Kansas State owns Texas. After four consecutive losses spanning nearly a decade, it seems rather tired to keep saying it. Living it is certainly getting rather tired. But, really, it seems like the only way to describe how the Longhorns lost 17-13 when the offense more than doubled the production of the Kansas State offense. Bill Snyder certainly is a wizard.
Even with Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron back in the lineup after both running backs missed another painful loss lost weekend against Missouri, the Texas offense couldn't develop any type of forward momentum until late in the game when Case McCoy took the field following David Ash's second interception of the game.
McCoy led the Longhorns to the first points scored by the Texas offense in more than 100 minutes of game action when he helped engineer a six-play, 81-yard drive capped by Blaine Irby's first touchdown catch since the UTEP game in 2008.
The offense certainly seemed to receive a spark when McCoy replaced Ash, but on reflection much of that seemed due to Bryan Harin's best playcalling moment of the evening that left Irby so wide open virtually any quarterback at any level could have hit him for the touchdown and the long runs by Marquise Goodwin and Cody Johnson, the only explosive runs from the Texas offense all night.
At his best, the trademark accuracy of the McCoy family was an asset for Colt's little brother, particularly on the third-down completion on a slant to Mike Davis that set up the Irby touchdown. At his worst, McCoy showed little or no pocket presence and struggled to complete passes downfield, missing an open Davis over the middle on the final drive.
In other words, as poorly as Ash played -- and he certainly played exceedingly poorly -- McCoy still demonstrated the limitations that have kept him off the field, while benefiting from the two longest Texas rushing plays of the day that keyed both scoring drives he led.
However, McCoy certainly played well enough to earn earlier opportunities against A&M, even with those well-documented limitations. The issue is that even if this season is still all about the process, neither quarterback is developing at a rate that suggests a high level of upside for the future. Ash is still making critical mistakes that result in interceptions and there's nothing that McCoy hates more being in the pocket when things start to break down.
Not only is the quarterback position an absolute mess right now, but Harsin's playcalling isn't doing the offense a great deal of favors in critical situations either. Two different moments stand out upon review -- the power run on 3rd and 4 early in the fourth quarter after McCoy had completed his first four passes and the two straight running plays after Texas got to the Kansas State 11 shortly after Cody Johnson's 55-yard run.
The latter certainly stands as the most egregious, as two predictable running plays put Texas in a 3rd and 8 situation late in the fourth quarter down by a touchdown. After McCoy's subsequent floated pass fell short of an open DJ Grant in the endzone, the Longhorns seemingly had no choice but to kick a meaningless field goal and concede the only real opportunity Texas would have to score a touchdown for the rest of the game.
As many words can and will be used to discuss the ineptitude of Bryan Harsin's offense, it's easy to focus on the negatives and overlook the play from one of the top defenses in the country, which turned in another outstanding performance. Another performance that was good enough to give the offense a chance to win the game.
Given a week to actually prepare for Klein, the Texas defensive line and linebackers dominated the line of scrimmage, holding Klein to only four total yards on the ground. Even after adjusting those numbers for sacks, the big, bruising runner had 30 yards on 21 carries, with a long of 15 yards that came on a scramble. Other than that, the Texas defense gave up virtually nothing all night to one of the most productive runners in college football.
Oh yeah, and remember when the Longhorns couldn't buy a sack? Seems like another season entirely, as the linebackers pitched in to help sack Klein five times and the defensive line pressured him consistently all evening when he dropped back to pass, aided by mostly strong coverage in the secondary that often forced Klein to hold the ball for several extra counts.
Overall, the Texas defense allowed only one sustained drive all night, the eight-play 54-yard drive just before half that resulted in a touchdown. Once again, it was a drive enabled by a questionable kick-catch interference penalty that negated a fumble on the play, but the bigger concern is that for the second week in the row, the Texas defense failed to respond to adversity, giving up 57 passing yards on the drive, 69% of the total allowed on the day for the Longhorns.
When Klein found Chris Harper in the endzone from 16 yards out, it was with only a handful of seconds left in the first half, continuing another disturbing trend of allowing touchdowns just before halftime. The backbreaking play off the drive occurred when Klein, under pressure, delivered a strike to Sheldon Smith barely in bounds on 3rd and 14.
The bottom is that there's so little margin for error with the Texas offense that it's not enough right now for the defense to simply play well enough to win. The defense essentially has to make the plays to win the game and if there's one major complaint about this group right now, it's the inability to create those needed turnovers. After coming up with 11 takeaways in the first four games, the Longhorns have managed only five in the last six games, with Emmanuel Acho's strip early in the Missouri game the only turnovers forced in the last three contests.
Unless the defense can come up with one or several game-changing turnovers against the Aggies in just a few days, it's hard to imagine the offense producing enough to win. Likesaid last week, "We've got us a mess." And that mess is otherwise known as the Texas offense.