Football Quick Reaction, Reality Bites Edition: Oklahoma State-38, Texas-13

Stacy Revere

Oklahoma State reminded us why Longhorns get corralled by Cowboys...

As much as we criticize Mack Brown - the anti-Saban - for his inability to suss out results from process - the Win disguising all ills irrespective of how it was achieved, the opponent or standard of play irrelevant to victory; we Longhorn fans are often similarly guilty.  The signs were all there, if we wanted to see them, despite all of us knowing it's a rotten Big 12, paired with a favorable mid-season conference slate that set us up with delusional momentum.

I expected Oklahoma State would dominate Texas on special teams, exploit the Longhorn weakness under center, look to weather a (potentially) hostile road environment, and scrape out just enough offense to take the win and cover the spread.  After Clint Chelf's second jog through Central Park touchdown run to make it 14-3, Cowboys, I had to revise the final assumption - the Cowboys had the key to our defensive roller skates, too.  The defense fought back, but most of the fourth quarter featured the Cowboys taking their spurs off of the accelerator.

Bummer of a game, but unlike the BYU liver punch, my blood pressure never broke 120/80. I know this because I watched the entire game at a Walgreen's pharmacy on my iPad, my arm wrapped in a free screening pressure cuff, eating Mike & Ikes.  When old people rolled up on their Hovarounds to test their own blood pressure on the machine that I dominated for three plus hours, I shooed them away by throwing their medicine into the diarrhea aisle and telling them to register any complaints on the Health & Human Services website.

Texas Offense

Texas finally played a good defense.  A good defense clarifies.  It removes the muddle of winnerness and mysticism - Mack Brown's preferred analytical processes - and the McCoy legacy stink bait for the media and color analysts. Although it's hard to reconcile the idea that we played well on the offensive line and were still held to 13 points (while gifting OSU with essentially 14 points) when you're running a spread offense, you can't hide the QB against a reasonable opponent.

Applewhite tried some combo screen game stuff with our RBs with limited success, but we saw very little creativity as a solution to the McCoy problem at QB.  Which suggests that the problem is fairly insurmountable against solid defenses and that our offensive coordinator may be pretty average when his players aren't better than the opponent.

QB

Said my piece on Case McCoy before the game and the contest delivered the unfortunate, expected results, including Justin Gilbert cashing in my Pick 6 prop bet, with a bonus pick later to assure him of 1st Team All Big 12 on my postseason teams.  26 of 39 for 213 yards and 3 interceptions doesn't need a descriptive adjective.  At halftime, McCoy's longest throw was a 14 yard screen to Joe Bergeron that Joey B caught three yards from the LOS. He connected on one pretty throw to Mike Davis in the second half against Gilbert single coverage, but OSU shrugged and continued on in their game plan confident that it was unlikely to happen again.  OSU showed plenty of press coverage - or demonstrated neutral coverage with a press bias - witness the gang rush of our screen game, but unfortunately, they also demonstrated that Cover 3 and Cover 4 are also effective against McCoy if you have some athletes in your secondary.

Case McCoy has the least ability of any player to effect what is going to happen to him on the football field.  He's entirely a creature of his environment.  Is this debatable or can we consolidate our learning and move on?

Very disappointed that we didn't play Tyrone Swoopes around the 11:00 minute mark in the 4th quarter when we'd basically hoisted the flag of surrender.  We're playing entirely for today (and to avoid an even bigger blowout), which is a discredit for any responsible legacy that Mack Brown tries to claim when he does hang them up.

RB

Bergeron looked like the best back on the team for the second straight week - as at West Virginia, he maximized every run he had.  If you block the play for three yards, Brown gets three yards.  He's not the master of the value add and his stats bear that out. Gray would have had a nice shot at popping a 50+ yarder in the first half, but it would have been window dressing on the loss.  No complaints about our RBs.  They're pretty good players without a lot of breathing room.

WR

See above.  There was an interesting set of battles out there, but we didn't we have the trigger man to reveal them.

OL

Proud of this unit.  Anyone that maligns their effort or pins the loss on them wasn't watching the game. They handled the Cowboy DTs, blocked very well against numbers, and pass protected well on 95% of their snaps.  We wasted a winning performance up front.

Defense

Greg Robinson has been coaching on cheat mode for the last few weeks - simple man coverage and outnumbering the run with the conference's best DL to clarify LB assignments was a great formula to throttle bad offenses and to cover for a defense lacking in fundamentals, technique, and poor talent fits at LB.  That's no criticism of Greg, it was the only option available.  But we haven't shown an ability to evolve past that.

Unfortunately, OSU has the ability to watch film and a moderately athletic QB who runs a 4.7 40.  That's about all you need to spread out the Texas defense, put our linebackers into assignment conflict, exploit our safety tackling, and take the easy money that an offense should cash in when the defense's coverages are known on every play.

DL

Great game from Malcolm Brown.  His two tackles for loss and 7 stops understate his game impact.  Desmond Jackson didn't offer a lot inside and OSU game-planned our DEs well with quick throws and a run game emphasis that didn't allow them to freelance.  Loved seeing Shiro Davis make a hard nose play stringing out a run play.  Like the OL, these guys largely put in a winning performance.

LB

Ouch.  Some old demons were revived.  Aside from Edmond's inability in space or Jinkens inability to turn the light on, I did see some good snaps from Dalton Santos.  OSU put a lot of the focus of the game on the back 5 of our defense - LBs + safeties - and attacked the corners with a pesky short passing game, while trying to bypass our DL. The early QB run emphasis was no coincidence and it was a result of a guaranteed certainty of our coverages against certain looks (no safety or a single safety up the middle) and the inability of our LBs to close space.

On more conventional passing plays, watch our LBs.  They get no drops nor do they add themselves to the rush. They hover around the line of scrimmage - guaranteeing the opposing QB clear passing lanes (contrast with OSU's LBs and their 8 interceptions on the season) and it's essentially a 11 on 9 passing drill.  By contrast, OSU's Shaun Lewis is either blitzing or 15 yards downfield breaking on balls like a DB.

DB

OSU exploited the certainty of our scheme as much as our personnel, but certainly were competent enough to exploit single coverage on the outside, particularly with Duke Thomas matched against Charlie Moore.  Hat tip to them for doing the appropriate scouting job and having a QB solid enough to execute the game plan.  Our DBs needed to dominate if we were going to hold down OSU, even with our offense tanking, and they were a far cry from that. Adrian Phillips couldn't reel in a twisting interception and while Mykkele Thompson made a solid play on his pick, his run game deficiencies loomed large.

Special Teams

We started the game in the hole early losing the battle of hidden yards (we started all possessions inside our 20, they started all of theirs past their 35) and it got worse from there.  This, despite an OSU punt returner who couldn't field a punt cleanly.

Most football coaches will tell you that special teams - outside of the kickers themselves - speak to nothing more than roster talent, baseline program aggression, and attention to detail on your coaching staff.  There's little else at work here.  I know we're deficient on the latter two, and I shudder to think about the first proposition, though I suspect our guys coached for six weeks by OSU's coaches would be markedly better.  Anyone else notice that Mike Gundy credited a graduate assistant for a specific special teams plan in the post-game press conference?  When was the last time Mack Brown mentioned a GA with a specific functional contribution to a game?  Or talked about special teams as anything more than series of things that just kind of happen to you?

Our special teams are as mentally deficient as they are effort deficient.  Daje Johnson fields a punt inside our five yard line.  And his ball security deteriorates every week.  Not going to coach him because he's "a special talent" and we're worried about a pout?  Then we blatantly rough the punter against an umbrella protection and gift OSU a new set of downs.  And we execute a kickoff return gadget like a Pop Warner team.

Consider kick and punt return teams where on re-watch, you'll see ENTIRE UNITS not get a single meaningful block on a defender.  Put it on slow-mo.  You'll laugh. None of our returners have a shot at bringing anything back and it has little do with their ability level.

That written, love you Anthony Fera.  You've turned in a fantastic season.

Overall

Let's finish with a little pride and reboot this thing.

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