This one's going to be quick. I revved up my courage and started a re-watch at 9am, then about eight plays in I got an invite to go to brunch with my niece and nephew...and it was not a tough decision. I'll have some more detailed analysis of at least the first half up later, but here's a few quick thoughts based on a few bleak hours in the Cotton Bowl.
We knew we were facing an OU secondary that has been giving every passing attack problems, but that was a truly average OU front that put it to our run game. Handing the last laugh to a player and guy like Jamarkus McFarland was maybe the toughest swallow of an entire game that was designed to stick in the Longhorn craw. If you're looking for negatives you're not going to run short of them in this one, but on the offensive side of the ball I was exceptionally disappointed in our run blocking. Eight carries for eight yards in the first half is simply laying down and surrendering the entire identity that you've been working a year and a half to build.
Let's face it - there's never been a shutout half in the history of football where the OC's calls, run-pass mix, and overall testicular fortitude didn't come in for question by the fan base. But for God's sake - some of the damned plays have to WORK. I can't imagine that there's a player on Texas' front who could tell you he stepped up to the challenge, gave full effort or did anything but make the guy across from him look better than he was. That's before we even get into the pressure they handed over on Ash (which could potentially cost him his season).
There's plenty of blame to go around if you're in the mood - Shipley has to run to the sticks on third down, Gray needs to hand the ball off in the Wildcat, Ash was far from perfect himself and we certainly could have seen more misdirection and effort to get DJ and Daje the ball on the edges - but the fire, execution and overall mentality of the offensive front have to come into question above and beyond everything else in this one. No scheme, no system, no play and no playcaller will thrive with an effort like what we saw from our blockers on Saturday.
We don't have a defense. We simply don't. We've got a front line that's frequently capable of winning the battle in front of them. We've got a few guys in the secondary capable of covering and a couple who are both willing and able to make tackles. We have no linebackers whatsoever, and that means we don't have a defense. A defense is a unit, an organism, a thinking/flowing/reacting whole that can match pressure with coverage, attack a part of the field without surrendering the rest of it and simply converge on the damned ball wherever it's moving.
When you have no linebackers capable of executing the simplest, most basic aspects of the position with anything resembling consistency, then you don't have a reliable connection between the defensive line and the secondary. Any run can break free, any screen or drag or swing or flip pass can connect, no corner can play outside leverage and count on help inside, no safety can count on a receiver being carried up the field. You're left with two groups of guys playing with no connection between them - when you have that, you don't have a unit. And when you don't have a unit, you don't have a defense.
Again, we saw a few good moments when a linebacker was assigned to shoot a gap and shot it successfully. They were almost instantly counter-acted when simple misdirection set a guy absolutely free to run wild. We saw the speed to run with most backs/TEs and even slot receivers, combined with an utter lack of awareness of where these guys are in pattern.
Manny Diaz - linebackers' coach, teacher, and leader of men - may bear a ton of responsibility for our current lack of a linebacking corps. But I literally have no clue how Manny Diaz, defensive coordinator, can create a coherent scheme without one. I'm far, far removed from even an NAIA assistant-caliber creator of defensive schemes and alignments, but I've got an understanding of coverage responsibilities and gap assignments. And if you can draw up a few defensive calls that will stand up against an inside run, outside zone, misdirection, play action throw to the TE/FB and drags from the WR's with linebackers that cannot read blocking, handle run-pass conflict or attack even a single gap without being blitzed into it then you are well ahead of me. You can get the call right, you can guess right, you can have the offense call the right play for you again and again and again. But ultimately, you're just guessing - and when you guess wrong, you just get RUINED. Some of that ruination should be mitigated by safeties keeping 15-yard plays from going 50, but the absurd pressure that our pure lack of linebacking places on the rest of the defense is just outright unfair.
We had a mix of good and bad on the D-line (Brandon Moore was playing a whale of a game in the first half and thank God he appears to be OK), heroic (Carrington Byndom) and hilarious (Phillips and Y35YAC's tackling) in the secondary. But those are just guys. And some guys don't make a defense without ALL the guys making a defense.
And without a defense, we're DOA.
Good job, Quandre Diggs!
When we see this same, sorry story played out in Dallas for the fourth time in Mack's tenure, it's a damning indictment. When maybe five guys on the squad played aggressive games and realized their potential against a bitter, hated and utterly underwhelming rival, it's a damning indictment. When you can see, feel and damn near taste a difference in confidence and intensity and execution it is a damning, damning, damning indictment.
If I had my name on a building on the 40 Acres, I'd devote a lot more time and thought at this present moment as to whether all those indictments meant that it was time for a change at the top. As I don't, I'm going to focus a lot more thought on what we can do with what we have to salvage this season - starting with Baylor next week. I may not have any more control over that than I do over hiring or firing the head man, but I'd rather talk and learn about football while we've still got a season in front of us.
Hope you'll join me.