Holy shit – we just D’nied, D’railed and all-around D’Onta’d the last playoff contender that Ashley Hodge will see in his/her entire lifetime!
Ain't no need to bury the lede – today’s O was the Foreman show all the way around. D’Onta pushed his way firmly into the Ricky Williams in ‘97/Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live ‘"Ass-Kickers In Lost Causes’’ territory with a 250-yard outburst that saw him benefit from some good blocking and some exceptional ability to turn nothing into something and a something into a shit-ton of awesome. Little/older/twin brother Armanti got into the act with a trio of big time deep shots, including a trademark Buechele basket-drop for the Longhorns’ first score and an out-maneuver/out-fight job on an underthrow to tee up the game-winning field goal.
My "I can haz slant?’’ itch finally got scratched today, as the simple elegance of sucking up linebackers and throwing an easy pass to green grass racked up plenty of YAC for Armanti and LoJo as well (we need to be throwing that slant-under-go combo five times a game.) Of course, Armanti’s didn't end with all smiles as costly fumbles are becoming a family tradition that we could do without. But considering that Armanti’s cough-up set up a safety in a game the Longhorns won by one point, I am all for giving the benefit of the doubt and chalking that up to veteran savvy from an experienced junior.
The Foremans weren't the only ones playing a long game, though – the utter impossibility of telling whether Andrew Beck is slipping out for a play pass or just missing a lead block by two full yards has made him a sneaky–dangerous weapon on play action. He hauled in a pair of surprise throws including a fourth quarter TD that brought Texas within two.
Buechele’s top-line statline featured plenty to smile about, but until midway through the second quarter his second-best play was a pooch punt that rolled into the end zone. He frequently featured a freshman feel as he was by turns off, confused or rattled by pressure (some of which was self-inflicted). He hit the big shots that Texas had to have, though, and since it only took us eight games to remember that Collin Johnson has eight inches on many of the league’s corners the final four games should be more fun in that regard as well. Here’s hoping that Michael Dickson can take John Burt on a three-week walkabout in the Outback over winter break, because I’m not sure what else can get his head right at this point. There’s fighting the ball and then there’s doing this with the ball:
and Burt is doing the latter.
There were a louse-addled third grader’s worth of head scratchers in this one as well, the most horrifying of which was snapping the ball with 22 seconds left on the play clock as Texas set up for its final field-goal try. We also saw the waiting for
Godot Guffman Harsin series of straight handoffs to Tyrone Swoopes that begged for trickeration but never evolved into anything more then using the Swoochele double barrel shotgun as a Paleolithic blunt instrument. When your running back choices are D’onta and Don’t...give the ball to Kyle Porter?
Despite the quibbles and in-game frustrations, the Longhorn O rolled up over 550 yards against a bunch of experienced
defendants defenders who came into Saturday ranked 13th in Defensive S&P+. Nice work, gents.
This one had a 2015 Baylor Redux feel to it throughout, and kind of echoed the broad Charlie Strong defensive philosophy writ large - prioritize pass over run, don’t give up one-play scores, try to inflict negatives without completely selling out to do so and make stops in the red zone. That philosophy has been tough to distinguish this season since we haven’t been able to competently execute it - or anything else - on D for the vast majority of our snaps. But it came through with another skin-of-our-teeth win against Baylor - a fully functioning Baylor this time - by turning Seth Russell into a 50% passer and bagging a key INT along with a half-dozen sacks.
But Lord, that run D was tough to watch.
Art Briles may have a penchant for rape and a festering hunk of dog shit for a soul, but he’s also got an eye for O-line talent and the loss of multiple senior starters after 2015 didn’t prevent the Bears OL from rolling out an experienced and talented bunch. That, combined with talented tailbacks, an top-notch athlete at QB and the overall 5333 offensive philosophy make for a ground attack that’s tailor-made to exploit everything we’re bad at in run defense. And exploit they did.
Guys like Chris Nelson and Puma Forward played pretty stout games up front and stopped a number of runs single-handedly, but if a Baylor ball carrier broke the line of scrimmage cleanly then he was probably picking up 10+ yards. A combination of great Zone Read execution from Russell and the Baylor tailbacks and a varied run game with multiple free-running blockers gave Texas’ under-tutored ILBs far more than they could handle in this one. Wheeler had a couple of nice moments but was generally slow to recognize and scrape per normal. The Tim Cole Comedy Hour drew rave reviews from yet another opposing OC, and Freeman had one particularly bad moment that’s indicative of the unit’s overall misunderstanding of fundamental LB play when he took on the blocker’s wrong shoulder to turn the back loose for a 25-yard gain up the gut despite having a free hitter outside him who would have dropped the play for three yards if Freeman had simply chosen to force the back in the other direction.
Of course, the ILBs had no favors done for them by continued incompetence from just about every end man on the LOS when it comes to defending the Zone Read. One or two guys actually squared their shoulders and put themselves in position to play either potential ball carrier, but the unblocked man did usually did the typical heedless crash inside that sets QBs loose with acres of green grass on the edge. Roach and Hager had a Freaky Friday moment in the second half when Hager actually came in under control and blasted Russell on a keep, only to see Roach pull a Hager and dive after the back to turn Russell loose for one of many long scampers.
And as for a guy who found himself bouncing between ILB, EMOL and a bit of everything else yesterday...Malik played a game that defied easy description. His limitations in understanding play flow, engaging run blocks and simple grip strength on tackles were on display once again, but he also flew to the ball with abandon whenever he had a clear picture and showed more fight and physicality on interior blitzes than he ever has in a Texas uniform. He bagged a pair of sacks and had a great strip-and-score moment robbed from him by outright officiating idiocy (more on that below) while leading the defense in tackles and, well...leadership. “Benching” him for playing out of position and lacking fundamentals which no one ever bothered to teach him never made an ounce of sense, but kudos to Malik for responding with a max-effort outing that speaks to the high-character guy we all know him to be.
The pass defense had some unsightly moments, the ugliest of which came when Cypress Hill failed to
on a simple fade route that gave Baylor the lead before halftime. But it also featured plenty of bright spots, many of which were contributed by an all-out baller showing by PJ Locke. Locke stuck to Baylor’s dangerous slots like glue and played like a guy who knew where his leverage help was coming from when Texas played man under. It’s maddening to think that the baseline level of assignment understanding and competence that Locke displayed on Saturday would have the Longhorns at 8-0 had it propagated throughout the secondary from Game One, but here we are.
Kris Boyd played a Kris Boyd game, giving Baylor’s outside receivers all they wanted in terms of speed and physicality - his on-the-spot deflection allowed Locke to make a spectacular Noedig for Texas’ first moment of demonstrated defensive competence in the first quarter. He fell victim to a push-off from Ismael Zamora’s dog-beatin’ hand, but Boyd was the clear junkyard dog for most of the matchup. John Bonney just can’t run with guys like KD Cannon in single coverage, but he managed a few nice moments and appeared to know the coverage on every single play. If only our guys had known the coverage from Game One...OK, we’ve been over this.
Haines had his typical physically overmatched moments in the open field (though Russell’s hurdle was less comedic and more simply jaw-dropping when you saw the replay) but also played competently over the top in Cover Five and had a nice deflection on a deep throw. That’s a pick for anyone with league-average wheels, but baby steps. Hall also played more or less competently over the top while showing the dubious run fits that make it clear why he’s not a permanent weakside linebacker. We saw a little bit of DeShon Elliott - let’s see more, and more of Brandon Jones to boot.
It was sin-on-Sunday ugly against CFB’s biggest sinners on Saturday, but a ferocious pass rush and some timely red zone stops held Baylor to their lowest point total of the season and put a W on the board. Next up comes Tech in Lubbock, but at least WVU and TCU have put up the blueprint for stopping the Kliff KingsbAir Raid - can Charlie and company adopt it in time?
Ray Guy wears Michael Dickson Underoos. Which probably have kangaroos on them.
Our field goal Domingue only exists from 40 yards and in, but at least we hit both our attempts including the game winner. Thank you, Trent.
We got a kick return out past the 30 yard line - heady stuff! But if we’re not starting/outright benching guys like Vahe, Omenihu, Malik and Wheeler for performance reasons, we need to be holding a seance to summon the spirit of Frank Medina and have Ghost Frank “educate” the next kick returner who brings out a ball from three yards deep until said returner is vomiting things that he ate in third grade.
This was wild incompetence from stem to stern that turned the game into a four-and-a-half hour root canal while featuring missed calls on blatant holding, interminable reviews of obvious shit and the shadiest phantom forward progress call I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m working on an Interview Questions article for Texas’ next AD hire, and I’m now including the following:
“Do you believe that, over the remainder of the Big XII’s life, Texas and OU are likely to have the most talented teams in most seasons?”
“Do you believe that, by and large, the more talented team on the field is likely to benefit from fair, square and competent officiating?”
“If one and two are yeses, what is your plan for Texas and OU - who combined control 90% of the de facto political power in this league - to join forces and help to ensure that displays of blistering incompetence from Big XII officiating crews will carry swift and severe consequences from Walt Anderson’s successor after we coerce the OU special ops guy who’s going to sneak in and burn the Joe Mixon tapes to serve Walt a polonium-210 cocktail at the next Big XII league meetings?”
THE BOTTOM LINE
In the context of Charlie Strong’s long-term future at Texas, this win may well be too little and too late. But Saturday was always about more than Charlie’s future given the outright atrocities committed by Baylor - including by one or more staff members who were still on the opposing sideline on Saturday.
So let’s just go ahead and end with this: