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Many Texas fans left the West Virginia game ready to fire defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, But, shockingly enough, Diaz saw a number of positives after watching the game. He's "excited" folks!
The domain name www.firemannydiaz.com is still available, but may not remain so for long at this pace.
Going into the game against the Mountaineers, the focus appeared to be in stopping the passing game, with the running game ranking as a relatively minor concern following the news that starting running back Shawne Alston would miss the game.
Then sophomore running back Andrew Buie ran for 207 yards on 31 carries and everyone freaked out.
Surprisingly enough, Diaz emerged from the film room talking about the positives from the game:
When we came in as a coaching staff and we went over it, there were so many positives on there, there were so many things that we didn't even know that we could do going into a game facing the challenges that they presented for us. I think it was natural for our guys to feel bad about the way the game transpired, and there certainly are enough mistakes for us to correct, but there were a lot of positives that kind of have me excited going forward.
Excited is not a word that's going to play well with Texas fans, but at least afford Diaz the opportunity to explain himself:
Well, you know, on first, second and third down when you took out the screen passes, [WVU QB] Geno Smith completed half of his passes for like 120 yards, and this is a guy we're talking about usually more touchdown passes than completions. Those are things that had not been done to him before.
Smith threw for 130 yards fewer than his average on 2.5 yards per attempt less than his season average. He was sacked four times after only going down four times on the season.
Diaz was excited about the defensive line play:
The way our defensive line played up front, the way we rushed the passer and things like that was very exciting to see. As a coach, and again, you want to talk about improving, we had to find a way to win the game, which was ultimately our failure, but there's a lot of things to get you excited about coming to work the next day.
Those numbers from Smith are all positives for a Texas defense that had given up at least one long touchdown play in every game of the season, but managed to reduce those huge chunk touchdowns against the Mountaineers.
Other things that probably excited Diaz -- of the six West Virginia touchdowns, only one went for more than 10 yards -- the pass to Tavon Austin on fourth down that came after the negated sack due to a timeout call.
As a result, Diaz was happy with the tackling by his unit, which cut down on missed tackles:
We were in single digits. We had, I think, seven, which was the best we have done, and part of that goes to the way that we covered. It was like we said going in, [WVU WR] Tavon Austin is hard to tackle. He's going to have a bunch of missed tackles, people try and tackle him. Guys like [S] Kenny Vaccaro did a great job of trying to deny him the ball.
The guess from this writer was that Texas would give up two long touchdown plays because of missed tackles. It didn't happen. Low standards, no doubt, but best low standards is better than living up to them, no?
Speaking of fourth downs, the fact that West Virginia started in such good field position so often was a major reason why the Mountaineers were able to go for it so many times, according to Diaz:
And then you go three of 12 on third down, what ended up happening, it was like playing a great baseball team and getting more outs per inning. I think one of the soundest stats in the game was field position because they were either starting for some of the drives, not all -- but they were either starting in four-down territory as it turned out or usually a first down got them into four-down territory.
And about that running game by the Mountaineers? Well, it was basically a pick-your-poison type of deal. Diaz chose death by run game:
Certainly, again, there were some things that, with what West Virginia does, West Virginia, with their three wide outs most of the time, they are running pass routes while they're running a running play, okay. This is just what the game has turned into. If you're going to single cover all those wide receivers with somebody deep, then you can outnumber their running game.
The Texas defensive coordinator prefaced those comments by noting that the linebackers felt better after leaving the film room, too.
Diaz also felt better about their play:
What I was happy about, I was happy to see Steve Edmond start to make some positive plays. I was happy for Kendall Thompson really in his first game ever going against an offense like that to show up and slash and make a couple plays. They'll take confidence from that going forward from here on out whenever we get Jordan [Hicks] back.
Maybe Diaz has a future as a self-help guru after Texas fans run him out of town, roughly another poor outing from happening.
In the opinion of Diaz, things could have been worse had the Longhorns not devoted resources to stopping the passing game and not the running game:
I said, I could put my ego out in front; we could have tried to do something to hold them to negative four rushing yards and they could have thrown for 4,000 - who knows what would happen if that was the result.
Well, if West Virginia had thrown for 4,000 yards, they would have scored a ridiculous number of touchdowns. and Diaz would have been murdered by a mob of angry Texas fans, though there is still plenty of time for that. And thank goodness Diaz didn't put his ego first!
There were other players who were "exciting" as well -- sophomore defensive back Mykkele Thompson and freshman defensive tackle Malcom Brown. Lollipops and gold stars for everyone!
And maybe all those problems are close to getting fixed.
Junior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat believes that the Longhorns are close to fixing things:
Just little things like people not standing on their feet. As a team, we got cut too many times or we didn't get into the gaps. There were little mistakes that you saw on film that you just look at like, 'Man, we were right there.' We just had to move over another gap.
So close, in his opinion. Yet so far from actually doing it -- coaches and players have been offering excuses and platitudes regarding the various issues the defense has had this year, but things haven't actually gotten fixed yet.
Maybe world peace is at hand, too.
But maybe, just maybe, the Longhorns are close to getting things fixed, just as they were close to getting things fixed even as they were giving up so many yards through the air and that long touchdown run to Oklahoma last season.
Optimism is so much more fun than pessimism. Give a whirl, and at least your week won't be so crappy, even if the linebackers are poor again on Saturday. After all, that will feel awful, regardless, even with every bit of pessimism Texas fans can muster (which is a lot of pessimism).
Let's all just sing Kumbaya together, okay?