That was a brutal loss. I'm disappointed for the team. They played hard, but too many critical errors in key moments gave UCLA the opportunity to pull it out late. Texas played with fire against a talented UCLA team that hadn't quite put it together this season and when UCLA QB Brett Hundley went out with an injured elbow, the Longhorns seemed to have a ripe opportunity for an upset.
Up 10-3, I think a lot of Texas fans felt good about the second half. That didn't hold for long.
Feel Good About
Tyrone Swoopes. The young QB didn't rock the stat column (24 of 34 for 196), but he showed the ability to spin the ball with serious velocity - throwing accurate strikes on play action, on half rolls and under constant duress from the pocket against a withering UCLA pass rush. Swoopes showed composure, heart, led Texas on a late 4th quarter drive that should have won the game and demonstrated a lot that he can build on for the future. I'm extremely proud of #18.
If we can begin to define him as a pocket passer with some mobility and game plan accordingly, we may have us a QB. He definitely has "Arm Talent" - if you'll forgive the scout-talk babble.
Shawn Watson/Joe Wickline. It's very strange to offer plaudits to an offense that scored only 17 points and gained 322 yards, but Watson called a good game, put Swoopes in a position to succeed by formation, play call and tendency and allowed him to gain confidence and introduced some diversity into the running game to help out a struggling OL. I certainly saw Wickline's fingerprints all over the run/pass slow play action slant route that Swoopes threw like an experienced veteran. Our coaches had no margin for error with our OL and almost all Texas drives were halted by poor player execution, player error or penalty - not bad calls or pointless plays. That's all I can ask from a coach. Watson did his job - at least in my estimation. The HUNH needs to continue.
The Texas RBs. Malcolm Brown made himself hard to tackle at times and maximized some runs and Gray provided a little spark in the second half. The two runners combined for 118 yards on 21 carries. It would have been nice to be more stubborn in the running game, but the game didn't really unfold in a way to allow it - too many negative down and distance situations.
Malcom Brown. NFL 1st rounder. That's what it looks like.
Jason Hall. He's physical, brings the wood and once he grows up, he'll be a secondary mainstay. Stay off the kicker, Jason.
Ups and Downs
Losing the ball in both halves because our game captain didn't understand how coin tosses work is...incredible. Blame the player for not professing his ignorance or game nerves, but that's ultimately on the coaches - you can't assume anything with a new team...
Least of all football IQ.
Before giving up the game-winning score on a double move, Duke Thomas played a good game. UCLA made a great call. But...man. You can't peek.
Jordan Hicks had a number of tackles and key stops, but also nearly single-handedly surrendered a 58 yard run that led to a UCLA score on a blown tackle and had a 4th down pass interference call. Really summarized the night for Texas - hero and goat on wild swings.
Steve Edmond struggled against the run and guessed wrong throughout the game (particularly when Hundley was in and they really spread us out), but stripped Paul Perkins to cause a fumble. You can't do that if you'd quit competing.
John Harris made a number of big plays on 3rd and 4th down, but had two drops - one of them on the final drive that would have put the Longhorns in 2nd and 3 and kept us well ahead of the chains with plenty of time on the clock. Who knows what might have happened then?
The OL played hard and managed to create real holes in the running game, but their pass blocking was a struggle. UCLA got pressure on Swoopes at will. Kent Perkins gave up a sack, a holding call and several QB hits and UCLA repeatedly got pressure inside. Still - I never had a doubt our guys were playing their hardest. I thought Marcus Hutchins competed hard.
I'm a little frustrated with the D as a whole. Vance Bedford's D never gave up anything downfield (well, except - you know), but UCLA repeatedly moved the chains and dominated the second half with a simple ball control offense that threw wide and ran inside. Whenever we had a three man DL and a light box (or went LB heavy - which is the same for us), UCLA ran inside at 3-8 yards per clip, Whenever we brought blitzers, stunted to disrupt, or played a four man front, they threw easy outside for a lot of 4-10 yard gains. It was death by a thousand cuts and a #2 QB pressed into game action with no running ability should have been challenged to make more diverse throws. You can't just give up the easy stuff all game and let a team move up and down the field. This is the second straight team that has spread us out to run inside and did so quite well despite the presence of Malcom Brown and at least one DE who can defend the run at a high level. We need to find a solution because that's not going away in conference play.
Texas special teams were a frustrating mixed bag and ultimately decided the game in UCLA's favor. Jason Hall ran into the kicker twice and we blew the punt coverage that set up the final UCLA score. However, we covered kicks well otherwise and Russ boomed several punts - unfortunately the last one was a little too much line drive and not quite enough hang time and our gunners didn't get it done outside.
Football is a cruel sport. This loss hurt.