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Texas-West Virginia Football Post-Mortem: Offense/Special Teams

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Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

I wasn't optimistic about this game and recorded it to watch on delay since I was fairly certain we'd live up to our road rep and wanted to be able to fast forward through the commercials, minimize the moment-by-moment agony of a loss and skip as many of play-by-play man Anish Schroff's skin-crawling smacking sounds as humanly possible.

Unsuccessful on all counts.  The loss stunk even without commercials and I was still ear molested.

What a disappointing game.  The Longhorns handed it away - poor situational defense, five turnovers on offense and special teams and key penalties that took points directly off of the board or stalled out likely scoring drives deep in Mountaineer territory.  Those five turnovers created 24 easy points for West Virginia and several strong individual and unit performances were marred by crucial mistakes - often by the very same players who were making big plays a possession later.

This team seems to have an affinity for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Offense

I had no problem with the run-heavy game plan.  Texas consistently dominated the line of scrimmage at the point of attack, were 9 of 16 on 3rd down until blowing their last two attempts of the game (bringing the offense down to a still good 50%) and Heard was fairly effective throwing the ball until his last few possessions.  The Horns amassed 439 yards on 73 plays and hit some big plays (65, 37, 36, 30, 22) to complement the steady run game grind.  Absent the turnovers and key penalties, the offense had a winning performance.  Absent balls, your uncle would be your aunt. The final score still holds.  Turn it over five times, you deserve the L.

Our problem was largely rooted in bad outcomes, not necessarily bad play calls or tactical preparation.  This wasn't Iowa State.  Foreman's fumbled exchange handed WVU a free 7, Heard under threw an interception that should have been six points for Armanti Foreman, Heard ended our last meaningful drive with a picked slant and a Connor Williams' hold (that was really almost irrelevant to the play) erased a Jerrod Heard touchdown run. There were many more bad plays that contributed to big swings in likely outcome....listing them all is too depressing.

The Texas offense should have had 31-35 points minimum and managed only 20 while consistently handing West Virginia short fields, free touchdowns and multiple get-out-of-jail-free cards.

QB

Heard threw the ball fairly well for most of the game (18-11-162-1-2), hitting Burt, Johnson and Caleb on seam routes for three completions over 30 yards, converted several short and intermediate passes on third down, but was mostly bottled up in the running game by West Virginia's game plan of alternating pressure and 3 man zone heavy rushes. #13 looked like he missed a couple of open receivers early (throwing one ball to a triple covered TE instead of an open Marcus Johnson), but his play was largely acceptable until game flow dictated Texas having to throw on predictable downs.  Heard threw two picks (one on him that cost the Horns and easy 6, the other partially on him but also a great play by the Mountaineer LB) and got sacked on some key downs where he either didn't account for the extra man or his back completely ignored or blew the block on a blitzing backer.

Tyrone had a productive "normal" series that stalled out in Mountaineer territory and a fumble that cost the Texas offense points, as most of the Longhorn miscues seemed to do.  His work in the 18 Wheeler was otherwise productive.

The QBs turned it over 3 times.  Can't win like that when you're not very good.

RB

D'onta Foreman continued his string of highly productive appearances, tallying 147 yards on 18 carries.  His explosive 65 yard run was most notable for his ability to outrun the Mountaineer secondary, but that thing was also blocked to pop wide open.  Foreman excels when he can get squared, avoid having to make hard cuts and has excellent top end speed for a man of his size, but navigating cutback lanes isn't a strength.  I'd also prefer he not seek the sideline when he's got some space outside.  Despite gaudy stats (subtract out his big run and he was still almost at 5 yards a pop) and some impressive power runs, his game was a bit of a mixed bag.  He gifted WVU 7 points on a bad fumble exchange with Heard, had to take himself out for conditioning reasons a couple of times and he's an unwilling blocker. On the props side, he bent his finger into the shape of a crazy straw, taped it up, and tried to play through it.

I wasn't impressed with what I saw from Warren.

Gray ran solidly (14-56) and largely for what the play was blocked for but he injured himself late and that hurt the offense when we needed a willing blocker on passing downs.  The pressure sack that WVU LB Nick K got on Heard late that put Texas into 4th down came on a free blitz where a Texas RB dived halfheartedly at the LB's feet as he sprinted by.

OL

Wow.  For most of the game, this unit was very good, sometimes sporadically dominant.  One of the best performances of the season in terms of physicality, cohesiveness and finishing blocks. However, they were called for four holding penalties (Connor Williams' first erased 7 points from the board, two others ended drives) that had a significant game impact. Williams had two holds, but was otherwise dominant, showing great feet and drive on his run blocks that consistently caved the WVU DL to free Longhorn runners.  So I'm not even sure how you grade him - he played at an A level except for a couple of mistakes.  Perkins had a tough offside that pushed the offense from 3rd and 1 to 3rd and 6 as well as a hold of his own, but, like Williams, he kicked ass for large portions of the game.  Taylor Doyle had a puzzling muffed snap where he snapped it into his thigh without prompting from Heard.  He had a nose on him and I think he overly concerned with getting a good jump.  He and Flowers didn't give up any A gap pressure.

I saw a lot of effort and growth from this unit, but the holds were a black mark on an otherwise fine day.  Frankly, if the skill players hadn't turned it over, the Texas O could have lived with the holds and still would have taken -14 off WVU's score and added +17 to Texas.  The OL largely got it done.

WR/TE

Armanti had a drop.  Daje grabbed 4-76 and a touchdown and Burt was only able to get loose once running outside from a bunch formation for 37 yards.  I thought Burt in particular blocked well.  Caleb caught a nice ball on a seam route, blocked pretty well, but was also caught for a hold when he hooked a free Mountaineer blitzer on a 3rd down run.

Special Teams

Daje continues to field punts inside the 10.  Why?  Is he coached?  What's difficult about this?  We got nothing from Longhorn return teams all day and Kris Boyd's loaf-of-bread kickoff return strip fumble provided WVU with an easy touchdown and the final nail in the coffin to seal the corpse of our performance.

Final

Texas moved up and down the field on WVU (drives of 46, 35, 53, and 57 yards were ended by turnover or field goal after penalty), but was betrayed by key penalties and terrible turnovers that didn't just change possession but took points off of the board or added points to the board in almost every instance.  There are relatively harmless "hey-that's-like-a-punt" turnovers and Texas had exactly none of those.  Every turnover was a killer.

No team wins with five turnovers on the road.  Much less a deeply flawed team that hasn't played with much composure in hostile environments.

On to Texas Tech, where Charlie's Strong hot seat will contrast with the empty cool seats at DKR.