Week 7 - (L) UT 10 vs OSU 13

Turds on turds on turds.

Okie Light was trying to give it to us. They wanted us to win. But nope, another one down the drain.

I don't think the fact that we lost is what is so bothersome, instead it's how we lost (again). It's not surprising either that our D played well and our O played poorly again. There are plenty of excuses that can be made, (mainly the o-line), but no excuses should be made. Our coaches (or coach - Beck) didn't coach well, and our players didn't execute when they had too (mainly players on offense, and unfortunately, Sam played his worst game).

It is cool watching a good defense, but that doesn't make up for losing a game at home when our defense holds the other team (and a good offensive team at that) to 10 points in regulation.

I think the most frustrating thing is that it felt like we could maybe get to 8-4, but now 7-5 feels like our ceiling. Let that sink in - again, hoping for a winning record. We have to beat every team from here on out except for TCU. It's doable, but I just don't know what to think about this team. After the K-State win, it felt like maybe this team had something different from the Strong teams that would pull out the W in the close ones. Sigh.

Anyway, as always I have a few thoughts on the game and about our team overall. Maybe a few less GIFs than others, but a 13-10 game really doesn't warrant many in my opinion.

My thoughts:
- We actually would have lucked out to win that game
- Weekly Beck blows thoughts
- Hager and Shark sightings
- Our few actually good (healthy) players did their job

- We actually would have lucked out to win that game
While I do feel like we should have won the game with the way it was going at the end, I would have felt more like they gave it to us than us earning it. 
     - OSU clearly moved the ball on us way easier than we did on them
            - In fact, they pretty much beat us in every facet of the game (yards, penalties, etc.)
     - They missed a field goal and fumbled deep in our territory
     - Our one touchdown drive was a fluke/amazing play by Burt
     - Sam miraculously recovered the idiotic fumble when their d-lineman should have at least recovered it, if not scored a TD on it

- Weekly Beck blows thoughts
You can basically read similar sentiments anywhere you can find Longhorns content. Apparently, Drew Mehringer is going to help out with play calling - AWESOME! (I guess). Sadly, Herman is standing by Beck. I just hope Herman is posturing for the sake of not firing a coordinator mid-season of his first year, but already has his mind made up that he'll do it at season's end.

I could write a laundry list, but a few recurring themes: too many QB runs (Sam in concussion protocol), not having best WRs/players on the field at all times, too many sideways plays, etc.

Rewatching the game this week, I saw just how bad our o-line really played. There's no doubt, the backups are not as good as the starters. Regardless, he's not putting the players he has in a position to succeed. End of story.

Example: the first drive of 3rd quarter that got us deep in the redzone and ended in a field goal consisted of 6 RB runs for 17 yards. Not that impressive. But, our RBs only ran it a total of 13 times in the game - nearly half our RB runs came on 1 drive in a close game!

Not only that, but 4 of those runs were on 1st down, and went for 3 yds, 3 yds, 1 yd, and 4 yds. Again, not that impressive, but those are all positive yardage plays, and 2nd and 7 is better than 2nd and 10.

Here's an example of one of those runs (not a 1st down run, but a run from that drive). Guess what, Warren is too slow to run to the outside or make cuts (and again, I'd like to see more Toe Nail), but guess what, Warren is 250+ pounds. Run him straight up the middle - it just might work!

Ok, so nice drive to start the second half. Maybe we figured things out, and will at least try some runs with RBs to limit the hits Sam takes and open up some passes. Nope...

First play of the very next drive. Basically a fake to Heard out of the back field to take a shot deep (you can tell by the wr's not blocking). Why call a long developing play when you know you're o-line can't block?! Sure, take some deep shots, but maybe on 2nd and short and around midfield.

As I just mentioned Warren is slow and is basically only good for runs up the middle. These outside runs just rarely work with Warren... MORE TOE NAIL! Or even Young, Porter, but not slow-mo Warren.

- Hager and Shark sightings
We've only seen Breckyn Hager in limited capacity this year, but he played quite a bit more against OSU, and quite frankly, showed that he deserved to be on the field. It was also nice to see Shark make some plays in the pass rush game as well. I wish we got more results out of the motor they can provide, but it was nice to seen nonetheless.

This was actually a pretty big play by Hager as they were moving the ball right before the end of the 1st half. If he doesn't get it, I think they put themselves in position for a field goal. Great move by him.

Here's Shark showing his motor. Never quits on the play. (Granted, a fast QB probably would have made it a positive play - hence why we've struggled against true dual-threat QBs)

- Our few actually good (healthy) players did their job
Told a friend during the game. I think we only have a handful of actually good players - players who have a decent shot at the league:
- Malik Jefferson
- Deshon Elliot
- Holton Hill
- Poona Ford (Helluva play on the forced fumble)
- Reggie Hemphill Mapps
- Colin Johnson (didn't do much, but not his fault - Beck's fault!)
- Malcolm Roach
(Obviously Connor Williams if healthy)

Here's Malik doing his think. When he makes up his mine, he's like a missile. Love it.

Hill not only covered Washington really well, but he makes plays in the run game too. I expect to see him on Sundays at some point. Wish we had a second corner close to his level, but I'm not sure Boyd is.

We're going to miss Hemphill-Mapps pass catching abilities and run-after-catch. That knee sprain sure doesn't help our already very limited O. This play below is simple, but we don't have many guys as reliable as him to get positive yards. Get well soon, RHM.

Week 6 - (L) UT 24 vs OU 29

Well it's Thursday, and OU still sucks, but dang.. darn.. poop... crap.

Another tough loss, and worst of all it was to the crimson bumpkins from the north (even if most of their players are from Texas). 

While I am proud of our guys for fighting back and even taking the lead (and the coaching staff for making the proper adjustments), I'm dismayed by the trend of abysmal starts to games that has appeared over the last few games.

Players look flat. We look out coached. And then, everyone decides to turn it on. Well here's an idea, maybe don't dig yourself a 20 point hole in the first half.

My thoughts: (With GIFs of course!)
- We lost 2 out of 4 key game-deciding categories
- Beck cannot keep calling so many designed runs for Sam
- Can't keep getting off to slow starts
- We're closer than we were with Strong

We lost 2 of 4 key game-deciding categories
What are those categories? Well, my high school coach used to tell us there were four keys to winning every game.
- Don't give up big plays on defensive (Lost - I'll share some stats too)
- Win in special teams (Lost - the fact that we won't even kick a field goal)
- Don't turn the ball over (or win the turnover battle) (Won - no turnovers)
- No stupid penalties (Won - they had a penalty on a TD)

Those may have not been his exact words, but the idea is that you can't gift the other team points or field position, and if we both have to drive up and down the field to score, we'll come out on top.

I told a fellow fan and friend before the game that we'd win the game if it we could do those four things and keep it to a game of who can put together more drives than the other team. And we were so close... Just a damn big play to lose it.

Quick stat on big plays:
OU had 4 plays over 40 yds (2 for TDs, including the dagger at the end)
UT had 1 play over 40 yds (Duvernay catch that I wish so badly would've been a TD)

... on that note, if we had any semblance of a reliable kicker, we would have kicked a field goal on the drive we had that big play. Instead, we go for it on 4th and 8 (I think), and don't get it of course. Twice during this game we went for it on 4th down in field goal territory and didn't get it. And we lost by 5 points. So lame.

Speaking of a couple plays (big plays, not taking a kick, etc.)... Boy, if Hager could have picked this off. Makes sense why he's not on the field as much this year.

Beck can't keep calling so many designed runs for Sam
I understand Ehlinger running the ball is pretty much the only ground game we have going right now, and several of his runs come from a read option or broken down pass plays. I'm ok with those as that will still end up being 10+ runs a game. However, with our shitty o-line, he's taking hit on pass plays too. I imagine he took close to 30 hits last game. Him taking hits (the probably minor concussion) cost us too - his ability to detect blitzers better than Shane cost us when Shane took a sack on what could've been a scoring drive late in the fourth quarter.

He just doesn't need to take this punishment on top of all the hits he's taking from scrambles and reads. Don't just run him up the middle like he's a bruising tailback.

This hit isn't Beck's fault, but here's an example of the hits Ehlinger is naturally going to take in the passing game with our 3/5 backup o-line.

We can't keep getting off to slow starts
Wow, what a hot sports opinion by me. Cam Newton would probably laugh at me if I was female for my 'hot' take. Regardless, it would be nice to be the first team to score. USC we got down 14-7 at half; K-State we were down 17-7 halfway through the second quarter; OU we went down 20-0. Would love to open up against Okie light with a score and a stop (or vice versa).

I thought OU might crush us the way the game started. Huge holes and large gains on the ground early. D line getting pushed back several yards, and Malik's inability to read the play and get easily blocked just won't cut it. I'll show how they improved, but still. 20 to nothing!

I hate to pick on Malik, because I really am a fan, but here's the very next play on 2nd and short. He should have had a tackle for a 2 yard loss, but no, 1st down. Great job of getting off the block though. Please Malik, don't take a quarter and a half to get warmed up this weekend.

- We're closer than we were with Strong
All that negativity and crappy feelings aside. I think there's still reason for optimism. Believe me, I know "feeling proud of our guys because they battled back" doesn't get you wins or championships, but again, I think the in game adjustments are being made, and our talent is close - remember, freshman QB behind a makeshift o-line. 

This was the play that started to turn the momentum in our favor. Quick aside, Bonney has actually been making some plays this year, and frankly, Boyd is not. I know Bonney is maybe more of a safety, but maybe try him instead of Body.. or even a different CB.

Post adjustments and lack of energy from the players, this is the kind of push and relentlessness that got us back in the game. Would love to see this for all 4 qtrs.

We have players who can make plays. Hemphill-Mapps continues to deliver when called upon. The two plays below were huge on the scoring drive that gave us the lead. 

Lil J just continues to impress. Both his run after the catch and his hands, but also just the savvy-ness on this play to get open on a pseudo-scramble drill. Seems simple, but so often you see guys stop their route - he does a great job getting open for Sam, and making the throw relatively easy.

Finally, while Sam still has some work to do in reading defenses and timing. They guy makes plays, and he can make more of them with his feet than Shane can. I doubt this is a called delay to Brewer, and more of Same making something out of nothing. Great view of his playmaking ability, and it was a clutch play on the last scoring drive.

Week 5 - (W) UT 40 vs KSU 34

2 in a row!

Couldn't believe it. With the exception of the Notre Dame win last year, we've been trained to expect to lose the close ones... especially when it involves missed kicks.

But, our guys pulled at the W. The feeling after the game was definitely part relief that we didn't blow another game that we should have won, and but mostly the feeling was this... 

This game was like the Upside Down (Stranger Things, anyone?). I was expecting more of the same. Great D, meh O, and a low scoring game. While it wasn't super high scoring during regulation (27-27), it was weird to feel confident when our O was on the field and uneasy when our D was on the field toward the end of the game. For the record, I'm confident our D will be fine. 

Overall thoughts:
- Our D can't defend (fast) dual threat QBs
- We must limit big plays on D
- Is Beck learning?!
- Get on the Ehlinger hype train...

One side note before I jump in - yes, I recognize the kicking woes are an obvious thing, but it's so obvious and frustrating that I don't want to spend much time on it, and definitely not put any GIFs of missed kicks (or made kicks) in here.

Well, we made the plays when we had too. Our D did a much better job defending the run when Ertz was in there, but man that #5 (Delton) could run. Thankfully that guy didn't play the entire game. Also, well done on giving the ball back to the O with time left in regulation... Just to see our kicker... ok, I won't.

- Our D can't defend (fast) dual threat QBs
As soon as #5 Delton came in, he just started running all over us. Good thing he's an ok passer at best. I get that our D didn't game plan for him, and they made enough adjustments by OT (thanks for that KSU offensive holding as well) to help get us the win.

From what I saw, they basically ran 2 versions of the same off-tackle run with their fast QB. On both plays, he has a lead blocker from the backfield. On one version, the weak side tackle pulls all the way across to be the first lead, on the version below, it's just his backfield mate.

Luckily, while some of the remaining QBs on our schedule can run, nome of them are runners like that guy (or the Maryland QBs for that matter).

- We must limit big plays on D
... said every defensive coordinator ever. Not a bold statement, I get it. Still, their entire offense while Ertz was in there was based off big plays (in the passing game of no less). 

Surprisingly, Locke appears to be the culprit here. Just caught flat footed.

I think this is the corner's fault. It looks like they might be playing cover 3 based on what the corner on the far side does, so it looks like the near side corner mistakenly jumped the short route, and that route is just too far for B Jones #19 to get too.

This isn't a big play, and it's actually decent coverage. I just want to point out that Locke, who was heralded during the offseason as one of our best defensive backs coming into the season, struggled in this game. Don't mean to finger point, but we need better from our best to keep this streak going.

All that being said, our D still did enough to win, and had it not been for the missed kicks, it would have been enough to win in regulation. Here's a nice coverage sack early in the game. They are capable of not blowing coverages... let's just limit them as much as possible (zero would be great) against OU. (Doesn't hurt that Ertz panicked quickly)

Last note on the D - I will say, our Run D still looks very solid assuming there's not a speedster back there. Hopefully that carries true moving forward.

There are still some kinks to work through (mainly red zone offense), but we looked better than I expected. Big props to our patchwork o-line and the coaches for a pretty good game up front considering the circumstance. Yes, Ehlinger made a ton of plays with his feet to escape pressure, but hey, Cuney didn't botch any snaps like Shack did several times against USC, so there's that.

- Is Beck learning?!
I'm not ready to say I like Beck or anything close to it yet, but he (and the offense) definitely exceeded expectations. Way less sideways play calls and more standard pass plays with a few well timed throwbacks (one for a TD). Getting the ball to best players hands - Mapps, CJ, Lil' J, Heard, and thankfully Toe Nail!. However, I do think he abandons the run way too quickly, and gets away from Toe Nail quicker than he should. As I said above, red zone (particularly within the 10) is rough - can't believe I actually miss the Swoopes package down there. 

I don't know if a lot of it is influenced by Herman (I bet it is), but regardless, the direction of the O seems to be up and to the right, so hopefully that continues.

Few quick stats:
- Toe Nail - 6 runs for 32 yds (5.3/carry) ... More runs. Please and thank you, Beck.
- RHM - 12 catches for 121 yds ... YES
- CJ - 7 catches for 92 yds ... YES
- Lil J - 4 catches for 60 ... YES
- Heard - 4 catches for 50 ... YES

CJ and RHM should be leading the team in receptions every week, followed by Lil J, then probably Heard. Throw in the occasional toss to Duvernay, Foreman, Loenard, Joe, as it makes sense. The first 2 should be on the field at all times though IMO.

Toe Nail - love his burst and the way he finishes runs. More Toe Nail! 

Hemphill-Mapps - As Charlie Murphy would say (RIP CM), "That cat can ball". His run-after-the-catch is awesome. Great vision and anticipation, then balance and strength to break tackles. He had another play up the sidelines for a first down that was quite impressive.

Lil' J - Considering this guy was a running back in high school, his skills as a WR are quite impressive. The running abilities that he has shown make sense (though don't fumble the damn ball by trying to jump over a dude! ThankingYouChrisWarren!), but a 6'4" guy making grabs like this... love it.

Moxie, grit, heart, lunch pail, etc. ... This guy deserves all the football superlatives. What a game. He definitely played like the guy who was playing at the end of the USC game and not the guy who was playing for the first 3 quarters. Impressive - great accuracy on the short and intermediate throws, very solid running (thankfully without getting hurt), and smart decision-making. Sure, he can improve on the deep ball, but can't we all make some improvements in our lives? I know I can. It's still early, so let's not canonize him as Saint Ehlinger just yet, but man was he fun to watch on Saturday...

Accuracy on the intermediate throw. Good arm strength too.

But can he make throws with touch that he was to drop into a window... while on the move to his left? Yes, it appears he can.

18 year old kid here stepping into his throw even though he's about to get blasted. NFL QBs don't even do this half the time. (Nice catch by CJ too)

I was hating on his speed after the USC game, but this is a nice little scamper. Granted, KSU's D is surely slower than USC's D. Regardless, very nice to see him pull away from #34.

Finally, 2nd overtime, he's probably taken 20+ hits at this point, and he's a true 18 year old freshman (though, he's built like a runningback no doubt). If you haven't gotten on the Ehlinger hype train, then you better get off the tracks, because it's coming... (and OU STILL SUCKS!)

Week 4 - (W) UT 17 at ISU 7

Well a win is a win I suppose. 

Definitely wasn't pretty, and not all that exciting of a game to watch. I don't think it was much of a surprise either. The D looked great, and our O looked awful. 

I'll start with my thoughts on the offense.


Beck blows (broken record here)
I get it, we're working with a patchwork offensive line, but this guy isn't our longterm solution at OC. I suppose he could turn it around, but I doubt it. I don't love the style of O he's running with these players (and his inability to adjust his offense to them) and poor play calling. 

- Stop with the sideways stuff: I counted 12 plays that were either a designed run outside the tackles or a designed pass/screen to the outside (behind the line). These were the results:
8 negative plays - literally negative yards or worse. 1 was the fumbled reverse, and 2 running plays had holds on the oline, because these back up olineman can't make the necessary blocks on stretch plays.
3 positive plays - 2 first downs (Heard and Hemphill-Mapps quick screens from the slot, and a Duvernay 6 yard play)
1 neutral play

I think it's 3 things.
1. Our oline and RBs (especially Warren) are better at runs between the tackles. (I actually think the fish RB Carter has enough juice for some outside runs - more Toe Nail please!)
2. WRs can't hold blocks long enough on the outside. It seemed like they did a better job of it under Gilbert last year, but not that great this year.
3. The play design is so meh...

... this play smells like hot garbage.

Sorry, this play smells like hot garbage.

Here's a run to the outside. Nice burst by Carter as I mentioned, but of course, our crappy oline held on the play.

Our WRs (not) finding holes against a zone
It seemed to me that several times the ISU D rushed 3 and had 8 guys playing zone. Even if Buechele had all day to throw, he couldn't find an open guy. While this could be the play call (Beck calling crossing routes - exactly what you don't want to do against a zone), I'm not convinced our WRs are doing a great job at finding holes in zones and posting up. 

It seems very simple, but a lot of practice (should) go in to QBs/WRs being on the same page of where a window is in a zone. Romo and Witten built careers on the stick route. It's literally just run to a window at the sticks and move the chains. It doesn't require athleticism - Witten is still good at it and he could be most of our WRs' dad. I hope our guys can improve as the season goes on.

The play below is actually a hot route (yes, like Vince Vaughn calls in Wedding Crashers). This basically means there's a dedicated WR who cuts his route short and looks for the ball quickly in case there's a blitz to his side. Lil'Jordan does it perfectly below and uses his athleticism for a big play. While it's not apples to apples to a rush 3 and drop 8 zone, it's still about making yourself an easy target for the QB and making play after the catch.

He kind of did the opposite of Ehlinger from the USC game in that he started pretty well and got worse as the game progressed. At this point, I'm convinced they're both capable of being B+ QBs and nothing more (at least in this offense), but at least neither of them are bad. For the record, I wouldn't mind seeing Ehlinger get another chance. 

This play illustrates his potential. Stands in the pocket and delivers a great ball on time right before getting smashed. (Carter again!)

The 3rd quarter was down right awful for our O, and this was Buechele's contribution. He forces a throw into traffic when all he had to do was dump it off to Porter. From other angles you can see that Porter has 15 yds until the next defender, but even if he doesn't get it, you flip the field, and our D will take care of the rest.

Now, for the sexy part. Defense:

I love how awesome our D looked. We played the run extremely well, had great blitz design and execution (again), and our studs did their thing. Not much to say, because the play just speaks for itself. I just hope our O can score a little more moving forward.

One thing I will say, even though he did get some pressure to help cause the errant throws, it helped us for sure that The Jesus from The Big Lebowski was playing QB for ISU and throwing it right to our players.

Jacob Park is The Jesus

Here are a couple examples of great blitz design and execution. Bold statement here, Elliott has been playing lights out recently. Love it.

Second blitz:

Poona... so sexy. 

Finally, when Malik is decisive (and takes the right angle), it just looks unfair, like a beastly LB with DB speed. If he can just stay aggressive, smart, AND take good angles.

Another great example of his speed: