Tough times, friends and fans. Tough times indeed.
I was talking to a teenage Longhorns fan on Facebook Saturday and he mentioned the worst Texas team he recalls watching was the 2003 team that went 10-3. There is almost an entire generation out there that knows nothing but winning from Texas Longhorns football. Funny, because I was a teenager the last time Texas was this bad (1997), and even then, I don't remember them playing this poorly. This team has better talent (at least I think it does), but they are so far down in a hole that when things start to go bad, it seems as if they expect to lose.
I don't want to sound like it's the end of the road for Texas exceptionalism, because I certainly don't think that at all. But many, many things need to be fixed. And it may not even get back on track next year. It hurts to watch what's going on this season, and it's hard to pinpoint exactly what's wrong. It's like watching a cloud that continues to change shape. There's no identity, and it's hard to define what you're seeing.
The loss to Kansas State was another exhibit of us not being able to get out of our own way. K-
State completed two passes! They even started their back-up QB!! We lost while out-gaining our opponent yet again. They had one of the worst rushing defenses in the country and we passed 59 times. From the beginning, we played like someone pulled the fire alarm. It just doesn't make sense.
The worst part of it all is that we're squandering and misusing our talent. And that's a problem from the top down, from Mack Brown to the freshman. You only get these guys for three or four years, and then they're gone.
After the jump we'll pick apart our four key issues and try to garner some level of understanding of where this thing is and where it might be going.
Garrett Gilbert's Progress
I've been defending Gilbert all season, and while I still think he's been shafted by most fans, he was admittedly terrible Saturday. He followed his best performance of the season with his worst. Just when he looked like he was building confidence and finding a groove, he tosses five interceptions. Of course, they were not all his fault, but he played like he was firing the ball with the utmost panic.
Until Saturday, I never thought throwing in Case McCoy was the answer for anything. He should have seen some snaps Saturday, just to help stop the bleeding, if nothing else. The last two drives of the first half and the first two drives of the second half ended in picks. We were again scrambling to catch up.
Did Gilbert throw five interceptions because he threw 59 times, or did he throw 59 times because he threw five interceptions? Does it matter? We weren't able to establish any sort of offensive control. The last two drives of the second quarter and the first two drives of the third quarter ended in interceptions.
The lone bright spot was Gilbert's 93 yards on the ground. It's great to be able to throw that wrinkle into the offense, but we should not count on Gilbert as a primary running attack. There are three games left, and it will be critical for Gilbert to finish the season with some confidence.
Retooling the Running Game
Kansas State had one of the worst rushing defenses in the league, but Texas could not even take advantage of it because we got behind so quickly. Gilbert was effective with nearly 100 yards on the ground, but it didn't turn into points.
As for the players actually recruited to run the ball, they got five carries each. Fozzy Whittaker was the only one worth noting. He averaged 7 yards per carry. The running game is almost impossible to evaluate in this game. It was such a non-factor, as it's been most of the year.
BROC (Big Receiver on Campus)
No one has stepped up to be a go-to receiver this year, but if we had to pick one guy who's showed the most progress, it's youngster Mike Davis. He had 11 catches for 109 yards. DeSean Hales also poked his head out again, this time for 41 yards. These two could make a solid pair the next two years. I hope they do, anyway.
With three games left, and with at least two more games likely to have a high number of passes, all we can hope for is for Gilbert to develop chemistry with the younger guys.
The D-Line Shuffle
I've been so impressed by this group all season. But not against the Wildcats and their back-up quarterback. This is the same group that completely shut down Nebraska and Robert Griffin III on the ground. They allowed 261 rushing yards and five touchdowns, including 127 yards to unknown Collin Klein.
Of course, the D-line is made for the pass rush, but they have shown the ability to stop the run. Saturday was a big step in the wrong direction. It took just a couple plays for K-State to score, and the unraveling begun. The first TD was more a result of safety Christian Scott coming up and getting walled off, allowing Daniel Thomas to break free.
Oklahoma State is next, and Kendall Hunter is one of the best runners in the country. It's hard to envision this team overcoming the OSU offense. The defense is good enough to handle the task, but not if the offense continues to turn the ball over.