Texas cruised to an easy 38-7 victory over North Texas on Saturday night--the first win of the Charlie Strong era. There was a lot of good, some 'eh', and some bad. The Longhorns need to improve in certain areas before hosting BYU on Sept. 6.
A quick reminder--the SMO does not deal with logic or reason. It doesn't care about your fancy stats or film review. The SMO is an over-the-top emotional response to everything Texas football. That's what the fans want. That's what I plan to give them.
Extremely Optimistic- Defense
The Longhorns defense under Vance Bedford debuted by holding the North Texas Mean Green to 94 yards of total offense, most of which came in the fourth quarter when the Longhorns were playing its second and third string.
The defense also created four turnovers, gave up zero points and scored on an pick-six. It held the UNT quarterbacks to under 10 yards of passing for essentially the entire game.
This is a defense that has been sorely missed. Bedford has this unit ready to compete in a league that had two teams hang with the AP Top 25 best two teams on Saturday.
Extremely Optimistic- Dylan Haines
If you're smart, you'll go grab a #44 jersey off the discount rack at one of the campus stores, because Haines is killing it on defense like his jersey's predecessor did.
Haines, a walk-on safety, grabbed an interception in the spring game and impressed the staff enough to earn a spot in the defensive backfield rotation Saturday night -- mostly on third down. He intercepted a ball in the first quarter that placed the Texas offense in scoring position.
Haines is every coach's dream. It'll be interesting to see how the season plays out for him.
Apathetic- Special Teams
Nick Rose has big shoes to fill with the loss of Anthony Fera, and his impact on Saturday's game was less than inspiring.
He missed a short field goal in the first quarter and had a kickoff go out-of-bounds. The rest of his kickoffs were solid and he did make one field goal later in the game.
The return game failed to materialize for Texas. Jaxon Shipley returned a couple punts but never had space to create anything special.
Texas punter William Russ faced pressure constantly, but punted well. Hopefully his services won't be needed as often as Nick Rose's.
The Texas offense will be a talking point for pundits this week.
Quarterback David Ash made some impressive plays, but he sailed a few balls and missed the open man on others. Both are correctable mistakes.
He faced a lot of pressure from the UNT defensive line. The offensive line struggled in pass protection and opening up holes for running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. The Longhorns will need to correct mistakes on the offensive line ASAP, as the competition will only get harder.
The long-term loss (if there is one) of center Dominic Espinosa will be a crucial blow to the offensive line. Joe Wickline has his work cut out for him as it is, and losing the offensive line leader could mean that Texas hits the panic button early with this unit.
Saturday night featured a lot of horizontal passing that didn't work. It didn't get Marcus Johnson involved nearly enough. John Harris dropped a few balls before getting in a rhythm and eventually scoring the only touchdown that came through the air. He finished with seven receptions for 110 yards and one touchdown.
The play-calling was extremely vanilla, and I hope that was because Watson is pocketing some better stuff for next week. This is Texas football now. Strong and Watson offenses don't win games 66-3. They score what they need to score and then beat you down on defense. That might take some getting used to for Texas fans who'd like to see a little more fireworks from this unit.
Apathetic- Game Atmosphere
It'll take more than winning to fix the game-day atmosphere at DKR.
I am one person who believes that the Longhorns marketing department is inherently lazy.
Here is an interesting tidbit of info I found this week. Do you follow the Longhorns on Twitter? It's like reading texts from a grandparent -- they do the absolute worst job in college football.
RE: Terrible UT marketing. Some Twitter follower numbers: Alabama- 162k Tennessee-115k Texas A&M-104k UGA- 88k Texas- 55k— Curry Shoff (@CurryShoff) August 29, 2014
Michigan has 217,000 followers. LSU has 155,000. Ohio State, a comparable non-SEC school, has 116,000. South Carolina has 73,000. Texas has 56,000 -- tied with Oregon.
Twitter is an indication of how a brand is resonating with a younger generation -- including recruits, and how popular that brand is in the general public. The Longhorns' social media presence is shameful. Someone has to fix it.
On Saturday night, Texas chugged out the same pre-game video as last year, which looks like it was made in the late 90s. It completely missed the selling point of this season -- a new coach and a new era of Texas football. Honestly, this is something they could outsource to at least half of the student body -- as they could likely do a much better job utilizing a couple highlights on iMovie.
Nothing new for Texas fans in 2014, except for a guy in a jetpack -- which didn't excite fans as much as it scared the hell out of them.
The Texas athletic department needs to find a way to engage with Texas fans. Whether that means suffocating them with advertisements less, creating more enjoyable, new-millennium content for the Jumbotron, or just flat-out updating the hype video and music/video playlist -- anything different would be an improvement.
The Bryson Echols penalty count
In this new section of the SMO, we take a look at how many penalties and yards Bryson Echols cost the Longhorns in the previous game.
- One pass interference penalty for 15 yards
Texas takes on BYU next Saturday at 6:30 in Austin. Let's hope it goes better than last year.
(LATE ADD): Lay off the Gatorade bath BS. I am the first person who is willing to make fun of all of the dumb stuff Texas does, but this was Strong's first win. It's fine.