Trend Watch: Texas Versus Texas Tech

Trending Up

Jamison Berryhill, sophomore running back -- One of the special teams standouts early in the season, with no obvious Flavor of the Week at running back, Berryhill gets the nod here. He works hard! He's tough! He deserves a chance! Berryhill for starter!

Garrett Gilbert's poise -- One of the quotes of the week came when a reporter asked Gilbert about the toughest environment he had faced in his career as a quarterback. Presumably with something resembling a straight face, Gilbert mentioned a game against Pflugerville Connally as a sophomore -- not exactly a place known as one of the most difficult to win a game on the road.

So it was with some trepidation among the fanbase that Gilbert took the field as a starter for his first road test as the Texas quarterback. Even though Gilbert's pocket presence wasn't of the highest quality on the night and even though he threw three interceptions, none of it ever seemed to faze the sophomore quarterback -- that much was clear from viewing the game live and it was clear from the comments from both the coaches and the players following the game.

Although the offense needs some serious work, there is little doubt now that this is Gilbert's team and despite Gilbert's need for growth in becoming a vocal leader, the performance against Tech under duress and in a hostile environment was a major step in Gilbert becoming the unquestioned leader and emotional core of this football team.

Curtis Brown returning punts -- At the start of the season, it seemed like a toss up between Brown and Williams for the starting position and after three weeks, Brown looks to be taking the lead, averaging 14.5 yards to Williams' 11. The Gilmer product isn't called "Cat" by his teammates for no reason -- despite his slightl frame, Brown has incredible balance and slightly better burst than Williams.

Justin Tucker all-purpose kicker -- It's baaaack! The rugby punt drew ire from many Longhorn observers after mostly disastrous results last season. John Gold's production over his career made it seem like a no-brainer to drop the rugby kick with Tucker already kicking off and responsible for field goals and extra points. However, after poor outings in the first two games by Gold, Texas returned to the rugby kicks with success, as Tucker averaged almost 40 yards per kick despite downing three inside the 20, both areas in which the 'Horns struggled during the first two games.

For the second straight week, Tucker also drove the ball into the endzone consistently on kick-offs, a major boon to the coverage team. He also made his only field goal attempt and has not missed an extra point yet on the season. Basically, Tucker is the most valuable player on special teams for Texas right now and if there's one concern, it's his leg tiring out over the course of the season. Right now, though, everything is cliking for the junior.

Blake Gideon as middle-of-the-field enforcer -- Leaving an open practice during the fall, I openly wondered to Horn Brain how much Gideon has left in his body for football after his back problems in high school and the shoulder surgery that seemed to limit his aggressiveness and striking ability last season.

No more. A week after his crunching form tackle and targeting penalty, Gideon picked up another targeting penalty for his hit on Adam James over the middle. A more questionable call than the penalty against Wyoming, the coaches will surely not criticize Gideon for his aggressiveness and while the rule is in place to protect players and was made with understandable intent, there's no reason for Gideon to pull up when he has a chance to make receivers think twice about coming over the middle. Sometimes the message is worth the penalty.

James Kirkendoll, senior wide receiver -- Welcome to big games, Kirk. Notable for his absence last season in games against Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Alabama, games in which he caught a total of three passes for 11 yards, the Round Rock product finally had a break-out performance when the Longhorns needed one.

Injuries to John Chiles and Marquise Goodwin made it necessary for another receiver to step up. His 33-yard reception in the first quarter helped set up the touchdown pass to Mike Davis. Another reception in the quarter helped Texas recover from a long down and distance after a holding penalty. On the decisive drive, a Kirkendoll catch converted a 3rd and 6, followed up by another critical third-down reception to keep possession.

The question going forward is whether or not this is a sign of overall growth and the start of a developing chemistry and trust between he and Gilbert, or if it was simply a random occurrence. As the offense looks for playmakers, Texas fans are surely hoping for the former.

Trending Down

Greg Davis' playcalling -- Long-developing reverses. An ill-timed wide receiver pass. The "trick" plays or wrinkles that Davis introduced against Texas Tech were all unmitgated failures. So were the attempts at running screens, most particularly the screen call that resulted in the first interception and cost Texas three points.

So were the attempts to run the football. The only attempts at misdirection were the poorly-conceived reverses and there still isn't a coherent package of running plays that work well together. Same old, same old. And that is a major disappointment after an off-season supposedly devoted to improving in that area. Not good enough.

Taylor Potts ever wanting to play Texas again -- The senior quarterback's eligibility will expire at the end of this season and Potts is probably happy that's the case, at least in regards to ever having to face the Texas defense again. A year after leaving the game with a concussion sustained on the hit by Sergio Kindle, Potts was never able to regain his rhythm the rest of the season.

So even though Potts was lucky enough to avoid another concussion on Saturday night, he's surely spending his Sunday in the ice tub and as much as his entire body must hurt, there's a strong chance he has a smile on his face thinking about never having to go against a Will Muschamp defense again.

Curtis Brown's top-end speed -- Any player regarded as among the top several fastest players on the Texas football team is on the short list for being on of the handful of fastest players in the country. Until his interception return against the Red Raiders, cornerback Curtis Brown would have been in the discussion for fastest player on the team after speed merchants DJ Monroe and Marquise Goodwin.

Not so much after Saturday, when Brown was caught from behind by Tech running back Baron Batch. Brown said that a "monkey jumped on his back" and it looked like he either got tired or had a twinge in his hamstring, as his stride changed towards the end of the run. Failing to take an angle away from Batch and looking back to find his opponent also kept Brown out of the endzone and ultimately cost Texas four points.

Guys as fast as you never look back, Curtis!

Malcolm Williams, junior wide receiver -- So much for the promising start against Rice. Maybe the coaches need to call out Williams again because the last two games have not built on the first. In those games, Williams has only four catches for 39 yards and his inability to catch the football once again became a problem against Tech when his dropped catch led to an interception and cost the Longhorns points.

In a microcosm of his Texas career, it's one step forward and two steps back for Malcolm Williams.

Penalties -- Yuck. 11 for 95 yards. False starts continue to be a problem and Texas Tech had a drive extended due to a running into the kicker penalty by Kenny Vaccaro -- as much potential as Vaccaro has, his upside will always be limited by mental mistakes until he can eliminate them from his game. The offensive line and tight ends continue to be a major source of penalties, with more flase starts from Britt Mitchell and Barrett Matthews, as well as three holding penalties by the linemen.

Currently, the Longhorns rank 104th in the country with 24 penalties through three games, an average of eight per game. The 205 penalty yards rank 105th in the country, a far cry from Penn State's 45 yards, the least penalized team by yardage in the country.

The bottom line is that the major number of penalties in the last two games makes the Longhorns seem like an undisciplined football team and could be a deciding factor against Oklahoma and Nebraska, games in which Texas will have less margin for error than against Tech.

Protecting the quarterback and the football -- Both of these areas fall on the offensive line and tight ends-- two of the intercepted passes were tipped at the line of scrimmage when Britt Mitchell allowed Scott Smith to drive him backwards into the pocket and have a better chance at disrupting Gilbert's throwing lanes. The Texas quarterback was also sacked three times -- the first sacks given up of the season. An aberration or a trend? Only the next several games will tell.

Greg Davis trying to kill Mike Davis -- Seriously? What was with the short passes to start the game that looked specifically designed to injure the rising frosh receiver after his big game against Wyoming? Kid was lucky to make it out of the game with all his body parts still attached.

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