Postgame React: Texas 38 Colorado 14

Tempting, but premature....

The outcome was: So Far, So Good. Setting aside what last night's game told us about next week, the outcome itself--a 24-point road win over a not awful conference opponent--was just dandy. Much more on both below, but as we head into The Stretch (OU, Mizzou, OSU, at Tech), it's impossible to ignore the fact that any meaning we temporarily attach to the season story so far is about to be wholly superseded by what's ahead.

Making coffee this morning, I couldn't help but compare the first five games to a series of dates with a girl who has so outperformed your initial expectations that you're almost ready to reconsider your steadfast commitment to bachelorhood, except you're reserving final judgment for after the coming month, during which you're going to (1) meet her mother, (2) go on a week-long vacation together in a car, (3) face a trying financial crisis, and (4) spend time with her over-sharing ex-boyfriend of five years.

If she comes out the other side of all that looking like gold, you might just put a big rock on her finger, but... probably best to hold off any down payments until then, yes?

The Offensive MVP was: Chris Ogbonnaya. A blogger who writes hundreds of thousands of words each year has to learn to live with the bad takes alongside the good. As an example of the latter, I predicted a 37-13 Texas win at the Ralpie Report last week. Woo me! As an example of the not-so-hot, travel back to August 2007 when Chris Ogbonnaya was named the #2 tailback behind Jamaal Charles, causing me to cartwheel through my living room before gushing about his Priest Holmes-like abilities--a description which prompted Scipio Tex at Barking Carnival to ask if I was "swilling lighter fluid."

As Scipio noted in the comments, we all have favorite players we love more than their objective skill set suggest is rational. So if my OG appreciation was just a wee bit over the top (Priest Holmes he is not), you can count on one hand the number of fans last night who were as thrilled as I to see the senior tailback have a game befitting of... well, Priest Holmes:

9 carries, 75 yards, 1 TD
6 receptions, 116 yards, 1 TD

If that kind of production is beyond Ogbonnaya's abilities on a weekly basis, what we are seeing in 2008 is the fruits of proper player usage based on skill set. OG has been used effectively as a situational pass catcher, to the tune of 15 receptions for 244 yards, including three touchdowns. Add in his mostly outstanding pass blocking (only one missed assignment comes to mind) and pick-your-spots rushing (93 yards on 16 carries) and Texas is getting the most out of Ogbonnaya.

And that's a point worth emphasizing: Player usage is every bit as important as player ability. Chris Ogbonnaya is no Priest Holmes. But used properly, you can get Holmes-like production just from picking the right spots. Kudos to Chris on an outstanding game.

The Defensive MVP was: Lamarr Houston and Roy Miller. Texas' ends played well enough that I wouldn't quibble with anyone who wanted to give the MVP nod to the entire defensive line, but I thought the 'Horns' twin terrors at tackle stood alone as indomitable havoc-wreaking forces. Roy Miller routinely ate alive attempts to block him with a single lineman and bulldozed double teams into the backfield. Lamarr Houston was just too quick for Colorado's interior blockers and spent his entire night in Cody Hawkins' grill. By the midpoint of the first quarter, Colorado was resigned to rolling the pocket outside to give their quarterback any chance of having time to make a throw.

Incidentally, this is the match up to watch in Dallas--Texas' defensive line against the much-ballyhooed five senior offensive linemen for Oklahoma. Sam Bradford with time against Texas' back seven in coverage is exceptionally dangerous. An otherworldly performance from our defensive line would change that dynamic considerably.

The offensive Offensive LVP was: Offensive Line. To get a better understanding of Texas' effectiveness rushing the football, we need to look beyond the final official numbers: 46 rushes for 169 yards. First, subtract 4 carries and add 35 yards for sacks--failed pass plays. New total = 42 rushes, 204 yards, 4.86 per rush.

Not half bad. Now subtract the (sack-adjusted) 10 rushes for 67 yards from Texas' quarterbacks: 32 rushes, 137 yards, 4.28 per rush.

Less sexy. And finally, take Chris Ogbonnaya's uncharacteristic 51-yard romp, make it a 10-yard carry (where he broke a tackle) and consider the final rushing tally from Texas' tailbacks: 32 rushes, 96 yards, 3.0 per rush.

One can fairly object that this kind of cherry picking is irrelevant insofar as quarterback rushing does count and OG's 51 yard run counts every bit as much as any rush where he lost 2 yards should. But while I'll grant that objection, the foregoing is meant to illustrate that (1) Texas is not rushing the ball consistently well with tailbacks and (2) our offensive line really struggled to make a mark against Colorado.

While Colorado's defensive line is by far their strongest unit, the mediocre performance from our offensive line is a source of concern. Not only is Texas' offense frighteningly dependent on Colt McCoy making plays, but the battle against Colorado's defensive line is going to look like a slap fight compared with the trench warfare awaiting in Dallas. Another performance like Saturday's won't do.

The offensive Defensive LVP: Kickoff returns. The defense was superb last night, so no LVPs there, so I'll single out the kickoff return team, whose only highlight was a punishing Aaron Williams hit on a brain dead Josh Smith at the goal line. The Longhorns can't afford to give Sam Bradford any short fields on Saturday. 

John Chiles Watch: 2 carries, 8 yards / 0-0 passing, 1 sack, -15 yards. He's lost out there and it's pretty painful to watch. Fans are rightly frustrated by his non-contributions, but this looks for the life of me like a failure of coaching. John looks like a player totally confused by his identity and role on the team after being yo-yoed around from "Q Package Key" to "Handoff Specialist."

Without question, part of any impending improvement has to come from Chiles himself, but I suspect there's work to be done on the coaches' end in getting his head right. He's running hesitantly and without purpose, coming in to games mostly as a mop up man. Being a meaningful contributor means he'll need to get angry and get results on his own, but for now, he's lost at sea. I blame John and the coaches alike.

Cerberus Watch: McGee: 8-30-3.8, 0 TD / Ogbonnaya: 9-71-7.9, 1 TD and 6 receptions, 116 yards, 1 TD / Whittaker: DNPJohnson: 11-29-2.5, 2 TDs. Chris Ogbonnaya deservedly gets a game ball, but the lack of consistent production from the tailback position continues to stand out. And simply won't do if Texas is to navigate successfully the upcoming four game stretch. To paraphrase Texas' opposing coach last night: "This ain't 7-on-7 summer league, brotha!" Indeed it is not, which means Colt to Quan or Shipley as an entire offense won't do the trick.

The Fozzy Whittaker knee injury needs to heal... oh, I'd say now. That, or Texas will need an atypical performance from McGee, OG, or Big Cody in Dallas.

Tight End Watch: Peter Ullman 1 reception 6 yards. I like Peter Ullman's father a lot (an A+ tailgater, if you're wondering). I worry greatly about Peter Ullman as Texas' top receiving option at tight end. Blaine Irby is missed.

Oklahoma Fear Factor: 10 out of 10   (5) is the baseline.  (-1) for Texas' defensive line; (+1) for OU's offensive line; (+1) for Texas' offensive line play against CU; (+1) for Oklahoma's defensive line; (-1) for Demarco Murray is more supreme athlete than football player right now; (+1) Murray's light looks real-real-close to coming on; (-1) for Will Muschamp, period; (+1) for Jermaine Gresham terrifies me; (+1) for where did Manuel Johnson come from?; (+1) for Texas' lack of explosive deep threat on offense; (+1) for Fozzy Whittaker's knee.

Heading into next week I feel: Anxious. This is it. Texas' first barometer of the season, where we find out whether this is a very good football team building towards greatness or a great football team building towards a run at two conference titles. The skeptic in me looks at Oklahoma as objectively stronger, especially on offense, and fears our still-improving defense isn't quite ready to slow down a monster of this caliber. The optimist in me has seen enough defensive improvement through five games to think that Texas will have--whoa--enough of a coaching advantage on Saturday to keep Bradford & Co. from blowing up at a pace with which our offense can't keep up.

It could happen either way. And either way, OU will still suck.

Happy Hate Week, Longhorns fans.

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