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Postgame React: Texas 52 Arkansas 10

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The outcome was: Bacon! Just totally tasty. For the fourth straight game, Texas buried the opposition early, this time with 24 points on its first four drives and 31 by halftime--the 31-3 halftime lead Texas' largest of the season.

Texas in the 1st Half, 2008
Game Halftime Score # of Drives
Drive Results
Florida Atlantic 28-10 5 TD, TD, Punt, TD, TD
UTEP 24-13 5 Punt, TD, TD, TD, TD
Rice 24-3 5 Fumble, TD, TD, TD, FG
Arkansas 31-3 6 FG, TD, TD, TD, Punt, TD

The Offensive MVP was: Colt McCoy. He may not be 40, but my God, he is a man. McCoy was perfect once again, on Saturday completing 17 of his 19 pass attempts for 185 yards, including 3 touchdowns and 0 turnovers. Throw in another 84 yards rushing on 9 attempts and 2 more touchdowns and it was the kind of performance that Heisman voters won't be able to ignore. (Though postseason awards just barely register on my radar screen these days, if both Texas and Oklahoma cruise to wins next week, the attention focused on Bradford vs McCoy in Dallas is going to be incredible.)

Bill_murray_2_medium
This is glorious. A hundred thousand people frying their butts off to worship a cow.

Which McCoy play on Saturday was most impressive? The perfect dart to Shipley for Texas' first score or his 35-yard touchdown gallop to put Texas up 24-3? Both were jaw-droppers and exemplified the enormous strides McCoy has made since his up-and-down sophomore campaign. Though we have to remind ourselves of the opponents McCoy has been raking over the coals, there are specific improvements which portend well for the next two years:

  • Running with purpose. McCoy did an admirable job rushing the football as a freshman and sophomore, but he was more scrambling to survive than attacking with purpose. So far this year, we're seeing a different kind of rusher, as McCoy runs for yards in a way we hadn't seen before. The free space will likely shrink as the competition increases, but it adds a lot to our offense that McCoy is a legitimate rushing weapon for whom defenses must account.
  • Stepping into passes. Not unrelated to McCoy's improved rushing is the way he's stepping into throws this year. In part, it's the same purposefulness from McCoy, but it's also an improvement from the offensive line, which is giving Colt time and space to look downfield and step into the his passes.
  • Using the checkdown receiver. McCoy and Greg Davis both said they thought Colt tried to do too much last year. McCoy hasn't stopped trying to make plays, but he's done an outstanding job of checking down to his tight end or tailback when the downfield play isn't available. That was missing from his game a year ago.

All told, these are the kinds of fundamental improvements to McCoy's game that have me revising my outlook for the next two years. I count myself among those who this summer wasn't 100% sure Colt McCoy's ceiling was high enough for Texas to win a national title. That's no longer the case.

The Defensive MVP was: Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle. The single most important key to the burtal five-game stretch awaiting Texas is whether or not the 'Horns are able to pressure the quarterback. I just finished watching Oklahoma wax TCU and there's simply no question at all that if Sam Bradford has time to throw, he will find one of his many outstanding receivers (not to mention the terrifying Gresham) open in space. Same goes for Chase Daniel and Graham Harrell.

But if this young Texas defense is and will be a work in progress, Will Muschamp clearly understands he's got to find ways to have his best athletes serve as disruptors. Today, we saw both Orakpo and Kindle making life hard for Casey Dick and Tyler Wilson, and it seems to me their ability to keep the opposition off balance is as important as anything else that happens in our upcoming games.

The offensive Offensive LVP was: Vondrell McGee. Honestly, it feels a little mean-spirited to single out anyone after such a dominant performance, but it's worth noting that McGee again struggled to get his game going, finishing with just 57 yards on 16 carries. The coaches seem eager to have him break through, but after a sluggish start Cody Johnson was given an opportunity to work with the first team. He seized the opportunity, amassing 43 yards rushing on his 9 carries, and as Texas fans and coaches anxiously wait for Fozzy Whittaker to get healthy, the window on McGee may have closed a bit this Saturday.

The offensive Defensive LVP: Deon Beasley and Ryan Palmer. Not that either player particularly killed Texas on Saturday, but on a team where an army of underclassmen are busting their tails to get the job done, these two have been notably subpar to start the year. If Palmer is somewhat excused as someone most of us don't expect all-conference play from anyway, Beasley's lackluster start is a bit maddening. He's much better than he's playing right now, and Texas needs him to amp it up in a big way. Starting now.

John Chiles Watch: 10 carries, 26 yards / 4-4 passing, 28 yards. On the downside, Chiles was hesitant and unimpressive as a runner today; his inability to make a linebacker miss in open space in the 4th quarter was just befuddling. On the bright side, he's clearly made enormous progress as a passer--certainly to the point where he's not missile launching worm-burners our receivers have no chance to catch.

Here's the bottom line: If Chiles is going to be anything less than spectacular as a runner, McCoy's outstanding play somewhat lessens the value of wasting effort trying to get the ball in Chiles' hands. I think John's a better runner than we're seeing from him right now, but if he can't translate it to production on the field, it's not worth bending backwards to get the ball in his hands. Time to step it up, John.

Cerberus Watch: McGee: 16-57-3.0, 0 TD / Ogbonnaya: DNP / Whittaker: DNP. With McGee struggling and both Ogbonnaya and Whittaker out, it was Cody Johnson who provided the spark from the tailback position. Colt McCoy deserves a lot of credit for providing the rushing threat in the non-conference schedule, but I still maintain that one of these four needs to break through if Texas is to compete for the Big 12 title.

Tight End Watch: Ian Harris: 1 reception, 7 yards / Peter Ullman 1 reception 4 yards. Harris is the one to watch, as neither Ullman nor Greg Smith is remotely athletic enough to play the role required by the tight end in Greg Davis' offense.

Colorado Fear Factor: 4 out of 10   (5) is the baseline. (-1) for Colorado's B- passing game; (-1) for Colorado's offensive line and the struggles they'll have with our D-Line; (-1) for Colt McCoy's improvement; (-1) for Jordan Shipley at full health; (+1) for Texas not having sorted out the tailback situation; (+2) for Boulder being among the toughest places to win on the road in college foootball.

Heading into next week I feel: Better Than I Hoped. Texas has more than enough talent to rout Colorado next Saturday, though I remain wary of playing in Boulder on principle. My confidence in Texas' ability to take care of business is entirely related to the improvements in the fundamentals along the offensive line, at quarterback, and in our defensive scheming.

The temptation is to look ahead to Oklahoma and Missouri, who await the Longhorns post-Boulder... That would be a mistake. Good news: I can't see this coaching staff making that mistake.