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A&M Survival Guide: Special Teams

In the wake of Texas' home opening win over Louisiana-Lafayette, in which the Horns missed three extra points, we at Hornsblog wrote the following:

In the wake of Virginia Tech's dominant win over Georgia Tech, something occurred to me. Why is Virginia Tech so damn good at special teams and Texas isn't? There are a couple of competing theories out there on this one, one more plausible than the other.

The first possibility is that Virginia Tech recruits these uber-special teams players--crazed, ball-sniffing special teamers that were born in Petri dishes at Texas A&M by combining the DNA of two psychotic 12th Men from 1968. These test tube lab freaks are then raised on a special farm by whooping, towel-twirling farmers who teach them only three things: blocking kicks, making special teams tackles, and loving the color maroon. Frank Beamer, being the genius that he is, steals the recruits because they're too dumb to realize that all Maroon teams aren't the same. They wind up at Virginia Tech thinking they're in College Station and make insane special teams plays year in and year out. Mack Brown has no access to these recruits because they fear burnt orange like Chris Simms fears the sack.

The other, more plausible, possibility is that Beamer is just better at coaching special teams than we are. I find it impossible to believe that their special teams players are simply better athletes than ours. We certainly have the personnel to do what they do. They're just better at it. And that means it comes down to coaching. Whoever our special teams coach is, he's not getting it done. Greg Davis takes a lot of flak, but he does a pretty good job overall. The special teams has been nothing short of disastrous. We need a change in performance or a change in coaching. Sooner rather than later, please.

Well, it's time we give credit where credit is due. The single biggest reason Texas beat the Aggies on Friday was special teams. The blocked punt returned for a touchdown was the dagger in the Aggies heart that rescued a generally moribund Texas squad.

The fact is, Texas has been pretty darn good on special teams in certain areas. That's an understatement. Texas has been the BEST in certain areas; namely, in blocking kicks. Back when we wrote the above condemnation of the Horns special teams, we were coming off of the Breaston-Michigan nightmare and the three missed extra points agains La-Lafayette. But what we failed to mention was how prolific Texas has been at blocking kicks. The Horns have been excelled in that area of special teams once again this year, and there was no bigger play in the game than the blocked punt that Cedric Griffin returned for a touchdown against the Aggies.

In every other aspect of the game, Texas was outplayed. The Aggies had more rushing yards, more first downs, they dominated the time of possession, and they played with more energy and heart. Fortunately for Texas, this team plays like a champion, and champions do what they have to do to win. On Friday, it took a tremendous effort from the special teams. From the blocked punt to the failed two-point conversion to the kick coverage, the special teams proved decisive for Texas. If they'd been sloppy, Texas could very easily have lost the game.

As is, Texas fans can breathe easy and begin preparations for the Big 12 championship game. Still, as you can see below, it's time we bump the Horns down a notch in our rankings in the name of consistency. We put Texas ahead of USC because we felt the Trojans weren't blowing out inferior opponents like the Horns were. Texas can no longer boast to having done that, and we've adjusted our rankings accordingly.

It's a simple fact. If Texas plays that poorly against any top twenty team, they'll lose. If they play that poorly against USC... well, OU won't be the last Big 12 team to get bombed in the title game. Redemption in the Big 12 title game takes on a whole new meaning this week. The Horns need to bury the 2001 Colorado demons, for sure. But they also need to bury Friday's demons.