I called in to chat with Kevin Dunn and Chad Hastings during the 104.9 The Horn radio postgame. Given my prime 11:15 PM CST time slot, it's clear they have big plans for me and are shrewdly using my D list internet celebrity to go after the Art Bell audience of insomniacs and meth truckers that comprise the Barking Carnival readership.
At the beginning of the interview, Chad asked me what advice I had to offer Texas
offensive coordinator offensive czar Shaun Watson.
I replied,"I'd advise him to rent."
163 yards of total offense more than doubles the Longhorn output against Arkansas in the bowl game and had Nick Rose hit his third 54 yard field goal attempt after Brian Kelly's fiendish icing attempts, we would have had six points, not three. 38-6. That's not so bad, is it? 38-3 sounds terrible. But 38-6 sounds like a real battle.
Notre Dame's defense had something to do with our general ineptitude. They now have a ton of experience running a zone based blitz system, they have better athleticism than they get credit for and their cornerback play is much improved. They'll reveal some issues covering on the back end later in the season, but these guys are vastly improved.
We warned that Notre Dame would be the worst match-up on our schedule. I predicted a 31-13ish type loss and frankly thought anyone holding out hope for a different result was delusional. You don't start five freshmen because your team is good at football. That's not how it works. It's a sign of a gutted program. Yet, this was even worse than anticipated.
We lost by five touchdowns only because Notre Dame had scrubs on the field with 10 minutes left. This was both condescending and appreciated.
Our sped up offensive pace is laudable, but we lack an identity or any single competency on which to hang our hat. Are we good at anything? What defines the Texas offense? We make the most simple acts of offense look like a slog up K-2. Why does everything look so hard? There's a complete lack of slickness and coordination to everything we do. Throws are slow, geometry is bad, the calls don't really seem to build off of a logical base. The end result of the new offense against the Irish was faster three and outs. We had eight of those. Some of our good calls weren't executed particularly well and plenty of random calls met with a Magic 8 ball reading of results where the only possibilities were Sacked Again, Incompletion and Seriously?
We also have bad OL and QB play. That tends to impact an offense. This is where various blowhards will comment that Team X scores 40 a game with an OL of Filipinos and a QB recruited from a United Way fundraiser, but I'm not as smart as they are and I truly have trouble sussing out the percentages of causality. What's on Watson? What's on Swoopes? What's on the OL? What's on talent level? What's on our S&C regimen and overall offensive teaching? Do we have any player leadership at all? We have a reciprocal cycle of suck, where each tendril of inadequacy feeds and somehow magnifies its other component parts. Whatever the opposite of synergy is, that's Texas.
We are Un-synergy.
Swoopes was 7 of 22 for 93 yards. The truth is, we were already down 17-0 before he even had a chance to play particularly badly. When he appropriately turfed a third down screen call that ND had covered, the reaction on the open thread was a reminder that I really hate when we're terrible because it empowers bad football opinions. Swoopes was constantly pressured, looked blankly at the same sparse read options and rarely had a chance to do much of anything. The few times he did get a window, the only thing he executed were our hopes. Swoopes is capable of playing better if he gets protection, but this was an all too familiar game from him against any defense with a pulse.
Shrugs. I guess we're not running them yet? Gray broke a tackle and had some moments of effectiveness. 8 carries for 40 yards. Resting him for Rice is a shrewd move. Obviously, game context prevents the running game once we're down 24-0 and when we had some early three and outs, but Texas wasn't exactly stubborn or particularly varied in trying to make hay here.
If we're looking for an identity, I'd encourage Watson to give it a shot.
I wasn't able to do the postgame deep dive I prefer, but I reviewed a few plays and I'm pleased to announce that the two true freshmen had their struggles, but the upperclassmen joined them in equal sympathy and had several bad moments of their own. Our TEs couldn't block a revolving door right now. The OL got beat individually, they got beat as a unit and they gave our offense little chance to succeed. If you allow interior pressure, you cannot have a passing game. It's that simple.
It's shocking to watch a player like Sedrick Flowers be more or less the same player now as he was three years ago. I suppose that's the reason two freshmen are starting. There are several Longhorn OL who have shared that career arc and it has been going on for some time now.
If you're looking for a bright spot, it's this: when we spread out and run inside zone off of the zone read, we're borderline effective. Unfortunately, these spread formations put an onus on OL play and QB recognition to prevent defensive pressure when you play action. And that onus tends to own us.
Beck caught a ten yarder thus doubling TE output at the position over the last half decade. We don't have anyone who can set the edge and our H-backs aren't threats in the passing game.
Daje Johnson was a bright spot. Reliable hands, some YAC, no moping or pouting. Armanti Foreman ran backwards. Marcus Johnson was injured. John Burt made an athletic 48 yard catch on a Swoopes heave and should've drawn a pass interference penalty on another play. I can't speak to their reads in the passing game or how much they bailed out Swoopes when he was pressured, but I'd also wager our offense isn't exactly full of option routes.
A bad offense played a pretty good defense. The defense completely dominated. When Texas plays bad defenses, we'll probably pronounce ourselves improved and attribute it to better play calling, a new quarterback, whatever. I won't. Until we show progress, poise, creativity and execution against a legitimate collection of athletes, our offensive achilles heel will continue to come with a magnet and a bullseye begging for slings and arrows.