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)
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.
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.
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.
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!