Before the season, I offered in a few different forums that Mack Brown's KSU loss streak was going to end this year. Not because Bill Snyder was slipping, but because KSU will be fielding a sub .500 team with marginal talent at several positions. They're at the muddy bottom of a rebuild cycle.
I also thought we might be pretty good.
Honestly, our implosion made me wonder just how far we'd fallen, and I started to doubt my own prediction even though KSU is as poor as predicted, but last night we demonstrated our floor when the team tries hard and the defense plays with something like a plan. The question is what this team's top range is? Without David Ash, very limited. With him, a minor bowl team!
Mack Brown rebuild complete!
Applewhite decided that the best way to deal with a light KSU box on 2nd and long and 3rd down and intermediate was to use David Ash heavily in the draw game. Ash missed last week with a concussion and a shoulder stinger. The team MVP should be transported to the stadium in bubble wrap. That strategy yielded three first down runs and a re-concussed David Ash in one half of play. Good cost/benefit analysis there.
You know those studies that they do with three years olds where they ask them if they'd like a candy bar now or two candy bars in a half an hour? Major is unwrapping his candy bar before the interviewer finishes the question.
A head coach might intercede and offer the big picture perspective to his coordinator, but WHATCANYOUDOMAJOR ISALLTHEWAYINTHEBOOTH.
The Texas offense played fairly well against a KSU defense with major deficiencies at all three levels. It's questionable whether much of that "progress" is generalizable to teams like Oklahoma State, OU, and TCU which will field real defenses, but at least we showed that we can put points up on bad teams. We'll need to if we want to finish above .500.
Ash turned in a nice first half (14 of 25 for 166, 1 TD, 0 INT; 6 yards per carry on non-sack runs) despite missing his #1 WR and was headed for a 300+ passing and 50+ rushing effort with no turnovers. Until we decided he was Ironhead Heyward. The most important play of the game - Ash's throw to Kendall Sanders for a 63 yard touchdown was flawless. That forced KSU to keep the box honest and allowed the Texas running game for the next two quarters that staked Texas to its 17 point lead. After Ash was re-injured, McCoy entered the game to hand the ball off and throw for a couple of easy conversions against KSU's passive defensive alignments. As with Ole Miss in the first half in Austin, I'm not really sure why opposing DCs don't implement the Case Rules the minute #6 jogs on to the field. Do these dudes scout at all? Presumably, Iowa State will do that? Because I don't expect to see David Ash against them.
Johnathan Gray showed what he can do when the OL gives him breathing room. He's not going to break many tackles at the line of scrimmage, but if you can give him a window, he's a good player. Though his latter game carries were more of the "run the clock" variety, in the 2nd and 3rd quarters he showed elusiveness, vision, and acceleration. 28-141-2tds is a full day's work (and his last 5 carries went for 8 yards). Malcolm Brown ran hard in relief and Bergeron has been reduced to a #3 role. Your FB decision was not a good one, Joe.
If Texas starts McCoy in Ames, our RBs better be ready for a full load against stacked fronts.
Really excited to see what the young WRs did. Marcus Johnson was an asset on 3rd down (5-70) and turned in a very game blocking performance. I think he earned himself more playing time. Kendall Sanders is far from a finished product, but he demonstrated his speed (3-80-1td) on his fly-by of a bewildered KSU CB, the same player Texas was able to pick on for key 3rd down conversions for the rest of the game. Shipley got some safety attention and was relatively quiet outside of a couple of key short conversions. KSU wanted us to beat them with the other guys and we did.
Swaim had his best game as a Longhorn and was a difference maker as a lead H-back in the running game. He's a better athlete than his JUCO film suggested.
Their best performance to date as run blockers. The interior OL was very aggressive and Donald Hawkins had his best game as a pure run blocker. Kennedy Estelle played well in stretches, but he's still prone to mental lapses and confusion. About what you'd expect from a true sophomore OT. I wish I could say that KSU had a good DL, but it's probably the worst group in the entire league. In any event, our guys showed up in the running game. Pass protection was occasionally sketchy, but not terrible.
Props to Greg Robinson for getting his guys to play with passion, energy, and an adherence to assignments. Our tackling improved partly because of the competition, but mostly because guys were where they should be with their teammates flying to the football.
KSU rightfully tested our ability to stop the QB draw and option game and our results were satisfactory. Eventually, they gave up on Sams and then used the Jake Waters (19 of 30 for 275) to Lockett combo (13-237!) to get back into the game exploiting our man-under, single safety press coverage. It's tempting to give Duke Thomas grief here, but single coverage against a NFL level WR is no easy task and over the course of the game, Lockett went on to exploit just about anyone the Horns lined up over him.
Sometime in the 3rd quarter, I started hearing the Herbie Hancock song Rocket in my head every time he caught the ball. I changed it to Lockett and it was very satisfying.
The best game yet from the Longhorn DTs. Don't sweat the box score. Just watch the line of scrimmage.
The DEs came to play in the 4th quarter when we were able to whittle down KSU's offensive options (mostly because KSU was dumb enough to block Jeffcoat with a TE instead of letting Douglas handle him) and garnered three sacks, but this game was about our interior DL.
We barely stunted the DTs, they did some two-gapping, and they really focused on getting their hands on the KSU OL and walking them straight into the backfield without turning a shoulder, getting screened, or surrendering a gap. Several of the tackles reaped by our LBs and safeties came from the initial push from our DTs.
Outside of a foolish off-sides on short yardage, Malcom Brown was dominant. Hassan Ridgeway, in limited snaps, was very impressive. His film is worth a re-watch. If we ever go to a 3-4 defense, Ridgeway is your starter at DE and a future NFL talent. He's raw, but his initial contact is violent and he uses his hands well.
Greg Robinson used to coach NFL DL. Our uptick in performance and change in approach here is probably no coincidence.
Steve Edmond had some nice plays scraping in traffic when the DTs won at the LOS, but in space, he's still an absolute disaster. He just doesn't move well laterally and his reactions to the ball are always a second slow. Dalton Santos was an immediate improvement after Edmond's targeting penalty. He deserves to start.
Jinkens showed up for his first game this year. His play of a Jake Waters option in the red zone in the 4th quarter was absolutely textbook. Nice to see you, Peter. Stick around.
Hicks was excellent with several quality open field tackles and really benefitted from the DTs acting as space eaters instead of line-stunt monkeys. Until he hurt his ankle. Fingers crossed.
Lockett gave Duke Thomas a christening into the perils of 1 on 1 coverage, but when Quandre tapped in on the action, he was used too. In terms of pure 1 on 1 man coverage with no help over the top, Carrington Byndom is still our best guy. Byndom had a really nice game in all aspects.
Both Phillips and Thompson played better - meaning C grades instead of Fs. Getting some initial push at the LOS really helps the safeties to get there and not have to tackle a guy going at full speed with 20 yards of green around them.
The man coverages we ran were excellent in staking us to the lead and shutting down KSU for nearly two quarters, but they are not duplicable against legitimate passing offenses. Baylor would score 137 points against us with that strategy. OSU's Walsh would run for 150. Still, Robison game planned and got player buy-in. Tip your cap.
Not a net negative for the first time this year, though we could have had two different roughing penalties on punts. KSU blocked three dudes in the back on their punt return, so I'm not going to fault us there, obviously. Great 4th down fake call with De La Torre (and nice job Garrett Porter!) - something Mack has always embraced. He certainly gets a lot of deserved criticism, but his aggressiveness on 4th down is something I've always appreciated.
Honestly, I think KSU is so denuded of talent we were playing a baseline level of roster talent closer to New Mexico State than Ole Miss. And that was reflected here more than any real improvement.
KSU will be a sub .500 football team once the season plays out. We took care of them at home by 10. If, like me, you're excited that our team tried and showed some baseline tactical acumen, that's good. But don't be fooled into thinking our upside is any higher than a minor bowl game.
If you want to be sobered up, check the BYU-Utah box score.
And if McCoy plays out the rest of the year...well, let's just say we'll explore our downside.