As I write this, I'm sitting here in the lobby of the Fairmont Copley hotel in Boston the morning after attending a wedding for one of my cousin's. For me, last night was a good evening and a fun time. And I have reassurance of that from the mild headache that is causing me to feel a bit foggy-brained.
I had whiskey-ginger beers on repeat last night like a song stuck in my head that I couldn't shake. I actually may have adopted a new favorite drink... more to come on that. But due to the festivities, I did not see one single snap of the Texas/Notre Dame game last night. Regardless, judging from the score, stats, and texts I got about the game, I imagine many of you are also feeling hung over from the game, the drinking it likely induced, and the frustration it caused.
Without seeing a single play, I myself am very frustrated. And I have a lot of questions swirling around in my head too. I will be going back to watch a replay of this game so I can provide better thoughts on how the team played. But going off inference alone, I imagine the worst-case scenario happened for the Longhorns. Let's start with the quarterbacks. I see that Tyrone Swoopes completed less than a third of his passes (7 of 22), failed to eclipse 100-yards passing (93) (which is a bit of a challenge in itself in this day in age of football where passing the ball is a frequent occurrence), and he did not get into the end zone at all.
I also see that Jerrod Heard was a non-factor with his net yardage of -2. Was he even given a fair shot? And please feel free to answer my questions and provide insight below as I sift through this muck of a football game. But what on
earth is going on at the quarterback position for Texas? Part of me wants to avoid the question of whether or not it's time to part ways with Shawn Watson because I do really like the quarterbacks that he has recruited and is recruiting (Locksley, Buchelle, & Ehlinger). And it would make me sick to see them go elsewhere if Watson were to be gone
. But I can't sit here and look the other way while the quarterback position continues to flounder like a fish on a dock. I have to have an answer. Is Swoopes that bad? Did Mack Brown really whiff that badly again on a quarterback? Or is Watson that limited as an offensive coordinator right now without "his guy" at the position? I keep picturing Watson up in the booth fumbling with the playbook as if it's a rubik's cube he has no clue how to solve.
How does Jonathan Gray end the night with less than 10 carries? Judging from his 5 yards per carry (eight carries for 40 yards), it appears he was effective when he got touches. Why was he not more involved in the offense? It's not like this is an offense that should be relying on the quarterback position to be the strength. Even though we were told it would be a "spread", Texas needs its feature running back to find success this year for the offense to be productive.
The Longhorns have to use the running game to take pressure off of their quarterbacks. And I get this offensive line is definitely not dominant nor anywhere near the level Texas desperately needs the group to be playing at. But you can't expect much from a guy if he only gets eight carries the entire game. Though I haven't seen a single play, I still question Watson and his decisions.
Seemingly, one positive take away was the usage of Daje Johnson. Unlike Gray, Daje is a guy who should be getting 5-10 touches a game. On offense, he ended the night with eight touches for 49 total yards. I would think the only way his night could have been better is if he had gotten into the end zone. But aside from him, only one other receiver caught a pass all night.
One... And it was freshman John Burt on a long 48-yard reception that would end up totaling more than half of Swoopes passing yards for the entire game. Let that sink in. One 48-yard pass was more than half of the entire passing yards a quarterback at Texas had for an entire game. Wow... If you're Marcus Johnson, Armanti Foreman, or any other Texas wide receiver, you likely feel hung over just from absence of a passing game last night. I'd be sick to my stomach if I was one of those guys.
One area I will try to remain optimistic about is the offensive line. We have to remind ourselves that this is the one position group that requires the most cohesiveness throughout the entire team. This group of five guys has to be on the
exact same page every single play. And right now, it sounds like not only are they on different pages, but they are reading different books. But to a certain degree, this was to be expected given the inexperience (literally no experience from two
freshman) this group had as a unit together coming into the season. I know we all read optimistic reviews out of camp about the line and the freshman. But that was camp against defenders they became familiar with. The only way for this group to really get better is by playing in games against real opponents. So I expect them to need the month of September (please, no longer than that) to really figure out what they are doing. I'm also aware I could be fully off base here. But I'll get a better sense once I go back and watch the game this week.
I don't really know where to start with the defense. The Irish hung 38 points on the Longhorns, and obviously that is not good at all. I want to see what the breakdowns were. But I do see that Peter Jinkens and Malik Jefferson found the football frequently. My bet with monopoly money that Jefferson will earn Defensive Freshman of the Year honors sounds like it's headed in the right direction. But giving up 214 yards on the ground as a unit is an easy way to lose any football game.
Even though we now live in an era of football where passing is prolific, stopping the run still is a key to any successful defense. And Texas utterly failed at that on Saturday night.
With just one sack registered the entire night by the Longhorns, and that one sack being from a linebacker (Jinkens) no less, I'm curious to know where on earth the defensive line was. Because based on the yards allowed on the ground and the lack of any sacks what so ever by that group, it sounds like they were getting pushed around at will by the Notre Dame offensive line. I'm very anxious to see what went wrong here. Call me old fashioned, but I'm a firm believer you won't win many games if you don't win in the trenches.
And on the note of struggles by the defense, I kept getting texts about how poor the starters in the secondary were playing. From the looks of it, Zaire had a video game-type of performance Saturday night with 313 yards and three touchdowns through the air while connecting on 19 of his passes and throwing just three incomplete passes. Just three. Goodness. The lack of a pass rush likely didn't do any favors for the secondary. But stats lead me to believe they got torched all night like they were bogeys being shot down by Maverick and Ice Man (RIP Goose).
Before the season, I tried my best to remain objective and just say "no" to the kool aid. I felt comfortable projecting this group as a secondhalf team that would have a shot at winning it's eighth game of the season in a bowl game. But my worst nightmare for this game came to fruition. And I'm now desperately hoping my worst nightmare for the season does not follow suit. Before I go see a replay, I'm not too sure how to feel about the rest of the season. Taking an optimistic stance would tell me to remind myself that this is just the first game. And it was against a good, ranked team in their house.
Taking a pessimistic stance would have me asking the question "what in the hell did the Longhorns do all off season?" And does Shawn Waston even have a clue as to how to solve the quarterback rubik'ss cube he keeps toying with? But for
now, I'll land myself somewhere in the middle. I'm still a believer this team will be a different team by the end of the season. But the burning question is will that change take place before it's too late?
Thanks for the read and for being patient with me as I get caught up on the game. I'll be circling back around later this week to give my thoughts on the game once I can catch a replay of it. With that said, again, feel free to provide answers and/or insight from your vantage point of the game itself. I'm very curious to know how my initial thoughts of this game will match with what I will see on the field.