As we all wait for the more intelligent writers to give their view of the Horns first game of the year, I thought I would share my impressions of the game on Saturday evening. Overall, it was a game of three distinct parts. There were the first 28 minutes of miscues ending with the Aggies scoring their only touchdown of the game. Then the game turned on its ear with about 2 minutes to go in the first half. I am sure we all breathed a sigh of relief during the next 20 minutes as Ash more than tripled his offensive output and the Horns scored 6 quick touchdowns. With such a large lead and New Mexico St. not offering much threat, the game hit another lull until Jalen Overstreet and the back-up offensive line got all of our attention finishing strong the last 12 minutes.
But that was the Offense, I know. Well, the game didn't change much when looking at the Defense. They made it hard on the New Mexico St Offense all night. When they did move the ball, the Texas Defense usually shut them down before getting in the Red Zone or forced a turnover. On the one exception to that rule, it took a pinpoint throw against good coverage by Mykkele Thompson to put points on the board.
There were solid contributions throughout the line. Jackson Jeffcoat played a steady if not flashy game. Hassan Ridgeway did flash some athleticism when he shot a gap and tackled everyone in his path. In the interior, Malcolm Brown proved to be dependable against the run. I don't think NMSU had much success running between the tackles all game and much of that can be contributed to MBII. Dwarfing everyone else though was 6"6" Cedric Reed. He recorded a sack and made several of his 7 tackles on the opposite end of the line. I was really impressed with his pursuit and strength. Something tells me we won't miss Alex Okafor, as good as he was, all that much.
One thing I noticed early on, when #3 was on the field New Mexico St. struggled, when he wasn't New Mexico St. moved down the field. I think Coach Diaz noticed it to because any time he took Hicks out, Hicks soon re-entered the line up mid-possession. Hicks didn't have gaudy stats but he made his presence felt by making tackles and organizing the team around him. He really needs to stay healthy. There wasn't much to say about the rest of the group that hasn't already been said. Kendall Thompson is often out of position. Tevin Jackson is okay but gets lost sometimes. Steve Edmond is still a little slow making his reads though I did notice him playing a physical game at times. Dalton Santos probably made the most improvement over the course of the game. He looked lost several times early on, causing Diaz to shuffle Hicks back in the game. But as the game went on, he seemed to make plays. Let's all hope a light went on. One last thing. For some odd reason Peter Jinkens didn't play much. He started the game and made a good pair with Hicks behind the line. Then for some reason he didn't play from the end of the 1st Quarter until sometime in the 4th. At first, I thought he may be hurt, but then I saw him on the field at the end of the game.
This is probably the part of the defense where I know the least. I did notice that for a vast majority of the game, there was a lone Safety playing center field. Mykkele Thompson started the game at that position and I thought did an admirable job. I see why the coaches have such high hopes for him. He can flat out move. The most encouraging part though was his tackling. An several occasions, he flew across the field to make an open field tackle with perfect form. The one negative I saw is that he did give up the lone touchdown. Mykkele was in good position but failed to turn around a make a play on the ball. He's taking baby steps though. Adrian Phillips then came in and promptly missed 2 tackles. He delivers a nice hit but doesn't seem to remember the role that arms play in making a tackle. That has to be the most frustrating part of the defense. Quandre Diggs played the nickel role as we had all heard. He seemed to do okay but I don't think he, Carrington Byndom, or Duke Thomas were challenged much.
The only things that seemed to work for New Mexico State's Offense were some read/option plays and a releasing the TE late into the flat. After early success with those plays, it looked like the Texas recognized what was coming and put a stop to it. There aren't many conclusions we can draw for the rest of the year, but it did look like Diaz may not be twisting the D-line on as many 1st and 2nd downs. Let's all pray to God that he doesn't.