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Texas Longhorns-Baylor Bears Football Postmortem: Offense

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When the offensive game plan is good, the OL plays better, the RBs run solidly and the receivers are frequently open - and the offense scores 7 points - you're in for a very long season.

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The Longhorn offense put up 7 points against Baylor despite a game plan I can't find much fault with, an OL that took clear steps forward in protection and in the running game against a reasonably good Baylor front, Johnathan Gray showing hints of his pre-injury decisiveness and a wide receiver group that repeatedly found green space and had one drop.

Generally, when the talent is good and your QB is solid, that's a formula for 30+ points.  For Texas, it yielded a late game charity touchdown.  There are some governors on the Texas engine that are rendering game plans, scheme and other improvements largely irrelevant.

Those three things against Baylor: 1) turnovers 2) diminished talent from injury and suspensions such that schematic "wins" are good for eight yards instead of eighty and 3) very poor QB play.

These were the Longhorn's first six possessions in the 3rd and 4th quarter after the squandered 99 yard drive in the late 2nd quarter:

UT 3rd T32 15:00 Kickoff T41 12:40 Punt 3-9 2:20
UT 3rd T36 11:16 Punt T44 09:26 Punt 4-8 1:50
UT 3rd T25 07:02 Kickoff T33 05:24 Punt 3-8 1:38
UT 3rd T17 02:26 Punt T40 00:58 Punt 5-23 1:28
UT 4th T34 14:51 Punt T37 13:52 Punt 3-3 0:59
UT 4th T18 10:55 Kickoff T14 09:37 Punt 3--4 1:18

21 plays for 47 yards.  The game was effectively over at 14-0.

Scheme/QB

I used to separate personnel and scheme (as much as one can) so we could try to evaluate the plan vs. the result, but I can't do it anymore.  Swoopes is now effectively the scheme.  We all know why Swoopes is ill-prepared for the college game - I'm not interested in rehashing that.  I'm in his corner and there's little doubt he's trying his hardest. The question is: what is the offense capable of with him at the helm and is he demonstrating progress when given a larger bite of the offense vs. the nibbles of BYU and UCLA?  He's had bigger portions for two straight games and the results are negative.  Human improvement rarely happens in a straight line, but Tyrone badly needs to break out from his current plots on the graph.

I wrote this a month ago. It holds up.  The difference is that his support mechanisms have gotten a little better and we're now trying to give him a bigger playbook. The hope is that his play would match improvements elsewhere, but the areas where he's deficient may not necessarily benefit from marginal gains elsewhere.  They're pass/fail - not incremental in nature.  If he can't develop some pocket awareness and understand the difference between a completely free defender or an occupied DL brushing harmlessly past him or pull the trigger on an open receiver instead of hold on to the ball, it doesn't really matter if the OL plays better or the play call is a good one.  The difference to an offense between a bad QB and an average QB isn't arithmetic - it's exponential.

Watson and Wickline opened up the playbook and had some good conceptual stuff to give Tyrone easy reads and open throws despite some of the limitations imposed by spotty OL play, but those plays were left on the table - most of them at difficulty levels ranging from easy to medium.  Re-watching the game dispassionately highlighted how many opportunities were squandered by misses, needless self-pressures or completed bad throws which prevented YAC.

Swoopes went 16 of 34 for 144 yards and 2 interceptions.  Stat lines and actual performance don't always marry for QBs, but I'm afraid this one did.  The re-watch was tougher than the live watch.

OL/TE

The key change was starting Darius James at OT with Marcus Hutchins manning the other OT, allowing Kent Perkins to return inside.  James is still struggling as a pass protector, but he's an improving run blocker and a legitimate athletic force.  Perkins can be devastating at times.  The Texas OL won as many as they lost against a big, physical Baylor front, despite Jake Raulerson getting an early lesson in the value of powerlifting by Baylor NT Andrew Billings.

Raulerson and Swoopes had another fumble exchange and it was a killer.  It cost Texas a touchdown and any hint of halftime momentum.

Although pass protection was far from rock solid, Swoopes had plenty of chances to make his throws.

Geoff Swaim was open at least 3 times on potential long gains, but was either ignored or overthrown - and he's our only current TE who can lead block from H-back or seal the edge. MJ McFarland had an excellent catch on a 3rd down conversion, but his blocking is poor on any bigs (he's good at stalking safeties though).  Greg Daniels returned and drew a holding penalty.

RB

Gray went 12-79 (6.6 yards per carry, longest run of 26) and Brown went 12-55.  The most encouraging thing from both backs - particularly Gray - was that they didn't allow backfield penetration to deter them if the penetrator was still being occupied by an OL.  They continued to extend the zone play, looked for a lane, planted their foot and got their shoulders squared quickly.  Better reads, better physicality overall.

Daje went out with a hamstring and netted one carry.

WR

Best unit on the offense right now.  Drew multiple PIs (let's face it the college PI is always a smart play by the defender), got separation for possible big plays on a half dozen occasions and we're clearly grooming Foreman and Joe for bigger things.  None of it matters if the ball isn't there.  Not much else to say.

Conclusion

I understand fan consternation with Watson as our offensive coordinator and he has a history that can support any viewpoint you may wish to hold - ranging from wildly optimistic to believing he is the millstone that will drag Strong to the bottom of Lake Travis, but what I saw on the re-watch is an offensive staff doing the very best they can with the personnel they have. I saw a 35 point game plan and 7 point execution.

The rest of this season will likely have to be charted in individual and unit improvements, not wins and losses.