I was pessimistic about this offense before the game and it played out even more poorly than I'd thought possible.
Harsin's early game plan made sense. KSU was loaded for bear against the run - whether by formation or disposition - and a few early, relatively easy throws (hey, there's the short passing game many of y'all were requesting!) should give Ash confidence, loosen things up, and then let us settle into a multi-faceted running game that would minimize carries for two injured RBs, distribute the workload, allow us to play it close to the vest, and take a couple of shots downfield with play action (see the wide open Irby touchdown). Defense and a home crowd would carry us to the win.
Then reality intruded.
The game was way too big for Ash, our WRs were pedestrian, and KSU took my pre-game advice and put Nigel Malone on Mike Davis and asked for us to find someone else to make a play. We said, "Nah, that's ai'ght." Goodwin is a track time best suited as a #3 option. The juniors and seniors are as much spares as anyone else we recruited and forgot to develop during the Great Offensive Coach On The Job Retirement that begin 'round '06 (I like to say aught six to give it a lyrical quality) and the rest of the guys are too young (Onyegbule), too injured (Shipley, Harris), or too in their own head (White). There's no magical play call to bail out a QB in full meltdown mode and though our offensive line actually played well enough for us to win for much of the game, neither Brown or Bergeron were healthy enough to break a big run.
I made the Mack Brown as recovering drug addict comparison before the year and it's holding up well. An entire offensive staff essentially quit on the job for three or four years in recruiting and development - at QB, at RB, at WR, at TE, on the OL - and the results are on the field. Not coincidentally, the area of the ball where Mack did 90% of his supervision. Contrast that to our defensive performance to see what sparing a unit of his attentions can yield.
Admittedly, it's hard for us to move past this as a fan base when we see what past behaviors have wrought every Saturday. When an entire offense is predicated on production from true freshmen, the natural consequence of our useless past behaviors, losses mount. It's the law of gridiron gravity. We can dispute it with "But We're Texas" or "Yeah, but still..." all we like, but football's physics are immutable.
In its current state, physical and mental, this offense completely sucks. It's a star collapsing in on itself and there's nothing magical on a laminated play sheet that can save it.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
David Ash melted down. It doesn't need much analysis beyond that. It started in the 2nd quarter of the Missouri game and has only intensified. It's purely mental. He's capable of making every throw he cheesed and he likely hit 95% of them in practice (even Mack mentioned in his post game presser that Ash had practiced well). He should be doing it in practice - as a redshirt. Case McCoy's spark consisted of two 10 yard passes and hitting a wide open Irby on a beautiful play action sequence, but he quickly regressed to his mean. He has zero pocket presence and had absolutely no awareness of time or down and distance at the end of the game. He's the heady QB, right? In his defense, he didn't offer up 10 points on a platter as Ash did.
Basically, Harsin called plays assuming some rudimentary competency from the pass game. There were undeniably plays available to us and I know he's still in shock that we don't have a QB or WR corps that can hit a lay-up. If I have any major criticism of Harsin, it's that he's attempting to still call real offense rather than accepting that we're deeply flawed. We need keep running into concrete hoping it eventually cracks rather than trying to walk around it. Our QB play - specifically Ash early - prevented us from having any chance of winning a game we completely dominated. KU's QB would have led us to a 27-10 type of win.
Bergeron and Brown were both compromised and ran like it. Bergeron's strength allows him to be pretty effective even when his hamstring shaves 2/10ths of his 40, but Brown without the ability to make his feet obey his vision is a totally mediocre runner. Cody Johnson played his ass off - not just in the Wildcat short yardage wrinkle (hat tip to staff on that solution) but as a blocker. He's going to be drawing a NFL paycheck next year and I'm really proud of his development. Watching how much he has progressed as a blocker from Rice to now is extraordinary. Neither Hills or Monroe were able to step up for us, but that's to be expected from a complementary guy and a 4th stringer.
They put Malone on Davis. Passing game effectively over unless we could deceive. We had a chance or two downfield, but a PI went uncalled and we couldn't find Davis on the other. Goodwin made absolutely no plays to help his QB in the passing game, but is an effective runner on those end arounds. Proud to see Irby make a big play for us, but that was a creation of the call, not a legitimate ability to threaten a defense. His other catches were of the reliable in improvisation variety. Without Shipley, this is a pedestrian group with no ability to help their struggling QB.
Played better than people probably think. And by that, I mean they graded out a C+/B-. KSU only had two tackles for loss all game and though the OL gave up some pressure on the QB, pass blocking was above their season mean. Run blocking was adequate and if the RBs had been healthy, there was more to be had on a couple of runs. Malcolm Brown just couldn't break a tackle in his current state. A QB with the ability to complete a forward pass would have loosened things up considerably for these guys. David Snow had a very solid game and I was going to praise Allen for some of his work at guard (replacing Walters early who was either hurt or being punished for blowing a pass block) but he proceeded to jump offsides on a critical 4th and 1 near midfield. A sad and perfect encapsulation of his career at Texas.
Short of flinging Desean Hales like a dwarf from an improvised trebuchet into the end zone, they can't MAKE our skill players score.
This is a miserable offense. Here's some hopeful lip gloss for this pig against A&M:
1. Shuttle Both QBs. It's understandable to place David on the Ash Heap of Longhorn history, but hear me out. It allows Harsin to coach each guy in between plays and talk them through the next play and sequence he's going to call for them. It's a mean of centering them and keeping their decision-making purely binary. Ash will be relieved to have the burden off of his shoulders and it helps to place a governor on Case's I'll-Show-Everyone-How-I-Did-It-At-Graham instincts. Contrast the composure level of Ash now with the UCLA game. It's night and day. Give him three passing plays and let him run option. That's it. Case can run the rest.
Case will need constant coaching on his pocket awareness and tendency to self-sack. If you want to argue for McCoy as the every down QB, I appreciate the perspective but consider what it is that A&M excels at and what Case's natural instincts are in the pocket.
Look, I'm not hoping that 1+1 = 3. Or even 2. I'm hoping 1+1 = 0.75. Instead of -6.
2. Go Heavy Wildcat. Not just short yardage or the red zone (ha ha - I'm being funny, what's the red zone?) but sprinkled liberally throughout the game. Whether Malcolm Brown, Cody Johnson, or Jeremy Hills. Or all three. It's our best chance for a big play, even if we're seeing 3 and outs. At least a punt is a controlled turnover.
3. Call Offense Like We're QBed By A Developmentally Disabled 8th Grader. Once they prove they can hit a screen or a five yard rollout, we can try a single read downfield throw with a run option or a strict order to throw it out of bounds if it's not there. No deviation unless they see a guy in white waving his arms frantically alone in the end zone. No. Not the Corps turds.
Pretend it's 1977. Call the offense accordingly. Our goal isn't production. It's to give the defense a fighting chance. I want a game plan that makes Fred Akers calls us pussies.
With those cheery proposed guidelines, I turn it over to you. Thoughts? Optimism? Weeping? Weird, bizarre rants?