The Longhorn offense came out with guns blazing early, had its habitual 3rd quarter decline and then rallied to seal the game in the 4th quarter. Swoopes took some important strides - not just in production against a bad defense, but with respect to decision-making that set the table for his game-sealing touchdown to Armanti Foreman. Shawn Watson had to be pleased even if we adjust for the Cowboy defense being fairly poor because some of the check down 2 and 3 read decisions Swoopes made are duplicable even against quality defenses.
Why The Strong Starts And 3rd Quarter Lapses?
First, a fast start and 3rd quarter lapse is vastly preferable to a slow start and consistent stink. Go watch the BYU or KSU games. None of us really know the answer, but observation has fueled my pet theory that our fast early starts are a function of pretty good scouting and game planning on initial defensive tendency, Swoopes making scripted throws he has confidence in (the 8-10 yard hitches outside hash, naked boot, play action slant route), the Longhorn running game finding some traction running power and inside trapping action (with Swaim and De La Torre doing a nice job as lead blockers) resulting in some nice methodical drives down the field.
The problem is that our ability to punish a defense's adjustments to our initial game plan is fairly limited by our personnel and experience. Once they throttle down our preferences by simple alignment and disposition, it's up to Swoopes and our receivers to exist in a more open-ended universe where they must be fluent in a multi-read passing game that punishes overplay, for our OL to protect longer and, in the running game, for our OL to track better athletes in space on zone concepts to make the outside running game work because they're squeezing down inside.
Perhaps you noticed we're not so good at those things?
We're a boxer that is killing his opponent with a jab and a straight right. Until the opponent realizes we don't have a hook or uppercut. They're going to get inside and make us show something else. Sometimes, our best strategy is to hold.
The result is a lot of penalties - both mental (false starts) and physical (this guy is whipping my ass, better hold him), a decline in Swoopesian efficiency, a regression to mean in the running game and a sharp uptick in our collective desire to throw a remote through the television. There is no real mystery here and I don't think it necessarily speaks to a lack of coaching adjustments (fans and media tend to credit all game changes to "COACHING ADJUSTMENTS!"). I can have all of the coaching ability in the world, but if my charges can't execute those adjustments for reasons of talent, experience or simple ignorance, it's going to take some time to figure out what we can do in response.
Or maybe our coaches are TERRIBLE and WE'RE TEXAS and they're squandering all of that elite talent on offense. Is that more plausible? I bet the truth is somewhere in the fat part of the bell curve.
24 of 33 for 302 and 2 touchdowns is a good night at the office and if Swoopes had floundered against a bad OSU defense, it would have been cause for concern. While his beautiful 45 yard scoring strike to Armanti Foreman will get the press, that pass was easy money set up by a series of 5-15 yard check downs at the end of a 91 yard drive where Swoopes threw repeatedly to the 2nd or 3rd option instead of sailing a predetermined deep ball down the sideline or exploiting the simple one read routes he's mastered.
If that holds, it's duplicable. Against real opponents. Can we play the KSU game again? Because he's going to shake his head at some of the easy yards he left out there.
Brown ran hard, but didn't create much when there wasn't a hole through which he could truck a DB. 3.9 yards per carry on the season. Gray had another game where he showed real glimpses of the player he was becoming as a sophomore. 116 yards receiving and rushing and his 3 catches for 10+ a pop is a huge asset for our offense against a Horned Frog D that necessitates manufactured first downs.
De La Torre as a lead blocker is giving us good limited snaps.
John Harris, offensive MVP, had another 100 yard game. If you had Harris as the best player on our offense back in August, we need you on our coaching staff. Foreman flashed a level of functional speed we haven't had here in a while. He can take the top off of coverage and once he learns the trade, he's going to be very good. Really bummed about Shipley.
I'll miss Swaim as much as any Longhorn role player ever. So physical and just a solid guy. Thanks for the parting gift, Harsin!
They've really carved out a solid niche running power inside early and are at their best blocking down, pulling and using angles to advantage. When we try to use more advanced concepts like outside zone to counterpunch OSU's interior squeeze and slants, it's....really hard to watch. Those free guys sprinting through on the edge hitting our backs in the backfield weren't teleporting in like Nightcrawler. Pass protection was actually really good when it wasn't really bad (we surrendered three sacks). We don't mess with Mr In-Between. Sedrick Flowers had a five play series in the 3rd quarter that made my dog run out of the room.
Interesting that our center exchange issues have gone away and our play clock issues are now of the normal college offense variety.
Everyone has been looking for a single defining turning point in this program. There isn't one. It's a series of switchbacks. You clamber up one only to see another one stretched in front of you. With no end in sight. TCU is a steep switchback that leads to a nice vista. From there, we can see where came from and the arduous road that got us there.
We may even be able to see glimpses, just small ribbons, of the road ahead. I want that view.