I've seen lot of fans posting about Saban's classlessness, the ref's onesided calls, the trolls and idiots who've come on this site to gloat and be trolls and idiots. What I haven't seen is a lot of people writing about our team. What did we do in this game? After the jump I'll share my breakdown of position.
Texas Longhorn Grades - 2009 National Championship Game
Coaching: B+ I have to give the coaches credit for making the adjustments neccessary to keep us in the game. Many talking heads want to say the shovel pass to end the half was a bone head call. It obviously went about as bad as it could've, but hindsight is always 20/20. What if the play goes for 15 yard and we get a chance to chuck it to the endzone? You never know what might've happened. If the pass falls incompete, no harm done. Our coaches have been aggressive all year. That's what I want from my coaches, to push, to be the aggressor, to not back down. Many fans were probably upset with the extremely conservative play calling by Greg Davis throughout the second quarter. I actually think Greg Davis called a really good game. He probably lost 60% of his playbook when McCoy went down and yet there were several perfect play calls that the offense didn't execute for scores. Will Muschamp and D were never really able to contain the 'Bama rush game, but you could see in the 3rd quarter that half-time adjustments were made, and Alabama struggled to move the ball the entire second half. All in all the only place I think the coaches could've done better was to help the team survive the shell-shock of losing McCoy a little better. The injury clearly shook the entire team. Our coaches have been solid to great throughout the entire '09 season and in the end, they were who we thought they were.
Quarterbacks: C- Garrett Gilbert's performance unto itself is worthy of a lower grade then a C-, but in context, you might have to give him a higher grade. The kid showed incredible resiliency. He was consistently hit hard after releasing passes and we threw the two early picks, but that didn't keep him down. Colt looked great while he was in the game. I know it's a small sample size, but he did complete both of his passes. The same 'ole accurate Colt. Greg Davis did a really good job of protecting Gilbert until he was able to find some plays that were able to pick up positive yardage. As the game wore on and the playcalling opened up. But alas, we saw the results of aggressive play calling with a freshman quarterback: turnovers. It really goes without saying that the biggest difference in the game were the 5 turnovers. Unfortunately for the young freshman QB, he had a hand in all of them. On the other hand, I couldn't be prouder of how he shrugged off the early struggles and led this offense back in the second half. We couldn't have asked for more from a greatly heralded true freshman quarterback playing on the biggest stage in College Football. I think he's going to be who we think he is.
Running backs: C- Just as anyone could've predicted we struggled to run the football against the vaunted Crimson Tide defense. I don't think there were any sane fans who thought we were going to be able to control the game with our run game. Texas rushed for 81 yards on 28 carries for a net gain of 2.8 yards per carry. I give the running backs a bit of a curve with a C- because Alabama was clearly loading up to stone the run once Gilbert came in. Early in the game Cody Johnson was able to convert on 3rd and short, something he's been able to do pretty consistantly all year. Newton did a good job of not dancing around the backfield and taking the positive, albeit not large, gains that were there. The jet sweeps worked really well in the first half before Alabama was able to make adjustments for the second half. The slip screens to Marquise Goodwin also worked essentially like outside running plays and 'Bama never did figure that play out. Side note: I don't think I've ever seen our WR screen game look as good as it did in this game agaist a really good defense. Go figure. In the end, our o-line was unable to open holes and/or maintain them long enough to get the consitent 4 yard runs we were looking for. It was about what we've seen from this group all year. They were who we thought they were.
Offensive Line: C This group had been told for a solid month how aweful they were. They responded pretty well. Pass protection on the whole was good, not great, but good. Run blocking wasn't great, but then again, when has it been in 2009? This group has been prone to mental lapses now and again, and that was their undoing in this one. The unblocked blitzer off the quaterback's blind side sealed the deal for Alabama. A solid if not flawed unit that was who we thought they were.
Wide Receivers: D Do teachers put minuses on D's? If they do, you can insert that little hyphen after the D. Let's go man by man shall we? We shall. Jordan Shipley: the reason this group doesn't get an F for total failure. On his own he gets an A for doing what he's done all year, which is obliterate single coverage. He's too quick for college DB's. He can't be covered mano y mano, just can't be done. Jordan Shipley is a gamer and he was who we thought he was. Alas, he did drop a crucial pass in the game as well. Which leads to the other names. Malcolm Williams: aka hands of stone. Malcolm has been an enigma all season. It seemed as if he'd put his early season/career drop problems behind him in the last few games. Instead we saw bad Malcolm with I believe 3 important drops (one for a TD). The announcers said it would've been a tought catch. It wasn't an easy catch, but had he brought that one down for the TD, it wouldn't have been labled as a miracle or a circus catch, just a solid grab. He's had problems with drops in the past, he had problems when the heat was turned up. Malcolm Williams was who we thought he was. Marquise Goodwin: did some really nice things turning the short passes into long gains. His future is still bright. He is still who we thought he was. Dan Buckner: makes circus catches, drops balls that hit him in the chest. Had he been able to make that third down catch early in the game, who knows what that does for Gilber's confidence. John Chiles/James Kirkendol: aka 'The Invisible Men.' We've seen glints of brilliance from both John and James this season, but on they whole, they've been two receivers defined by lacksidasicle effort, mopey attitudes, dropped passes, with a sprinkling of nice plays. This game was no different. No catches for no yards. At least they didn't drop any passes. They were who we thought they were.
Defensive Line: A- The defensive line play was solid. They were able to put an amazing amount of pressure on McElroy when he dropped back to pass (partly because of great secondary coverage). Without going back and looking at the tape again, I'd have to say they held their gaps reasonably well against Alabama's offensive line. Most of the successful runs were successful because of a DB's inablility to turn the play back inside, or a Safety/LB's inability to make a tackle in the hole. A solid showing from a great group. The nation got see a taste of the penetration ablility of Lamaar Houston, and they also got to the athlete that is Sergio Kindle. They've been rock solid all year. They were who we thought they were.
Linebackers: B- This group had a mixed review. In some spots they filled holes and made tough, hard-nosed tackles. Muckelroy, one of the leaders of the defense, kept everyone up while the offense was trying to find their way. They were solid in pass coverage as Greg McElroy rarely had anyone to throw to. In other spots they were seen bouncing off of Mark Ingram as he picked up his pattented YAC yards. In the Texas linebackers you have a group of no name guys who've done everything the coaches have asked them to do. They were who we thought they were.
Defensive backs: B- Again, another mixed bag. Run support was not good. Chykie Brown had several Deion Sanders esque tackling attempts. Richardson was able to break off his long TD run because Blake Gideon failed to fill the correct hole. They just weren't quite physical enough in bringing down the Alabama running backs. However, coverage was stellar all night long. You can't say enough positive things about how good this group did when McElroy tried to pass the ball. They were a lock down group for the majority of the season and 'Bama got a good taste of what they can do. They were who we thought they were.
In the end, I can't be too heavy hearted about this defeat. We lost our best player. We turned the ball over 5 times and eventually lost the game. But!... Our players came to win the game. They didn't quit. They didn't lose heart. They got punched in the mouth, and you know what, when the all the world said, "Their done", they stood back up and brought a haymaker of their own. Our stars shined bright. Jordan Shipley had 10 catches for 122 yards and 2 TD's. Sergio Kindle was a stud. Our coaches had the team prepared to win the National Championship. The 2009 Texas Longhorns were who we thought they were.