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Texas – Nebraska Post-Mortem: Special Teams

It gets its own breakdown this week because they played such a key role in both the positive and negative side of this game. The players executed almost perfectly.

The headsets had a Milesian moment. I don't want to dwell on any negatives as the win itself was phenomenal and our players cleaning up special teams can really help us win the rest of our games, but I do want to talk coaching tactics because these end of game choice lapses are going to kill us.

Special Teams

Our ability to flip field position in the punting game is an underrated aspect to our win. Punts of 55 and 67 that pinned Nebraska inside their five yard line and kicking off well led to Nebraska starting an average possession on their own 23. Seventy seven yards is no easy task on this defense even with magic at QB. Tucker was also flawless kicking in a tough environment and I think he would have nailed the long one if we'd given him the chance. He's proving to be a clutch guy and a real asset to us. John Gold did a nice job too.

Also pleased with the turnaround in Curtis Brown and Williams in the punting game. Curtis is the greater talent and if he can continue to catch it, I'm convinced a punt return TD is coming soon. Like, Iowa State soon.

Like the offense, turnover free and productive special teams showed what we can be if we put the saddle on the D and stop slashing at the horse's hamstrings.

On to the dreaded cheap TD to Nebraska....

We have to stop this weird insistence in letting an opponent put cheap points on the board while our defense is standing on the sideline. This trend has been going on since 2009 and it's driving me nuts. If we're to establish a proper identity for this team in playing winning conservative football, we can't continue to choose the worst possibility in these little probability exercises and then pretend that all of the choices are equivalent.

With the ball on the Nebraska 33 yard line, 4th and 4, and a two touchdown lead with 3:27 on the clock, you have the following choices:

1. A punt. A very conservative choice. The John Birchers think it's too conservative. But low risk. Take a delay of game penalty, then kick it. NU probably starts with it on the 20 and you lose the possibility of points and a game sealer for a 13 yard net field position gain, but there's a 40% chance you pin them inside the 5. If you like Lawrence Welk and Hungry Man dinners, this is the choice for you. I won't even mock you for it. Your defense is whipping ass - just ride 'em.

2. Go for it. Good choice. A successful conversion ends the game and fills your team with confidence. A failure means Nebraska starts with mediocre field position firmly on their end, clock running, while you sport a two TD lead. Whoopty do. I ain't scared.

3. Field goal. Good choice. Might it be blocked? Possibly. But Tucker kicks with elevation and that's not an issue we've had. I think Tucker nails that mother, to be honest. If he misses, Nebraska starts on their 40. I don't like that, but 23-6 ends the contest doesn't it? At least within the downside of this choice (say 2% chance of block) there's a massive and far more likely upside (converted field goal).

4. Pooch punt to return man with OL personnel on the field covering the punt. And Whaley, who is a 6th OL. This is a poor, confused choice. Les Miles type stuff. Further, if you're dead set on pooching, Gilbert needs to be the guy doing it. First, because you can try drawing an offsides penalty. Second, because NU sure as hell ain't playing a return guy against your regular offense.

Further, when Nebraska showed a return man, which they made no effort to disguise, we could have called a timeout and revised the call. Those timeouts don't count for points when you take them into the post-game locker room. They're for, like, deliberating. And getting you out of a bad play. That's what time outs do. You're in control of the game there and Nebraska must react to YOU. Why would we let them dictate?

Bottom line: avoiding cheap scores is paramount when you're destroying the other team's O and the scoreboard and clock are on your side. That's a lesson we need to carry for the rest of the year and why I will even defend this staff when they take the conservative route at the end of the 1st half up 17-3.

I go for it, but if you want to argue for 3 of the 4 options up there, I can get to your viewpoint.

If you want to argue for Brown's decision, here's a forum to give it your best shot.

By the way, I'm interesting in talking specific game strategy here. If you want to write some idiotic generalized anti-Brown rant, save it. Some of you crying even after the Nebraska win made me realize that a handful of our posters feed off of negativity like piranha on hemophiliacs.

Critical means calling out good and bad. Not bathing in bad blood like Elizabeth Bathory.