Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE
Thoughts from the coaches and players after the TCU loss, belatedly.
Texas head coach, in his opening statement...
"I'm disappointed in the loss. We missed a great opportunity tonight to get back in the mix for some things. Give TCU credit. You can't win a football game when you have four turnovers and only gain one. They rushed the ball better than we did. I thought the kids played hard. I was proud they hung in there. I was proud they fought 'til the end. Disappointed that we played so poorly on offense. Give TCU credit for that."
If the Oklahoma loss was unacceptable and the West Virginia loss was a missed opportunity, the loss to TCU certainly fits Brown's description of disappointing. There are positive attributes with this team, their ability to keep fighting, as they have in every game with the exception of Oklahoma, including through some legitimately tough moments over the season.
But that's the minimum that coaches and fans and players should expect. There are many forgivable sins for football teams. A lack of effort is not one of them.
After the Oklahoma game, this has been a consistent theme for Texas coaches and players. At what point does playing hard for 60 minutes 12, 13, or 14 times a year become a given again and start paying off in wins in these games?
Brown, on whether the team played flat...
"No, they drove it straight down the field the first time they got it. I don't think they were flat, if they were flat they couldn't have played that hard until the end. I thought they tried really hard, just didn't play well on offense. We can sit here and talk about it, four turnovers to one, you're going to get beat most of the time. In fact, it's about 100 percent certain."
For writers, calling a team flat is akin to a child's favorite blanket -- something comfortable to hold onto in the moments when defining a loss is difficult.
Flat. One of those relatively intangible terms easily thrown about against those evidences of failure. Simple. Something that people can understand.
In this case, Brown is once again absolutely correct -- the macro analysis of this game boils down completely and absolutely to the turnovers, three of which were the fault of David Ash.
The generous could call the lost fumble a fluke. The interceptions, though were both poor decisions by the Texas quarterback, with the first underthrown to an open Mike Davis and the second a flat-out poor read when he was fooled by the safety and didn't go to his second read, which would have found Marquise Goodwin on a flag route had Ash not tried to force the ball to Jaxon Shipley instead.
Does it matter that Ash could have sustained the rib injury that could leave him questionable for next week on the third play of the game when he was speared by a TCU defender? Does that change the narrative at all?
The problem remains that Ash continues to struggle recovering when things don't go well early. As the evidence mounts in that regard, so too do the questions about his upside. Justifiably so.
Ultimately, the question is whether it's time to give up on Ash. Bryan Harsin doesn't seem to think so because he sent Ash out in the second half, when he may not have been sharp
Brown, on the team's apparent regression following several weeks of progress...
"I don't think in college football you're ever past anything. You've got to coach yourself to death every weekend. You go out there and coach whatever shows up. Hope that both sides play great. When they don't, you go adjust it. And that's what we tried to do tonight."
Well, back to scared, anxious Mack Brown talk again. The "coach yourself to death every weekend" comment is eerily reminiscent of when he said that he was fighting his guts out to get the 2010 team turned. Eerily reminiscent of so many statements he's made over the years.
At least he didn't flat-out say that he's scared to death every week that his team could regress. But maybe it just goes without saying at this point.
Brown, on TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin...
"We didn't make him do much. He didn't have to throw. We couldn't score so they had 300 yards of offense, I mean 299 or something, so it was a game where we couldn't move it. We didn't force them into doing more than they needed to do offensively."
While the Texas offense was able to get some stops late, TCU had already gone from a conservative gameplan to a completely conservative gameplan.
The Horned Frogs had lost games because they turned the ball over too much, fumbling the football and suffering through interceptions thrown by Boykin. So the gameplan reflected the common sense resulting from those facts -- run fewer plays to shorten the game, run the football, and keep Boykin from being put in too many situations where he could make game-changing mistakes.
Losing a game when the opposing team only attempts nine passes is the some of the worst kind of football torture. Death by a thousand cuts in the running game, the time ticking off the clock in between plays.
Defensive coordinator, on the tactical changes made by TCU...
"They changed their mentality. They went from a team that’s predominantly an empty team, a one-back team to a team that was predominantly a two-back team. And we didn’t adjust to that as fast as we needed to. The credit goes to them. They blocked us better. They were able to possess the football and keep our offense out of rhythm with their running game."
Early in the season, Diaz was talking about chasing ghosts, especially with a team like New Mexico that completely changed their offense coming into this season.
Trying to prepare for every eventuality coming out of a bye week is pretty much the same thing, so it's impossible to fault Texas for not being ready for combat the two-back run game that TCU deployed.
What is possible is to fault Diaz for not adjusting quickly enough, for not adequately preparing his players to deal with the zone-read game that the Horned Frogs certainly used before this game.
Defensive end Cedric Reed, on the difficulties of bringing down Boykin...
"He was shifty and fast. He surprised me a couple of times when I had him right in my hands and then he was gone."
If the Texas players didn't have some respect for how hard it is to tackle Boykin, they should now. At 215 pounds, he's much larger than most scat backs or slot receiver types, but he still has the agility of those smaller players, as Reed and others found out.
Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, on what he told Ash at halftime...
Just to not turn the ball [over] in the red zone. Let’s be smart and make good decisions in the red zone. We had moved the ball down the field and then we got in the red zone and they stiffened up, and we made some throws down there that they intercepted quite frankly. So move the ball and I will help you out with some calls in the red zone as far as running the ball or some easier throws if we can get ourselves in positions to run the ball in the red zone. And we did there towards the end, when David was in. But that was really it. He had done things in the open field well, and it was the red zone area that hurt us and then we had the backed up ball that came out of his hands. So just regroup, reload, let’s go back, let’s do what we were doing in the first half but let’s just not turn the ball over when we get down to the red zone. Those are the keys right there, and that really didn’t turn out.
An offensive coordinator believing that his young quarterback deserves the leeway of growing through some situations is hardly uncommon in football, though that can seem hard to believe at times with the revolving door in 2011 and Ash having now been replaced twice this season.
To the extent that the game was about avoiding further redzone interceptions, Ash succeeded in that regard, nearly scoring a crucial touchdown near the goalline when David dropped one potential touchdown and then slipped coming out of his break as the TCU cornerback made contact on the following pass play.
To the extent that Ash was crisp with the football, the second half was not a success, as a handful of passes were just slightly off the mark, as they have tended to be in such games for the Belton product.
Again, the narrative here depends to a great extent on how much the rib injury factored into some of the breakdowns in accuracy.
There's no question that Ash's footwork broke down at times in the first half, as his unwillingness to step into passes was a significant factor in his throws being off target. Perhaps it was a symptom of the rib injury, as Ash has mostly cleaned up similar problems from last year.
Harsin, on how TCU stopped the run...
"They’re physical. We talked about that, their front seven being good. Those guys playing the run and being a physical team up front. Take a lot of pride in stopping the runs. That wasn’t anything that was a surprise. We knew it was going to be a challenge, and we were going to have to get in there and do our best job as well to roll those guys off the ball. They have always been a physical defense. They’ve always been a good run defense, and that is something that we knew and have got to do a better job against."
What Harsin didn't say, but could have, is that TCU is extremely well-coached, they run a risk-averse scheme with the front seven that doesn't expose themselves to big plays, and the players execute it in a disciplined manner that always allows them to play fast and without hesitation.
In other words, the Horned Frogs under Gary Patterson are pretty much the opposite of Manny Diaz. Where Diaz blitzes and stunts and twists, TCU just wins battles. And in the case of going against Texas, that basically means beating players that the Horned Frogs couldn't get on the recruiting trail with players that the Longhorns didn't offer.
Offensive guard Trey Hopkins, on the performance by the offensive line ($)...
"We showed that we still don't have that consistency we need on offense. I hoped we were passed that point but clearly we have a lot of work to do and a lot of growing to do as an offense."
After the first two drives, when the Longhorns gained more than half of their total rushing yards, TCU was just more physical, consistently beating the Texas offensive line on run blocks.
Which offensive linemen? Well, all of them, mostly on separate occasions -- each starting player missed on two or more efforts in the running game, the type of mistakes that kill plays. Along the offensive line, a 20% failure rate on any given play isn't acceptable.
Looking back, it's easy to see the early success that the 'Horns experienced as an adjustment period for the Horned Frogs players and coaches. After the first two drives, the Texas running game was absolutely stuffed.
And going back through the years, the problem has been consistency across the board, something that the group still hasn't completely solved, as candidly assessed by Hopkins.
Texas won't truly be able to take the next step offensively until the offensive line can avoid those mistakes against good fronts. It's a tall task, but that's what it takes to win conference championships, much less national titles.
Defensive back Adrian Phillips, on one of the differences in the game...
TCU did what they wanted to and we didn’t do what we were supposed to do. That’s why the game ended that way.
Sounds like Texas was out-coached and out-executed once again. Those two things have gone hand-in-hand an awful lot for the Longhorns in conference play over the last three years. And that consistently being the case helps explain a conference record that is below .500 in that span.
The question now isn't when the majority of Texas fans become fed up with that. The question becomes when the Texas administration and boosters become fed up with that.