There's something deeply satisfying about watching your team run the ball on a defense. It's the ultimate imposition of will.
This attitude likely speaks to my troglodytic Generation X upbringing where a healthy childhood was measured largely in truancy, misdemeanors, purposeless bomb making, attacking friends with BB guns, hurling shuriken at human chalk outlines on fences, boxing/wrestling tournaments in the garage where someone inevitably got their head put through the drywall, doing commando rolls off of roofs until someone broke their collarbone and shooting kids from the street over with Roman candles. Anti-bullying campaigns weren't really a thing yet and my smart mouth guaranteed that anytime I encountered older kids with some attitude, there was a 20% chance I'd be chased, robbed, or dangled upside down off of some stairs. This built character and formed attitudes that make me marvel at modern social media memes as if I were Sly Stallone thawed out from deep freeze in Demolition Man.
I played high school football when primitive spreads were just starting to peek out their heads and we used to puzzle every year when powerhouse Austin Westlake would line up their best WR at TE - guaranteeing OLB coverage, because we were primitive idiots - have him run a go route with our 4.9 40 'backer huffing ten yards behind and scalpel us for a 80 yard one play touchdown. It felt unfair. STOP TRICKING US YOU INCREDIBLY WELL-COACHED INTELLIGENT RICH KIDS. RUN THE BALL 60 TIMES OFF TACKLE LIKE A REAL FOOTBALL TEAM.
Well, Texas ran the ball 58 times against the Sooners. For 313 yards. 5.4 yards per carry, including sack yardage. Featuring four plays, more or less. There were no tricks up our sleeves. Texas just dangled OU's defense off of the stairs until they apologized for being Sooners. Then we threw their bikes in a tree. Bullying the weak is cowardly and inexcusable, but bullying bullies is tremendous fun.
Jerrod Heard gave a gritty performance, rushing 21 times for 115 yards, largely off of scrambles and our inside lead play. Heard took some hard shots, got the wind knocked out of him pretty badly and kept coming back for more. We like to imagine these players are indestructible Xs on a chalkboard, but Heard is an immature 195 pound kid and we're using him like he's John Riggins. Tough dude. We were 9 of 16 on 3rd down conversions and Heard was a big reason why. He made at least three poor decisions with the ball in the second half, but these are teachable moments and to be expected from an inexperienced QB. I suspect a quick review of the grounding rules and game context will be a part of his bye week. We'd also prefer he take sacks than throw up crazy balls. Heard only threw 11 times for a paltry 53 yards, but he continues to take pretty good care of the ball despite Doyle's penchant for high velocity moon snaps.
Tyrone Swoopes provided nice spark in the Tyroneasuarus package, nearly went from hero to goat with an end zone fumble and executed a clutch pop pass to Caleb that everyone in the stadium knew was coming except for Mike Stoops - who brought his third consecutive shitty game plan into Dallas - he's now battling Classic Greg Davis for the most useless Rivalry coordinator title. Long live nepotism. I want the Tyronesaurus package expanded - not in a QB controversy kind of way - but in a Bryan Harsin let's manufacture points and yardage while sparing Heard some hits kind of way. Anyone else feel me on this or am I just spouting nonsense? Proud of Tyrone that he can still be a vital part of this team.
The OL set the table and our RBs gorged on some easy dining. D'onta Foreman ripped OU for a back-breaking 81 yard run on our sweet little counter draw and that contributed the lion's share of his 117 yards on 9 carries. It's worth noting that his other 8 carries averaged 4.5 per pop. We can work with that. That run was an example of a great play call, fantastic blocking, a massive hole and a guaranteed long gain for any 2A Texas high school running back, but what made it a 81 yard gain was Foreman's ability to cross over the OU safety in the open field and then accelerate before he realized he was carrying 240+ pounds and Mean Ol Mr Gravity jumped on his back. He's our best runner and the only thing keeping him out of a feature role is Gray's stabilizing influence, blocking and, I suspect, overall conditioning.
Gray's 22 carries yielded 76 yards and a long run of 15. He didn't provide much value add and the film review dampened any in-game delusions I had. Basically, the OL played really well. Eliminate his long run and he averaged 2.9 per pop. Contrast with Foreman. I've said my piece on Gray and I'm not going to belabor it.
Lorenzo Joe only caught one ball, but he was johnny-on-the-spot for an end zone fumble recovery, blocked gamely and generally showed a degree of hustle and investment that will make him difficult to bench. If we're seeking to cultivate a physical identity, yo Joe.
Marcus Johnson provided the play of the game, scoring on a 24 yard post-catch run that eluded half of the Sooner defense on the sideline and was a testament to both his tough mindedness and the Sooner DBs lack of aggression. A strong back half of the season would be welcomed from this veteran and give him a nice shot of drawing a NFL look.
Burt is a bit Alvin Harperesque at this stage of his career - he's either going to catch a deep ball or be fairly silent - but I think future game plans hold good things for him.
Caleb Bluiett came to Dallas wanting to get into a fight, was an asset on the edge in the running game, caught a key gimme touchdown and generally set the proper tone for the contest. De La Torre and Beck both had some moments in the running game lead blocking. That's what we need.
I should have led with this crew, because they were the story of the game. First: a big hat tip to Joe Wickline, who the hoopleheads have actually had the temerity to criticize. Wickline may not be the most sweet-tongued of recruiters and his Darwinian approach may not always be pleasant, but any doubts that he maximizes what he's given should be met with an eye roll and swift social ostracism.
Connor Williams is the best OL on the team by a wide margin. I'm in awe, frankly - particularly given that he's going to get so much better. His athleticism and aggression are just tremendous. Patrick Vahe had an excellent game mauling and on the pull. He has a knack for getting leverage on down blocks and taking much older players for a ride. These two are foundational players, eternal perma-starters, seeing them leave one day will be like realizing Justin Blalock or Dan Neill isn't on the team anymore. Doyle needs to take some juice off of his shotgun snaps, but he did nice job of controlling ground inside, largely because OU's DT presence is sorely lacking. Flowers got beat a couple of times inside in pass protection but his game was largely otherwise clean. Hutchins did OK and running the ball 58 times was a big part of the reason why. OU's defense is predicated largely on inflicting negative plays (read: Eric Striker) and when you grind on them, their lack of talent and, in my opinion, poor preparation becomes fairly evident.
I've been unimpressed with Mike Stoops since the reboot and my opinion has not changed. If his name was Bob Smith, his personal effects would be in a cardboard box.
Texas continues to develop an offensive identity, but our ceiling is limited by inexperience in all units, a lack of talent in some key areas and the need for more reps. The back half of the season will offer kinder defenses, but some of them like Kansas State will overplay our tendencies and dare us to dribble left-handed. The best thing Texas can do during the bye is consolidate gains in the running game, find some way to shore up pass protection gaffes inside so Heard can play action deep effectively and get a healthy Kent Perkins back in the mix.