Congratulations, Texas, on the 24 – 14 victory over the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Week 3. A win is a win, and whatever else may be said about the performance, the scoreboard is the ultimate authority.
Astute and compulsive Texas Longhorn fans have been watching during the two season opening games, and then, especially, during the Texas Tech game, in an effort to get a deeper feel for just exactly who the new Texas Longhorns are. The Longhorns showed significant improvement between the Rice game and Wyoming game. The Texas Tech game was on the road, in Lubbock, which always seems to jinx Texas, and with a more evenly matched team. This is the one I was waiting for to see what the Horns really had. It was the Longhorn's first pivotal game.
I’m happy to report that the ghosts of Michael Crabtree or Mike Leach were nowhere to be found. The Raiders were not raiding this evening, but Longhorn mistakes re-surfaced throughout the game, which was probably due to them playing a more difficult team than Rice or Wyoming. I still see progress between the Wyoming game and the Texas Tech game. Fewer mistakes were made in the Wyoming game, but Tech is a seriously more competitive team to play.
Muschamp’s Texas defense was rock solid, spectacular, even with a handful of freshman. This defensive performance was one of their finest ever. They kept Texas Tech to 144 total offensive yards. Tech hasn’t performed under 150 yards in one game since 1990, and the Longhorn defensive team hasn’t done anything like that since 1982. Earl Thomas was not around, but you could not tell it in this defensive performance. I say the game ball goes to the Texas defense. Taylor Potts, QB for the Raiders, actually passed 158 yards, so if you’re wondering why they only have 144 total offensive yards, it’s because the Raiders running game actually set them back -14 yards. Talk about lack of a running game. Our defense not only held them to 144 total yards, but four sacks, one where Potts looked like he wasn’t getting up, two interceptions, and one fumble.
Texas QB Garrett Gilbert and his handful of average, but capable, receivers, blasted their way through two early TDs, and Gilbert was poised to throw his third TD pass, which would have put a 21 – 0 Texas lead on the board within the first quarter of play, when his pass was intercepted and ran back 87 yards for a Texas Tech TD, creating a 14 – 7 lead, instead of the 21 -0 lead. That was a game changing disappointment. The 21 – 0 lead, without the interception, would have had a dramatic psychological impact on the Red Raiders. The second quarter started 14 – 7, Texas, and it should have started 21 – 0. A successful 15 yard pass by Tech QB Taylor Potts early in the second quarter tied the game 14 – 14, which is where they started the 2nd half.
What started out with a very strong performance by the Longhorns in the first quarter looked a little shaky at the half.
In my last blog, I was exclaiming that Gilbert is not watching the interception potential, even though he threw zero interceptions in the first two games; he wound up throwing three against the Raiders, then a fumble caused UT’s fourth turnover of the game.
Overall, though, Gilbert is holding steady, and I believe gaining strength and confidence. He passed for 227 total yards and two TDs, completing 21 of 36. He is cool headed, whether he just threw a TD pass, threw an interception, or was sacked. That is a very big asset. Kirkendoll caught six for 122 yards. John Chiles was out on practice injury. Davis, Goodwin, and Williams also showed some good catches, but our receivers need work. They are capable, good runners, but we dropped the ball on six passes, all well thrown and catch-able.
The numbers do not make sense. At this point, any fantasies about getting a running game going needs a little reality testing. Vondrell McGee is out for good, thanks to the NCAA, and we get 93 yards from 43 rushing attempts, a 2.2 yard average per carry. Our passing game, even with the dropped balls, is averaging 6.3 yards per pass, yet we call 43 runs and 36 passes. You can obviously tell that Coach Brown is seeing the light, and working up the passing game. He knew he had to come out strong on the deep pass first quarter of the game.
Somehow, we’re going to have to beef up the deep passing game even more. Any set up for a run should only be used as decoy, or for close 3rd down conversions, or some red zone conversions. Then a few runs just to keep the opposing defense guessing. But, the passing game is our only hope for a 10+ game season.
Gilbert is steadily progressing, he is a top rated QB, with a strong arm, and shows good accuracy. The deep pass should be dominating our games, with work on understanding interception potential, work on a strong offensive line, and work on how to hold onto the ball. That’s where work needs to be focused. Get that offensive line strong, help Gilbert evaluate turnover potential, and work with our many receivers, running patterns and holding the ball. We should also be switching out as many receivers as we can as a strategy to keep the opposing defense guessing. Perhaps Brown is not switching out because the freshmen receivers we have may not be ready, or perhaps he is saving them for Nebraska.
Our defense held the Raiders at no score the entire second half. Potts was visibly frustrated. Justin Tucker was able to pull in a 3 point FG in the 3rd quarter, then toward the end of the 3rd quarter, Texas started a drive from their own 20 that ran out about 10 minutes off the clock, and by the end of the drive, and resulting TD, the Raiders defense looked very worn out. Once Texas got to the red zone, Tech’s defense had been fighting them for 9 minutes, and Texas implemented a round of about 4 or 5 hurry up offense plays, where the Raiders’ defense were barely able to get on and off the field. They were completely worn down, beat.
With Tech’s defense worn out, Potts visibly frustrated, and our defense playing their best in 28 years, it was just a matter of running out the clock. Gilbert finished with plenty of energy.
Where is Texas Headed Now?
In lasts weeks blog I started to talk about how Texas may measure up to some of the top 25 teams in their schedule. I didn’t do much research, except for scores and standings. This week I committed myself to actually following the games of those coming up in the Longhorn schedule who pose a threat.
Those teams, listed in order of potential threat, are: Nebraska, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma. I have placed Oklahoma State ahead of Oklahoma based on how I saw Oklahoma play this last game against the Air Force. I do not believed they played that well. Also, Oklahoma State trumps Oklahoma in season stats so far in points per game #2 (57), passing rating #2 (187), and receiving yards #1 (1175)
Then, I believe we should keep A&M and Kansas State on the watch list, depending on how they do over the next few games. I originally had A&M on the potential threat list, just because their QB, Jerrod Johnson, is moving up the ranks, and up until this last game against the Florida Panthers, the media was even talking Heisman hopeful. After 3 quarters of the worst football Jarrod Johnson has ever played, I was ready to take them off the threat list and off the watch list completely, however, that spectacular last quarter comeback put them back on the watch list. Baylor was on the slightly watch list, until the game against TCU. Of course, TCU ran away with the game, but I thought Baylor had a better game this season, and was expecting more of a fight.
The Texas Tech win was a turning point for these new Longhorns, and I see them encouraged and gaining strength. The UCLA game I give to Texas. After that, Oklahoma and Nebraska will require our very best games of the season.
Oklahoma is on the road, but at the Dallas Cottonbowl. OU did not dominate the Air Force game, which they should have. OU, a #7 ranked team playing a #40 ranked team. We should consider though, that the Air Force, holds the #1 spot in rushing yards so far this season, 1197. It was also a home game for Oklahoma, which should have encouraged a better performance. Oklahoma just did not look as tough as I thought they should be. Nevertheless, I do believe they are one of three threats to a Longhorn win. I am speculating the spread on the Texas – OU game in Dallas will be Texas by 3.
Texas gets a one week break, before taking on the mighty Cornhuskers in Lincoln Nebraska. Texas will have to bring their very best game of the season for this competition. I'll speculate that the spread will be Nebraska by 7 – 10 points. I hope we prove that wrong.
In last weeks game against Washington, the top three Nebraska rushers carried for over 100 yards each. Rex Burkhead picked up 104 yards on 13 carries, with 1 TD. Roy Helu Jr. racked up 110 yards and 2 TDs on his 10 carries. And, Taylor Martinez had 19 carries for 137 yards and 3 Tds. Martinez has racked up 421 rushing yards for the three games played so far this season, the 7th highest rusher nationally, averaging 10.53 yards per carry. But wait, Martinez is not even a running back. He is the Quarter Back, also completing 7 of his 11 passes for 150 yards, 1 TD, and no interceptions. Martinez is the first ever freshman starter as QB for Nebraska. The game was such a run away game, 56 – 21, that ABC actually switched to another game during the last part of the final quarter.
Some think the Nebraska offensive guards will be up to giving the Longhorns a serious challenge by game time, but I dunno, we just saw a Texas defense shut down Texas Tech allowing less yards than the Raiders have logged in the last 20 years. If the Texas defense continues to play that way, Mr. Martinez and his entourage of running backs and receivers will have to work for their points. It will not come easy. Nebraska's 8th rated overall offense will have much trouble moving that ball through the number 2 rated defense in the country.
The Texas offense has more work to do before the Nebraska game. We hope to see new strength and skill with each new week as the season progresses. Nebraska is holding the 20th rated defense nationally, and the Texas offense is rated 65th overall nationally.
So, we're looking at a very though challenge offensively, especially since we have no running game to use. Our defense can hold back Mr. Martinez and company, and keep points down there, but our offense will have to make no mistakes, no interceptions, no dropped balls, and rely on a deep passing game. Gilbert is ready for that, but our receivers need to break through to the next level, shaking off that coverage, not dropping any balls. The game will also be a serious challenge for our offensive line. Gilbert's image will be tattooed on the inside helmets of each one of the Nebraska defense. Their plan will be to blitz Gilbert, and to stop his passing game.
I had Baylor and A&M on the threat watch list until this last week of games. Who knows what direction A&M will go. After watching their game against the Florida Panthers, who knows what to expect. A&M will take this weekend off, then play Oklahoma State, whose offense is rated number 2 nationally on three measures, but rated 65th in defense. This will be a revealing game to watch, both to see if A&M can bring back some consistent play, and to see how top rated the Oklahoma State offense is. This game should be offense against offense, a race to see who gets the most points in 60 minutes of play.
If Oklahoma State keeps their current offensive strength and defensive weakness, then that will be a perfect match for Texas, who has the defense to stop their top rated offense, and the offense should show us a run away passing game, and perhaps even running, against the weak Oklahoma State defense.