This was going to be a ground game gut check from the word go, though the extent to which Texas was totally unwilling to attempt a pass unless absolutely forced to alllllmost got us to the point where we were going to be absolutely forced to. Fortunately we turned the conservatism dial from David Duke to Margaret Thatcher in time to get a little breathing room, but this game was basically about one question - could Texas impose its will on a legitimate opponent for the second straight game?
The answer turned out to be...sorta?
It looked like the answer was going to be an unqualified YES! early on. As is true in most slopfests, the big gainers tend to be more about individual effort and one-on-one wins in the open field than a sweet symphony from the guys up front. Jon Gray's 46-yarder was as well blocked a play as we've managed all year, but our successful plays were driven by ball carriers outrunning, out muscling, out quicking and - in the end - outweighing tacklers. Or getting dropped for one of what felt like 15 different drive-boning negative plays.
Gray broke a hundy for the first time in...I'll look it up when not posting from my phone, but surely in a good while, yes? He ran with plenty of purpose, a modicum of actual power and two or three hints of wiggle. Hats off to a senior gutting up and carrying a lot of the mail in a had-to-have-it win. D'Onta Foreman once again broke out his Butch Hadnot impersonation, but couldn't break a big one and had his average dinged by a couple of those blown up in the backfield botches. It was nice to see a healthy Chris Warren get a couple of quality touches - not sure if it will be enough to keep dipshits from 3rd-rate websites and 2nd-rate sports pages from running with transfer rumors this week, but here's hoping.
A wet Daje is tough to tackle, as it turns out - not impossible when you go to the well one..or three...or six too many times and run him to the short side, but tough. While those jet sweeps counted for the bulk of Texas' "passing" yardage, it made plenty of sense to get #4 in the mix today without asking him to, you know, catch the ball.
Catches were few and far between on a day that started out drizzly and swiftly progressed to downright gross. Jerrod Heard made plenty of mischief with his legs, particularly early on - we certainly weren't overly concerned with racking up hits on him on some designed stuff, and he called his own number to good effect on a number of (probably) pass plays to boot. Ducking a totally unblocked Jordan Willis to convert 3rd and 8 and tee up the first Tyroneasaurus TD was huge in a game of First Team to 21 Wins.
21 looked like it might stay out of reach as the most frustrating quarter-and-a-half of football I can remember began with a failed fourth down attempt in the 2nd. From there it became a punt-a-thon as negative play after negative play born of blown blocks, horrid short side sweep calls, bad holds and Heard's continued confusion on the legality of throwing the damn ball away looked like they would allow Snyder to inflict the biggest gut punch of this entire misbegotten series. Fortunately, something even more ancient and potent than the Purple Wizard was on hand to pull the Longhorns' fourth quarter fat from the fire.
Enter the Tyroneasaurus.
Scipio's anguished pleas for a regular down, regular distance, between-the-20's look at what Swoopes' power looks could do to a defense were finally answered. We pulled a Jurassic World and evolved the thing a little bit, spreading receivers out to create some space, but it was the same old power and punishment we've come to love from the former most vilified dude in a Longhorn uni.
Nice work, Tyrone.
The from the stands view on the OL was good blocking early, bad blocking late with culprits aplenty, and the receivers get one gold star for John Burt and a wait-til-sunshine for everybody else. Lunch Pail All Star Caleb Blueitt came through with a huge sideline grab, ADLT made some adults-only lead blocks and Andrew Beck had a few nice kickouts alongside a kick-himself drop (though the throw was 33/33/33 on Swoopes, Beck and the Weather Wizard.)
2014 Jason Hall put in an appearance on the first snap and Quandre'd Hubener, making folks in our section think we could be in for a laugher. J-Hube was a gamer, though, and came back in to lead a sort of effective and tremendously frustrating KSU offense for most of the afternoon.
Not sure why I channeled 2007 Linda Cohn with "J-Hube" there, but I can't be arsed to edit it.
We knew coming in that the Wildcats had a solid OL and well-designed ground game, and Snyder obviously wasn't convinced that one game against OU signaled a renaissance in fundamental linebacking for Texas. A lot of the game looked more like the Dark Ages against Cal and Rice, with the DL getting stuck to blocks and the backers chasing ghosts. Peter Jinkens certainly had the best game and came up with a few solid stops, but he drifted away from the action a few times too many. The youngsters had their share of botches, and it was a reminder that Malik is still much more of a havoc machine on the edge than he is a reliable run plugger. I want to re-watch the game to get a better sense of who blew what in the front seven, but I've already decided to just fast forward through the Tim Cole plays.
It's hard to get mad at the secondary just by looking at the stat sheet, but once you get the feeling that a QB shouldn't complete ANYTHING on you it's annoying to see free candy handed out on slot slant routes and positively infuriating to see guys run free on simple rub plays. Bedford's bunch is still a work in progress, and they'll need a lot more of the pass rush support they enjoyed against OU if they're going to keep Tech - and Iowa State, for that matter - from turning up the heat in a real hurry.
For all the times that my buddies and I have pined for Texas to slip a bye-week Jamaal Charles or walk-on QB Vance Young into the action, we were horrified to realize that Texas had literally inserted Blake Gideon into the game wearing #14. Haines' dropped INT was a 10-point swing at a brutal moment, but at least he got to redeem himself on Hubener's fourth-quarter arm punt to ice the game. My unofficial scoring had him at 1 for 3 on absolutely gift-wrapped INTs - I'll defer to Willie Waylon McClyde on whether batting .333 in that department should warrant All Star consideration.
There were good moments among the frustration - the outside coverage was largely excellent, Duke Thomas made a terrific play to shed a block and shut down a perfectly timed tunnel screen, and guys like Bryce Cottrell and Derrick Roberson showed some late-game pass rush that had been sorely lacking through much of the day. It seemed like Bedford was a step behind for a lot of the contest - we won't have that kind of luxury going forward.
We finally got one over on the Wizard with a pooch kick that the KSU up-men were totally unready to play in the rain, giving Vaccaro Pequeno his second big moment down by the South end zone. Of course we squandered that scoring chance to kick off our Quarter And a Half of Woe, but still.
A high snap from Kyle Ashby on an extra point echoed through the whole first half, particularly if it's what scared the coaches off from trying the FG that could have made it 19-0...rather than kicking off the Quarter And a Half of Woe. Is there a spare Loeffler sibling laying around somewhere?
Michael Dickson. Just when I thought you couldn't possibly be ANY WORSE at punting, you go and do THAT...and TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF!
THE BOTTOM LINE
Would anybody have raised their hand before kickoff and said, "I'm not willing to take a 2-TD win over the Wizard in a deluge?" For all its warts and wonky moments, the Longhorns finally put this ugly game to bed and avoided giving back so much of what they earned against OU. That doesn't mean you don't measure yourself against a good standard of play - and Texas undoubtedly came up short on that stick in a number of areas - but teams like K-State and ugly weather have felled far more complete squads than what we've got on hand.
It's more a sigh of relief than a shout of exhultation, but some days that works just fine. On to Iowa State, and it's time to get back to .500.