Too small and not fast enough. Putting aside the infamous dropped interception in a certain West Texas town, true freshman safety Blake Gideon came out of nowhere (or Leander, whichever you prefer) to earn a starting safety position this season. Cerebral, and the coaches son, Gideon generally covered his physical deficiencies by understanding the scheme and putting himself in a position to make plays. What Gideon isn't, though, is physically gifted enough to start at safety for Texas over the next three years. With undersized Earl Thomas lining up alongside Gideon in the secondary, the Longhorns lack the size and the ability to lay any serious wood on receivers wanting to catch the ball over the middle. In other words, the Longhorns need a Craig Loston or a Kevin Brent, both big, fast, physical safeties who escaped the Lone Star State.
Ohio State exposed Gideon's lateral quickness and explosiveness, of which he seems to possess neither. Basically, Gideon is fine reading and reacting downhill, but has absolutely no ability to change direction. The greatest attribute for a safety is range, not just in one direction but also laterally. The play against Pryor in the end zone was just an unacceptable effort. Lacking time to turn and find the ball, Gideon should have relied on Pryor's eyes to see when the ball was coming and attempt to get a hand or two up in his face. Didn't happen and Gideon looked pathetic.
Christian Scott needs to learn the scheme this offseason and overcome whatever mental obstacles have kept him off the field because the Longhorns will need him next year as a physical presence in the secondary to complement Earl Thomas. In a concession to inexperience, the defensive coaches simplified their schemes to left and right safety, instead of the usual strong and free definitions--expect that to change and for Scott to find his way onto the field.
Colt McCoy's legacy drive. Amongst Colt McCoy's precision passes and assault on the Heisman trophy and Texas record book, the predominant question surrounding McCoy this season was the question of his legacy, his place alongside the best Texas quarterbacks ever to don the burnt orange. After leading second half comebacks against Oklahoma and Texas Tech, smashing the NCAA single season completion percentage record, and obliterating a host of Texas records, what did McCoy have to prove?
How about a game-winning drive in a BCS bowl game? With slightly less than two minutes left on the clock and following a punch-in-the-stomach drive by Ohio State to take a late lead, McCoy was faced with the task of marching his team 79 yards to the red Ohio State endzone, needing a touchdown with a four point deficit. Despite pressure in his face all evening, McCoy calmly lead the team down the field, several times hitting Brandon Collins and connecting with James Kirkendoll on a fourth down that barely crossed the plane of the first down marker. Yes, McCoy was about to place himself in the pantheon of all-time greats, with just a little help from his friends.
Enter the oldest player on the team, former minor league baseball player and Mart quarterback, Quan Cosby...
Cosby goes out in style. With more style than the sweaters Bill Cosby used to rock on his television show. It wasn't a gaudy or garish style, unlike the sweaters worn by the comedian. It was consistent, efficient, just like Cosby has been for years now. All night, Colt McCoy found Cosby open, connecting 13 times before the final offensive snap. It was Cosby with a one-handed catch on a long third down play crossing the field and picking up another set of downs. Cosby using his body once more to shield the defender as McCoy put a dart right in his chest. Cosby, with a bone crunching block reminiscent of the lick laid to Lendy Holmes in the Cotton Bowl, freeing Colt McCoy for the first Longhorn touchdown.
Finally, with the clock nearing 30 seconds and the number of chances to avert a disastrous loss dwindling by the ticking of the clock, McCoy found Brandon Collins for a 14-yard gain and a first down, with Collins coming up limping after the play. Perhaps expecting the Longhorns to substitute for the injured player, the Ohio State defense seemed caught off guard when McCoy and his offense rushed to the line of scrimmage, as they had done to great effect in the second half.
Fatally unprepared, the Buckeyes left no safety deep and brought their linebackers up near the line of scrimmage, a monumental blunder of the type that would even be uncharacteristic for Brent Venables. You. Must. Protect. Your. Endzone. Or not. Cosby ran a slant, McCoy hit him in stride, and Cosby eluded the safety, the last line of the Buckeye defense and found nothing but green grass in front of him and the red-painted turf of the Ohio State endzone to greet his celebratory dive, the last offensive play of his career at Texas. It was fitting that it would end this way, McCoy to Cosby, the most prolific throwing and catching duo in the illustrious history of the program. Yes, fitting that this team leader and role model to his younger teammates would put the exclamation point on one of the greatest seasons in Texas football history.
Pryor is the real deal, but...Does he just hate to get hit or what? Several times in the first half when running the football, Terrelle Pryor went weakly out of bounds, leaving yards upon yards of open field in front of him before the closest Longhorn defender. Repeatedly, as the Texas defensive line got pressure on him, he failed to step into his throws, consistently leaving them short of his receivers, giving them no play on the ball. For such a big, strong kid, the lack of desire to mix it up with smaller defenders speaks volumes about Pryor's toughness, or complete lack thereof. I mean, it's not like there is anyone in the back seven for Texas who is likely to knock you out, unless it's Sergio Kindle, who seemed only to play situationally against the Buckeyes.
Beyond the toughness factor, Pryor is the real deal. Kid blew up the angles of Longhorn defenders all night and used his quickness to avoid Longhorn rushers time after time. After that performance, it's hard to believe that he was sacked 19 times this season--the Longhorn defenders didn't have a chance unless Pryor failed to realize they were there until the last second. Like Robert Griffin, it's an extremely difficult task to keep contain and not stray too far upfield and leave gaping running lanes for the long-legged quarterback (yes, that means you Henry Melton). The passing game was a struggle, as Pryor's footwork often left him, as he failed to step into a great many throws when pressured, as mentioned above. Compared to the mechanical disaster that is Vince Young throwing a football, the footwork impediments to passing success are much less significant than faced the Longhorn great. Pryor doesn't have the elusiveness or balance of Young, but he does run well behind his pads and his long stride and grace when running certainly call to mind VY. Ohio State will return to a national championship game before Pryor leaves Columbus.
Quick hits. Goodbye Deon Beasley, the Texas defense no longer requires your non-tackling service. Oh yeah, and after you blatantly hold someone, don't clap like you just made a good play...As good as Brian Orakpo is, the Longhorns will miss man-beast Roy Miller clogging the middle more next season...I will parrot PB--What does it take to get Malcolm Williams on the field and have some balls thrown in his direction?...I can't wait to see Aaron Williams on the field consistently, showing off his incredible form tackling...Was Lamarr Houston limited this season because of his ankle, or does he just have a lot harder time affecting the game inside?