OK, folks, my appetite for writing a detailed blow-by-blow right this minute is probably about the same as your appetite for reading one, so we'll keep this short and to the point.
At halftime I had a pretty good instinct that the offense wasn't going to be able to pull this out, but I was all primed for a lede of "rarely have I felt so good about a loss."
Then, the third quarter happened...
The story on this side of the ball should rightfully be Tyrone Swoopes' better-than-advertised accuracy and ability to hit precise throws on the run. Those are the attributes that a QB needs to make the current version of the Watson offense click, and Swoopes really opened some eyes in the first half with good pocket presence, pinpoint tosses and some throws on the run that I didn't figure we'd see from him until his junior season, if ever.
Unfortunately, that story got buried - along with the rest of the team - by the dire performance of the Longhorn OL. The Universe basically pulled a Mortal Kombat combo on us with the loss of Espinosa, Harrison and Estelle in a six-day span, and there was no reasonable expectation of even marginal play from Episode One of the Hutchins-Flowers-Raulerson-Doyle-Perkins Show. But they managed to come in well underneath modest expectations, and absolutely gutted the offense. BYU has a solid front seven, but there's simply no silver lining in the utter futility of the run game and some of the outright gaffes in pass protection that this bunch trotted out. Several positions on the OL are, in the parlace of Bill Parcells, absolutely holding us hostage right now, and it's hard to imagine any quick fixes in the offing. It's going to be a slow, painful slog towards basic competence with this bunch.
The good news aside from Swoopes was that John Harris' Gaskamp campaign continued to pick up steam. Considering that bowl eligibility is the new baseline goal for the 2014 squad it would be easier to get jazzed about an emerging freshman than an emerging senior, but right now we're kinda taking what we can get.
The backs had no room whatsoever, but if Malcolm Brown broke a tackle tonight then I missed it. On an offense where the chicken shit to chicken salad ratio is well out of whack, we've got to get more hard yards than we saw from the position tonight.
And oh, yeah - hang on to the goddamned ball, guys.
There's likely to be a hearty "we quit/no we just suck/no the offense just cut out throats" debate on the Longhorn interwebs this week. Let's preview the case for each:
We Quit - Even with a raft of extenuating circumstances, those four straight TD drives in the third quarter don't happen to a D that's getting max effort out of all eleven guys. 13-0 was obviously disheartening given what the offense was up to, and at 20-0 some wind went out of dudes' sails. There was a revival in the 4th and plenty of guys turned in plays to be proud of down the stretch, but there should be some tough moments in the film room this week from a pure effort standpoint. A special shout-out to Steve Edmond for a loaf that Mrs. Baird would be proud of on Hill's longest TD run - we expect him to fuck up his flow and show iffy instincts, but it doesn't take much to just pursue the guy with an ounce of damned effort while the play is still in doubt.
We Just Suck - There were too many big moments and big plays from the defense to get too down on our overall talent and potential, but it's clear right now that we are wildly DL-dependent. When Brown, Tank and Reed were whipping their men, they were either making the tackle themselves or freeing up guys like Hicks to fly in untouched and look like superheroes. But all it took was a slip from the DL - a substitution here, an inability to get off a block there - and the linebackers were putting on a Manny Diaz redux. Edmond again looked simply incompetent on a dozen plays, but there was a global lack of guys getting dowhill quickly and taking on blockers with the proper shoulder and at the proper depth to prevent free runs into the secondary. And speaking of those free runs, while Adrian Colbert had a few nice cleanup moments there were plenty of whiffs from the safeties that just can't happen. Obviously, any safety is vulnerable to looking like an asshole when a runner has 10 yards of empty space and a two-way go. But grabbing a handful of jersey and slowing a guy down beats the hell out of the array of willfully bad angles, closed-eyed dives at guys' shoes and simple jock-drop jukings that we saw tonight.
The Offense Cut Our Throats - If we're doing percentages here, I'm putting at least 60% on this one. For all their image as a team of white-boy plodders, BYU runs their offense at an absolutely vicious pace (they led the entire NCAA in plays run in 2013, and they won't be too far off the lead this season.) Even high-caliber defenses run the risk of being simply worn down by their pace, size and built-in tackle breaking ability if their own offense slips up. And our offense was slipping up like gymnast attempting a floor routine on a mat covered in banana peels and Astroglide. There was a tremendous correlation between the offense's ability to run six or seven consecutive plays and the defense's ability to whoop ass - when Swoopes was putting on his accurate first-half passing display, the D looked pretty damned salty. When the three and outs and turnovers piled up, the DL couldn't bring hell on every play and then all hell broke loose in the back seven.
A fumbled return, shoddy blocking and a missed kick. The worst unit of the night from the standpoint of simple, inexcusable failures, and that's saying something.
On to UCLA, who will attempt to do many of the same things to us with a much more highly-regarded array of athletes. If you want to see them attempt it in person, tickets shouldn't be terribly hard to come by. Just make sure to stick it to Jerry and sneak in a flask. There are actually several reasons to do this.
It's always darkest before the dawn, and the hope right now is that it's 5:45 AM rather than 10 after midnight. Things may not get worse before they get better, but with our OL in its absolute infancy as a unit things might not get good for a while.
Hang tough, Horns.