Mack Brown on Texas Offense: "We've Got Us A Mess Right Now"

So that whole ground and pound, run the ball down the opponent's throat identity that Texas was developing?

Yeah, so much for that. 

The entire edifice Mack Brown and Bryan Harsin built for the Texas offense has come crumbling down in the last several weeks.

Numerous cliches apply here, but suffice it to say that the 28 carries true freshman Malcolm Brown had against Kansas in the blowout victory were a few too many.

Suffice it to say that the 29 carries by the other true freshman running back, Joe Bergeron, in the blowout against Texas Tech were a few too many.

Sensing a trend here? Those 880 yards gained on the ground against the Jayhawks and Red Raiders? Yeah, they came with a price.

The lack of passes against both teams? Also came with a price.

Add on the injuries to Fozzy Whittaker and Jaxon Shipley and suddenly the Texas offense is almost completely without playmakers. 

Or an executable identity without those playmakers.

It's a precarious situation entering the final three games of the season that Mack Brown was quick to acknowledge on Monday:

We've got us a mess right now. We've got to figure it out in a week.

The thing you look at is, we've got an identity. And all of a sudden, that identity is gone in the first quarter (at Mizzou). So we've got to go back and regroup.

Ideally, the best way to regroup for Texas would be to get Brown (turf toe), Bergeron (strained hamstring), and Shipley (MCL strain) back into the lineup. Ideally.

Unfortunately, the Longhorns may not be living in an ideal world on Saturday afternoon and it would behoove the coaching staff to actually prepare for such a situation, instead of counting on Brown and Bergeron for carries and then having virtually no back-up plan, exactly what happened last week in Columbia, something the head coach admitted freely:

We thought one of the two or both of the young tailbacks would play. So we were caught off guard. Shouldn't have been. Should have planned for that better, and then we didn't do a very good job of handling all of that I don't think on game day. So we've got to do a better job of preparing for the two young ones not to play and then trying to figure out ways that we can move the ball in different ways. 

...

Right now our offense came up with our niche, and our niche was taken away. So we've got to go back and regroup and find another way to figure out how to try to move the ball against a good Kansas State team and against teams that are going to score points here the next three weeks.    

Even if Bergeron and Brown aren't available, leaving the running game virtually in the hands of former fourth-string back Jeremy Hills, co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin sounded like he is prepared to be stubborn against Kansas State, even against a strong rush defense:

The philosophy's not going to change. We've got guys to play. That's how we play, that's what we believe in and that's what we'll continue to do.

Besides just the running game, Harsin was also referring to the deep passing game. The Texas playcaller was unapologetic for his numerous attempts to push the ball down the field against Missouri, despite the complete absence of success doing so after the first half, when quarterback David Ash connected on long passes to Marquise Goodwin and Miles Onyegbule, but still missed a critical throw to a wide-open Goodwin that would have gone for a touchdown.

Brown sounded more willing to pursue the intermediate and short passing game, while pointing out the novelty of Texas fans complaining about deep throws:

We're trying to get the ball deep. Some of those probably could have come short. We probably designed shorter passes, as well. I never thought I'd have Texas fans griping about deep throws as much as I heard them gripe about short throws for 13 years. I do know we're going to gripe after a loss, so it's guess it's whatever happens we're going to gripe about. And I'm griping, too, so it's not unusual.     

Beyond the seeming disagreement between the head coach and his offensive coordinator about whether to continue calling the deep passing game to such an extent, during and following the game, quarterback David Ash received much of the blame for the struggles in the passing game, but Brown took a more nuanced view:

We just didn't play well. We dropped some balls. Everybody wants to blame the quarterbacks. Our offense played bad across the board. People blamed Garrett Gilbert sometimes when we didn't play well, so everybody talks about the quarterback. We've got to give the quarterbacks help and especially these two young ones as they continue to develop.

How exactly Harsin plans to help Ash, and to a lesser extent McCoy, remains to be seen for the Kansas State game. Better protection from the offensive line would be a major step forward, but that's not something that can easily be solved in a week without going max protection on every deep throw. What seems clear is that Mack Brown was absolutely correct to call the current state of the offense a mess. 

A mess on a scale that even a coordinator with Harsin's obvious talent may not be able to rectify it in time for this weekend unless some serious healing takes place. Earn your paycheck, Kenny Boyd.

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