Photoblog: Wyoming versus Texas

Of course, I brought the camera with me last night to get some pictures of the home opener between the Wyoming Cowboys and the Texas Longhorns.

We watched the team walk in, but the lighting was such that the pictures didn’t turn out well. The Wife was shooting video, and I suspect that came out better. I’ll play with it next.

Tech Notes: All pictures taken with a Nikon Coolpix P80 and processed in Adobe Photoshop.

Thoughts on Wyoming versus Texas

Friends, let me introduce you to Texas’ new number one receiver, Mike Davis. We waited through spring practice, the pre-season camp, and five quarters of real play for a receiver to step up as Garrett Gilbert’s go-to guy.

In the second quarter against Wyoming last night, the true freshman did so, catching a 29 yards pass to start the first drive of the second quarter. That drive then stalled for a punt, but a couple of drives later, Davis goes 45 yards for a touch down.

Davis finished the day with seven catches for 104 yards.

Gilbert had a decent game, going 22 of 35 for 222 yards and a touchdown. He does tend to lock-in on a receiver, and his passes aren’t very pretty when he gets happy feet. He showed some impressive shiftiness from Wyoming’s sometimes strong pressure.

Which brings us to the offensive line. They just weren’t very good last night, and they’re going to get Gilbert killed if they don’t step up.

Backup offensive tackle Luke Poehlmann was helped off the field in the fourth quarter with what looked like a knee injury. No word on him so far today.

The running-back-by-committee choose to feature Fozzy Whittaker last night, with his going 62 yards on seven carries with a touchdown. Starter Tre’ Newton was a non-factor with only 25 yards on eight carries.

It’s becoming quite apparent that what we have are three mediocre running backs. That’s going to be a problem with an inexperienced quarterback and a suspect o-line.

The defense showed improvement with fewer physical breakdowns than last week against Rice. But the mental mistakes were legion.

One drive in the third quarter had Wyoming make three first downs by penalty, including a late hit by Blake Gideon where he lowered his head and drove into the wide receiver. I love the aggression, but you have to play smart.

I would have liked to have seen some turnovers, but holding an opponent to seven points and 257 yards offense will win a lot of games, even with a suspect offense.

Special teams was certainly special. Our kicking game looks great, with Justin Tucker hitting both his field goal attempts, and knocking most of his seven kickoffs into the end zone. Many of them were quite deep in the end zone, in fact.

Kick coverage looked good as well. On one kickoff in the second quarter, Wyoming return man James Caraway made the mistake of attempting to return a kick that went about four yards deep in the end zone. Adrian Phillips tackled him on the Wyoming twelve yard line.

We did see the return of Justin Tucker’s rugby punt, but it was from the Wyoming 44 yard line, so if it had been executed, it might have worked out well for us. Unfortunately, Tucker’s kick went out of bounds after only 17 yards. Not so pretty.

Punt receiving is much more exciting than it should be. The Wyoming punter was kicking away from us, but our guys were insisting on trying to field the bouncing, rolling ball. We didn’t muff any punts last night, but if we keep this up, it will burn us again.

The heart of our season starts next week, with a visit to Lubbock for Texas Tech. Then we get UCLA at home, Oklahoma in Dallas, and Nebraska in Lincoln after a bye week.

UCLA looks truly bad, so I’m not too worried about them. But if we play the way we have for the last two weeks, the other three are all losable games.

The defense should keep us in the games, but at this point, I’d be happy to get away with wins in two of the three.

Thoughts on Texas-Rice

Texas beat Rice 34-17 in a game that was both not as close and closer than it seemed. The Owls slugged it out with the Longhorns, making a respectable appearance and never quite being put away completely. On the other hand, the Longhorns dropped two Pick-Six interceptions and fumbled a punt reception. Two of these directly translated into touchdowns for Rice, leading to a swing of 28 points.

The offense is a work in progress. Gilbert seems to understand his role as a caretaker quarterback this season, and generally did a good job with is check downs. One expects an inexperienced QB with a big arm to try and push it downfield, but there wasn’t a lot of that.

His timing with the receivers was fair, but certainly needs to improve. Malcolm Williams and Marquise Goodwin had decent games, and John Chiles has one fantastic catch. Not much from anyone else.

The commitment to the run was evident, but the implementation of a real run game has a ways to go. Run blocking was still tentative, with a few exceptions.

And, unfortunately, our supposed number one running back, Cody Johnson, didn’t look like that. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, but didn’t get any when it mattered. Tre’ Newton only gained 3.4 yards per carry, but he also picked up three touchdowns. Fozzy Whittaker showed moments of brilliance, gaining 51 yards on only nine carries.

This all brought on flash-backs of last year’s different starting running back at every game. We desperately need someone to step up as the number on back.

Will Muschamp also has some work to do on defense. At times they played very well, but there were enough breakdowns that a real offense, with a real quarterback, could really hurt us. I have no doubt that we were very vanilla, but it still has me concerned.

Kenny Vaccaro recorded eight tackles; seven of them were solo. He also made some hits that were loud enough to hear all the way in Cedar Park. He’s going to kill someone this year.

Landry Jones, the bell tolls for thee.

Kheeston Randall is a beast at the nose, but if he gets hurt, it’s going to be a long year. We got a taste of that in the first quarter, but it looked like he just got the wind knocked out of him. Still, it was a scary moment.

We will see lots of Jackson Jeffcoat and Reggie Wilson this year. They’re both going to be superstars.

Chykie Brown is a liability out there. At some point, Muschamp has to decide he’s been given enough chances.

As expected when a team has lost as much as the Horns did last year, it’s going to take a bit of work to reload. The defense needs to gel and work out some inconsistencies, but I saw nothing on Saturday to change my opinion that they’re going to be outstanding.

The offense is shakier, but Gilbert can succeed as a caretaker if we can develop a true identity in the run game.

Preview: Texas Longhorns Offense

In three days, the Texas Longhorns football season opens, and the Garrett Gilbert era begins. While we received a taste of what he brings in the National Championship Game against Alabama, Gilbert has now been working as the starting quarterback since spring practice, and has an offense designed around his traditional, drop-back-quarterback, strengths.

But make no mistake, the Longhorn season rides on the shoulders of Gilbert’s 6′ 4″ frame.

With the departure of Sherrod Harris from the team, true freshman Case McCoy becomes the backup quarterback. If Gilbert were to go down early, a four loss season becomes possible, and perhaps likely.

Which shows the importance of the offensive line. While the OL has talent, and the new offensive scheme caters to their abilities, it’s going to take some time to gel. And one or two injuries could make things rather scary.

Running back by committee will continue for at least a while, but Cody Johnson has emerged as the number one back. Expect big doses of Fozzy Whittaker and Tre Newton as well. Hopefully, we won’t see much of anyone else except in garbage time.

At wide receiver, we desperately need a first and second option to step forward. At the open practice I attended, Gilbert’s timing looked good with everyone, but things may be very different in a real game. To their credit, they’re practicing against one of the best defensive back units in the country, so they’re getting solid experience during the week.

Clearly, all WR positions are open. John Chiles has put in the work and has the right attitude, and will be given the opportunity to make something of himself. Malcolm Williams and Marquise Goodwin are our big play threats. If Williams can be consistent and Goodwin can stay healthy, they’ll take a lot of pressure off the offensive line.

Freshman Mike Davis will be a star before the end of the season.

If the offense performs according to plan, we should see a running game that keeps the linebackers honest and a downfield passing game that keeps the DBs back-pedeling. If the o-line protects Gilbert and the running game develops into a legitimate threat, this offense could be very good.

If not, it could be a long year, although the defense should keep us in most games.

Video: UTEP vs Texas First Touchdown

The Texas Longhorns had a quick start to the game Saturday against the UTEP Miners, recovering a fumble and driving down to the three yard line. Tre’ Newton took it from there.

Shortly after this, my Flip video camera decided it didn’t want to work in the heat anymore, so this was the last decent video of the day.

Tech Notes: The video was taken with my Flip Ultra HD handheld and processed in Apple iMovie.

Thoughts on Texas Tech vs. Texas

Heading into the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Texas Longhorns, if you had told me that Tech would only score twenty-four points, I would have confidently predicted a win by three or four touchdowns. As it happened, the Texas defense held Tech to three touchdowns and a field goal, but Texas only won by ten points, in a game that was actually much closer than the final score indicated.

Texas Tech v Texas

I’ve waited a few days to write about the the game as I wanted to have some time to think about it. It was an ugly win, but I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss on any day of the week.

Don’t hit the panic button yet, Longhorn Faithful. This may well be one of those teams that grits out ugly wins against all comers.

While the 2002 Ohio State national championship team won by an average of almost seventeen points for the season, six of their fourteen victories were by a touchdown or less. The most important thing is that they kept winning.

Texas’ defense has been as good or better than expected. This is all the more impressive when you consider the bad hands regularly dealt to them by the offense and special teams.

The defense held Tech to three points in the first half. Yes, they tired in the second half, giving up three touchdowns and over four-hundred yards of offense for the game, but they held Tech to three of thirteen on third down. Given Texas’ offense (or offensive potential), that should almost always be enough.

Sergio Kindle picked up his first sack of the year, with a crushing hit on Tech quarterback Taylor Potts. Overall, Potts was sacked three times, and was hurried or knocked down many more times.

Speaking of which, Potts is a solid quarterback and is very tough. If Kindle had hit me like that, I’d be breathing out of a tube at this point. Potts comes in the game two and a half minutes later, and drives Tech 88 yards for a touchdown. Damn tough. I’m not looking forward to our game against them next year.

Texas Tech v Texas

Which brings us to the Texas offense. Again, it’s not time to panic, but concern is warranted.

So far, Colt McCoy has not looked as good as he did last year. He hasn’t regressed to his sophomore form, but he hasn’t performed to expectations either. Granted, his playing level is still very high, but something isn’t quite clicking. There are several potential reasons, including:

  • Taking too much on his shoulders. He needs to relax and play.
  • A nasty case of the flu. My understanding is that several people within the program have had it.
  • A offensive line not as good as expected. It’s still better than Oklahoma’s o-line.
  • No Quan Cosby. Other than with Shipley, the timing with the receivers doesn’t seem to be there.
  • No reliable running back.
Texas Tech v Texas

This last issue may be solved. Tre’ Newton has been announced as the new starting tailback. He’s a slashing back who hits the holes quickly and has great vision down the field. He’s also a reliable receiver, giving Colt an outlet pass when needed.

Newton isn’t the next Ricky Williams, but he should do quite a bit to keep the defenses honest.

And we’ll learn a lot more in the next game or two about what sort of year Colt is going to have.

About the atmosphere at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, with a record crowd of 101,297 in attendance, it was crowded. Parking was much tougher (and more expensive) than usual, but this might be due to the lack of shuttle busses.

In addition, everything just seemed to take longer. Even though people started leaving with about two minutes left (guys, this is Tech!), it still took forever to get down from the upper deck after they finished playing the eyes of Texas.

And once we were at our car, it took the better part of forty-five minutes to get out of the campus area.

The crowd noise was good for DKR-TMS, especially after the sack by Kindle. I think that the second half of the Oklahoma State game in 2004 was much louder overall.

I don’t want to forget to give Texas Tech some credit. They fought hard and never quit. The defense is getting a bit better every year, and Taylor Potts has the potential to be a very good quarterback for them. They will beat some good teams this year.

So, three games into the season, and with our first conference game under our belt, we remain undefeated and the #2 ranked team in the nation. I’ll take it.

Texas Tech versus Texas Predictions

Many Texas Longhorn fans still see the play in their nightmares. Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell throws the ball to Michael Crabtree, who tosses off a tackle from Earl Thomas and outruns Curtis Brown to the endzone to put the Red Raiders ahead with only a second remaining in the game.

Louisiana Monroe v Texas

It doesn’t help that one can’t watch anything involving college football without seeing the play every two or three minutes.

Tonight, after ten long months of waiting, Texas and Texas Tech finally meet again on the football field. Only this time, it’s Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, in front of a record Texas crown that should approach 102,000.

By the numbers, it should be all Texas. Texas Tech has not beaten Texas in Austin in either Mack Brown or Mike Leech’s tenures at their current schools. In fact, Tech has rarely even kept it respectable in Austin.

Neither of the Tech players from that game winning catch will be in the game this year. Graham Harrell is in Canada trying to learn how the game works with an extra player and a wider field. And Michael Crabtree is still deciding whether he’d rather play in the NFL or flip burgers at McDonalds.

Tech’s circus act of an offense usually takes a few weeks to get rolling. Many of their early-season games against patsies have been much lower scoring than expected, as it takes a number of game speed snaps to get the timing down.

This is only the third game of the season. And Texas is no patsy.

Texas should be pissed about last year, and they should roll Tech easily. But things don’t always work out the way they should.

Louisiana Monroe v Texas

The key to stopping Tech’s offense is clean execution and solid tackling, two things at which Will Muschamp’s defenses have tended to excel. If the defense performs like it can, it will hold Tech to three or four touchdowns, which should be more than enough for the victory.

If the Texas offense performs, that is.

Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill is probably the finest defensive mind in Lubbock in two decades. If the Texas offense comes out the same way they did last year in Lubbock (or last week in Laramie, Wyoming), we could be in for a long night.

I expect Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis to start the game in full pucker mode. We’ll come out very conservative on offense. The first play will probably be a bubble screen to Jordan Shipley that will either gain two yards or lose two yards.

The next play will be a slow developing run by Vondrell McGee. He’ll be tacked for a loss.

Then, with third and long, Colt McCoy will be forced to air it out. Whether Tech can stop us or not remains to be seen.

After a series or two, Greg Davis will relax, and the offense will begin to hum. Look for a big night from Colt McCoy. Hopefully, we’ll see him begin to gel with his receivers tonight and return to last season’s form.

Expect a big night from tailback Tre’ Newton. The son of former Dallas Cowboy Nate Newton has been slowly separating himself from Texas’ committee of running backs. While he won’t get the start tonight, he will get a lot of snaps early, and will likely grab the starting job before the end of the evening.

Everyone expects tonight’s game to be an offensive showcase, as evidenced by the over/under of sixty-six to sixty-seven points. If the Texas defense can make its tackles, and the Texas offense can assert a running game, we should end up on the correct side of that showcase.

Thoughts on Texas versus Wyoming

A Saturday of upsets and near upsets.

Fifth ranked Oklahoma State lost to unranked Houston by two scores. Freshman quarterback Tate Forcier lead his rebuilding Michigan team to a four point victory over 18th ranked Notre Dame. Number 21 Georgia slips by South Carolina. Eleventh ranked LSU can’t put away Vanderbilt until midway through the fourth quarter. And third ranked USC needs a game saving touchdown late in the fourth quarter to beat Ohio State.

And for thirty minutes in the rarified air of Laramie, Wyoming, much of the Longhorn Nation wondered if Texas was destined to join the mighty fallen in the second week of the season.

I never hit the panic button, but I’ll confess that as the first half wore on, the seeds of doubt began to grow. Finally, in the closing seconds of the first half, Colt McCoy put together a drive, and after all the nerves and fears, Texas took the lead into halftime.

Three more unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter and one for good measure in the fourth led to a 41-10 victory.

The Wyoming Cowboys hit the Texas Longhorns with everything they had. Wyoming might not have had as much talent or depth, but on Saturday they had more heart and desire.

If not for on of the most complete games played by a Texas defense in several years, the outcome might have been different. Both of Wyoming scores are more properly attributed to the special teams than the defense, which held Wyoming to three of seventeen on third down conversions and sacked Wyoming quarterbacks five times.

About those special teams… In the second quarter, punter Justin Tucker decided to call his own number, running for the first down, and turning the ball over on downs at the UT fourteen yard line.

Later in the second, punter John Gold is blocked. The ball is recovered by Wyoming’s Ghaali Muhammad and returned for a touchdown.

Finally, in the third quarter, Jordan Shipley fakes a field goal attempt and is tackled short of the one yard needed. It’s fourth and one. Put the fat boys in the game, line up, and push it across.

Perhaps it’s time to hire a dedicated special teams coach?

A pleasant surprise on the offensive side of the ball was the running of Tre’ Newton. The son of former Dallas Cowboy Nate Newton ran eight times for 62 yards and a touchdown. He countered Texas’ horrible run blocking by hitting the hole immediately, instead of dancing around in the backfield waiting for pursuit to catch up with him.

It was also good to see Garrett Gilbert allowed to pass again. He went two of three for sixteen yards. We need him to get as much real game experience as possible.

McCoy continues to spread the ball around, with nine receivers and backs catching the ball. James Kirkendoll was the top receiver, with seven catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.

It appears that Shipley has won the punt receiving job outright. He’s certainly a big play threat in that role, but I’d hate to see him get hurt.

Sergio Kindle was a non-factor all afternoon, recording onle one solo and one assisted tackle. There were claims in the post-game conference that he was being double teamed, but it looked to me like he was being consistently beat one-on-one. So far, he’s not living up to the hype.

Fortunately, the defensive backfield is playing lights out. Chykie and Curtis Brown were amazing. Blake Gideon may have butter all over his fingers, but his coverage is outstanding.

Out highly regarded offensive line is beginning to look overrated. Several big gains were brought back due to holding. And several plays didn’t even get started due to false starts. And Wyoming was consistently getting pressure on Colt McCoy, sometimes while just rushing three players.

The officiating was just plain ugly. Some of the low-lights include:

  • A phantom unsportsmanlike call against Chykie Brown.
  • Resetting the game back two plays, after Wyoming had run a play thinking it was 1st and goal.
  • Miscalling an obvious Colt McCoy fumble as grounding the ball, then taking several minutes reviewing the play.
  • A penalty being called on #10 for Texas. I know Vince Young is having a hard year, but sheesh. Give him a break. He’s in Tennessee, not Wyoming.

I know that Oklahoma State’s loss to Cougar High hurts our strength of schedule, but it sure was fun to watch. The reality is that we need to run the table to have any real shot at the national championship game. Whether our opponents win or lose their other games won’t really effect that.

Any Saturday where Notre Dame loses is a good Saturday.

I can only hope that Texas is better prepared next weekend, as Texas Tech comes to town.