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Fiesta Bowl Post-Mortem Part IV: Offense & Special Teams


A great Longhorn points to Tim Tebow's father

Quan Cosby was sensational and my Game MVP. 14 catches, 171 yards, 2 TDs, physical blocking that created Colt's TD run, the game winning score. There's something deeply satisfying about seeing a quality guy enjoy success. I admire him precisely for his imperfections as a player. When a guy with projected combine grades that scream 5th round can dominate a football game with nothing more than effort, skills won through endless repetition, and hard-nosed play he deserves entry into your pantheon of all-time Longhorn favorites.

Quan take a plunge into my list of all-time favorite Longhorns

Our decision to move both Cosby and Shipley around in our formations to avoid Malcolm Jenkins at boundary corner was solid. Jenkins is not an elite pure cover guy but he will knock the shit out of you and he would have created some turnovers for them if we'd matched him on our primaries. Because Ohio State always uses Jenkins to cover the wide side of the field, we often ended up with one of our key guys matched up with an OSU safety or #2 CB while Jenkins covered Kirkendoll. Not ideal from the Buckeye perspective and solid tactics from GD. I also liked our decision to go to a turbo version of the hurry-up offense in the 3rd quarter after seeing success with it in the first half. It was decisive in giving us the 17-6 lead and even allowed us to pretend for a quarter that we possessed a running game. OSU was struggling to substitute, they couldn't get set, and their guys were seriously winded.

I was a bit surprised with how much pressure Ohio State brought blitzing, but I think the Texas A&M film was pretty decisive for them in making that decision. If those guys can knock Colt around, why not bring it? Hits on Colt are given out in our offense like peanuts at the concession stand and the Buckeyes certainly knew they had a better grade of athlete to do it with. They tackled pretty well in the secondary and I can count their significant missed tackles on one hand. They were content to let us roll up 8-10 yard passes in hopes that Colt would stop making perfect throws and they could get some big hits and negative plays on him. Not a bad strategy. Too bad for them we're quarterbacked by a robot. He threw the ball 58 times with one interception against a high quality college secondary. Granted, his one interception was ridiclously unsound but his girlfriend demonstrates the quality of his overalll decision making.

Malcolm Williams enticed several mallards to land near him, but not any footballs

Kirkendoll and Collins proved that they'll be solid guys for us next year, though neither has Quan's rugged demeanor over the middle and they need to hit the weight room. Shipley's slip probably kept him from breaking a long touchdown catch, but he was solid all night. Malcolm Williams actually got a play called for him! Deep! He used the Thorpe Winner Jenkins! Ball thrown to the wrong side of his body out bounds! Back to bench, Malcolm. See you in the Spring!

Peter Ullman gave us another volleyball jump set on a catchable ball over the middle and his blocking was negligible. DJ Grant, come on down.

People complained about Greg Davis' play calling in this game, but other than the counter play on 2nd and forever near the goalline, play calling was not the issue. He actually called a good game within the constraints of the offense that he has created. No game highlighted better what I wrote weeks ago about our running game and why in my game preview I thought we'd rack up yardage but have difficulty turning those yards into points.

Our lack of an identity in the running game destroys any pretense of a play action game where you can create deep opportunities with minimal risk. The thought of sucking up safeties with our running game and then hitting a receiver one-on-one is a dim memory. To criticize our playcalling misses the point entirely. This is structural. Our run/pass ratio was positively Texas Techian. When deception leaves your offense, everything becomes about execution.

The most troubling thing about our lack of a running game is that it bled directly into our pass protection issues. DE Thaddeus Gibson was coming off of the edge like an Olympic sprinter - about as unconcerned for the zone read or a draw play as Mark Gastineau in his prime. He owned Ulatoski, who played his two worst games in the season's last two contests. Not a coincidence and not due to injury. Charlie Tanner (poor run blocking, multiple QB pressures) and Chris Hall (sack, holding call, poor run blocking) also struggled pretty badly, while Hix and Dockery did a pretty nice job on the right side. Against a reasonable defense like OSU, our entire success in the running game is predicated on the other team's exhaustion.

That we've carved out a pretty badass little offense based on flawless execution in the passing game and Colt's feet is both praise and an indictment of what we do and the surest argument I know for my belief that the wrong guy won the Heisman.

Special Teams

There's nothing much to Ohio State's kickoff return game, but their punt return game is very solid (our ability to bypass Roy Small as a returner with rugby kicks is an under appreciated key to our win) and their coverage units are spectacularly well-coached. Let's send someone to their instructional camp, shall we? Ohio State's attention to the little things is plainly evident there.

Our patented upback snap fake punt - which has become a staple of the Mack Brown era - was an excellent call and even though Ohio State expected it and left in their first team D to stop it, I was pleased that we pulled the trigger on it in a tight ballgame. Other than that, our return game was pretty pedestrian.

Final Thoughts

What can you say? 3 BCS bowls against traditional powers Michigan, USC, Ohio State. Three wins. By eight points. All by last minute 4th quarter comebacks. This team surpassed expectation, gave us glimpses of an even brighter future, and played their hearts out. This staff deserves a lot of credit for wringing every bit of blood from the stone. The future is bright. It's time to reload.

Thanks for a great season, Longhorns. Take a bow....