A tale of two halves. Or the haves and have-nots. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was a win.
Also, absent several vodka sodas with lime while writing this review, I will correctly identify TCU as a Division I opponent. That will then lend valuable credence to my other observations for the Strunk and White devotees.
We've played eight quarters of football this year and we've played well in two of them. So 2-0 is a nice place to be though the difference between Texas and the current triumvirate of LSU, USC, and OU (disturbingly) appears to be a chasm. Let's see if we can fashion a rope bridge over the next three games before we hit Dallas, where, history shows rather convincingly, that you don't always have to the better team to win. Momentum and emotion are slutty bitches, and they'll drop their panties for almost anyone in Dallas with a gutty QB and an opportunistic D. We've got one, we're developing the other.
Back to the Toads: we overcame adversity against an above average football team (Tommy Blake is a shadow of himself - wait for the inevitable news to confirm the general fishiness there) and demonstrated some gutty play down the stretch. For those of you who missed the first parts of the first quarter as the Texas A&M Aggies worked to resist the mighty arm of Brandstatter, I can give you the first two offensive possessions. It was classic GD. I certainly don't want to be overly critical of our whipping boy after a win, but sometimes that is the best time to look objectively at some of the more amusing things we do conceptually on offense. We're more creatures of habit than a Springer Spaniel.
Early on, we decide to come out tough and establish that run! We line up in the offset I with Pflugerville Pflash Luke Tiemann at FB. Then we line up in the traditional I with same. TCU goes eight man front. Net result? Two carries, five yards. Establishing that run. On 3rd down, Chase Ortiz uses Ulatoski like Charmin as he tees off on the five step drop and knocks the ball out of Colt's hand. It's first ruled a fumble, then correctly ruled an incomplete pass. 3 & out. Punt.
The next possession, we establish that run in the offset I. No gain. We then throw an incomplete stop route (jumped by DB who can watch film) and follow it with the bubble screen to our new top WR Nate Jones for five yards. 3 & out. Punt.
In six plays, we've run the gamut of the Greg Davis Experience: the obligatory "feeling out" process that we must undergo against any defense that's ranked in the Top 50 of the country, the use of counter plays in the passing game before we've actually run the parts of the offense that they serve to counter, misplaced conservatism of the John Birch society variety, the I-based running game that is more a dutiful nod to some direction from Mack than something actually relevant to our personnel, the resulting 3rd and long, and a general reverence for the opposing defense. Later, we realize that TCU's defense isn't all that, we can block them, and that we're Texas, but that's second half stuff. We're still talking first half. And that half featured two offenses getting their asses kicked.
Davis is clearly operating under the marching orders of "NO TURNOVERS!" which, ironically enough, tends to lead to turnovers. Football is a dynamic game and Bumpas quickly learns that if he pokes here, prods there, he can get Colt to throw a hot route like Pavlov's quarterback. Fake a blitz, zone blitz, get a hot route. So he shows different looks with occasional real blitzes. And we dutifully throw four yard stops despite TCU rushing only 3-5 guys. TCU's DBs look at each other as if to say "Are you shitting me?" and start jumping routes with over the top safety help and create a quick ten points in the 2nd quarter.
Watch the interception return for the touchdown. Colt never sees the guy cutting off the flat (who is placed there deliberately, make no mistake), but past him, Sweed's guy has already jumped the stop route. It's a double jump. If Colt's ball had gotten through, it would have gone into the next DB's hands. On the Nate Jones deflection interception off of the stop, Colt is forced to throw into more purple than Prince's living room. The TCU DB times a nice hit and Roach fields an easy pop fly.
We were all thinking "Fuck!" at the point. We've just spotted them 10-0.
13 of 23 for 98 yards and two interceptions is Colt's first half stat line. Four and half yards per attempt, about 7.5 yards per completion. The 3 yards and a cloud of dust passing offense lives.
Davis adjusts. Credit the guy. We come out in the second half actually looking down the field to the intermediate pass when we realize that we can block four rushers with six guys. Colt hits Cosby for 13. Then we hit Nate Jones for the long TD. A beautiful TE throwback call to Finley a possession later. Colt scrambles though national parks left open by a flat conscious TCU LB corps. Football is a funny game. Suddenly, the stops and bubble screens open up because TCU discovers they have to defend the entire field. A running game also occurs - out of the spread with quick hitters, I might add. We're now running an offense. Up their amphibian asses. Dare I say we've discovered our identity?
A 4th quarter rout ensues as TCU melts down like caramel on a vinyl car dash.
I'd be remiss not to mention Colt. We don't always set the guy up for success and even when he plays poorly, he never ceases to compete. Yeah, a lot of us would like to see a dude who runs a 4.4 that we can zone read with, but Colt takes his nuts out, puts them on the table, and makes plays for us more often than not. I'm fond of the guy and really appreciate his competitiveness. I'm glad he wears Burnt Orange. Faulting him for what he is not is asinine. Kate Hudson has small tits - pretty cute girl though.
Defensively, we did some really nice things. Namely, we played Jared Norton and Rod Muck for a lot of snaps - key snaps - and they proceeded to knock the excrement out of people, blow up screens, destroy QBs, and create turnovers - you know, linebacker type shit. The kind of stuff we haven't seen since Derrick Johnson was here. Scott Derry was also solid. The moment we make those three our LB starters is the moment we move up several notches as a defensive football team. Kindle's return just may just make this an embarrassment of riches. With our front four, we're guaranteed two unblocked LBs on every play - why are we wasting that golden opportunity on senior non-playmakers? The DL was very stout - Lokey and Miller got some nice hits in on the QB, Okam was solid against the run, and our DEs made play after play (Houston had a nice starting debut with a sack/turnover force and Jones was strong again) against an offense that tests them in multiple ways. We even stuffed their attempts at trick plays, God bless us.
I have mixed feelings about the secondary, though to deny improvement there is unfair. First, with all due respect to TCU, their skill position personnel are weak. They do a lot by formation, not by talent. Second, though Dalton was decent, we'll see better QBing this year against every Big 12 South opponent we play, save perhaps Baylor. That context aside, Jackson and Griffin played nice games at safety and Ryan Palmer made a number of plays at CB. Brandon Foster certainly came up big on the blocked punt return, but he blew at least three different coverages and he's just not a presence with the ball in the air or against the sideline WR isolation pass. If he struggles tackling 5-11 180 in isolation, what exactly do we think Malcolm Kelly is going to do to him? Still, we won, and asking those questions takes the bloom from our petunia. So I'll press on.
Conceptually, we ran a number of different blitz packages that TCU had trouble blocking. Though we're not a great pass rushing defense, we do get hits on the QB and the cumulative effect of same wears on the opposing QB throughout the course of the game. Jared Norton is deadly off of the edge and the difference between him coming on a blitz and Robert Killebrew is the difference between a huge sack with a fumble versus a completed pass paired with a late hit penalty. Muckelroy is a great run blitzer and his lateral range is the best of the entire LBing corps. He cleans up a lot of the intermediate stuff for 3 and 4 yards that so often can become 20 and 25. It's integral to get him 50 snaps a game.
All in all, we should feel better about this football team if we can continue to establish an identity on offense (hint: a spread pass first attack with quick hitting running plays out of same) and continue to play the best players on defense. Darwinian competition is a nice thing -senior-oriented Creationism not so much.
All in all, good stuff. You get a Mack clap, 'Horns.