Just months ago, Texas Football hit rock bottom, took a long look in the mirror it had just been doing lazy lines of complacency off of, humbled itself in rehab, and started to do the things that once had it at the top. But the past doesn't go away because you decide to start living right.
There's still some hell to pay.
We paid some Saturday.
So this is what's it's like to live with an addict who has only recently gotten clean. One whose bad choices from yesterday keeps lobbing artillery shells into now. Celebrity Rehab - I finally get you!
In Dallas, we were reminded that Texas stole grandma's pain meds, took out a second home mortgage without us knowing, learned that the collection agents on the opposing defense will keep shaking us down 'til our debts are paid in experience and blood, and every few Saturdays a couple of Russian guys wearing leather jackets will show up to the house, put their cigarettes out on our ears, and ask where they can find Bevo. (Best Russian accent, like Sean Connery in Red October): "This Bevo. He is real piece of shit. He think he make sober and this mean he not have to pay debts? Is not so easy. You tell him Yurgi am look for him. YURGI MAKE HIM PROSTITUTE AT ARAB BAR IN MINSK."
This game reminded us of what a no-account Texas so recently was in this game and how those demons haunt us today. It's like watching Ozzie Osbourne on an elliptical, pushing furiously, but his feet aren't moving. SHARONNNNNNN! He's not going to work off the 1975 Black Sabbath Tour in one sweat session. Deep down fans also worry that nothing has changed because the surface 55-17 result feels and looks the same, even though the program's recent choices are much healthier under the still-ragged surface.
Give Ozzy a little time on the elliptical. It'll get better.
This position was completely exposed and highlighted how adeptly Harsin has managed us through the first four games of the season with smoke, mirrors, and prestidigitation.
In my pre-game preview, I wrote:
This is a game where composure is crucial and elevated tunnel adrenaline and underclassmen at the skill positions means dropped balls, turnovers, and inexplicable gaffes. Youth always shows up in this sort of game. Harsin may have instances where we beat Oklahoma schematically, but we simply can’t deliver. If that happens enough, this thing will get out of hand.
Ummm, yeah, that got out of hand. It kicked up a notch. Frank Alexander killed a guy with a trident. The mental errors on display in this game were mind-boggling and the QB position came through with the lion's share, though the OL and WRs valiantly tried to keep up. So think of them as slightly smaller lions that would occasionally team up to attack the bigger QB Mistake Lion to prove that they could not be easily beaten at the carcass of the Self-Destruction Kudu. It's a little thing called pride. Good one, Scipio! UP HIGH FELLAS!
David Ash was 11 of 20 for 107 yards, had a mercy touchdown, threw two bad interceptions, one a pick six, the other a pick nose, and was sacked four times. He reminded us that this is why functioning programs don't start true freshmen QBs. The late throw across the body while scrambling without shoulders squared into triple coverage was not a career highlight. He did find a little groove in the 2nd half when the game slowed down and OU put in their 2nd team defense (ha ha! I'm kidding - why would Bob do that when there are Mack Brown nuts to be stomped?), but the Mike Davis hot potato defensive TD put an end to that. Putting his play under the microscope is a fairly useless exercise except to say that the game was too big for him at this juncture, his offensive teammates did little to help him at any time, and any judgement you make on him based on that game is useless.
Case McCoy was 9 of 16 for 116 and 3 sacks. He fumbled twice on sacks, both recovered by OU, one of them for six. His lack of strength and poor ball security are not unrelated to that fact. If there's any silver lining, I'm glad we could end the Case Is A Special Scrambler debate from the UCLA game. Having "It" is so elusive, when the DL is worth a damn. He generally looked physically unready for major college football, but I thought he was a tad calmer than Ash. Would like to see McCoy stay in the pocket and step into a throw under duress once.
I usually put the TEs with the WRs, but why let their F grade drag down the WR's hearty D+? I'm pleased Blaine Irby caught two balls but weepy sentiments aside, the blocking from this unit was putrid and they provided no value in the passing game. We had to be able to run the ball from our pro and power sets to create any platform for success and our TEs were a big reason why it didn't happen. I've documented for some time how poorly this position has been recruited and developed and there's no magic bullet. If your skill edge personnel can't handle nickel in the run game, you're at a disadvantage.
Great pass rush up front + physical corners squatting on short routes + safeties taking away anything up top + predictable down and distance = Texas WRs thwarted. Jaxon Shipley (9-89-1) is our best offensive player and given that he's a true freshman WR, that's encouraging long term and depressing through 2011. Mike Davis (6-70) was absent in the first half, started to show in the 2nd and then had the inexplicable lapse in ball security that led to an easy Sooner defensive touchdown. I like keeping defenders on their toes, but handing the ball to them seems almost too progressive. The rest of the WR corps was a no-show and we're getting nothing from Goodwin at all. Blocking wasn't good here either, but that's more of a physical maturity issue.
OU's top cover corner Jamell Fleming had an absolutely great performance in all phases.
Fozzy Whittaker came to play (6-43, nice pass reception). Major props to Captain America for showing up in Big D. He has been on fire since UCLA and he created several runs all by his lonesome. Coincidence that our best offensive performance in this emotional game was by a grizzled veteran? Malcolm Brown (17-54) certainly ran hard, but it was tough sledding through no fault of his own and he didn't maximize his few slivers. DJ Monroe had 4 touches for 41 yards, including one telegraphed lateral screen behind trips that should have lost five yards and he turned it into a positive. Doesn't he always? It would have made zero difference in game outcome, but I'd like to see his touches doubled.
Cody Johnson's blocking was forgettable again. Ideal fullback build, oversized halfback mentality and skill set.
As with any number of areas of recent neglect in the program, their deficiencies were known coming in. The fact that we don't have true OTs, they have had only one offseason of legit S&C, they're on their 5th game blocking in real schemes, and that they're a random assortment of body types and skills not molded to any particular offensive philosophy means nightmares any time we face a good front 7 and can't establish some baseline running game.
They surrendered 8 sacks and our OTs made a strong pitch for Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis to be All-Americans (they combined for 5 sacks). The good news is that I only had the OL responsible for 6 of them! I honestly don't have the patience, inclination, or bandwidth to document the mistakes for all of these guys individually, but a surprising number of the errors were simple assignment busts. I have no idea what Tray Allen was doing on a dozen plays, but he wasn't the only one. These guys were unprepared for Oklahoma's quickness and decisiveness and once it was clear that our passing game would be a net negative, the Sooners isolated our offense into its component parts and did what they pleased.
It's not all on them, but allowing 17 tackles for loss is an alarming and incredible statistic. Typically, an OL will get a severe butt-chewing for allowing 1/3 of that. But seventeen? I pay a lot of attention to that metric and we haven't seen comparable numbers since Suh's Nebraska DL in the 2009 Big 12 Title Game. Puts it in perspective a bit, doesn't it?
Our hopeful 4-0 met the reality of 55-17, recalling last year's 5-7, and evoking barely concealed scars of the five game losing streak to OU pre 2005. The program sins of our past, real and imagined, are being revisited upon us. It doesn't help that OU's defense outscored our offense 21-17. Our offense never gave our defense a chance and they needed all the help they could get.
Watching this weekend's destruction I found myself counting every chicken as it came home to roost, thinking of the grasshopper and ant parable, and pondering the grim reaping of what we'd sown - along with every other piece of agricultural wisdom that stresses consistent good habits, mindfulness, and consistent industry over time. It's one thing for me to dispassionately document that the program's infrastructure has been completely eroded with complacency over the past few years, but that knowledge doesn't make it any easier to watch.
So as fans, our choice is pretty simple. Stick by our recovering complacency junkie while he works through his rough patches knowing that the future is bright or shut Texas Football out of our lives completely, change the locks, and become a Maryland lacrosse enthusiast.
This too shall pass.
Unless our OL is blocking.
UP HIGH FELLAS!