Tag Archives: Garrett Gilbert

All My Exes Live in Texas

Well, at least more of them do now – and, of course, I’m referring to Texas Longhorn football coaches. With this week’s announcement that at least three, maybe four, coaches would be resigning from the Texas Longhorns football staff, there is quite a bit of work to be done to fill the void.

That said, there is one coach in particular that Texas fans can agree they’ll be glad to see go – offensive coordinator Greg Davis. While he did bring some success to Texas during his tenure (including a 2005 National Championship and the Frank Broyles award for the Top Assistant Coach), it’s been hard to assess whether his impact on his players and the program was good or bad. Now, he’s been reduced to fixing classic cars, ballroom dancing, and illeagl gun running, according to some sources.

Either way, after 13 years, Texas fans owe Greg Davis a “thank you” for all that he’s given the university, so on your behalf, EyesOfTX has taken a stab at a proper send-off, below.

Dearest Greg Davis:

It’s been quite a run you’ve had at the University of Texas and with the Longhorns football program. In your 13 years, you’ve given us many memories, and we couldn’t let you shrek off in to obscurity without highlighting out some of the moments to which we owe you thanks.

Thank you for convincing Ricky Williams to stay for one more year.

Thank you for benching Chris Simms in place of Major Applewhite in the 2000 Big 12 Championship game; one quarter sooner and we would’ve played for another national title.

Thank you for recruiting Vince Young, Colt McCoy, Garrett Gilbert, and Cedric Benson to Texas, but not for recruiting Chris Simms.

Thank you for starting Major Applewhite in the 2001 Holiday Bowl against #21 Washington.

Thank you for the bubble screen.

Thank you for allowing Vince Young to utilize his skills in the zone read offense.

Thank you for never getting the offense off to a fast start.

Thank you for figuring out a way to beat oklahoma 6 times (but not for losing to them 7 times).

Thank you for the play call to Quan Cosby on the final play of the game in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.

Thank you for the quarterback option call on the fifth play of the 2009 National Championship game against #1 Alabama.

Thank you for boosting Colt McCoy’s sense of self-worth by limiting our running backs enough that he was the leading rusher 9 out of 10 games.

Advising Mack Brown on various weight loss schemes that took him from…in the words of “Can’t Buy Me Love,” geek status, to king status, to no status.

Thank you for resigning.

We appreciate your time in Austin, but are ready for and in need of an offensive change that doesn’t take three years to implement. We will try to forget your ignorance around teaching the quarterbacks how to read the blitz, for not figuring out how to run a successful screen pass to the talented running backs, for throwing for one yard wide receiver bubble screens on 3rd and long, for running a set type of offense with the wrong kind of player personnel, for never getting the most out of the talent on the field, and for thinking you were better than you were and never understanding where you made mistakes and fixing them.

We hope you enjoy your time away from football and the University of Texas, we will.

Best,
Fans of the University of Texas football team

What’s missing, ‘Horns fans? What would you like to “thank” Greg Davis for after all of these years?

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College Football: Week 9 Viewing Guide

This week on “PTI,” Tony and Mike were asked which coach needs a win more, Urban Meyer or Mack Brown. They both have three-loss teams, both have been beaten at home by lesser ranked opponents, and both were preseason top five teams. Their argument came down to which fan base has the crazier fan base with the most unrealistic expectations. Both Tony and Mike chose Urban Meyer as the coach with the most heat at the moment. They’re probably right, though for the wrong reason.

It seems that every year Mack Brown gets another 9-year extension, and is currently on contract until seemingly 2035. The UT boosters, administrators, players, janitors, parking attendants, and field mice love him. The problem is, and always has been – in the eyes of students and alumni at least – offensive coordinator Greg Davis. In the early years of the last decade the phrase “Fire Greg Davis” was as ubiquitous as “Texas Fight” around the Forty Acres. For a time, those cheers quieted as Vince Young and Colt McCoy were able to compensate for poor coaching with superior talent. Today, the cries for Greg Davis’ job are as loud as ever, but are we any closer to his ouster now than we were after five consecutive losses to ou? His supporters can point to this season’s signature win at Nebraska as a point in his favor, and they can fault the inexperience of Garret Gilbert as a reason for the offensive struggles.

After last weekend’s loss, however, even Mack Brown had harsh words for his assistants, saying, “I told them if one of your guys is playing bad, I can change them. If three of your guys are playing bad, I change you.” For a coach known to always take the blame, shielding his players and coaches from criticism, those words carry extra weight and make you wonder if maybe his long partnership with Davis is nearing an end. What would it take? A third straight home loss? To Baylor, no less? Losing out and missing a bowl game? Or, has the damage already been done?

This week Baylor comes into Austin ranked for the first time since 1993, and hoping for their first win over Texas in 12 years. The Bears are also currently in first place in the Big 12’s South division. It’s hard to imagine that a win over Baylor could actually be a signature win on the season, but that is the situation we find ourselves in.

All rankings below are from the current BCS poll. Also, make sure to check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday and prime-time regional games.

The games this weekend stink, so commentary is light, but if you can bear to watch, here’s your Week 9 viewing guide.

Saturday, October 30
12:00 p.m. ET
#17 Oklahoma State at Kansas State (FSN, Comcast Sports)

The next two Longhorn opponents.

#22 Miami (FL) at Virginia (ESPN)
The early games are light on intrigue.

3:30 p.m. ET
#5 Michigan State at #18 Iowa (ABC/ESPN)

One of the day’s better games, and what should be MSU’s last big test.

#6 Missouri at #14 Nebraska (ABC/ESPN)
This game should decide the Big 12’s North division champion.

Florida vs. Georgia @ Jacksonville, FL (CBS)
Has there ever been less hype for this rivalry?

6:00 p.m. ET
#1 Auburn at Mississippi, ESPN2

The top team has fallen each of the last three weeks. Don’t expect that trend to continue, tune in to watch Auburn QB Cam Newton be awesome.

7:00 p.m. ET
#25 Baylor at Texas (FSN)

See how Texas responds to their latest embarrassment.

8:00 p.m. ET
#2 Oregon at Southern California (ABC)

One of Oregon’s final tests en route to the BCS title game.

#11 Ohio State at Minnesota (ABC)
If Michigan State goes down, the top of the Big Ten will be real interesting presuming OSU and Wisconsin continue to roll.

9:15 p.m. ET
Colorado at #9 oklahoma (ESPN2)

The night cap game has ou giving Colorado a send off from the Big 12. Over/under is at 65 points for ou.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing contributions to EyesOfTX.

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Week 7 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Nebraska Cornhuskers

There are positives and negatives to having a bye week. On the plus side, when you win going into a bye week, as a player you can go through the motions on the practice field while relishing a few more days rest to recover from lingering or annoying minor injuries. Be assured, Texas has had no such break these past two weeks. If EyesOfTX (and the rest of Longhorn nation) had no break from the mental anguish of the past two losses, then the ‘Horns better not have either. Here’s hoping Texas head coach Mack Brown ripped on both his players and staff behind closed doors for the past 13 days. Two losses? Back-to-back? Think the stuff of “Top Gun” lore: “Two of your snot-nosed jockeys did a fly-by on my tower at over 400 knots. I want some butts! … Dammit, that’s twice!”

Luckily for the ‘Horns, the bye week means they’ve some extra time to try and right the ship. Level their wings. Put their heads on straight. To remember they are football players for one of the most elite college programs in the game. The I-35 bubble in Austin should have a lot of blood, sweat, and even some tears after practice this week. The film room should have cots spread out across the room because players have been spending every waking hour glued to the early-season game tape to find and correct their on-field mistakes.

But, it’s deeper than that. So far this season, the seniors are showing how much they feel entitled. On the field, that’s translating to Maverick’s “crashed and burned on the first one, it wasn’t pretty” lingo. The younger guys can’t buy in to that – there is too much talent and potential among the depth chart. For the ‘Horns, it’s time to step up or turn in their pads because they’ve “lost the edge.” Just because it says “Texas” on the front of your jersey doesn’t mean you deserve to win.

Texas Longhorns v. #5 Nebraska Cornhuskers
2:30 p.m. CT (ABC/ESPN)

Prediction:
Texas 13, Nebraska 45

There is one thing on Nebraska’s mind this week – redemption. December 5, 2009. Just like Texas needed one second back in the upset in Lubbock in 2008, the ‘Huskers want one second back from last year’s Big 12 Championship game. December 5, 2009. There will be no mercy rule, Nebraska is squarely set on putting the wood to Texas on Saturday in Lincoln, the teams’ final Big 12 regular season match-up. December 5, 2009. Make no mistake, this game has been circled on head coach Bo Pelini’s calendar since … December 5, 2009.

Even Nebraska’s marketing department was behind an off-season shot at the Texas game (and later changed) to get Husker fans excited for the upcoming season – called “Red Out Around The World.” Their mantra (and doesn’t this sound kind of familiar): “Come early. Be Loud. Wear Red. (Beat Texas).” They’ve sold out of t-shirts at the bookstore bearing the saying: “All my ex’s live in Texas: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri.” The date “10-16-2010” is plastered all over campus. Don’t become ou fans, Huskers…it’s not a good look for you.

Nebraska’s Keys To The Game:
His name is Taylor Martinez. His name is Taylor Martinez. His name is Taylor Martinez. Seriously, Tyler Durden probably knows this kid by now. The barely-past-puberty Martinez leads Nebraska at QB in 2010, and brings the word “amazing” to an offense that was anything but in 2009. With the same basic role players on offense, the infusion of Martinez has helped transform what was a horrific scoring attack last year to one of the best in all of college football this year. Jake Locker, eat your heart out. As a redshirt freshman, ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. might have just moved Martinez past Locker on his draft board.

Everyone knows Pelini is a defensive-minded coach, and since his return to Nebraska, he’s shown his ability to craft a defensive juggernaut – even giving the “Blackshirts” nickname back to this year’s squad. But, Martinez is the knight in shining armor for the ‘Huskers 2010 BCS run, running the zone read to perfection. He’s mobile. He’s fast. REALLY fast. Think Looney Tunes’ roadrunner. Get this: the kid is five games in to the season, and he’s already accumulated 737 yards rushing, on 10.8 yards per carry, for 12 TDs. Those are RB stats, folks. A really, really good RB. Passing? Only three TDs. You get the idea. Let’s hope Martinez doesn’t leave Will Muschamp’s Texas defense looking like Wile E. Coyote.

Unfortunately, Martinez isn’t the only rushing threat. RBs Roy Helu, Jr. and Rex Burkhead flank Martinez in the backfield, and are more than capable of providing the power running attack as opposed to Martinez’s sideline-to-sideline flair. Is this bringing back UCLA nightmares yet? It should. On the outside, Martinez has the option to throw to several talented and big wide receivers – namely Niles Paul, Mike McNeill and Brandon Kinnie – but quite honestly, he just doesn’t need to. He’s only thrown for 660 yards on the season with three TDs and three INTs. Will they pass? Yes. Do they think they need to? Probably not. Most impressive is that Nebraska’s offense is built around a very inexperienced offensive line, with three new starters in 2010. Maybe Texas’ Mac McWhorter could take some lessons on how to transform on-paper talent to on-field production? The line has given up seven sacks on the season, and with Texas’ stacked defensive line, the Big Red will have their hands full maintaining their gaps and creating running lanes for Martinez, Helu, Jr. and Burkhead.

This year’s “Suh” in Lincoln is none other than Suh’s cohort in the trenches last year, defensive tackle Jared Crick. He has 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks on the season, and with opponents focused on protecting against Crick, the rest of the defensive line has opportunities to shine in opponent’s backfields. Ironically, the line isn’t their strength – the ‘Huskers bring the #1 pass defense in the country. You’d have to utilize your abacus to add up the number of interceptions they have on the year. With Texas’ lack of a running game, expect Pelini to pressure and contain any semblance of a running game with his front four and have his secondary focus on dropping back in to coverage to track down balls a la Willie Mays.

Texas’ Keys To The Game:
Good news. Texas got their butts chewed during the bye week. Bad news. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis is probably sitting up in the press box drawing up a “revised” version of the bubble screen to a different running back or wide receiver. Good news. RB DJ Monroe has used the bye week to “learn the playbook.” OK, maybe not, but he’s getting the call to start in the backfield again this week. Bad news. No matter how well the offense plays on Saturday in Lincoln, Texas won’t win Saturday without a big performance by the defense.

Offensively, this game lies in the hands of the Texas offensive line. Nebraska is prone to giving up rushing yards (well, at least more than they do through the air). If the o-line can give QB Garrett Gilbert time in the pocket, provide running lanes for the speedy Monroe, and the wide receivers can run routes beyond the first down markers, Texas does indeed have a shot. It hasn’t happened yet this season, but they’ve had their poor performances to-date rubbed in their face for too many weeks now. It’s time to change. It’s time to define the offense…on the field…on a Saturday. With freshman WR Mike Davis back in the line-up, Texas can take some shots down the field and change the dynamic of the game with big plays and open up the field for the…gasp…running game.

Defensively, Muschamps’ boys have their hands full with Nebraska’s three-pronged running attack. But, like any good football coach will tell you, even “Coach’s” Hayden Fox, beating a running team is all about playing assignment football. It’s about maintaing your gaps in the trenches, and utilizing your linebackers and secondary to clean up the mess. It’s about not making mistakes. It’s about making sure tackles. It’s beating Martinez to the corner with the right angles. It’s about stripping the ball and winning the turnover battle, and the ‘Huskers have put the ball on the ground 18 this year, so it’s possible. Nebraska will get their yards on the ground, but this defense has shown glimpses of being an elite unit. They’ll need every piece of that talent and pride to win in Lincoln.

Texas will also have to overcome a strong Nebraska kicking game, as the ‘Huskers will use every opportunity to pin Texas deep with punter Alex Henery and make Gilbert and company drive the length of the field, which has been a consistent problem this season. The ‘Horns have to eliminate the mistakes in special teams. Expect to see new kick and punt returners, and with a swift kick in the pants, a different attitude to bring some momentum to the Texas sidelines. It’s going to be chaotic and red in Lincoln, but Texas has a long-shot chance at avoiding a .500 start to the 2010 season and redeeming themselves in the eyes of college football’s elite.

Hook ‘em!

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Week 5 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. oklahoma sooners

Well, it won’t be an undefeated season after all. It’s easy to admit now – along with many others – that UCLA seemed like a pushover. They were mid-level PAC-10 team (if that) with few expectations, and there was no way they were going to roll in to Mack Brown’s house and put a beat down on the #6 Longhorns. Boy were we wrong – 34-12 wasn’t even a summary of what went wrong.

There are a lot of things that need to be fixed. Go ahead and start up the “replace Greg Davis” talk for the 2010 season, because once again, this writer is on board. Texas looked absolutely anemic in Saturday’s contest against the Bruins. After holding the opposition to -6 yards in the first quarter, Texas gave up 264 rushing yards in the final three quarters. The Bruins only passed for 27 yards all game – yep, 27 yards. But, this game was decided not necessarily on the defense’s performance, but the offense and special teams being anything but. Turnovers changed the game. Perhaps the incomplete TD pass to James Kirkendoll changes the attitude on the sidelines and the game ends up differently for the ‘Horns. But, it didn’t happen and the outcome wasn’t affected. Texas got beat, pure and simple, and truth be told they should have gotten beaten a lot worse then they did. This was the wake-up call. Were they looking ahead? We’re going to find out this week.

It’s a weekend of intense hatred on either side of the Red River. In fact, EyesOfTX’s significant other made an astute football observation this week while watching “The Biggest Loser.” One of the contestants, picked from Oklahoma City during a nationwide search for contestants, had family members in the crowd cheering her on in a contest to get on the show. Those family members were wearing ou t-shirts. Rather bluntly, the words, “I hope she loses” simultaneously echoed off the walls of our living room. While she thought I had somehow gotten in to the crazy pills, we all know who the sane one was that evening. ou sucks – let’s get to it, and if you need a refresher on your pre-game checklist for Texas/ou weekend, check it out here.

Texas Longhorns v. oklahoma sooners
2:30 p.m. CT (ABC)

Prediction:
Texas 17, oklahoma 42

It’s a first. EyesOfTX is picking against the ‘Horns. Saturday’s contest seems an insurmountable hill to climb, and with only a few cylinders in the Longhorns clunker working leading in to week 5, the road to glory in Dallas will be a long one in 2010.

On the plus side, this is THE game of the year on Texas’ schedule. Every player comes to Texas to relish in the atmosphere of Texas/ou weekend. To walk out the tunnel on to the field at the Cotton Bowl, amongst the 50/50 split of Longhorn and sooner fans and make their mark on the rivalry. This is the game that matters. This is for bragging rights. This is to gain back some of the respect lost after last Saturday’s debacle. If you need help getting amped up for this game, you shouldn’t set foot on the field.

Nonetheless, oklahoma WR Jaz Reynolds gave the Longhorns some bulletin board material this week. For those who don’t know, a lone gunman strode through the UT campus earlier this week, firing shots at random before entering the PCL library and taking his own life. Luckily, no bystanders were injured. But, that didn’t stop Reynolds from using Twitter to speak his mind: “Hey everyone in Austin, tx…….kill yourself #evillaugh.” Shortly thereafter, he followed up with: “Everyone in austin, tx disregard that last tweet….y’all will mess around n do it lmao.”

Thus, the dominoes will fall as they may on Saturday, and sooners will still be classy in every way we know them to be. And, Reynolds will enjoy the game from the sidelines – head coach Bob Stoops did one thing right and suspended him indefinitely. Too bad, surely the ‘Horns would have loved to have their shot at him this weekend. Metaphorically, of course.

oklahoma’s Keys To The Game:
It’s as though Stoops’ offense hasn’t changed in years. Balance. Lots of points. Select playmakers. Quentin Griffin comes to mind. As does Adrian Peterson. And Sam Bradford. And the other Roy Williams. And a number of others. Today’s sooners heros are none other than RB Demarco Murray and WR Ryan Broyles. It will be a two-man show on Saturday, with QB Landry Jones behind the scenes pulling the curtains back. Balance.

oklahoma sooners RB Demarco Murray

Murray is finally hitting is stride as the RB every fan has been waiting for him to become. He’s Peterson-sized at 6’1” and 207 pounds, and has gained 436 yards and seven TDs in just four games. He’s fast, and great in between the tackles or hitting the edge and making the most of open space. He’ll do the leg work for the sooners on Saturday, but the question becomes where and how he makes his yards – on the ground or through the air. Broyles is a known quantity, and has shown up big for the sooners in previous Red River Rivalry games. Despite his size (5’11” 193 pounds), he has a way of freeing himself up in coverage and making big plays to the tune of 120 yards per game and four TDs. He’ll be Jones’ go-to wide out on Saturday, and expect Texas to plant CB Aaron Williams on his hip as the shut-down corner.

Jones is an accurate and strong-armed passer, but he’s relatively immobile and that should be something Texas keys on in their defensive scheme. He likes to get rid of the ball quickly, letting his aforementioned playmakers do the work, but if the Texas d-line can get pressure, he’s mistake prone. The sooners’ offensive line is also still struggling to gel, and although they put together gutty performances, they are just as susceptible to mistakes as the young Texas offensive line. They give up two sacks per game, and most of ou’s running game – stretch plays or running off-tackle – veer away from what is usually the strength of an offensive line’s blocking schemes.

oklahoma sooners LB Travis Lewis

The defensive line and linebackers will cause Texas problems, especially from the edge. ou returns two defensive ends – Jeremy Beal and Frank Alexander – that could both make a case for national awards at season’s end. Beal is the real threat, but left one-on-one, Alexander will make plays as well. The defensive line will try to control the line of scrimmage and clear the dust so their star linebacker, Travis Lewis, can clean up everything in site and is also solid in coverage. With Texas’ anemic running game, expect to see Lewis blitzing more often to force Texas QB Garrett Gilbert to make poor decisions – something he hasn’t really done all year. With the middle of the field open, Texas should be able to exploit the short-yardage passing attack.

But, the defensive backfield poses the biggest threat for ou and opportunity for Texas. The corners are small, 5’9” and 5’11”, and shouldn’t be able to handle Texas’ height on the outside. Their safeties are plenty capable of running the sooners’ cover two scheme, and Gilbert will have to disguise his reads in a way that would make former Texas QB Chris Simms jealous to be successful.

Texas’ Keys To The Game:
First, show up to play. The ‘Horns looked lethargic last week, and they need the playmakers to step up at every position on Saturday. Every player at every position was tested this week in practice. Every player’s starting job was on the line. Every player’s ears should be ringing from a position coach in their head about blocking their gaps, running the right routes, holding on to the ball, and not making mental mistakes. Rumor has it, that as of Wednesday, the Texas coaching staff hadn’t figured out their offensive game plan for ou – something that is usually settled on Sunday afternoon in Austin. That’s a scary proposition that most Texas fans don’t want to hear.

Second, Texas need to expand the offensive playbook. Texas is awfully predictable right now, and while Gilbert is making safe reads to his check-downs, it’s happening too often. The bubble screen and hot routes aren’t successful in moving the chains with this group of wideouts. Yet, on the rare occasion we see Gilbert get out of the pocket or looking downfield, we have success – in big chunks. While Gilbert can get the ball to his playmakers on the outside, they’ve got to step up and make plays as well. Against a questionable sooners secondary, this will be their time to shine. Run sharp routes, catch the ball (it’s one of two jobs you have on the field!), and make some yards after the catch. The running game, with likely its fourth different starter in five games, shouldn’t be a factor this week – all they need to do is pass protect, and act as Gilbert’s relief valve when the sooners’ pass rush is overwhelming the offensive line.

Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis

As an EyesOfTX subscriber brought to my attention this week, it’s not necessarily the offensive players at fault for the production on the field – offensive coordinator Greg Davis has managed to diminish NFL-caliber talent on the offensive side of the ball for years. Think back to 2007, when the team wasn’t that good, and our offense consisted of next-level talent at every skill position: QB Colt McCoy, WRs Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley, TE Jermichael Finley, and RB Jamaal Charles. Yikes – if he couldn’t do anything with those guys, what’s in store for what looks like mediocre talent in 2010? That makes you wonder if and how Greg Davis is hampering the talent walking through the doors of Moncrief every year.

Third, Texas has to re-group on defense. This week and next (against Nebraska), the ‘Horns are going to continue to see a top-tier running attack. UCLA was nothing, and they gashed defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s schemes for three quarters last weekend. The middle of the line was atrocious, and the linebackers were no where to be found – they might as well have been in Driftwood, Texas, eating Salt Lick BBQ. At least we’d applaud that effort. The secondary is going to have to step up and blanket Broyles this week, while also keeping a keen eye on Murray out of the backfield – all while making sure open field tackles. Let the defensive line do their jobs by putting pressure on Jones and leaving the clean-up to the safeties playing field generals.

Finally, enough with the mediocrity – hell, downright gnarly – special teams effort. Dropped punts, forgetting fundamentals, kick-offs misplayed. Last weekend was a lesson to high school coaches everywhere is what NOT to do on special teams. Get it fixed, and Texas has an advantage in the kicking game in Dallas.

This one could go one of two ways, ‘Horns fans. It could be a defensive battle, perhaps utilizing the kicking game to win it, or an outright embarrassment that doesn’t feature Texas on the 4-1 side of things. This is the game to turn it around. This is the game to show the world why Texas deserves to be in the top 25. This is the game that sets the precedent for the rest of the season.

It’s 3:45 a.m. and ou still sucks!

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Week 4 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. UCLA Bruins

Was anyone else stressed out last Saturday? The referees seemed to try to steal the game from the ‘Horns for much of the night, but the defense stepped up in a big way and kept the offense in the game until it was time to catch the plane home. For the ‘Horns, it was the first hurdle in a challenging 4-game stretch that includes the Red Raiders, UCLA Bruins, #8 oklahoma sooners, and #6 Nebraska Cornhuskers. Write in down in the books – Texas moves to 4-3 in the Mack Brown era in Lubbock. And, EyesOfTX’s prediction that Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts would be “injured” at some point in last week’s game comes to fruition.

On to week 4, let’s get to it…

Texas Longhorns v. UCLA Bruins
2:30 p.m. CT (ABC)

Prediction:
Texas 35, UCLA 14

We remember, don’t we Texas fans? It doesn’t matter that both coaches weren’t in their respective coaching positions yet. It doesn’t matter that most of the players in this weekend’s game were 70-pound youngsters the last time these two powerhouses saw each other on the playing field. The score was 66-3. And the ‘Horns weren’t on the winning end of that debacle.

It’s time for redemption. Longhorn fans have waited too long for it, and it’s finally here. It’s time to show UCLA why they’re lucky the ‘Horns didn’t venture West this off-season in the conference realignment. It’s time to jump to 4-0, and get “right” before the showdown in Dallas in October.


UCLA’s Keys To The Game:
In uncharacteristic fashion for a West coast team not named Oregon, this match-up is all about the running game for UCLA. While the Bruins return an experienced QB in Kevin Prince, he won’t be the one to watch on Saturday. After all, in 3 games, Prince has only thrown for 258 yards (or, 86 yards per game), one TD, and – count ‘em – four INTs. Not the stats you want from the field general when trying to run a balanced offense. In fact, even going in to last weekend, Prince’s job was up for grabs – and he won it back. Not sure what that says about head coach Rick Neuheisal and offensive coordinator Norm Chow’s recruiting in SoCal, but I’ll venture a guess – it sucks.

UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin

Instead, all eyes will be on the two guys that will share carries and line-up in Chow’s “pistol” formation – Johnathan Franklin and Malcolm Jones. The pistol is basically the zone read formation that Texas has “enjoyed” for several years, but instead of lining up next to the QB, the RBs line-up behind the QB. This allows the backs to getting a running start before getting to the line of scrimmage and thus hitting the gaps the offensive line creates with a full head of steam. Can you imagine that? Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis can’t. Franklin (291 yards, three TDs) and Jones (101 yards) will be the keys to UCLA controlling the clock, wearing down the interior of the Texas defense, and keeping Texas’ offense off the field while scoring points.

The Bruins defense – at least on paper – doesn’t look that great. But, don’t be fooled. The secondary can more then hold their own, as can their very physical linebackers, but what those position players bring to the table is off-set by a less than stellar defensive line that can’t help their back seven by putting pressure on the QB or stop the running game. The defense ranks near the bottom of Division I schools in stopping the running game, but this early in the season, it’d be easy to argue that their first game of the year against Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas didn’t help pad their run defense stats. That being said, the opposite will likely be true on Saturday, as the ‘Horns offense can’t put any semblance of a running game together through September. If the Bruins defensive line can’t stop the Texas running attack (can we even call it that?), and then force QB Garrett Gilbert to force throws or make bad decisions, it’s going to be a long day for a secondary who actually does a credible job of holding opponents to a mere 155 yards through the air.


Texas’ Keys To The Game:
It’s a flip of the switch for Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s boys this week. Whereas last week the ‘Horns ran a nickel package with an extra defensive back on the field to corral all of Tech’s wide receivers, this week is all about loading up the box and stopping the power running game from the boys in baby blue. The Texas LBs and defensive line – namely that rotation of defensive tackles and defensive-ends-turned-defensive-tackles holding down the center of the line of scrimmage – will have their hands full with Franklin and Jones, but they can’t sit back in third-and-long situations either, as they need to force Prince to throw in to Texas’ highly-touted defensive backfield.

On offense, the ‘Horns need to eliminate some errors – namely, stupid penalties, dropped passes, and turnovers. The coaches and fans alike want to see any kind of consistency in the offensive line’s run blocking, more consistency from the wide receivers corps as a whole, and see Gilbert making smart decisions with the football. The Texas offense is still adjusting to a new QB and offensive scheme, and it’s the last week to test things out and open up the game a bit more than they have before the sooners become top of mind. Repetition and mental acuity are key. Forget about fried Oreos and turkey legs at the Texas State Fair, because next week’s match-up won’t matter if the ‘Horns don’t win this week.

Overall, Texas should win this game going away. The ‘Horns might not score 60 points on Saturday – or hell, in any game this season – but the defense will remain an elite unit, giving the offense time to get settled, and every single player on the burnt orange sideline will battle it out for four quarters. With focus and effort at every position, improvements can be made, and victories are had. Even Neuheisal would bank on that.

Hook ‘em!

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Week 3 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Texas Tech Red Raiders

“Grrr. Give me all of your loot! Aarrghh! I’ll sink your ship and bury you on the West Texas plains!” Is that a bit of Johnny Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” character, Captain Jack Sparrow? No, it’s… Wait, what’s that? Mike “The Pirate” Leach is no longer the head football coach in Lubbock? Creative blogging FAIL.

Former TTU head coach Mike Leach

[Long pause]

[Cue internal debate consuming EyesOfTX writers on whether it’s worth writing about Texas Tech football from now on…]

[Solution: Shed tear for lack of pre-game comedy and post-game hilarity with Leach; proceed with a quick Mike Leach “roast,” prepare selves for boring ‘ol Tommy “T” in the Big 12!]

Don’t fret. Even though we’ve lost the conductor of the Big 12‘s crazy train, there is still an opportunity to see the man who is as nutty as a PayDay bar. While Leach fully expected he’d be coaching again this season (he’s not) – just not anywhere near Craig James’ son, Adam (and, he’s not) – instead, he’ll be announcing Conference USA football games this fall for CBS Sports. A-maz-ing. In such a good way; honestly, it could be more epic than Obama balancing the budget. One assumes, in this instance, CBS has been setting aside a substantial amount of advertising dollars to pay-off the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) for Leach’s on-air hilarity, vulgarity and general mis-fires. It’s going to happen, if he doesn’t stick he co-anchor or cameraman in a closet first. Who else can’t wait to see this debacle unfold?

Truth be told, even though the mad hatter is no longer in Lubbock, the Red Raiders don’t seem to have lost a step with former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville taking over the reigns.

We’re not big Red Raider fans, so let’s revisit some favorite bone-crushing and hilarious moments:

Now that were amped up, let’s check out this week’s tilt with the Red Raiders.

Texas Longhorns v. Texas Tech Red Raiders
7:00 p.m. CT (ABC)

Prediction:
Texas 28, Texas Tech 24

Texas Tech’s Keys To The Game:
You read that right, Tech fans. It’s a 7:00 p.m. Central time kick-off on Saturday, which gives you about an hour from the time you arise from your liquor-induced, beer-goggle, not-so-good-in-the-morning sleep to get to Jones Stadium for the game. Yep, believe it or not, you too are a key to the game – as is always the case in Lubbock.

Texas Tech's Jones Stadium

In six previous meetings between the ‘Horns and Red Raiders in the desolate West Texas desert, the two teams have split decisions (3-3) – with the ugliest scenario playing out for ‘Horns fans two years ago when Texas lost its undefeated and national championship hopes on the final play of the game as TTU wide receiver Michael Crabtree celebrated his TD and early departure to…hold out against the NFL team who drafted him. Oh, where were we? That’s right, Lubbock’s a tough place to play – the ‘Horns haven’t lost to TTU at home in Austin (6-0) in head coach Mack Brown’s tenure. Yet, with a plethora of young talent on the field for Texas, Tubby’s Red Raiders have a chance to score another major upset under the lights in the sandy plains.

Even though the puerile Leach has departed, the collective knowledge of the spread offense hasn’t, and neither have the Red Raiders’ on-field general(s), as seniors Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield return at QB. While Tuberville will instill some semblance of a running attack in Lubbock (you had to think RB Baron Batch was licking his chops upon his new head coach’s arrival), he isn’t stupid and he’ll work with Leach’s leftovers until he recruits players that fit his mold. So, the basketball-style scoring system isn’t quite gone with the red and black, but it’ll get there in the year’s to come. In the meantime, Potts is still going to throw for a million yards, and receivers will be flying over the field so much so that you’ll be trying to swipe them away like they’re gnats drawn to your TV screen.

Potts is the starter at QB, and we all know no TTU gun slinger starts their season slow, as he was spot-on in week one against SMU (34-for-53, 359 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs) with his game a tad more efficient in week two against New Mexico (22-for-34, 293 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs). He’s well-versed in the offensive scheme, has good repoire with his receivers, and has the arm to make every single throw in the proverbial book. His downside is mental, more than physical – if he’s under constant pressure in the pocket, or takes a good hit early, his mind just isn’t in the game – many analysts would go so far as to say he “talks himself in to injuries.” We say he’s just a 6’5” pansy who cries when everything doesn’t go his way. That’s a Saturday bonus for Texas, if you’re counting. The offensive line remains a legitimate threat to controlling the line of scrimmage, but no longer will you see four yard splits between each offensive lineman – they’re in a tighter formation, which gives the wide receivers more space off the line of scrimmage in passing formations.

Red Raiders' WR Lyle Leong

The wide receivers are the key the offense’s production, and the team might as well hire octamom-gone-bachelorette human-being manager Kate Gosselin to keep up with the ongoing rotation. In Lubbock, she’d fit right in for more than a few reasons. There are two wide receivers, however, that stand out as top targets for Potts – his high school teammate, Lyle Leong (16 catches, 217 yards, 5 TDs), and Detron Lewis (9 catches, 123 yards, 1 TD). Regardless of the top target, all those receivers have good hands, agility and the ability to find and sit down in zone coverage to give Potts plenty of space to get them the ball and rake in yards after the catch.

The defense will, once again, provide a test for Texas – if anything, Tuberville has brought a renewed sense of passion on the defensive side of the ball. So far this year, Tech has amassed nine sacks – something even Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp would be proud of – and they will be looking to prey on the young Longhorn QB meat. Everything with the Tech defense funnels to the nose tackle and middle linebacker, and they will largely decide the outcome of Texas’ offensive production on the night. Running inside, and looking for the hot route underneath the linebackers will get Texas in a lot of trouble early.

Texas’ Keys To The Game:
It’s time for Texas to show the world they’re the #5 team in the country. They need to show some emotion and decide they want to win this game. This is the upset game of the week across the country, and the Las Vegas spread dropped from Texas by seven points, to Texas by three points – practically overnight – which means a lot of fans think Tech’s got a shot, especially after seeing Texas play these past two weeks. Frankly, the Red Raiders might not be so full of themselves this year.

Texas, first and foremost, needs to have an offensive game plan that can allow QB Garrett Gilbert to settle in early. Emotions will be high, the environment will be threatening. If offensive coordinator Greg Davis is listening, no bubble screens or dinky-dump stuff – we’re not in peewee leagues anymore. Give Gilbert the easy throws early to help him establish a rhythm. Give him a dose of the running game to help keep Tech honest, but push the ball outside where the receivers have a chance to block downfield for the running backs, and you’ll keep Tech’s defensive strengths playing chase from sideline to sideline. Most importantly, the ‘Horns need to put points on the board when they have opportunities, keep their defensive teammates on the sidelines, and if they’re ahead, eat as much clock as possible to keep the Tech offense at bay.

Texas DB Chykie Brown

On defense, it will be as important as ever for the ‘Horns defensive backs to keep the wide receivers in front of them, put pressure on Potts with the front four to create poor throws and mistakes, and make good tackles. Fundamental football, right? Easier said than done, but Muschamp can usually muster a way to the backfield with his schemes, especially with the depth he’s got at defensive end. The defense just needs to help the offense stay in the game and not let things get out of hand. It’ll be a tough task, but then again, so is keeping Japan’s Takeru Kobayashi away from a hot dog eating contest.

In special teams, Texas has a decided advantage with the points team, as Tech’s kicker looked downright awful against SMU in week one. One could’ve wondered if Tuberville had kept the student Leach “drafted” out of the stands to kick for the team two years ago on scholarship. So, a extra point or field goal block is a possibility for the ‘Horns. Field position will also be key, and if Texas finally decides to shy away from the rugby-style kick, P John Gold could go head-to-head with Tech’s Jonathan Locour in a kicker’s dual.

It’s going to be a battle on Saturday, and the Vegas odds are toying with me. Perhaps Kevin Spacey’s behind the curtain pulling strings. Who knows?! But, since EyesOfTX has never picked against Mack Brown and Texas football since this blog’s inaugural post, we’re not starting now. Barely. And, let’s double-down on an incredible blog post that includes football, Mike Leach, two Oscar-worthy actors, Kate Gosselin, hot dog eating contests, pirate verbiage, basketball, Las Vegas, pansies, gnats, and beer googles. Your winnings for reading this far? That PayDay bar sounds about right.

Hook ‘em!

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Week 2 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Wyoming Cowboys

One week is in the books, and by the look of the Longhorns on the sidelines at Reliant Stadium last weekend, they couldn’t be more relieved. Unless they were the oklahoma sooners or the LSU Tigers. Texas wins handily, 34-17, but it’s not without some work to be done heading in to week two. For college football fans everywhere, it was a fun five days of college football to open up the season.

Everyone says that a team improves the most from week one to week two, and ‘Horns fans across the nation who have lambasted the team since Saturday want to see some changes. Let’s be clear, nothing was awful, and Rice was a much improved team from their 2-10 season a year ago. But, the coaches need to get the guys back in front of the tape and fix some issues before an emotionally-charged Wyoming team comes to town.

Here are some quick thoughts on the ‘Horns in week one:

QB Garrett Gilbert looked solid – no mistakes, no sacks, a few missed throws, and some lasers that NFL scouts would get excited about. He finished 14-of-23 for 172 yards, with no TDs and no INTs.

The running game isn’t quite we expected after the pre-season hype. Maybe offensive coordinator Greg Davis needs to reset expectations for Longhorn nation. Starting RB Cody Johnson (15 rushes, 59 yards) looked good early, but apparently sprained an ankle on the second play of the game. Tre Newton (18 carries, 61 yards, 3 TDs) was the most productive in the red zone, and Fozzy Whittaker (9 carries, 51 yards) had the most “excitement” potential.

The offensive line blocked better for the run than they have in the past, but there are improvements to be made on blocking the back side of a running play. They didn’t give up any sacks. Continue to block downhill, boys, and finish those blocks downfield.

The secondary looked solid, but gave up some poor plays for TDs at the end of the half and the game. CB Chykie Brown looked as lost as Michael Oher staring at balloons in “The Blind Side.” Plus, they should have had two more “pick-sixes.” On a positive note, safety/nickel back Kenny Vaccaro looked ridiculous and was all over the field.

The defensive line was spectacular – they controlled the line of scrimmage and made key plays to pressure Rice’s QB all game – whether sacks or poor throws. Someone still needs to step up to fill the DT spot next to Kheeston Randall.

The player of the game was definitely LB Keenan Robinson, who tallied six total tackles, an INT, and a fumble recovery returned for a TD – good enough to be co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.

Alright, enough about last week, let’s focus on head coach Dave Christensen’s Wyoming Cowboys and week two.

Texas Longhorns v. Wyoming Cowboys
6:00 p.m. CT (FSN, Comcast Sports)

Prediction:
Texas 52, Wyoming 17

Wyoming’s Keys To The Game:
Wyoming head coach, formerly of Missouri Tigers offensive coordinator fame, enters his second year in Laramie, and while his Cowboys gave Texas a run for their money for one half of football in 2009, he’ll want to bring his work-in-progress, high-powered spread offense to DKR-Memorial Stadium with an upset on his mind. Let’s face it, he’s had enough of a bashing from the ‘Horns during his days in Columbia.

Wyoming QB Austyn Carta-Samuels

To lead his spread attack, Christensen has entrusted sophomore QB Austyn Carta-Samuels (a.k.a. ACS), who saw some time in last year’s contest replacing their starter, going 7-for-12 for 68 yards. Against a sub-par Southern Utah team in week one, ACS was 26-for-32 for 319 yards, with three TDs and one INT. He’s a solid QB in that he has decent speed, a good arm, and makes good decisions – but, against a stout Texas defensive line, ACS could struggle to find time to get the ball to receivers. Expect to see him roll out to avoid pressure, and complete short passes to keep the offense on the field and producing positive yards in minimal increments.

Their top receiver is the returning David Leonard, who has the size to create plays for himself downfield – he’ll be the focus for ACS in the passing game. Wyoming typically runs an offensive scheme with four wide outs, but none of the other WRs pose a major threat – they’ll do what their asked, but nothing spectacular. The running game is even more anonymous, and given they only ran for 36 yards on 25 carries last week against a D-II team, Christensen won’t work on the team’s running game against the ‘Horns. Rather, those backs will be used for pass protection, or slip screens out of the backfield to keep the Texas linebackers honest.

On defense, they struggle – even though they have some talent on the field. They gave up 24 first downs to Southern Utah last week, including 191 yards rushing and 193 yards passing. The Cowboys defense kept their team in the game just enough to win, 28-20. The expectation is that they’ll focus on stopping Texas’ running game – like everyone else, they know Texas is keying its offense early in the season on rushing yards – and force Gilbert to throw the ball downfield and convert first downs and points.

If the Texas defense performs up-to-snuff, the Cowboys are going to have a hard time in Austin – especially in front of a home-opener crowd that has 70,000 more screaming fans than War Memorial Stadium can hold in Laramie. Rumor has it they’ve been pumping crowd noise in to their practices this week – but, perhaps that shouldn’t be their focus.


Texas’ Keys To The Game:
Keep it simple, but grow the offense. In week one, the ‘Horns looked solid. Nothing spectacular, but they went out and did their business. Head coach Mack Brown chastised the team in his post-game news conference saying they didn’t seem excited. With the youth on this team, it was probably nerves, but it’s the regular season and time to get jacked up. Not in the “get you arrested” kind of way, either.

With week two, Will Muschamp’s defense will see their first Big 12-like offense, and the secondary will be put to the test. Tackling in the open field to prevent yards after the catch will be key, and coverage schemes will be criticized from both sidelines – most importantly for Texas, keep the opposing man in front of you. Time of possession will be key for the Cowboys – they’ll want Gilbert and the Texas offense on the sidelines as much as possible to stay in the game – so the ‘Horns defense needs to force turnovers or push hard for three-and-outs. This week, Vaccaro might very well take a Wyoming receiver’s helmet home with him, if S Christian Scott doesn’t first.

Texas RB Tre Newton

On offense, the ‘Horns need to keep working on the running game – Newton is expected to get the start – and the offensive line needs to finish their blocks to spring the quicker and faster backs, including Whittaker. But, expect to see offensive coordinator Greg Davis open up the playbook with Gilbert this week, and WR Malcolm Williams to have another solid day…the spark was lit last week. If the offense can get on the field consistently and is balanced and successful the ‘Horns should be able to eclipse 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing on the day.

All-in-all, the ‘Horns can’t look past Wyoming at the Texas Tech game…it’ll get here soon enough. Go out and handle business, have fun, continue to create chemistry on both offense and defense, and make some plays on special teams!

Hook ‘em!

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