One of the nation’s most punishing run games all but grinds to a halt in the face of terrible 2* star defensive lineman. A defense that’s featured fast-flying four-star DBs and outright ineptitude starts its slowest guys and suddenly has all 11 men playing the same defense for four quarters.
And Texas covered a spread.
Either it's opposite day or we got ahold of one of those weird types of Kryptonite, but either way - the Bizarro Texas Longhorns showed up at DKR tonight.
And not a moment too soon.
There's shooting yourself in the foot, there's a shooting until the clip is empty and then reloading, and then there's somehow getting the minigun to point straight down and firing off 5000 rounds like Jesse Ventura in Predator. Texas seemed bound and determined to roll with option number three in the first half, stopping drives and spiking blood pressures across Longhorn Nation.
Jake Oliver put the Opie in OPI to kill one drive, and Jacoby Warrick made it an equal-opportunity affair with one of his own to snuff a subsequent possession. D’Onta Foreman got into the act - which was starting resemble The Aristocrats by that point - with his second fumble in two games to set Iowa State up for their first field goal. We also mixed in an out of bounds fade toss by Shane Buechele, multiple bubble screens thrown into press coverage as we harkened back to Davisian dumbass Siri*, another poor throw by Buechele on a wide ass open fake bubble that should have been zipped or thrown to the back pylon, and what looked like a Baker's dozen of badly blown blocks in the run game.
We also got a little ‘help’ from what could charitably be described as a struggling crew of officials as we saw the first and only illegal man downfield penalty that will be called in the Big 12 this entire season that didn't involve a QB scramble, but by and large it looked like the Longhorns’ self-inflicted wounds were on their way to inflicting a potentially humiliating defeat.
Then the second half rolled around, and things started to click.
Boo came out sharp in the second half, working multiple slant flat combinations to Dorian Leonard and Jake Oliver before hitting our Monty Foreman** for a catch and run that would have taken Texas inside the 3 yard line had offsetting face mask penalties not inexplicably moved the ball back to the 35 rather than making it first and goal from the spot of both fouls. Fortunately, old school playground ‘cheaters prove’ rules were in effect as Buechele promptly bombed a fade to a wide open Jerrod Heard to start breaking things open.
Once the Cyclone D broke, it started breaking bad in a way that only a defense from a mmeth-heavy state can. Devin Duvernay put to rest any concerns about his track speed translating to football with a rocket-assisted sideline score that looked pretty damn close to a 10.3 hundred to me. The OL finally created a crease, and Downhill D’Onta dashed untouched for another score. Foreman continued to pour it on – as much on individual effort as blocking - while Buechele mixed in some good throws highlighted by a small-window zip to Leonard in the middle of the field.
Things got choppy late, as Kyle Porter showed decent power and Mr. Magoo-caliber vision on several runs before a bizarre fourth down past call resulted in a tipped INT. It’s hard to know what to expect out of Tyrone Swoopes and the 18 wheeler going forward, because if you won't let him throw a single ‘let's just put it on tape’ ball in a no risk situation, you're just never going to throw one. And if defensive coordinators can keep playing nine defenders against eight blockers when one of those blockers is the incompetent Andrew Beck, that package gets compromised in a real hurry.
But all in all, the O rolled up north of 500 yards again and we won't sweat the self inflicted stuff too much until it becomes a pattern. I'm kind of eager to see who was at fault for our continual failed runs, but I am more eager – actually, unironically eager – to rewatch our first coherent defensive performance of the season.
I spent a good chunk of this afternoon watching Tech-West Virginia and marveling at the Mountaineers’ ability to smack down the spread by simply varying a few coverages and having all 11 defenders on the same page. I won't call Texas’ achievement tonight on the same caliber in terms of complexity or degree of difficulty, but not making things difficult on ourselves made a world of difference.
A Boyd – Bonney - Locke - Hall – Haines backfield is far from Texas’ most athletic on paper, but on field turf we saw five DB's all playing the same coverages for the first time all year. That proved more than sufficient to put the clamps on what had been a feisty Cyclone passing game thanks to a ferocious pass rush that welcomed Naashon Hughes to the 2016 season while also enjoying contributions from Breckyn Hager, Puma Forward*** and a host of others.
It just wouldn't be the Longhorn run defense without a zone read botch or two, but Texas largely put the clamps on a dangerous runner in Mike Warren and did a good job of keeping the Cyclones behind the chains. The defensive front was active and Chris Nelson caused chaos inside while Jordan Elliot hung tough and provided glimpses of the future. Texas finally ran 2-Read pass coverage to set up an early Boyd stop, and a frequently predictable Longhorn blitz scheme dropped enough linebackers into passing lanes to befoul the Cyclones’ reads and set up several coverage sex****. it was also nice to see Brandon Jones get a lot of run at safety with a do-it-all performance that showed off deep range, man to man ability and ferocious blitzing. Shark McCulloch may be ready to step into the Malik relief role sooner rather than later as he made some plays on the edge and from an ILB spot, and Erick
Fouler Fowler promptly drew a late hit on the QB but showed off some pass rush ferocity that should pay off as the season rolls on.
The defense may have gotten the wheels on a week or two too late, but it was sure nice to see us roll down the road for four quarters without blowing a tire or snapping the damned axle.
Tonight wasn't the unmitigated success we saw against OU, but it was at least closer to that then the out right horror show we had seen previously. Guys stayed in their lanes on kick coverage, but they stayed so shackled to those lanes that they failed to drift with the constant return left that Iowa State had on which generated them some good success. Michael Dickson’s punts were stout aside from one unfortunate bounce into the end zone, and Armanti Foreman mixed in one good return with some dubious decision making in both punt fielding and Dancing With The Stars- style returns.
This was somewhere between breaking even and a slight win on special teams, and right now that works just fine.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A game where the emotions could plausibly have resulted in either team folding the tents early instead saw an ugly but hard-fought first half which gave way to a methodical longhorn choke out in the second stanza. On the face of it no one will be impressed by taking the cyclones to a 1-5 five record, this was an offense that had jacked plenty of stats in the prior week sand a formerly flailing Longhorn D kept it under wraps. As of now it's only a blip on the radar, but just as you can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning, you can't win out and save your job without winning the first game.
Now it's on to Kansas Steak - let’s see if we can grill an opponenttwice in a row.
SPECIAL BC UNPLUGGED PODCAST NOTE: The great Boyd C. recently asked when we’d have the capability for Barkers to call in to the BC Unplugged Podcast with your HOT TAEKZ while sobbing and drinking bourbon straight from the bottle. While the drinking aspect is totally in line with the ethos of our Podcast, the live call-in element could prove tricker to pull off...particularly in light of said drinking. So what we’re gonna try is this - if you want your comment read and addressed on the air (or whatever you call a podcast,) reply here with HOT TAEKZ in the subject line and we’ll get to as many as we can when we record on Sunday.
* This was supposed to read dumbassery, but I was using text to speech and couldn't change it for obvious reasons.
** Same deal.
*** like I was going to edit that?
**** I swear I'm not doing this on purpose.