A bad Kansas team came to play. And Texas is not good enough (good meaning actual performance on a football field, not some Platonic notion of our “talent”) to take anyone lightly. That the team doesn’t know this about themselves yet is just another inexplicable fracture between game day reality and Bellmont belief.
The Longhorns showed up to Lawrence to grace the Jayhawks with their presence and an early defensive stop and an easy Longhorn score probably fueled that sense – but what over the last 2.5 years makes anyone associated with this team think they’ve earned that right? Texas should have been an angry, urgent football team looking to make an inferior opponent pay.
If it’s not clear to us all yet, it should be now: the Texas offense isn’t good enough to play from behind the sticks. And when you only run 23 first half plays (!), and have only 58 on the game, every mistake is crippling. Penalties, drops, and turnovers hurt the Texas offense in the red zone and it took a QB change to to shake the unit awake, allowing it to put together two fourth quarter touchdown drives to secure the final 21-17 win.
Shades of OU with respect to a mental unreadiness to play a football game. Some of that is the players, some of that is on the offensive coaches, and the buck stops with Mack Brown. If there’s any good news, our mistakes were mostly mental and executional. It’s all stuff that can be cleaned up.
Ash actually played OK for most of the game despite miserable offensive results, but he pressed a bit as the game went on (the starting point for me was the end of 1st half interception, the second pick in the 3rd quarter wasn’t really on him, but a killer nonetheless), but his teammates did all they could to help with penalties, lapses in pass protection, and some bad drops. Even if a guy is put into a destructive mental state by teammate miscues or bad luck – he’s still struggling and you have to assess whether he can get out of it. The staff decided they needed to switch horses. Overall, it was clear that Texas had physical advantages and whoever could get execution around him was going to thrive and score. Perhaps the change was needed simply to signal to the rest of the offense that it’s now time to take wake up.
Props to Case McCoy for coming off of the bench to throw relief. The offense buckled down, pressed their physical advantages, stopped shooting themselves in the foot, and responded with two touchdown drives with him behind center (16 plays, 154 yards combined). The first touchdown drive had nothing to do with McCoy, but in the game winning drive, he had some nice throws after escaping Greg Brown’s dropped interception. The throw on 4th and 6 to Shipley finding a hole in the KU zone and the pump fake toss to Davis were absolute quality.
Still, Ash is our QB and I’m pretty sure that the coaches understand that after watching the game film. It’ll be interesting to see how Ash responds…
Johnathan Gray earned the start and responded with 18 carries for 111 yards. He maximized most of his runs and showed another step in his seemingly inevitable progress. He’s breaking tackles better and it’s clear that game is getting more comfortable for him. Didn’t play well in the screen game with a drop and a poor alignment on another, but that’s freshman growing pains.
Joe Bergeron gave up a sack in pass protection. His runs were decisive (7-32-1 td) and the failure to convert on 4th and goal wasn’t on him. Way too much penetration and no push from the OL.
Ryan Roberson is still really struggling as a lead blocker. He makes contact with a shoulder, stops his feet, and falls at the defender’s feet. Particularly damaging as we try to establish a weak side running game and he’s asked to lead on a defensive end or linebacker.. A really frustrating situation as this running game could be much better with just one difference making blocker at TE or FB.
Physically, they were solid, despite the 4th and 1 stuff on the goal line in the 3rd quarter and the end of game stuffs before the McCoy-Grant TD toss. But mentally, not as sharp. Key holding penalties to derail drives, a personal foul, allowed pressures against a front that hasn’t had many all year, rarely challenging us with more than a three man rush.
For three quarters, we were caught up in that strange reciprocal relationship that happens in offensive football where your OL needs the skill guys to make a couple of plays to take some of the heat off of them, while your skill guys need the OL to play better so they can make it happen. Once one of the units finally bears down, everything gets easy.
KU squatted on inside routes with a generous zone and made Texas throw short and out to the boundary. Nice job by Dave Campo. Why wait until the 4th quarter to attack them on the edge in the screen/end around game with Goodwin? Probably the only major tactical issue I have with Harsin’s play calling. It was easy money and attacking them there is what forced their honesty for the game winning drive.
DJ had the game-winning catch, but I wasn’t happy with the unit overall as receivers or as blockers.
Texas consented to play down to their competition with miscues, poor execution, and a late adjustment to the KU defense. Fortunately, the Longhorns made adjustments and the plays necessary to win the game. I’m not sure what to take away from this game. We weren’t really ready to play.
If we don’t see a Longhorn team ready to play in Lubbock, strap in for a tough final stretch.