Texas vs. Arkansas State
Ouch. Nothing makes my heart swell with content like watching the Horns run out of the shotgun. GD still equals God Dammit. What follows is a mix of rational thought and hopeless delusion. Keep in mind, I attended the game, but have yet to watch the TV broadcast.
Colt McCoy started the game 8 for 8 with two touchdowns, and the Longhorn offense appeared unstoppable. And then the offense stopped. Jamaal Charles' talent continues to be wasted on running out of the shotgun formation. Don't get me wrong, I do not long for the days of the power I. Charles is not durable enough to run it up the middle 30 times a game. At the same time, starting flat-footed seven yards deep in the backfield makes no sense. Charles had to break several tackles just to gain 5 yards. The Horns ran the ball 38 times, 20 of those runs were for two yards or less. The Horns had four opportunities to score from the 3 yard line, and could not get the ball across the goalline. That is inexcusable.
Colt spent the balance of his evening throwing into coverage or throwing into impossibly tight windows. He routinely missed wide-open receivers. He didn't over- or under-throw them, he just didn't see them. McCoy did miss a wide-open Nate Jones while scrambling, a completion would have resulted in another TD.
Lots of work is needed to prepare for TCU.
It is hard to beat up on the defense too much. Yes they gave up a lot of yardage, but ultimately they held the Indians to 13 points. The line played well, and at times put pressure on the quarterback. Most of the ground yardage came on long scrambles rather than running plays designed for the running back. The secondary play was merely adequate. The young secondary played off of the receivers, giving Arkansas State many yards underneath the coverage. The linebackers, unfortunately, were non-existent. Even when a backer made a big play, it seems a roughing or face-mask penalty wiped out the loss.
The worst news is the injury to Brian Orakpo. He is doubtful for Saturday, and Eddie Jones will have to play in his place. The good news, Jones had the Horns lone interception on the evening.
Special teams was probably the best unit. Kick-offs consistently reached the goalline. Punt and kick returns were decent and on two occasions set the offense up with great field position. McCoy pulled one trick out of the bag, using a quick-kick on 4th down twice. Each time the ball was downed inside the opponent's 20 yardline.
Needless to say, given the Horns were out rushed, out passed, and out-possessed, there has been a lot of negative prognostication. I am not ready to abandon ship just yet, but there is a lot of room for improvement. I'll hold off burying this team for the season until after the TCU game.
McCoy will have to improve his passes and make better decisions. The running game needs improvement, but that may not be possible until the offensive line comes together and develops a push-em around attitude. The defense will need to tighten up and eliminate needless penalties that extend drives.
In the end, the score wasn't pretty, but the Horns were also two plays away from winning 35-13, and maybe we aren't hearing as much chatter this week. Certainly, a good outing against TCU will put a lot of the doubt to rest for the time being. TCU is already a popular pick, so in a sense the Horns may feel like the underdogs at home. Let's see how they react.