Texas Longhorns 12 - UCLA 34, What Really Happened

Garrett Gilbert

Whomever you are, your days are numbered.  We are looking for you.  Someone, some poor misguided soul, somehow, was able to get past the security at the Longhorn's Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 25, 2010, and on the day of the planned game against UCLA. This person smuggled into our sacred grounds, our hallowed astro-turf, a Big Ol' can of Whup-Ass. That is strictly against DKR Memorial Stadium rules, no Whup-Ass cans, no 12th men, are allowed to enter the beloved Longhorn's home turf. We will find you, and when we do, it will not be pretty.

Actually, I do not believe any Whup-Ass was delivered on Saturday.  Whup-Ass is where two teams are playing head to head, all out, each putting their best game into it, and one team just whips the tar out of the other team.  That does not fit the picture of what happened at Memorial Stadium on week four of the 2010 NCAA Football season in Austin.

If one simply looks at the score, UCLA 34 - Texas Longhorns 12, it may appear that some Whup-Ass was delivered by the UCLA Bruins, but a closer look at the actual details of the game show quite a different story.  We did lose the game, and I'm not altogether sure how that happened.  So I did some investigation, some conjecture.

Going into the Texas Tech game (week 3), I was thinking that the Red Raiders game would be the Longhorn's first real challenge.  Relieved at the win, I skipped right past UCLA, didn't even look at their stats, and gave the game to Texas, as did the forecasters who had Texas as the favorite by 17 points.

When the media introduced the Longhorn's defense as the top defense in the nation, they were looking at only one set of numbers, average yards allowed per game.  The Longhorn's defense may have had the lowest allowed average yards per game, but those low numbers came from playing 3 of the bottom 20 worst running teams in the NCAA.  Heck, Texas even set the Raiders back -14 yards in their running game, but the raw stats show that Texas Tech has the 2nd worst running game in the nation.

UCLA coaches knew they were bringing a top rated running game to a Texas defense that had only played poorly performing running games, and they knew that Texas was going to bring a Passing game, so they prepared defensively.  It was some of the best receiving coverage I've seen.  They had done their homework, and Texas had probably not done enough homework on the game, instead, looking ahead to OU and Nebraska, just like I was doing.

UCLA came to Austin with a well planned game strategy, but even so, they would have had trouble beating the Longhorns on that alone.  It should have just made for a very exciting game.  What wasn't part of either UCLA's game plan or UT's game plan, was that the Longhorns, ranked number 7, would bring their worst game, instead of their best game.

Too many things went wrong for Texas, and it just sorta snowballed, true to form, right down to the very last minute of the game, when DJ Monroe fumbled a kickoff return, leaving UCLA with the ball on the Texas 22 yard line and 0.46 seconds left on the clock, which they just ran out on 2 downs.

The first half ended with only a few mistakes, and UCLA leading 13 - 3, a deficit that the Texas Longhorns have certainly overcome in the past many times over, but a strong opening 2nd half TD drive by UCLA, which resulted in a 20 - 3 score, a 17 point deficit, probably just left everyone a little stunned, and the 2nd half went downhill from there. 

The two biggest mistakes of the 1st half was Gilbert overthrowing a wide open Kierkendoll for a touchdown, which cost us 7 points, and then the kickoff return fumble on the Texas 4 yard line, which gave UCLA an easy 7 points.  Some other minor mistakes were made, but didn't translate into much.  Without those two biggies, the half time score would have been Texas 10 - UCLA 6.

On Further Review, Our Mistakes and Weaknesses

I reviewed the footage, and the mistakes that were made were pretty evenly distributed across the team.  I remember thinking at first that Gilbert was making too many mistakes, but actually he made only a few mistakes, an overthrown touchdown pass, which cost us 7 points from a touchdown, an interception that returned no points, a fumbled hand off with Monroe, which cost us 3 points from a field goal.  Gilbert was actually the strongest player out there that day.

The offensive line let 4 sacks through for 34 yards lost, but overall, I thought they did a very reasonable job of giving Gilbert plenty of time to work with.  Our receivers were too well studied, and too well covered.  That's because every coach out there knows that Texas has to play a passing game, so they put most of their preparation into covering the pass.  This is a very big problem, knowing that Texas must play a passing game.  Every opponent can put their energy into pressuring Gilbert, and covering the receivers.  The only thing that can compensate for that is a very strong offensive line.

Also, in the 1st half, we had that kickoff fumble, which gave UCLA 7 easy points. 

The defense played strong, and even covered up some mistakes made by the offense, preventing UCLA from scoring from some of the offensive mistakes, but the defense let two powerful running drives take over the field for UCLA touchdowns, 14 points on the board.  Opening the 2nd half, UCLA drove 80 yards to a touchdown in 8 plays, 7 were runs.  And what about that 45 yard kickoff return and 3 play 50 yard touchdown drive, where we let the QB through the defensive line for a 38 yard touchdown?  I mean he was so open, he could have just walked the ball in.

It must be said, that except for those two touchdown drives, our defense played very strong against a top 20 rated running team.  But, those two touchdown drives, coupled with other mistakes across the team, gave UCLA well over 20 something points on the board. 

Some of it was plain old misfortune, like the probable touchdown pass to Goodwin in the 3rd quarter.  We were on the UCLA 17 on 3rd down and 7, and Gilbert attempted a deep pass to Goodwin in the end zone, who was knocked down, unquestionably pass interference, otherwise, Goodwin would have had a TD.  But as fate would have it, the ball was tipped "after" Goodwin was knocked down, therefore, it null and voided the pass interference penalty, which would have put Texas on the UCLA 3 yard line, with 1st down and goal.  Texas had to settle for a field Goal.  The ball was tipped very slightly and was still on course into the path of where Goodwin would have been had he not been knocked down.

The onside kick out of bounds penalty was probably a mistake, should have not been kicked out of bounds, or better coordination between the kicker the players to surround the ball.

Unquestionably, our weakest links are our runners and receivers.  Our running backs don't have any skill at improvising, and they're not going to this season. We just don't have any big play-makers in the rushing department.  I like DJ Monroe in there, even though he made some mistakes, he's got a good running back in him.  Our receivers seem to lack some of the basic qualities of receivers, like catching and holding onto the ball.  The receivers also lack the kind of creativity that Shipley had in outmaneuver the coverage.  In reviewing the play by play, and looking at the footage, many of the "incomplete passes" were actually dropped, or not caught. Even when Gilbert is throwing into tight coverage, he is looking awesomely accurate.  Steady play-making from runners and receivers would rack up the yards, make those 1st downs, and put points on the board.  The Texas Longhorns have put many times over quite a few more points on the board than 34.  Texas Longhorn tradition does not consider that a very high score.  Many of our teams the last decade usually achieved that level of score by the 3rd quarter, and coach Brown was putting in the back up QB by then.

I don't know how one trains receivers to shake coverage and catch the ball, or how one trains running backs to improvise, and find the break through points in the defensive line, with split second timing.  But it seems there could be some kinda knowledge base for coaching on how to do that.  Coaches, use every resource you can to work on those issues.  Drills, exercises, affirmations, whatever. You are University of Texas coaches, you have anything you want at your disposal.  Heck, call in Tony Robbins.  Do what ever you gotta do to do a better job of coaching these runners and receivers.  The University of Texas is a World Class University.  What is it you need ?  It will be given.  At the end of the season, do not allow your coaching to have been the biggest mistake of all.  Where you think there may not be a resource, find someone who can create it for you.  You gotta make it happen, by providing the coaching, the properly matched training and drills for the tasks.  Just Do It.

An Interesting Scenario, Texas 33 - UCLA 7

Factor out the UT mistakes. Subtract the 14 points our defense gave UCLA on those two dominating running drives during the 2nd half, then subtract the 7 points we gave UCLA when we fumbled the kickoff return, then factor out the 3 points we gave them during the second quarter, because we went for a 4th and 3, which we didn't make, and turned the ball over with very good field position. Then factor out another 3 points we gave UCLA when Gilbert and Monroe fumbled the ball, giving UCLA a field goal out of it. What you get is UCLA = 7.

Factor out the UT mistakes. Add to Texas' 12 points, 7 points where Gilbert simply overthrew Kirkendoll with hands open for a touchdown. Then let's factor in 7 points for a touchdown, or at least 3 for sure, had we made the 1st down during the second quarter when we went for the 4th and 3 on the UCLA 41, but failed.  Add 4 points for the Goodwin pass interference being canceled out because the ball was tipped, it was tipped, but not by very much, and would have still been well within catching range of Goodwin had he not been knocked down, and Goodwin is one of our better receivers.  We had to settle for a field goal instead. Then add another 7 points for the touchdown forthcoming had we not come up short of that last yard on the 4th and 4 pass to Chiles in the 4th quarter.  What you get is Texas = 33.

What happens now?

A team can have weak areas and they can make mistakes, but not in the same game, and expect to win.  You can only do one of those at a time.  If you have a mistake prone game, you must have the team strengths to counter the mistakes.  If you have weaknesses in your game, then you can't make many mistakes.  It's quite a quandary for Texas.

Predictions are very difficult without consistent performances, so we're really guessing at this point.  The next games for Texas hinges on whether the team can minimize the number of mistakes they are making.  They are also at a disadvantage without a running game, and every coach knows that, so Gilbert's job and the job the offensive line must do to protect him becomes even more difficult.  Texas is lopsided, which makes their offensive scoring more difficult, especially when they come up against well trained defense.  And the last thing we can afford are receivers dropping the ball.  I don't know how to fix that one, but it has to be fixed.  Gilbert is getting them the ball, the receivers aren't shaking the coverage, and holding onto the ball.  And then, lastly, we must, I emphasize must, have the number one defense in the nation.  We have been shown they are up to the task.  We must have a zero mistake defense.  And they must keep it up, regardless of how the rest of the game is going.  Many games were won by the defensive during the Colt McCoy, Vince Young years.  If our defense has to step up to win the game, then that's what your job is.  Just do it.  No whining about it.

If we're going to have a lopsided offensive game this season, making it far more difficult to score, then as an offset, we must have a defense that does not allow points on the board.  That's going to be hard, I know.  I watched the A&M vs OSU Cowboys game last night, and it's clear OSU has a very strong passing game, the top rated passing game in the nation, which may be okay, because I think our defense has been stronger in covering a passing game than a running game.  But A&M and OSU, both, played a very high octane game, without many mistakes, both putting high points on the board.  And A&M played that at Boon Pickens Stadium, not a home game.

Remember, allowing an average 44 yards rushing per game does not make you number one, if the teams you played have the worst running games in the nation.  Yes, even much worse than Texas.  Texas doesn't have a "bad" running game, I mean they don't get set back - 14 points, they can hold the ball and do some good, it's just not play-making rushing.

On Saturday, October 2, 2010, (#21) Texas will take their team to Dallas to play the (#8) Sooners.  I think the sooners are overrated, but that is always an interesting and over-hyped game.  The media will milk the UCLA loss at every commercial return. At every available opportunity, the commentators will comment that the ghost of UCLA hangs in the air. The sooners have one of the leading receivers in the nation, but I think they are struggling with new players also.  Sam Bradford will not be there, at least not as QB.  But, Texas has shown good defensive skill at covering passing games.

Texas has been on the AP top 25 list for 162 consecutive weeks now, that's one week shy of 10 consecutive years.  Ten wins this season would also set a school record of 10 consecutive seasons with 10 or more wins.  I would like to see them stay there, but the fact is, as much as a Longhorn fan as I am, I realize they are struggling with a new team.  They are playing well, I think, as a new team, making some mistakes, and they seem to lack cohesion.  This may be a wash out year for them, who knows, but they still have to play, and build together, and they still need fans that think they are the greatest things since corn flakes. NO BOOING ALLOWED !!  I mean it.  If this is a year of sowing, next year will be a year of reaping.  We will cheer them on to do the best sewing they can, knowing it is our job as Longhorn fans to do that. 

If you are just a Longhorn good time fan, faithful and satisfied only when they are on top, then give your ticket to someone who is a real Longhorn fan, and knows what to do.

We have great recruits coming in 2011, 2012, 5-star quality, and Gilbert really is good.  If you rerun the footage of the game you will see just how good  he is in dealing with what he was to work with.  I like that he almost always appears cool-headed in all situations.

I like that quote from the movie "Bull Durham," where Costner says, "You throw the ball, you catch the ball, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains."

If it's gonna rain, it would sure be nice if they were playing in that new Cowboys Stadium instead of that open stadium at the Fair Grounds

Good luck Longhorns with the OU game Dallas.

Recap of Major plays, for Reference, UCLA - Texas, Sept. 25, 2010, Austin, Texas

Texas recovers a fumble end of the first quarter on UCLA 13. Texas Penalties set the ball back, but eventually the ball makes it back to about the UCLA 14. At this point Gilbert is 8 for 8, but on 3rd down and 5, Gilbert overthrows Kirkendoll who is hands open wide and clear in the end zone.  Texas has to settle for field goal.

The second quarter opens with the Texas defense forcing UCLA to punt, excellent defense.  The punt, however, was fumbled by Curtis Brown on the UT 4 yard line.  If that wasn't close enough for UCLA, the next play, Texas draws an offsides flag, which moves the ball to the UT 2 yard line.  The Texas defense holds them two downs at the UT 2, then UCLA's only touchdown pass of the game was completed.

The returning Texas drive, Gilbert is sacked for a 30 yard loss, and can't make it down field into field goal position.  On the UCLA 40 yard line, 4th down and 3 to go, Texas decides to go for it, but is unable to grab that first down, which puts the ball in UCLA's hands on the UCLA 41 yard line. Nice field position, but, despite two 19 yard runs, and first downs, by UCLA, the Texas defense stops a touchdown, and UCLA has to settle for a field goal from 39 yards.  Again, very nice job defense, but what were those two 19 yard rushes about? And, maybe a punt would have been better than giving the ball up at the UCLA 41.  Or, even better, making the 3 yards for a Texas 1st down, for a possible touchdown by Texas.

So, after the UCLA touch down from that 41 yard field position, let's do that Texas return drive again. DJ Monroe has a great return, 27 yards, then a 5 yard run, then the next play, the Gilbert hand off to Monroe is dropped, recovered by UCLA on the Texas 33.  Again, most excellent Texas defensive work here, because UCLA is unable to obtain a TD out of it, and settles for a field goal.

Alrighty then, one more time, let's try that kick off to Texas after a UCLA score.  Great 32 yard return by Monroe. Gilbert completes three short passes, bringing the ball out to the Texas 47.  Gilbert's next pass was a perfect throw to Akeem Ayers, who was center field, reading Gilbert's play, and stepped directly into the pass.  The problem is that Ayers is on the other team.  Gilbert just didn't read that Ayers was reading him for his throw.  The clip shows Ayers obviously watching only one thing, completely uninterested in any thing else going on the field, but trying to step into Gilbert's pass.  Gilbert just never saw him.  Heck, he's got 21 dudes to watch.

Fortunately, UCLA is unable to make good on the interception.  Three runs later, UCLA has the ball on the UT 21 yard line, when their  Quarter Back, Kevin Prince, is sacked, and fumbles the ball, UT recovering at their own 29.  Once again, most excellent job by the Texas defense, holding back the run, and sacking QB for fumble.  They did let a 13 yarder and 1st down through, but remember, Texas has not been playing top 20 running teams.  Without the fumble, UCLA had all 3 time outs, 2nd down and 8, and on the UT 21, with 2 minutes left on the clock, probably a touch down, at the very least another field goal.

Texas is able to move the ball up to the UCLA 40 yard line.  A deep down field pass to Davis looked perfectly thrown, but Davis is tripped before the catch, and eats some astro-turf.  We got the 15 yards from pass interference, but if that play had followed through, Davis stood a good chance to catch it, which would have put UT on the UCLA 20 yard line, ready for a TD.  The clip of that throw shows just how strong and accurate Gilbert's throwing arm can be.  It was a strong, accurate deep pass, which may be his specialty. It was also thrown on the run.  Next play, we get another 15 yards on a UCLA personal foul. Next play, Gilbert can't find a target, but makes it to the side lines to stop the clock at 0:05.  UT takes their two remaining time outs to decide what to do -- a 56 yard field goal attempt, or a TD pass attempt, or even try to get in one more play for better field goal position.  They go for a deep pass into the end zone with two man coverage, incomplete pass.

The second half opens with kickoff to UCLA, who runs in a touch down in 8 plays, 80 yards, with four 1st downs.  All but the first of those 8 plays was a run.  UCLA 20 - Texas 3. What happened to the Texas defense?

The Texas return drive had a quickly done short throw to Whittaker who then made good on 25 yards.  Then one bad lateral pass was bad because Gilbert was under pressure.  Gilbert's next pass hit Chiles down field, which would have been a first down, but Chiles just did not hold onto the ball.   A good catch there would have put Texas into UCLA territory with a 1st down, instead, they had to punt. 

The Texas defense did an awesome job stopping UCLA's return drive, which consisted of 7 runs and only one 1st down.   After the punt, Gilbert threw 6 complete passes, with two 1st downs, and had us down to the UCLA 17 on 3rd down and 7, when he attempted a deep pass to Goodwin in the end zone, who was knocked down, unquestionably pass interference, otherwise, Goodwin would have had a TD.  But as fate would have it, the ball was tipped before Goodwin was knocked down, therefore, it null and voided the pass interference penalty, which would have put Texas on the UCLA 3 yard line, with 1st down and goal.  Texas had to settle for a field Goal.

One of those 6 passes was a beautiful throw on the run to Chiles for 22 yards, another was a short pass to Kirkendoll for 16 yards after a UT 10 yard penalty, and then the Goodwin TD pass attempt looked thrown perfectly, there was just the mess up at the receiving end, not Gilbert's fault.

Special Teams and our defense just botched the next UCLA drive.  The kickoff was returned 45 yards, then 2 plays and one 1st down later, QB Kevin Prince runs 38 yards through our top rated defense for a touchdown.  A 3 play, 50 yard drive, in about 2 minutes.  Like I said, he was so open, he could have walked the ball in.

DJ Monroe did another good job of returning the kick.  Gilbert completed 3 passes, one a 32 yarder to Goodwin, made 2 short runs, 2 first downs, 2 passes were dropped, clearly thrown well, just dropped. One hit Whittaker dead in the chest and he just dropped it. The other went right through the hands of Matthews, perfect throw.  Gilbert had us at the UCLA 23 with a 4th down and 4. It's already into the 4th with a score of 27 - 6.  What do you do?  You go for it.  Gilbert completes a pass to Chiles, but he is 1 yard short of the 1st down.  Arrgggg!

The ball goes to UCLA on their own 20.  They don't make it far, only 7 yards and they're at 4th down and 3, an obvious punt, but somehow, fate came to haunt us, and a substitution infraction penalty against UT gave UCLA the 3 yards they needed for a 1st down.  They never scored from the drive, but were able to get two more 1st downs, and more importantly, burned up 6 minutes off the clock.

Texas gets the ball at their own 20 with 5 minutes left in the game.  Twelve plays and four 1st downs later, UT makes their only touchdown of the game.  11 of those 12 plays were passes. Seven were completed, 2 were dropped, 1 was thrown away, and 1 was  questionable, thrown a little low, but I think it was catchable.  Of the completed passes, one was to Goodwin for 19 yards, another to Williams for a great sideline 1st down pass, another a perfect 30 long pass on the run to Chiles, and the touchdown pass to Kirkendoll was perfectly thrown.  Texas went for a 2 point conversion, and Gilbert threw what I thought was a catchable pass, just slightly over the head of the intended receiver, who was covered very closely.  Texas covered 80 yards in 12 plays, with four 1st downs, in about 6 minutes.

As fate would have it, the onside kick, which had the possibility of coming up in our possession, was turned over to UCLA at the Texas 37, by way of a free kick out of bounds penalty.  Three runs later, UCLA had another touchdown.  Coleman ran all three rushes. UCLA 34 - Texas 12.  I guess our defense was just worn out by then.  It was 3 easy runs.

One would think that would be the end of the UT fiasco, but no, there's more.  The kickoff by UCLA was caught and ran 19 yards by DJ Monroe, before he fumbled it, and UCLA took possession of the ball again on the UT 22 yard line.  I do believe if they wanted to totally humiliate the Longhorns for all time, they could have sent Coleman those 22 yards across the goal line with 0:46 seconds left on the clock, but they chose instead to show some mercy, and just ran the clock.

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