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More Thoughts: A slow start cost the Texas Longhorns another game

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Slow starts have been a theme for Texas this season, especially on offense. It cost the ‘Horns against Oklahoma.

Oklahoma v Texas Photo by Richard W. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Even though the Texas Longhorns almost pulled off a Red River Showdown win over the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners down the stretch, this was still a poor performance by the ‘Horns, especially in the first half.

Below are more thoughts after re-watching the Texas’ 29-24 Red River Showdown loss to the Sooners.

The first half for Texas was abysmal

Up until about five minutes left in the second quarter, the defense was completely on its heels while the offense couldn’t get anything going at all. Texas very well could have won this game if it started the game even slightly better than it did, and that slow start is largely on the coaching staff for not getting this team ready to play right from the start of this game.

Texas couldn’t get to Mayfield enough

Unlike its win against Oklahoma and Baker Mayfield two seasons ago when the Texas defense sacked Mayfield six times, the Longhorns’ were only able to sack Mayfield twice on Saturday, which was just one sack better than last season’s loss against Mayfield and the Sooners.

Credit Mayfield for feeling the pressure Texas brought and escaping most of it all day. On that note, there were also some key missed sacks by players like Malik Jefferson and Breckyn Hager that led to chunks of positive yards for Oklahoma.

This was in no way a great day for the Longhorns safeties

Or the Texas secondary for that matter. Aside from a pass break-up and a tackle-for-loss by Brandon Jones along with a handful of tackles by DeShon Elliott, the safeties were caught multiple times peaking into the backfield as they let receivers get behind them in coverage. Call it a mental lapse, call it being unprepared for Mayfield — it was frustrating to watch the safeties revert to bad habits we saw last season. Few things frustrate me more than watching a safety let a receiver run right by him in coverage.

On top of that, Orlando blitzed his safeties multiple times and it backfired multiple times as the Oklahoma ball-carrier would either run right by the safeties at the line of scrimmage or Mayfield would pass to the areas the safeties had vacated prior to the snap.

This was another bad day for Kris Boyd

For as much trash as Boyd seemingly talks, he sure does fail to back it up. As long as he keeps playing, opposing offensive coordinators would be dumb to not keep targeting him. His poor mental decisions in coverage continue to get exposed.

Athletically, he has the physical ability to start for this team. Mentally, he shouldn’t see the field as a starter until further notice. Without being at practice, though, I’m not exactly sure who Texas could give a chance to play better at corner across from Holton Hill.

What a well-timed trick play by Oklahoma

With 5:29 left to play in the first half, the Sooners opened their drive with a trick play, as running back Trey Sermon connected with Marquise Brown for a 42-yard connection through the air to put Oklahoma in the red zone.

On this play, it looked like DeShon Elliott and Boyd keyed in on the run and let the receiver on their side of the field get behind them for a big gain. Texas didn’t have a clue this play was coming. Kudos to the Sooners for this one.

The defense was stuck on blocks a lot of the day

This looked to be really apparent in the first half as Oklahoma moved up and down the field. The Texas defenders got stuck on blocks and looked to get pushed around at all levels of the defense.

I tend to wonder how far behind the Texas players are in the strength and physical development category given that Strong and his strength and conditioning staff shied away from leg days. That’s possibly three years of development opportunities that went out the window.

Before you start, no, I’m not blaming this all on Strong. Though it absolutely could be a valid factor in play, even with an entire offseason of Herman and his staff in place prior to this season.

Sam Ehlinger is good, and he’s the best quarterback on this team

No, I’m not saying he’s a finished product, and he still has a handful of areas he can improve on (like his deep passing accuracy), but Ehlinger brings a play-making ability and energy that gives this team the best chance to win this season.

What that means for Buechele, I’m not sure. For now, this is Ehlinger’s job and really his team. Not to mention he’s the best running threat the Longhorns have right now...

Let’s face it, the running backs cannot be relied upon on the ground

If you haven’t already, it’s time to face the reality that Texas will likely not be able to rely on its running backs this season in the run game. And that’s not me saying it’s entirely the running backs fault either because it’s not. The offensive line is a rag-tag group and this offensive staff hasn’t exactly figured out when to use which running back.

The best thing going for this group of running backs right now is screens out of the backfield. Other than that, handing it off to a running back is good for about a yard or two at a time.

It’s crazy to think D’Onta Foreman rushed for over 2,000 yards last season and yet this season, the Longhorns may not find a way for its entire group of running backs to eclipse 1,000 yards (currently at 570 through six games). Losing Connor Williams hurts for sure, though that’s obviously not the only issue in play.

Demoting Collin Johnson seems a little odd

I’ll admit that in re-watching this game, it was tough to always see what Johnson was/was not doing down field due to the camera angle. And though I was at the game, my eyes weren’t glued to Johnson the entire game so maybe there is evidence to back up listing Leonard as the starter over Johnson for this week’s game.

Regardless of who starts this game, I’ll be surprised if Leonard out-snaps Johnson the rest of the season. Leonard isn’t a poor receiver by any means. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can add to this passing-game if he’s given more chances. It’s just that Johnson is such a freak athlete and has come up big before that I don’t see him being sidelined for long.

As we know, Herman will do Herman-things when it comes to how he wants his players to specifically perform in games. Ideally, Johnson will correct whatever it is that Herman didn’t like and get himself right with the staff again sooner than later.

Get Reggie Hemphill-Mapps and Cade Brewer the ball more

Both of these young players make plays in the open field, and Texas is still a team desperate for as many big plays it can get. Both of these guys need to continue to be worked into the offense as both create positive yards with the ball in their hands.

Reggie Hemphill-Mapps has the type of talent and speed to eventually have a real shot at leading the conference in receiving down the line (that of course means I assume the quarterback and offensive line positions continue to improve these next few years).

Texas is an average team, it is what it is

All in all, this Texas 2017 team is still nothing more than an average football team. Maybe the Longhorns will find a way to end the season with a winning record of some sort, though that won’t be easy. The reality here is that Texas is still working its way out of a rut it has been in for nearly half a decade now.

Losing WIlliams hurt this team; there’s no question about that. And the other issues this offensive line has faced has played into the overall offensive struggles, as well. Defensively, Texas has made strides, though it’s still figuring out which personnel works best, how to play in this scheme, and what plays work and don’t work for this grouping of players versus the teams it is faces each week.

Herman won’t say this out loud but the goal for the rest of the season has to be the win enough games to make a bowl game. Not only do the Longhorns needs those extra practices, they need a chance to end this season on a positive note of any sort.