Texas Football 2011: Mack Brown Monday / Week 6 Review

Mack Brown goes facepalm late in the third quarter as OSU's talented running back Jeremy Smith scampers 74 yards for a touchdown all but putting the game out of reach. (Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN - October 15, 2011)

While Mack Brown will meet the press again next week as he does not conduct press conferences the Monday during a bye week, I wanted to offer my review of the OSU game while fresh on everybody's mind.

The streak is over. 13 and 0. Thirteen straight seasons the Texas Longhorns under head coach Mack Brown won games after playing the Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry.

T-H-I-R-T-E-E-N.

The streak is over. A Mack Brown team that runs the ball for over 200 yards is about as automatic a win as syrup on pancakes, as mustard on hot dogs, as B-B-Q sauce on beef ribs. A-U-T-omatic as in 70 straight games. The Texas Longhorns posted an impressive rushing performance Saturday against the Oklahoma State Cowboys gaining 286 gross yards with a final net tally of 231. 41 of the 55 yard difference were a direct result of 5 sacks by OSU. Still, the effort was not enough to overcome the explosive plays given up to the Cowboys.

Long time BON community poster HornPossessed wrote, "Gotta break old streaks to make new ones." True dat. But I betcha Coach Brown would like a do-over.

The talent cycle stars have aligned which find the Texas Longhorns head-scratchingly at the bottom of the curve and most of their conference foes at the top. Now that we have one-half of the season in which to evaluate the conference teams and the Longhorn personnel, each remaining game, save for the next one against the Jayhawks and possibly against the Red Raiders which are both home games, appears Texas will be spotted touchdown type points beforehand.

We're just not that good on defense and too inexperienced on offense to be favored.

So it's probably time to get the future players more reps and game situation exposure, right?

Well, probably not. The current season aside, Coach Brown has demonstrated throughout his tenure unwillingness to promote an inexperienced or youthful player over a "bled for the program" player. While really not given any options on offense as young players are basically all we have available to play, this is a contract year for the few veteran players on the squad but I wonder if it is time to get the future defenders on the field. And I also wonder if Mack thinks the same way. Injury may necessitate this decision for him for one defensive position given Gideon's unconfirmed injury. The Kansas game would be a great opportunity for this to occur but call me skeptical.

On to the game reviews:

Positive: Malcolm Brown continues to offer Longhorn fans a glimpse of future potential with his nose-to-the-grindstone workmanlike efforts. Malcolm keeps his head up, finishes runs, and gets it going north-south the likes of which we have not seen on the 40 Acres the better part of half a decade. He posted his second 100 yard plus performance in his young college career finishing with 135 yards on 19 attempts. That's a whopping 7.1 yard per rush average. But the thing that most impresses me is how he finishes each rush attempt, even one that gets blown up at the LOS finds him wriggling forward for precious yardage. A very deceptively physical running style for sure. The eye-popping stat on the day was his 3 total negative rushing yards. I'm giving him a Gold star for his continued contributions.

Positive: For the second consecutive week, Fozzy Whitaker retuned a kick off for a touchdown. And boy it could not have come at a more critical time in the game after the Longhorns gave up a heart stabbing touchdown return to the Cowboys to open the second half.

In response to a post-game question asking his thoughts on the difference between returning a kickoff and running out of the offensive backfield, Fozzy replied, "(It) is pretty different just because the whole field is spread out. There are lanes all over the place."

His 252 kickoff return yards on 7 attempts set a University of Texas school record. I'm glad we finally have settled on a returner as perhaps this gives us a chance to stay in games here on out.

And I love me a healthy "mythical Fozzy creature", as GoBR likes to call him, and am left wondering what the last couple of years might have been if he would have remained healthy. Be that as it may, aside from some questionable play calls which found him starting from a standing position in the backfield, he put in yeoman work again contributing in the rushing game and narrowly missing on a wide open touchdown catch that found him falling just short of the goal line due to a poorly thrown ball.

Positive: Mike Davis was an early target for David Ash as he wound up with all but a few of the first half completions Ash made. But Davis did have a couple of balls get away from him, one was a great play by the defender and the other was a whiff. Give credit to the OSU defense as they keyed him by the middle of the second quarter and Davis was ineffective as an offensive weapon the rest of the game. This aside, it was good to see Davis get some work as he had been absent in the passing game since Gilbert's departure.

Positive: The offensive line turned it around this week providing running lanes and arguably giving Ash time in the pocket in spite of the 11 quarterback hurries they were charged with. Many of those were a direct result of the quarterback holding on to the ball far too long. And hard to blame them for arguably an ineffective passing scheme that had far too many receivers pushing downfield instead of taking what the defense was giving them with underneath spots and crossing routes open most of the day.  True freshman Josh Cochran got his first start as a Longhorn and performed admirably.  Case in point, the seal block on OSU's defensive end that sprung Malcolm Brown for the first Texas touchdown on the day.  Nice job there, Josh.

Positive: Justin Tucker did everything asked of him and more save for the missed open-field tackle opportunity on Justin Gilbert, who tied the OSU school record for most kickoff touchdown returns at four. Tucker finished with a net punt average of 40.0 yards on 7 attempts of which 3 were inside 20, only 4 punts were returned for total of 8 yards. His kickoffs were excellent, even though most were down wind, as 60% were touchbacks and finished one yard shy of 70 on average yards per kickoff. And he made his only field goal attempt. He has had great overall games but he is certainly deserving of Co-POG honors along with Malcolm Brown.

Positive: Our defensive backfield was tested in the passing game and really put in a great day. The young cornerbacks, and particularly Carrington Byndom, played about as good a game I recall from a first year guys. Byndom drew the short straw for most of the afternoon with man coverage on the great All-American receiver Justin Blackmon as his efforts helped to limit Blackmon to 74 yards on 7 catches. He also had four pass break ups.  

Proving the point, early in the second quarter, Weeden went to work on Byndom targeting his favorite receiver in Blackmon.  On a 1st down sprint route, Weeden tossed a perfectly thrown ball to the boundary in which last year Blackmon outplayed Williams on a 70 yard touchdown catch but this year saw Byndom get over the top coverage on the All-American and make a breathtaking interception.  The play was ruled by the official on the field but overturned by the replay officials. I'm sure the replay officials had better video than I did, but it was blatantly obvious Byndom got a foot down especially since the rubber field-turf pellets were kicked up.  Even Sean McDonough clearly saw this and that is saying something.  Weeden went to work again on the young corner on a similar toss to the boundary resulting in an almost incredible interception by Byndom.  A great bang-bang sequence highlighting his impressive skill set. The defense managed to hold the OSU offense and we ended up netting +3 yards on the exchange after the punt touchback.  All-in-all, a great effort on the day by Byndom.

Byndom_int_vs_osu_2011_medium

Quandre Diggs also had a nice game with three tackles and a pass break up. We're a little dinged up at safety coming out of the game but Kenny Vaccaro acquitted himself nicely turning in 2 PBU's and 5 tackles.

Negatives: Coach Brown will discuss the continued problems of protecting the football, not capitalizing on turnover opportunities, giving up fourth down attempts, and gifting explosive plays. Most of which can be summarized in the following two points.

Negative: While I am positive about the future, the obvious number one down vote this week goes to the quarterback. Experience aside, Ash did not consistently manage the offense in a way that capitalized on drive sustaining opportunities. Sure, he made a few plays here and there with his feet but his pocket awareness is below average for a division one level quarterback. And in this regard, the team can ill afford turnover mistakes, batted balls, and the like if it expects to win any more games going forward. Two interceptions, one fumble, and two batted balls is not getting the job done regardless of age or experience. The Longhorns must get better production efficiency from its quarterback in order to put enough points on the board to win in the Big 12.  With that said, I appreciate Ash's honesty about his performance in his truthful post game comments.  It takes a real maturity to own mistakes.

Negative: Inconsistent defensive awareness and risky scheme led to too many explosive plays. I have to give this one to the coaching staff as it is their job to make sure they put our players in the best position to make a play. It can be argued that run fit and gap control issues are on players but those responsible for the continued mistakes in these areas might serve the team better if they are disciplined in the manner of RIDING THE DAMN PINE! We're talking scholarship players at a supposedly top five program. How many chances are we going to gift these players before giving somebody else a chance to step up and make a play? In this regard, the coaching staff is responsible for who gets on the field. It is past time for the staff to step up and make the tough decisions regarding player participation on this side of the ball like what we are seeing on the offensive side.

Negative:  Bryan Harsin came to the program with a great offensive play calling pedigree.  His success at Boise State included situational gadgetry that made for top 10 play highlights.  But in the Big Boy Big 12, sometimes you have got to line up and match your guys against theirs.  And Saturday saw him reach into the cleverness bag a bit too often for my taste.  And in those situations, save for Malcolm Brown's touchdown run off the Statue of Liberty, the cutsieness did not often end with the desired results.  Personally I think Harsin blinked.  I'm not being overly critical of the effort though.  What I am critical of is the fact that he did not step up and take any ownership in his post game comments for his lack of execution and situational awareness.  I would have liked to see some of that ego checked and him take on the burden of the offensive woes, like Manny Diaz did, so his guys see that taking responsibility for performance does not end on the field.  I expect more from our coaching staff.  And the players fighting their guts out for an all too spoiled fanbase deserve better.

Texas gets a much needed week of rest after facing the #3 and #4 BCS contenders in consecutive weeks. The Kansas Jayhawks come to town and the Longhorns will be prepping to take care of the ball and post a win. I see Coach Brown focusing on what the Longhorns must do to improve in critical areas, namely limiting explosive plays and turnovers, as opposed to discussing the Jayhawk particulars.

Besides, aren't these the most important mid-season topics fans want to hear anyway?

So, Coach, let's get the obvious nagging issues fixed so we can finish the season strong. There is still so much to play for.

As long-time Mrs. TXStampede said, "A setback is only a setup for a comeback."  A more poignant offering has not been made during her 23-year tenure.

Hook ‘em.

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