Back in the day
We maybe - hopefully - saw us a couple of Wally Pipp-ings on the offensive side today. I highly doubt that we saw one at quarterback, but if the others come to pass they’ll make life easier on whoever’s under center for this season’s stretch run.
Shane Buechele played a solid game, but context matters and he was going against one of the lamest secondaries in D1 ball. He showed solid zip and pretty good accuracy (an inexplicable heave into double coverage for a third-quarter INT notwithstanding,) got some run-after-catch love from Lil’Jordan Humphrey (and no one else) and saw a few more contested throws hit the turf as Longhorn wideouts big and small keep coming up small on 50/50 balls. Buechele still drops his eyes against the pass rush (which threatens earlier than it should, but hey - this is our OL) and while he made a nifty 3rd and 9 scramble to pick up a first his escapability isn’t what you want behind...our OL. He does deserve some kudos for his contributions in the run game, highlighted by a 28-yard touchdown scamper up the gut that looked like vintage Colt McCoy...or at least the UT Co-Op statue of Colt McCoy.
The best news for Buechele is that he was making great decisions and sticking the easy money throws that should have been there for him - and Ehlinger - all season.
More on those in a sec.
“The Longhorns’ resurgent ground game” may be a bit of a stretch considering the caliber of the opposition, but it was at least somewhat surgent for the first time since San Jose State and a pair of Pipp-ings played a major role.
The first - we hope - was “outright self-defeating schemes” taking a seat for “shit where we show a baseline competence.”
As love affairs go, Tim Beck’s ardor for stretch zone blocking with this O-line for is somewhere between the unrequited pathos of Wuthering Heights and Sid N’ Nancy-style mutual self-destruction. It wasted several downs against Baylor’s eminently steam-rollable front, and helped to deliver the World’s Mildest Wildcat when combined with Sterlin Gilbert’s “the guy receiving the snap must immediately run in one direction with no misdirection, jet action, counter flow or anything else” dictat from 2016. When we shelved that shit, though, the ground game clicked. Our Inside Zone/Duo play that’s keyed by a pair of double teams at the point of attack got the backs (and, hilariously, Buechele) downhill on multiple occasions and put us in position to wash out a Diaz-ian double T-E stunt and spring Daniel Young for his first career TD.
Wait...Daniel Young? Who’s he?
The second Pipp-ing looks to have been the eagerly-awaited swap-out of Old and Busted for New Hotness in the Longhorn backfield.
The calculus on “might conceivably fumble the ball or blow a block leading to a dead drive or turnover” versus “will certainly keep us behind the chains allowing tee-off pass rushes which...kill drives and cause turnovers” calculus finally flipped this week. As a result, Chris Warren handled the ball twice while Young and fellow freshman Toneil Carter combined for 22 totes, 130 yards and a pair of scores - numbers that look even better when you extract the stretch-play fuckery. They both showed burst, bounce and tackle-breaking ability that the offense has been thirsting for while hauling in a trio of receptions to boot. When he’s healthy, Kyle Porter should still have a lead blockin’, pass blockin’, enough-carries-to-keep-’em-honest role in the offense...but it’s time that youth was served.
The final pleasant Pipp-ing - we hope - was “a lot of our inane grab-bag shit” taking a seat for “a meaningful linkage between the run and pass game with Run-Pass Option plays.” Swapping out Major Applewhite’s RPO-heavy influence on the core Herman offense for Tim Beck’s greater reliance on Outside Zone was a trade on the order of Olden Polynice for Scottie Pippen, but hopefully the ol’ RPO Speedwagon is now ready to roll. The wide-open slants into throwing lanes vacated by crashing LB’s and bubble screens with numbers AND leverage should have been fundamental components from Game One. If they’re here to stay, some actual offensive synergy can help keep this team on the right side of .500 the rest of the way.
Of course, the real key to a respectable season finish lies with Todd Orlando’s boys.
Allowing seven points, scoring seven points of your own and setting your own offense up with four other possessions inside the opponent’s 30 is balling out against any opponent, and while Baylor is far from CFB’s elite they’ve shown some frisk with freshman Charlie Brewer at the helm. Brewer chipped in a few squirrely scrambles and found a guy for a 51-yarder on a super-extended rollout and pop-pass play, but other than that he was held in check by a Longhorn D that had no intentions of letting up against the undercard following a heroic effort against one of the nation’s elite offenses.
Malik corralled Brewer and put up another strong game against the run while the boys up front were having none of Baylor’s attempts to get the ground game going. Matt Rhule tried to avoid a losing Dime Defense matchup by making some usage of 11 and 21 personnel, but Texas stuffed that as ably as the more spread-out stuff. Holton Hill and Kris Boyd were lockdown presences out wide (danger man Denzel Mims finished with a quiet 4 catch, 42-yard afternoon) while DeShon Elliott hauled in another Johnny-On-The-Spot INT and took a page out of Hill’s playbook by running the damn thing in to the end zone. P.J. Locke was lost early to an ankle injury, but Antwaun Davis played a largely non-noticeable (in a good way) game in his stead. Outside of Locke, the only worry on the defensive side was seeing Charles Omenihu go down late - he looked to be standing up on the sideline with no obvious discomfort at the end of the game, so hopefully The Omen is OK.
Another week, another elite defensive effort from Orlando & Co.
Michael Dickson wasn’t launching as many moonshots in this one, but he netted a solid 44.5 yards per punt with a trio downed inside the 20 and a fourth that juuuust squirreled its way across the goal line. Another G’Day.
Baylor’s only TD drive got set up when a kick to the goal line got brought out around the 30 and then we tacked on another 15 yards for sideline squabbling. If we do away with the conceit that we have anything resembling a plus coverage unit and just tell Rowland to bang it through the end zone every time, it’ll be all to the good.
We got a 27-yard field goal blocked on moderate penetration and another low kick. At this point in the season we’re likely to just ride things out, but next year we can’t carry the chance of the ball going the other way on us for a TD when we line up for ANY field goal irrespective of distance.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A 31-point win on the road is good stuff by any measure. The defense looks primed to keep Texas in every game the rest of the way, and while it’s easy to dismiss any achievement against the Bears we’ll see better results from the offense if we’re willing to shelve the self-sabotage.
An undefeated TCU looms - let’s let ‘em know that they’re in for a fight.