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2009 Colorado Buffaloes @ Texas Longhorns Post-Mortem

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Down 14-10 in the 3rd quarter with the offense working actively to throw the game, Marquise Goodwin blocks a punt for a TD, Earl Thomas pulls out a 92 yard interception return TD (a 10 or 14 point swing), and Jordan Shipley brings back a 74 yard punt.

31-14, Texas. The offense decides to participate with 6:00 left and we have our final: 38-14.

This game will likely be spun as a Texas team without focus looking ahead to OU, taking Colorado lightly, with players that "ate the cheese"...and, hey, we won by 24 - what on earth do you people want?

Bill Little will pen a piece comparing the impossibility of establishing a running game against a run defense rated 111th in the country to Jonas Salk's battle to cure polio and how the Longhorn Dreamwagon must never be abandoned to the predations of the Comanche, naysayers, bloggers, Heinrich Himmler, and the Whig party. As is his tangential custom, he will title the piece Reflections on Post-Modern Japan: The Rodeo.

I don't like cheese spin. I'm lactose intolerant. I never thought we'd lose the game, but this game reminded us all of some deep systemic issues and, given next weeks OU game, we all felt that familiar stab of Greg Davis insecurity.

A feeling I can liken only to kidney stones embedded in the collective Longhorn urethra.

Defense

Thank God for Muschamp.

How long before he goes Buddy Ryan on Greg Gilbride? He won't. Muschamp came from Auburn and he naturally accepts that he must battle against two offenses: the opponents and his own. Putting 17 offensive points on the board just spoils him. We would have won 21-7 if our offense had just run into the line three times and punted, Tuberville style. We've allowed only 180 yards of total offense over the last eight quarters. This defense is giving up 15.0 ppg and that number would be single digits if our quisling offense would stop handing over the keys to the city.

With respect to keys, I was pleased to see our LBs increase their comfort with reading theirs in a traditional running game. It was a tad shaky early, but we got better. We're playing three outside linebackers and we'll give up something in the smash mouth game because of it, but quickness wins out.

Colorado's opening drive was the only thing they did offensively all night. They went 66 yards in 8 plays and then totaled 61 yards in their next 49. 61 yards in 49 plays? - somewhere Greg Davis just belched, waved a turkey drumstick, and exclaimed, "Someone is running the ball rather effectively!"

The 3rd and long post corner TD to Devenny was my only real irritation as Gideon did a poor job of playing center field and understanding that Robinson had the inside release. He doesn't possess the range to get paralyzed and he has to understand the match-up. He made up for it later with a honest-to-God ball hawk interception that was top notch. We'll see OCs test Gideon on that route again.

The second Colorado TD to the TE Geer - after we handed the ball to CU at our 6 yard line - was a pretty nice exploitation of our instinct against the run. Muschamp mentioned in the post-game that we'd prepared specifically for that double twins play call and you could tell he was irritated by whoever blew that coverage (unclear to me who had ultimate responsibility: Kindle, Muck, Brewster)

Other than that, we destroyed Colorado's offense.

We didn't tackle perfectly, but CU went 34 attempts for 42 yards with a long run of 16 yards. Yes, we'll certainly take that. This was nice prep work for OU/OSU and you could see our defense settle in against the run game as the game progressed.

Some personnel thoughts:

We played mostly base 4-3 with Kindle at DE, Ben Alexander at DT, and Robinson, Muckelroy, E. Acho at LB.

Muckelroy was nice: 11 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, a nice pass break-up. He was one gimme interception away from having a phenomenal game. E. Acho continues to be illegally quick and instinctive - 3 TFL like he was shot out of a cannon. Keenan Robinson struggled early with recognition, but rallied down the stretch. If you want to see what I mean about Robinson, check his run read at the 14:09 mark in the 2nd quarter. He's better than that.

Ben Alexander probably played his best game as a Longhorn. Just solid play against the run inside. Really proud of that guy for battling. Houston and Randall gave us pressure and penetration, as we're accustomed.

I thought Sam Acho played a complete game. Very good head up against the run, kept the edge, did his work inside on passing downs. 3 TFL and a sack.

Kindle played well though he didn't have his customary sack n' strip. He did make #78 Nate Solder have a nervous breakdown on the field. If you cost an offense 50 yards in penalties, I consider that game impact.

What can you say about our secondary? They dismantled a lesser WR corps completely. CU was 9 of 23 for 85 yards and two picks, their best WR Chalky McDutch had one catch for twelve yards, and Earl Thomas had an amazing pick six on our goalline that provided a likely 10 or 14 point swing when he baited Cody Hawkins with the false scent of open Caucasian receiver urine.

Special Teams

Our kickoff coverage is struggling and it's attributable to a couple of guys who are refusing to give up their bodies and are playing the I'd rather let myself be subtly blocked than get blown up game. I'm guessing we see a personnel change or attitude transplant for OU because they really could hurt us here. The field goal block looked like it was on Ahmard Howard. You have to make yourself big and get a piece of the outside rusher, even with a guy inside.

We continue to dominate ST overall with two crucial scores: a fantastic 74 yard TD return from Shipley and a timely punt block TD from Marquise Goodwin - Akina did a great job with personnel on that one. The fact that we can play both the return game and the block game is huge and success in each feeds the other. The punting team has to make a choice and we're very capable of making it the wrong one if both coins turn up heads.

Offense

Greg Davis writes sonnets to 3rd and 9. He loves it like Byron loved his Newfoundland. It was distressing to see our offense actually play worse in the second half than the first.

Colorado has a disgraceful defense and we made them look like the '85 Bears. The Toledo Rockets dropped 54 on them while rolling up 600+ yards. They came into the game allowing a college football leading 11 plays of 40 yards+ to such offensive powerhouses as Toledo, Colorado St, Wyoming. We had exactly none. That takes commitment. There are some areas in our offense that are just lazy, uninspired, and inexcuseable, so let's see what we're going to do about it...

Here's Brown's diagnosis of our running game:

What we're trying to do is get better in the running game. It didn't work. We've just got to keep looking at it and keep doing what we need to do.

Good deal.

Wait...

You don't have any idea what you need to do, do you? I know because that's exactly how I answer questions I don't fully understand. Scipio, what should be done about the plight of the Inuit? Hmmm. We're going to keep looking at it. I'm going to study it and we're going to do what we need to do. Uh, those are Eskimos, right?

Let's hear from The Greg Davis Experience:

I thought the running game was non-existent.

That is both a statement of fact and aspiration. The truth is that he resents the running game. He's a little kid being made to mow the lawn and to express his passive-aggressive distress he does a bad job of it and makes sure to roll over Mom's flower beds. The logical solution in both scenarios is the same: hire a Mexican.

But he has a solution for creating our running game! Observe:

We probably should have thrown the ball more in some situations.

How counter-intuitive. The key to solving a non-existent running game is to throw more. Colt's 40+ passing attempts (attempts + sacks) were inadequate. By running less and throwing more, we'll materialize a running game into existence. It's a running game seance complete with levitating banjo. If you throw enough, it conjures the ghost of Marion Motley and he gives offenses that have been very good boys and girls 166 yards on 22 carries on perfectly executed trap plays.

Thoughts for future improvement?

Running was a huge focus, we talked about it and worked on it, but at the same time, we did what we do best, and that’s catching the ball.

Greg and Mack love to talk about the running game. Create dialogue with the running game. Have the UN create a binding resolution to recognize the inherent dignity of the running game. Then they cripple the running game and berate it for its failures.

By the way, is it just me or could his quote be characterized as an unrepentant: "Screw you - I like to throw." I'm amused that he thinks we did a good job in the passing game. We were poor and Colorado dictated to us exactly what we could and could not do by simple alignment and an understanding of our tendencies.

I see zero recognition in Davis that a legit running game would get some teams out of the near-prevent D we're seeing. We average 8.3 yards per completion against a bottom quartile pass defense and he sees more passing as the solution.

Let's talk playcalling: it is not an assorted grab bag of random calls that you throw out hoping one works. I feel like we're playing the game War. Just mindlessly flipping over cards. I burst out laughing at the shovel passes and Wild Horn. The timing, the total lack of understanding of game situation and context, it was awesome to behold.

Personnel thoughts:

The whole OL was pretty poor. The inability to account for interior run blitzes is troubling as that's what zone blocking is ostensibly set up to do. No push at the point of attack. The entire interior OL really struggled. These guys are set up to fail and do so. Pass protection was adequate.

Shipley was fantastic save his volleyball set interception and Buckner was solid running his four yard routes. Kirkendoll had a negative game impact: no blocking, poor effort, totally in regression. John Chiles is a one trick pony that doesn't even warrant attention if he's not running his only play. He's now averaging 8.8 yards a catch - and that includes a long score against Wyoming. Malcolm Williams is a ghost. For the year, we now average a meager 10.4 yards per completion.

The RBs are almost meaningless to evaluate. If there are still fans so stupid as to believe RBs are the primary issue, it's not a conversation I can endure. Our entire running game is seemingly predicated on the defense's exhaustion and whoever gets those dead defense carries will be the star of the day. I think Fozzy Whittaker is the most interesting guy from a talent perspective, but I'd like to see him 75 carries from now.

By the way, I don't think our running schemes and all of our backs having injury problems is coincidental.

As for QB play, Colt ran the offense that he was asked to run. He went 32 of 39. What do you want?

Parting Thoughts

I wrote this summer - and have emphasized in every piece of analysis throughout the year - that the strength of this team would be defense and special teams. If we want to journey to the Promised Land (Pasadena) or even it's nearby suburb of Very Good Season (Big 12 Title, Phoenix) they need to take us there because our offense can't be trusted. That idea was met with understandable scorn from some of my friends and many posters given that we had an All-American QB, an experienced OL, some talent at WR, it was the strength of the team last year, and, hey, we still have a gaudy scoring average.

So...accept it. We dominated 2 of the 3 phases of the game and the score reflected that.

We're basically an elite SEC defense/special teams paired with a Mountain West offense. That can win a lot of football games, but you'll need a management strategy for your ulcers.

On to OU...