The outcome was: A matter of perspective. Today's game was sort of like being invited as a guest to dine at the restaurant with the three-star Michelin rating and the prettiest view in the city, only when you get there, the waiter botches your appetizer and takes two hours to bring you the main course, and when it finally arrives, it's not the steak that you ordered but some sort of fish. As you walk out the door after your meal, you're about to start complaining to your wife about everything that went wrong, but have to stop, because you realize not only was the entree you ate as tasty as anything you've ever had, but the restaurant next door burned to the ground while you were eating.
"You know what," you have to say, "that was pretty good, wasn't it?"
It sorta depends how you look at it, right? We might look at Texas' first half of offensive mediocrity, the special teams idiocy, and the tight halftime score and conclude, "Bad Texas. Bad, bad Texas." On the other hand, we might look at the second half, the final 31-point margin, and the scoreboard in Stillwater and conclude, "A fine day to be a Longhorn, indeed."
I'm inclined to the latter view for a number of reasons, confident that our special teams are better than that, Colt McCoy is better than that, our defense is straight sexy, and the second half showed some glimpses of what might be ahead for this Texas offense. Join me after the jump for discussion of Texas' 41-10 victory over Wyoming.
The Offensive MVP was: Dan Buckner & Tre' Newton. The sophomore "tight end" finished with 6 catches for 86 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown, while the redshirt freshman tailback scampered for 62 yards on 8 carries (including a 13-yard TD run) and hauled in a reception for 15 yards for good measure. These two, of course, are the fish in our happy metaphor -- not the steak we were expecting in August, but unarguably delectable nonetheless. Let's start with Buckner. It's fair to say Buck won't be a mauling blocker for our running game like Brandon Pettigrew was for Oklahoma State last year, but I've seen enough in two games to feel good about Texas' offense being strong enough to win the Big 12. He's got terrific hands, good body control, unfair height, and a powerful, long stride that make him a terrible match up for linebackers and safeties alike. As Colt grows more comfortable with him, he's going to be a force that elevates our pass and run games alike.
As for Newton, let the debates begin: how much should he play? Everyone was impressed with the redshirt freshman, and rightfully so, but those who bagged on McGee (who left with an ankle injury) are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. McGee finished with 61 yards on 11 carries (5.5 per), caught 2 passes for 9 yards, and picked up the blitz like a champ, freeing Colt to scramble around in the first half, staring at triple-teamed Jordan Shipley for 15 seconds. So no, the case for Newton has nothing to do with the ineffectiveness of a healthy McGee, who's been perfectly solid through two games. The difference is in the fit: Newton comfortably slides through our running lanes from the shotgun more naturally than does McGee. It's not an easy thing to do, which is why a guy as obscenely talented as Jamaal Charles often looked so lost trying to figure out where to go. There's a certain feel required to guesstimating where our zone-blocking ballerinas are going to create a crease and then slipping through it with downhill force. McGee is, in his third year, starting to get good at it; Newton looks like he's been doing it all his life.
If that's right, and not a small sample size anomaly, Newton needs more carries. More downs, period. He hits the LOS well, can catch passes, and picks up the blitz. There's a lot to like here. Even if we still like the steak.
The offensive Offensive LVP was: Charlie Tanner. Sometimes, I wish I'd not included this part of the Postgame React way back when I started it, because it's hard to bag on kids who do so many things right, even if they struggle on Saturdays. And Charlie Tanner does a lot right, by all accounts a true program soldier, terrific teammate, and student athlete. Unfortunately, superior blocking is not on the list. But Mack Brown professes to have turned a corner on his philosophy about all this, so we can just be blunt about it: If it's true that the best guys must play, and that those who don't have a role to play on the team by accepting their diminished roles, then Charlie Tanner should not be a starter. When Michael Huey was healthy, David Snow was a better option at left guard. And after this week's subpar performance, I'm of the mind that Tray Allen -- who showed up to play in the second half -- is the better option, too. We can focus on the quality of the other options, or we can just point out that Charlie Tanner is struggling. Either way, experience as measured in starts made is useless when the starts made are not quality ones. Move Tanner down the depth chart. Starting now.
Update: To be fair to Tanner, I meant to mention in here somewhere that his fellow starting linemen were particularly good, either. Ulatoski still doesn't move his feet well enough to be consistently good and Hall is an underized reacher. The right side of our line was better, but overall this unit has hardly been the asset we're told the "90 combined" starts means that it will be.
The Defensive MVP was: Sam Acho and Lamarr Houston. With a fist bump to the outstanding Keenan Robinson, one of My Guys for 2009, this has to go to Sam Acho and Lamarr Houston, who were just treacherous for Wyoming all day. Acho finished with 6 tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss (1 sack) and 1 fumble recovery and was as big a mismatch as Wyoming faced all day. The difference between Acho and his fellow defensive ends -- all talented and effective in their own right -- is his discipline. Rarely will you see Acho over-eagerly shoot up the field and out of position like you might with Okafor or Kindle; he's a model DE right now.
As for Houston... well, there aren't many bigger fans of the young man than yours truly and this was perhaps his finest game as a defensive tackle for Texas. Wyoming simply had no answer for his quickness, and with tag-teammate Kheeston Randall doing a better and better job all the time of occupying blockers, Houston's being freed to make plays like few inside guys can. I love the kid.
The offensive Defensive LVP was: None. No disrespecting anyone on this unit today, as they were nasty and focused from the start, not the least bit rattled by the offense's pedestrian start. I'd love to see this unit with Christian Scott in there -- Gideon is still solid, but limited -- but even there, given this team's week-to-week talent advantages and manageable schedule, there's a lot to appreciate in #21. What's really fun about this group is that they're so much further along than they were at this time last year, and yet they still might have as much room to grow as did last year's group. Randall is a great player who's just learning how to react, instead of think, out there -- getting better every down. Acho and Kindle are already great, and have guys behind them who will be soon. My man crush on Keenan Robinson swells by the minute. Curtis Brown is putting his athletic quickness to better and better use, Thomas and Williams are All-Conference guys, Gideon is as steady as you can hope for, and Chykie just needs more every-down focus to be as good as anyone out there.
(A nod here to our special teams, which were comically bad. I could literally do nothing but laugh when Gold's punt was blocked for a touchdown. A week after I beamed that we might have the "best special teams in the country," we got this circus. An anomaly, I'm sure, but still hysterically awful.)
On the Milk Carton: Malcolm Williams. I have lots and lots of nice things to say about John Chiles and James Kirkendoll, but what do we make of Malcolm Williams' lack of meaningful production so far? Is it an opportunity thing? A Malcolm thing? A small sample thing? A Greg Davis thing? I'd like to say that part of it is a schematic thing, but you know what, I watched Colt McCoy gobble up single coverage with Limas Sweed in 2006 (12 TDs) and have to believe that's doable at some level still. I'm open to your answers, if you have any. For now, I wait and wonder.
Garrett Gilbert watch: 2-3 for 16 yards. Not much of a factor today, thanks to the sluggish start keeping Colt in the game through most of the 4th quarter. Still, it doesn't take much to see from Gilbert that he may be literally the prototype quarterback for the offense Greg Davis has developed with Colt McCoy and wants to run moving forward. His arm is plenty strong, his accuracy is otherworldly, and his football instincts are natural and well-developed. If he stays healthy, he's going to win and win big.
Texas Tech Fear Factor: 4 out of 10. (5) is the baseline. +1 for Taylor Potts threw for 467 yards and 7 TDs today; -1 for Taylor Potts will be starting his third career game in Austin; -1 for Taylor Potts will be a Texas Tech quarterback in Austin; +1 for Texas' offense being vulnerable in a shootout; -2 for Will Muschamp not letting Texas get in a shootout; +1 for Greg Davis and his offensive line; +1 for Colt McCoy trying to do too much; -1 for Texas vastly superior depth on both sides of the football.
Heading into next week I feel: Demanding. Two games down, two comfortable wins, and two performances with lots to like and a few lingering questions that need resolving for this team to achieve its goals. I'll be the first to hush someone who tries to tell me I should panic, but neither will I deny that the current level of play leaves the team vulnerable to upset.
And that's the thing, really: I'm still extremely excited about this team and its potential, but the difference between the 2009 Longhorns being excellent and Pasadena-bound may well turn on how large or small are this team's margins for error. Last year, the margins for error were very slim; we pretty much had to have Colt McCoy play perfect football or we could be beat. He was nearly perfect, and so was the team. To elevate above and beyond that this year means increasing those margins for error. I'd argue we've seen that so far on the defensive side of the ball, but not yet on offense.
Texas Tech is one such team that can beat the Longhorns on a bad day. We saw it last year and, while it seems less likely to occur in Austin, could happen this year. I'll be watching closely this week to see what Texas brings to the field against Mike Leach, looking for lessons learned from last year and from the first two weeks of the season, in which Texas has been very good, but not yet truly great.