you wish you had, or the football team that you may have in the future." 

Offensive scheme against Missouri. Perusing the team defensive rankings on cfbstats.com reveals some weaknesses in the Missouri defense. They rank 81st in the country in opponent third down conversions, allowing just over 40%. Even worse is the pass defense, ranking 114th, right behind (gasp) SMU and four spots lower than Texas. What does that mean for Texas? Well, the obvious answer is that Texas will likely come out throwing early and often, no real surprise since that's the offensive identity of this football team. It seems likely as well that the four wide receiver set will be the base formation moving forward.

Missouri has had major trouble with receivers running free deep down the sidelines (especially against Illinois), so look for more balls thrown down the field. How Missouri choses to defend the Texas passing attack will dictate where the ball goes, but it will be interesting to see if Colt is willing to stand in the pocket and look for the deep ball, since he has preferred the quick short passes he completes with such regularity, which allows for third and short opportunities that Missouri doesn't seem likely to be able to stop. If I called the plays, I would consistently send one wide receiver deep down the sideline and another deep down the seam on the same side and run crossing routes into that vacated space. I expect numerous explosive plays through the passing game.

More Gideon love. Tuesday's Morning Coffee noted that Mack Brown called Blake Gideon the "biggest surprise of the season." The Statesman followed that up with a feature article today chronicling Gideon's recovery from a broken back his sophomore year in high school (he played four games after breaking it). I watched the Rice game with some friends of friends from Leander, who characterized Gideon as being one hard hit from re-injuring his back, before I had heard anything about his old injury. Maybe someone who knows more about medicine than I can weigh in on the potential for re-injury. Whatever the case may be, I'm going to enjoy watching Blake Gideon play football and prove to recruiting services that he deserved more than two stars next to his name.

Smaller, quicker beats bigger, slower. I told PB last week that I was concerned about the size of the OU offensive line and wondered how our undersized defensive tackles would handle their assignments. Consider my worries unfounded and chalk up a victory for PB there. I guess I should add doubting Muschamp even for a moment to the Tuesday night sin purging thread. Shame on me.

Tim Griffin chronicles the rise of the Texas defense, led by Brian Orakpo, on whom Morning Coffee has quite the man-crush. And why not? The man has 10 tfl, 7.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 passes broken up. Incredible numbers considering he could have nearly twice as many sacks if opposing offensive linemen weren't forced to hold him multiple times per game. Despite the gaudy sack numbers, Orakpo isn't just a rush end. The 10 tackles for loss are a testament to his ability to keep contain when necessary, with more than a couple of those being open field tackles on smaller, quicker players.

It isn't just Orakpo making the defensive line tick, as Lamarr Houston, Aaron Lewis, and particularly Roy Miller have clogged the middle, vaunting Texas to third in the country in rush defense at barely over 50 yards per game. With the young safety gaining experience by the minute, expect this defense to be even better when the bowl season rolls around.

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