September 20, 2009

Three things: Breaking down Texas-Texas Tech

USC went to Washington and lost. All the teeth-gnashing about how the Trojans could pass Texas in the polls after their big win at Ohio State last week was wasted breath.

Now Longhorn fans will turn their attention to the other possible unbeatens - teams like Cal or Penn State. Folks, USC is the team Texas had to worry about.

The Cals or Penn States and Boise States of the world are not going to supplant an undefeated Texas team at the top of the polls when it matters. The voters aren't ready for that.

SURVIVE AND ADVANCE

And with Oklahoma creeping back into the Top 10 this week in both polls, with a huge game at Miami looming, Texas should have marquee games left with OU and Oklahoma State.

"College football this year is about survival," Mack Brown said. "Everyone who brags on one team one week, it seems that team has struggled or lost the next. This year, the kids have to play hard every snap because teams are rising up and getting the teams that start to feel good about themselves."

Mack then went on to say there's probably some benefit to winning with some blemishes.
"It gives us things to talk about in the film room and work on in practice," Brown said. "I'm not sure this team doesn't need that."

OHIO STATE 2002?

This Texas team right now reminds me of the Ohio State team in 2002 that beat Miami for the national title. That team didn't win pretty but it kept winning. And I think this Texas team has much better offense than that Ohio State team without the suffocating defense that OSU team had - right now.

But let's be realistic about what happened Saturday night in Austin against Texas Tech. The Longhorns won ugly with virtually no offensive consistency in the first half.

Now, they have just under a month to find a rhythm. No slight against UTEP and Colorado, but Texas is better than those teams. A loss to either one in Austin would rival David Copperfield getting seven years with Claudia Schiffer.

COLT HAS TO FIGURE IT OUT

Colt McCoy had the flu this past week and missed some practice time. Maybe that played a role in a third straight slow start for the offense. Maybe it didn't. Only Colt McCoy truly knows.

What we do know about Colt is that he tends to reach a point where he's simply not going to tolerate a sub-par standard anymore.

Just like when Jevan Snead outplayed him in the spring game leading into the 2006 season. McCoy came back possessed for fall camp and won the job. The rest is history.

At some point (probably when Tre' Newton becomes more of a factor in the running game in the first half), McCoy will settle into a comfort zone. Especially with UTEP, a bye and then Colorado up next before the showdown with Oklahoma.

If McCoy and the offense don't figure things out over the next two games, it could be too late for UT to figure it out on the fly against OU's potent defense. But a month is a lifetime in college football.


THREE THINGS …

…THAT GOT BETTER

1. Sergio Kindle - Now, it's plain for EVERYONE to see how dominant this guy can be. In a pass rusher's game, he wreaked havoc, bringing pressure on third down, forcing an interception with one rush and causing a sack/fumble on another in the fourth quarter.

2. Wild Horn - Nice to see the offensive staff mixing things up and making the most of their playmakers. John Chiles had a great, 34-yard burst on the first Wild Horn formation. The fear is his fumbled snap on the second Wild Horn might keep the coaches from going back to it for awhile.

3. Special teams - Jordan Shipley's big punt return for a TD kept the Longhorns from going without a touchdown in the first half. Hunter Lawrence was money on field goals from 43 and 33 yards.

Malcolm Williams had a 29-yard kick return. D.J. Monroe had a 33-yard kick return. Justin Tucker had three punts downed inside Tech's 20. There were no touchbacks on kickoffs, but after last week, there was nowhere to go but up.


…THAT STAYED THE SAME

1. Dan Buckner and Jordan Shipley -
These two just keep making play after play and are maintaining a very high level. In fact, Colt McCoy specifically called a pass to Buckner in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal from the 3 with 9:11 left in the game. The score put Texas up, 31-17.

2. Penalties - Texas had nine penalties for 74 yards one week after getting flagged 12 times for 78 yards. Just too many.

3. Ball-hawking Acho brothers - We've grown accustomed to Sam Acho recovering fumbles. He added his fourth recovery of the season against Texas Tech. But now his younger brother, Emmanuel Acho, has gotten into the act. Emmanuel forced two fumbles on Saturday, helping the Texas defense meet its goal of forcing three turnovers.


… THAT GOT WORSE

1. Colt McCoy's slow start in the first half -
For the third straight game, McCoy has looked unsettled early. He wasn't stepping into throws. His passes sailed on him. If it was all the flu, so be it. But it looked a lot like the last two games.

2. Tweak the running game - This is a nitpick, but can Tre' Newton get some carries in the first half? He had only two carries in the first half Saturday and finished with 20 for 88 yards (4.4 ypc), and a 19-yard TD run. He's had an explosive run (12 yards or more) in every game this season.

And can D.J. Monroe get more involved in the offense? For as good as the Wild Horn was, getting the ball in the hands of a guy with 4.35 speed would seem to be a must. The more Colt McCoy feels like he's got some help in the offense, the less pressure he's going to feel to do EVERYTHING, whether that pressure is real or perceived.

3. Chykie Brown - A former Longhorn player told me, "Chykie is costing himself a lot of money so far this season." I don't think I can say it any better than that.

He should look across the field at Aaron Williams to see the intensity needed to be big time. (Williams could have easily been mentioned in the category of things that got better because of two tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and seven tackles).

But Chykie is getting beat on big plays that are hurting the defense. There's a reason Curtis Brown moved ahead of him at right cornerback last week. Chykie's physical tools are unreal. He can do better.

ONE FINAL THOUGHT

Kudos to Earl Thomas for coming up with a big interception against a team that haunted him for a year. Curtis Brown and Blake Gideon also played well Saturday night.

Thomas admitted after the game his knee did hit the ground on the pick.

"I tried to sell it," Thomas said. "But my knee hit the ground."



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