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Shooting From the Hip: OSU 13, Texas 10

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NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Texas Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

I am absolutely volcanic right now, so I’ll try and knock this out fast before I burst a blood vessel in my eye.

OFFENSE

Did the players help lose this game?

Absolutely.

Five drops on potential chain-movers were appalling. The individual effort across the OL ranged from marginal to execrable, and plenty of guys split out from the formation felt zero obligation to get guys 5-30 pounds lighter than them blocked on screens or edge runs. Chris Warren ran soft, and Sam Ehlinger overlooked a guaranteed double-move TD to Devin Duvernay while his outright vapor-lock moment on 3rd down took us from a likely second go in double OT to a trudge up the tunnel at 3-4.

Did the offensive assistants help lose this game?

Absolutely.

When you’re running the RB rotation and your most dynamic back logs a single carry in a get-the-edges-or-bust offensive game plan, what are you doing?

When you’re running the WR rotation and running your less-threatening receivers out to continually fail at blocking on screens to cement Texas’ title as the worst quick game team in the Big XII - and your guys are strapping 6’1” - 6’5” types who have enough reach and weight on opposing corners that Vegas wouldn’t sanction a bout between them - what are you doing?

When you’re coaching the OL and every.

Single.

Returning.

Player.

Has regressed from 2016, and your left tackle - your replacement left tackle, but a guy you’ve been working with since March - has a pass set that looks like he hasn’t been coached a day in his life, AND your guard - your replacement guard, but a guy you’ve been working with since March - can’t give more than a half-waddle and a shrug when he’s getting out on a screen...what are you doing?

Should we have put up 20 in regulation anyway against this milquetoast, no-stars, ground-to-a-pulp-on-the-ground Mike Gundy defense anyway, given the absolute hero ball from the defense continually teeing the offense up with chances in reasonable field position?

Absolutely.

But unfortunately, this is a gaggle-fucked offense that sprints as fast as it can away from any consistent identity, in-game efficacy or any notion of functional problem solving. When your entire plan is sprint-out hero ball from your true freshman QB with nary an attempt to work the slot, work the middle, work Wildcat or unearth any other forgotten half-decent run concepts from September while giving marginal talents and a freshman tight end the bulk of the run split out from the formation...

What are you doing at The University of Texas?

Kudos to John Burt for coming out of the crypt just as the entire rest of the offense was busy getting embalmed, and hopefully Cade Brewer keeps his head held high after receiving the most horseshit holding call I’ve seen since...Poona Ford got called for DEFENSIVE holding on this field against this team two years ago. The collection of Okie State’s most egregious uncalled holds should be up for Walt Anderson’s viewing pleasure sometime around Tuesday morning, but late-game developments changed my hypothesis from “T. Boone Bought The Crew 2.0” to the simple “Wildly Incompetent Umpire.”

DEFENSE

My God, what an effort. The fact that what might have been the best Burnt Orange defensive performance in a decade went for naught is the biggest tragedy of this game.

Todd Orlando pulled one of the great Rope-A-Dope/Jedi mindfucks of all time on Mike Gundy this afternoon. Orlando rolled out a light 5-man box with dudes like Taquon Graham and Breckyn Hager on the DL and, with a simple gesture, told Gundy:

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. And oh, by the way, you are 1995 Nebraska.”

Gundy took the bait, continually eschewing the conference’s scariest air show to try and overpower Texas with Justice Hill and J.D. King. That tactic got Okie State ahead of the chains on occasion - and Texas did cede a walk-in TD to King by simple alignment in the first half - but the net result was Gundy gasping like a winded George Foreman or a force-choked Stormtrooper as Zach Sinor trotted out for yet another punt. The sequence of:

First down run for 6

Second down run for 0

Third down pass incomplete

Played out like a glitch in the Matrix as Gundy couldn’t resist the lure of FINALLY bullying the Longhorns down the field.

There were plenty of reasons that shit didn’t play, but foremost among them was Malik Jefferson.

The notion had recently been floated in some (asshat, half-racist former walk-on) circles that Malik was more interested in his Twitter account than in fundamental linebacking. #46 blew that dipshit dinghy out of the water like a pissed-off Chester Nimitz, ravaging the Cowboy offense to the tune of 14 total tackles (11 solo) as he continually shot gaps and stepped up on the edge to shut down run after run. He enjoyed an able partner in crime in Gary Johnson, whose instincts and downhill speed let him beat OSU blockers to the spot time and again. He had one big missed tackle and got beat on a pro throw by Rudolph over his outstretched hand in pass coverage, but we should see a shit-ton more of #33 down the stretch.

Speaking of stretch, some unsung defenders up front got stretched with new roles and saw the vaunted OSU offense break before they did. Breckyn Hager did his daddy proud, lining up everywhere from a 4i to a wide 9 and tormenting the Cowboy OL with an array of pass-rush moves (including a hilarious 9th-grade swim move that baffled the left tackle and gave him a free run for a sack) while hanging tough against the run. Taquon Graham must have logged 30 snaps at nose tackle (!), and while he got blown out by double teams a time or two he got his own back with upfield penetration and the athleticism to string plays wide until the cavalry came.

More familiar names like Charles Omenihu, Poona Ford and Malcolm Roach also stood tall on the defensive front, with Roach continually splitting blockers or setting a hard edge to deny the Cowboy backs while Ford and Chris Nelson combined for what should have been a game-changing fumble on Justice Hill.

And while the Cowboys’ leading rusher sports maybe the best sheriff name of all time, it was Holton Hill and the Longhorn secondary who laid down the law.

The Right Reverend Holton* was absolutely on fire today, doing yeoman’s work against the conference’s best deep threat in James Washington while chipping in at least a half-dozen crucial tackles against OSU runs and screens. Pre-game nerves regarding Kris Boyd’s ability to play a focused four quarters went for naught - Boyd may have played his best game as a Longhorn, combining his absurd natural athleticism with strong technique and good leverage to break up multiple throws and force OSU’s receivers to bust their asses for everything they got. Mason Rudolph’s statline got rescued by a 66-yarder to Marcel Ateman when Brandon Jones lost his footing and hit the deck, but outside of that shot he wasn’t much more effective than his harried show in 2015...which Texas also should have won.

SPECIAL TEAMS

G’Day, Michael Dickson. The Thunder From Down Under made a strong case for game MVP, launching punts that lit up the screens at NORAD before pinning the Cowboy offense like a meth-addled and mulleted butterfly in a 9th grade insect collection.

Josh Rowland put a few kickoffs out the back and hung another one high enough to stymie the OSU returner inside the 25, and he split the uprights on his only FG attempt. Good show.

Kris Boyd unveiled some instincts for the first time as a kick returner, setting up what should have been a game-deciding drive with a nice 33-yard scamper. Punt return was a fair-catch and lose-nine-yards-on-a-bounce fest...you can’t win ‘em all.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A remotely competent offensive showing would have kept Texas in the thick of the conference race and teed up a stretch run with the requisite eight wins to cement both a turnaround story and a Top Three recruiting class that could help set the program’s ceiling somewhere in the neighborhood of Hardware.

But that wasn’t what we saw.

What we saw was an O whose individual ceiling looks lower than Bag End, imperiling the season and the narrative and (maybe) the class and, most dispiritingly of all, the notion of just what this program’s ceiling can be in the coming years.

Because while Tim Beck is a load of buckshot in this team’s ass right now, he’s not where the buck stops...particularly not on that side of the ball. Talent matters, but titles don’t come unless every coach in the mix can elevate you beyond the absolute floor of what your talent brings to the table.

It’s past time we started elevatin’.

Hook ‘em.

*H/T to the great Eric Nahlin