The end of an error.
If we just saw the end of the Mack Brown era at Texas, the capper for The Clapper couldn’t have come in more fitting fashion. Case McCoy, anointed by Mack for his last name and protected from depth chart competition like a hothouse flower, wilted in the cold and badly overthrew a screen pass that got picked off to hammer the final nail into the coffin. In super-duper-extra fitting fashion, since we were playing an Art Briles-coached team, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty wiped the pick six off the board. And then, contemptuously, Baylor strolled 18 yards on the next play to score anyway.
The weather likely kept this game from being the gaudy scoreboard rout that it could have been. But even the foggiest camera lens couldn’t conceal the massive gulf between pretender and contender on the Floyd Casey turf.
At least Briles didn’t throw for the end zone on the final play.
Throughout a choppy first half, it looked like Texas’ ground-and-pound game could keep the Longhorns in contention in a game that might not get out of the low 20′s on the mercury or the scoreboard. Malcolm Brown shouldered the load as Joe Bergeron went out with an early ankle injury, and continued to make “workmanlike” a largely positive descriptor. Brown ran with decisiveness, rarely danced, and frequently powered through Baylor defenders for an extra yard or two. It’s sobering to think what Jamaal Charles would have done with the same blocking – or even what a theoretically-invulnerable-to-ankle-tackles Johnathan Gray might have done – but Brown turned in a credible effort and was Texas’ best offensive player in addition to being in the right place to haul in McCoy’s Yakety Sax TD pass in the third.
The offensive line was Texas’ other bright spot in the first half. They continually got Baylor’s front moving sideways and backwards, with Dominic Espinosa showing great physicality when blocking down and Honorary OL Greg Swaim continually doing an excellent job arcing across the formation on Texas’ Slice Zone play to kick out the edge defender. Unfortunately for Texas, the OL pretty much stayed in the locker room at halftime. Ahmad Dixon’s presence may have allowed Baylor to stack the box a little more, but it didn’t cause the one-on-one ass whippings that Baylor’s DTs started laying down on the interior. Trey Hopkins got absolutely mauled on two separate occasions by former Texas recruiting target Andrew Billings to blow up runs, and mixing in a drive-killing hold on Donald Hawkins helped matters not at all. By game’s end, Texas was struggling for two yards a carry while McCoy’s heron-on-mescaline scrambles became all too frequent. Not even the most optimistic Texas fan would have thought the Longhorns could consistently succeed from behind the chains, and that worry was borne out.
The receivers played a solid game in the realm that they could control, though they were largely reduced to irrelevancy by Derp and drizzle. Davis, Johnson and Sanders all got behind the secondary at some point, but the midseason moxie that saw Case dropping on target balls into their hands had long since petered out. Sanders dropped McCoy’s one plus throw of the day on a field-side fade that could have made the game more interesting, but the more frequent result was a back-foot toss that left the receiver scrambling for a short or wide ball.
Case was Case – when you make the decision to live with this kind of player, you make the decision to die with him. His lack of arm strength and abominable mechanics were a poor match for the field conditions, and Texas left a ton of yards on the table with errant throws. I’m searching for an eloquent capper to McCoy’s regular season career, but 12/34 for 54 yards, 1 TD and two picks is pretty poetic as a standalone.
Aided by the weather, Texas’ defense did all that could be asked of it in the first half. They rarely resorted to unconventional fronts and ended up surrendering a good amount of yardage, but they avoided breaking and kept Baylor out of the end zone (thanks in no small part to Baylor’s determined efforts to %#$@ up their own drives). Texas’ defensive front gave as good as it got with the Big XII’s best offensive line, the linebackers played like actual linebackers and while the secondary surrendered a lot of in-breaking stuff with soft looks they kept Petty from getting over the top to Goodley or any of Baylor’s other speedsters.
But coming out of the locker room at halftime…would have been a good idea, since the defense basically hung out with their offensive counterparts eating chicken fingers as the game got decided in the third quarter.
The defensive line started getting victimized by Baylor’s road-grading guards, and double teams generated consistent movement to allow Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin to hit holes with a head of steam. Texas’ troubles on the edge continued, with both Veer-type sweeps and QB keepers making hay. I’ve gotten to the point where I cringe any time Jackson Jeffcoat crashes inside to stuff a runner, because I know it won’t be two more plays until a ballcarrier is scooting around his edge. And so it was in the second half.
The linebackers played a decent game, and it was heartening to see a few positive plays from forgotten man Peter Jinkens. Dalton Santos had a heartbreaking gaffe as he coughed up a clean fumble recovery, but he spent much of the game in the right spot but fighting off linemen at the second level. He’s just miles away from a guy like Lache Seastrunk from an athletic standpoint, so the sight of him getting shook in the open field or outraced to the edge a few times was one of those shrug-your-shoulders kind of deals. Competent but limited play was Texas’ positional ceiling after Diaz skull%#$@ed the linebacking corps, and that’s more or less what Texas got today. Baylor is just a team that’s incredibly capable of carving up your limitations.
The secondary turned in a fairly credible show, with the outside corners holding up pretty well when asked to play one-on-one man coverage on deep balls. Some of the easy in-breaking completions on zone coverages were annoying to watch, but Baylor is going to get yards and this was never going to be a linebacking crew that would offer A-grade support on in-breaking stuff. Texas didn’t go in for a high-risk approach, and it might have paid off if they’d gotten a modicum of support from the offense. Duke Thomas made some nice plays contesting balls, but he did make the kind of killer mistake that can plague young DBs – assuming that Mykkele Thompson inside of him meant that he’d have actual help inside. Thompson’s umpteenth clownish effort of the year handed Antwan Goodley a silver-platter TD on Baylor’s opening drive of the third quarter, and it had a real opening-the-floodgates feel to it that was borne out by subsequent events.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Baylor played a largely sloppy and undisciplined game rife with false starts, fumbles, rarely seen leaping penalties and a few patented Art Briles personal fouls. And it made not a lick of difference, as Baylor utterly outclassed what the Longhorns could bring to the table. Neither the lack of discipline nor the personal fouls nor the final score were totally worthy of the 1990 Miami Hurricanes, but the game didn’t lack for that kind of feel by the end – a pretender’s run getting crushed in brutal fashion by a team that actually belongs in the company of that season’s elite. And if this Texas team was ultimately a pretender this season in a hilariously winnable Big XII, that fault lies at the feet of perhaps the greatest pretender in the history of college coaching.
.125 as a blood alcohol level means you’ve been doing a fairly solid job of drinking, but .125 as a conference championship winning percentage means you’ve been doing a pretty sorry job of coaching. With that, I’m going to set about raising my current BAC well above .125 while hoping Mack doesn’t get the chance to lower his mark to .117 in 2014.