Archive for the ‘2014’ Category

Arkansas Pre Game

The Grinch Who Stole the Texas Bowl

 

Unless Tyrone Swoopes, for Christmas, was imbued with talent and intestinal fortitude, I’m afraid it’s going to be a disappointing if not downright ugly ending to the 2014 season for our Longhorns. Swoopes has not played decently against good defenses this year and Arkansas, ranked 16th in scoring defense and 22nd nationally in total defense, will arguably be the best defense Texas has faced all year. In short, Arkansas is a bad match-up for Texas.

My expectation is that the Longhorns will play woefully on offense but the defense will keep them in the game until the third quarter when the game will get away from them. Remember, Texas hasn’t scored a touchdown in the third quarter since September 6th. They’ve been shut out in the third quarter in 7 of 12 games this season. This is quite an indictment of offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and, of course, Charlie Strong.

While I’m on the subject of indicting Texas coaches, I’ll throw special teams coordinator Chris Vaughn into the discussion. Texas special teams, across the board, have stunk it up all year. I don’t understand how Charlie Strong, who is all about accountability, hard work, and commitment, can oversee a team with bad special teams. One of the things I’ve learned about football, from analysts I respect and people I know who have played on the college level, is that good special teams play doesn’t require four and five star athletes. What it requires are coaches who find players that have a will and a commitment to being excellent on special teams and coaching the hell out of them. If I was Charlie Strong, I would be embarrassed about the performance of my special teams. Strong needs to find the best special teams coach in the country who’s available, and throw coordinator money at him to replace Chris Vaughn in 2015.

Opinion

Call me an instant gratification guy, but I think Charlie Strong made a big mistake in not playing Jerrod Heard this season. He had the perfect opportunity during the off week between the UCLA and Kansas games to make a game plan for getting Heard meaningful playing time from that point forward. The story that Heard didn’t give Texas as much chance to win games as Swoopes is implausible based on Swoopes cumulative performance this year. (If that story is true then the Longhorns and Strong are in big, big trouble.) I think the decision not to play Heard showed Shawn Watson and Strong to be rigid in their thinking and planning. If Watson couldn’t come up with a plan to utilize Heard’s skills to try and help the team win, shame on him. I think the reason Heard didn’t play was simply because Strong and Watson decided before the season to redshirt him and nothing that happened during the season was going to alter their plan. Now Texas goes into 2015 with only one quarterback who has played in a college football game. Note to Messrs. Strong and Watson: The only way to build depth at any position, including quarterback, is to play more than one player at that position. To those who argue that Heard’s four years of eligibility needed to be preserved beyond this year, let me know if you’re willing to bet serious money that Heard will be on campus and making a meaningful contribution to the team in 2018.

Over Christmas dinner, my brother David suggested that Strong didn’t think his won-loss record this year mattered and that influenced his decision not to play Heard. If Strong did think that way, he miscalculated in my opinion. In the blowout losses to BYU, Baylor, Kansas State, and TCU, Strong’s team too closely resembled those of the old regime. Couple that with his unwillingness to give Jerrod Heard an opportunity to help the team and I believe he’s burned through this year most, if not all, the goodwill he will be granted as the rebuilder of the program. I look at it this way. To prevent his seat from getting awfully warm after what’s shaping up to be a six win season, he’s going to have to win at least nine games in 2015.

Keys to victory for Texas

Assuming Tyrone Swoopes hasn’t reinvented himself as Colt McCoy over the past month here is what Texas needs to do to beat Arkansas:
1. Swoopes and the offense need to commit no more than one turnover.
2. The defense needs to force at least two turnovers by Arkansas.
3. The offense needs to have at least 30 minutes of ball possession.
4. Swoopes needs to be allowed to keep the ball at least five times on the zone read.
5. The punt and kickoff coverage needs to prevent Arkansas from gaining field position advantages.
6. Texas needs to do something other than running off tackle when Arkansas puts eight or more defenders in the box.
7. The defense or special teams need to score or at least set up some easy scoring opportunities.
8. Charlie Strong has to manage the clock and his time outs effectively.
9. Get the ball in into the hands of Armanti Foreman and Daje Johnson at least 10 times.
10. Score at least 25 points.
If Texas checks off seven of these ten items they’ll win.

HooK ‘eM,
W.E.

Over/Under Leaderboard

David Frink and Reed Ramlow are the leaders heading into the Texas Bowl with two wins each. Reed is slightly ahead of David because he had a strong second place finish in the UCLA game losing in the tiebreaker to Wade Wallace.

Going into the bowl  these players remain in contention for the 2014 championship with one win and at least one second place finish:
Zach Frank
Greg Swan
Steve Holstead
D.R. Flower

Of course a victory in a bowl game the magnitude of the Advocare Texas Bowl will stand on its own as a magnificent accomplishment.

Over/Under Contest

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Post Game TCU

Oopes

Maybe the Horns were over confident. I’m being serious. There were lots of good feelings in and around the team after winning three straight heading into the TCU game.
But I digress. Let’s recap Texas’ season long offensive futility, shall we?

* Texas ranks #104 in points scored, 83rd in passing yards, and 87th in rushing yards.
* Tyrone Swoopes is 91st in the country in quarterback rating.
* Texas has had only two 100 yard rushing performances this season.
*In the loss to TCU, Texas failed to score a touchdown in the third quarter for the tenth straight game.
* Texas has scored a touchdown in the first quarter in only 5 of 12 games. They’ve scored a total of six touchdowns for the season in the first quarter.
* Only Oklahoma State scored fewer points than Texas against TCU. They scored 9. Texas scored 10. Highlights of other TCU Big 12 opponent’s scoring include Kansas 30, Kansas!, Oklahoma 33, and Texas Tech 27…in only 24 minutes time of possession.

TCU coach Gary Patterson was asked after the game what his plans were going forward, to which he replied.”We’ve got to get ready for Iowa State; they have a Division I Offense.”

The excuses of having suffered injuries and dismissals on the offensive line, and having a raw quarterback, should get Charlie Strong and Shawn Watson only so much sympathy. In the Big 12 only Kansas State ranks in the top 25 nationally in total defense. Yeah, that was the game in which Texas was shut out. In short, the Big 12 isn’t exactly known as a conference that plays strong defense.

If I were giving Charlie Strong season grades for offense, defense, and special teams the grades would F, A, and D. It reminds me of the guy who was called into the dean’s office at the end of a semester after making four Fs and a D. The dean asked the guy what he thought his problem was. The guy answered, “Too much concentration on one subject.”

I’m making a serious point. You know I like Coach Strong, but in my opinion he has to start running his football program more like a head coach responsible for all three phases of football and forget about being a co-defensive coordinator.

That’s all I got for now.

Except…

I gotta Basketball Jones!

HooK ‘eM,

W.E.

TCU Over/Under Results

D.R. Flower was the only player to pick all three winners on question #9 and that turned out to be the difference this week as D.R., in scoring an eight, wins his second O/U in only five outings . That’s pretty impressive playing indeed.  D.R. edged out David Frink and Dan Yoxall who each tallied seven correct answers.

During the break before the bowl game I will tally and report regular season results for Over/Under.

 

 

 

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Pre Game TCU

Payback Time?

With TCU knocking on the door of the four team playoff for the national championship, it might be a good time for payback. Just to refresh your memory, on November 18, 1961, #1 ranked Texas lost 6-0 at home to lowly 2-4-1 TCU spoiling the Horns chances for the National Championship. It was that loss that prompted Darrell Royal to compare TCU to a cockroach—“It’s not so much what he gets into and carries away but what he falls into and messes up.” Do you think 53 years and 9 days is too late for payback?
Speaking of ancient Texas football history, for seasons 1961-64, Darrell Royal’s teams were within two losses of three national championships in four years. Texas finished the ’61 season 10-1 and ranked #3. They won the National Championship in ’63. In 1964 only a failed two-point conversion try against Arkansas prevented Royal’s team from a perfect 11-0 season and a second straight national championship. Royal had a good run don’t you think?
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Here’s an interesting statistical comparison I read on the Barking Carnival blog. TCU is allowing 30 points per Big 12 Conference game. Texas is allowing 15. Texas is scoring an average of 24.8 points per conference game. I’ll let you do the rest of the math.
Statistical comparisons aside, Texas’ chances of beating TCU come down to two variables in my opinion: special teams and the performance of Tyrone Swoopes.
Special Teams
Nick Rose can’t any miss 28-yard field goals, Texas punters can’t shank any 12-yarders, and the kickoff coverage team can’t give up series of 50-yard plus returns. Texas is not good enough to make these kinds of mistakes and beat #5 TCU, as they weren’t good enough to overcome those types of errors against UCLA and Oklahoma. In the Baylor game, a blocked field goal attempt in the first quarter that was returned for a touchdown set a negative tone early.
Swoopes
He’s eighth in the Big 12 in total passing yards and quarterback rating, but he’s thrown only six interceptions in 325 attempts, so at least he’s not a turnover machine. There is good and bad news here. Swoopes’ low interception number is largely because Sean Watson and Strong don’t trust him to throw passes over the middle. This limits interceptions, but it also creates a relatively low ceiling for the passing attack. I think Swoopes will have to be given a bigger playbook in the passing game to beat TCU. A few quarterback keepers of the zone read wouldn’t hurt either, but I’ve come to the conclusion that’s not going to happen in order to avoid an injury to Swoopes.
Records
Texas has only beat one team with a winning record, West Virginia (6-5). The combined won-loss record of the Horns’ vanquished foes is 24-41.
The combined won-loss record of teams that have beaten Texas is 41-12, and four of those teams are ranked in the top 25 of the College Football Playoff Rankings.
Bowl eligible
Yeah, Texas will play in a bowl because they’ve won the requisite six games to be bowl eligible, but I’ve always thought that a 6-6 team playing in a bowl game was fraudulent. If Texas loses to TCU, I don’t think we’ll be looking back at it as the big one that got away in three, five, or ten years from now, but it is a big deal right now. A win guarantees a winning season, and I’d like to see Charlie Strong show he can be a clutch game-day coach by beating TCU.
Life after culture change
By the time Charlie Strong came to Austin and instituted culture change within the football program, Rick Barnes was a year into the culture change of his basketball program. I hope Strong’s culture change is as successful as Barnes’ has been.
Beware of Kansas State
Everybody’s talking about TCU and Baylor. Should TCU be ranked ahead of Baylor even though Baylor beat them? If the both finish 11-1 will either one of them make the four team playoff? This conversation bores me. If Texas beats TCU and Kansas State beats Baylor—not an unlikely scenario—the entire conversation is moot.

Charlie Strong
I’ve become addicted to watching Charlie Strong’s Monday press conferences this year. Before he got here, Strong had a reputation for not being fond of or adept at dealing with the press. I have found just the opposite to be true. Strong is the most open and candid college football coach I have ever witnessed. He provides true insight into what is going on with his team. Since I’ve been watching, he has never been terse or defensive in answering questions. He appears to take his responsibility to communicate with the press seriously, and he has been respectful with them week in and week out. He has accepted responsibility for his team’s poor performances without qualification. He doesn’t appear to be overly image-conscience. He has an endearing sense of humor that’s not the least bit biting or sarcastic. He laughs easily and heartily. What I have been most impressed with is how animated he is when he talks about his players. The little stories he tells about his one-on-one conversations and relationships with players reveals a man and a coach who genuinely cares about the young men, enjoys being around them, and is making real connections. I heard Kirk Herbstreit on the radio today talking about how much the Texas players like Strong and how hard they’re still playing for him through the adversity they’ve faced this year. I was so impressed with Strong at his press conference this week that I wanted to share my admiration for Strong with Helen and asked her to watch it. If you’re interested you should check it out on YouTube. At the end of his appearance, Strong laughs so hard while telling a funny story about an encounter he had with kind of strange guy outside the practice facility earlier this year, that he’s still laughing as he walks away from the podium. I don’t know whether Charlie Strong will be a big winner at Texas, but I’ve grown quite fond of him.

HooK ‘eM,

W.E.

 

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Oklahoma State Post Game

Let’s Go Bowling !

Did I ever tell you about the time in 1978, when I went bowling with Mike Frank, John Spafford, and John Hairston on….Wrong forum, never mind.

Despite the fact that Oklahoma State is a bad football team, that has now lost four straight games by an average score of 38-10, Texas’ win in Stillwater Saturday night is a very, very good win and a big win for our team and our program. I thought Charlie Strong may have lost this team after the 23-0 stinker of a loss to Kansas State, but the three game winning streak since then goes a long way towards proving Strong can build a team and a program.

What a weird way to score 28 points. Two botched extra points, three field goals, and a missed 21-yard field goal.

I know there are concerns about 2015 because the team will lose seniors Quandre Diggs, Jordan Hicks, Cedric Reed, John Harris, and junior Malcolm Brown, but Strong has shown he can develop and create players and leaders where none existed before. I’m bullish on the future.

I am concerned about the future of the Longhorns at quarterback. Tyrone Swoopes played a solid game against Oklahoma State. It was his first good game since the Iowa State game a month ago. Swoopes’ good performances this year, Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State came against teams that ranked 6, 9, and 7 respectively in Big 12 total defense. He has struggled and hamstrung Texas in all the other games. If you were paying close attention Saturday night, you will have noticed that when Texas had troubles in the third quarter, the main reason was that Swoopes was spooked by the Oklahoma State pass rush, both real and imagined by Swoopes. All year long, if there is any traffic in the pocket, Swoopes takes his eyes off his receivers and starts looking for a place to fall down or run out of bounds. His beautiful 45-yard touchdown pass to Armanti Foreman in the fourth quarter, started with an absolutely clean pocket with no Oklahoma State defender within five yards of him. Unless he develops the ability to ignore the flak and step up in the pocket, he is not the answer at quarterback.

On to TCU. They rank fourth in the Big 12 in total defense but seventh in pass defense. The Horns have a chance.

Revelation
It was gray, misting, and 48 degrees around noon on Saturday in Austin. In other words, great running weather, which is what I was doing on the cushioned field turf at Clark Field on the UT campus. For the first 30 minutes or so I was there, I was running all alone, lost in my thoughts and my iPod. It was then that I received the answer to a question that I have pondered for decades. What is the greatest song of all time?

Answer, “Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan.
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Willie Earl
Willie Earl

HooK ‘Em,
W.E.

Over/Under Results
I know you’re out there. You know that you scored a nine and you’re thinking you won. You would be wrong, all six of you. Yes, six players made nines this week, but my pledge brothers, John Scott and Greg Swan were perfect 10s. Greg edged John in the tiebreaker by correctly predicting that Georgia and Wisconsin would come out on top Saturday. Congratulations Greg!
Mike Frank, Clayton Frink, Justin Merendino, Steve Holstead, Mark Stephan, and Art Zeitz were the nines.
The ever growing by leaps and bounds Willie Earl’s Longhorn Blog received 28 Over/Under entries this week.
Any investors out there?

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Pre Game Oklahoma State

Swoopes?

There seems to be a consensus amongst sports writers, bloggers, and analysts that Tyrone Swoopes doesn’t like to get hit. Swoopes himself said after the Baylor game that he got nervous after getting hit a couple of times. Charlie Strong and Sean Watson say that Swoopes is looking at the oncoming rush and not at pass routes developing downfield. This is troubling and with nine starts under his belt, you have to wonder if Swoopes is capable of developing into a serviceable college quarterback.

I have a theory and a crazy prediction. I don’t think Swoopes has the desire required to develop into a serviceable college quarterback, much less a good one. He’s big and tall, has a strong arm, and by all accounts is pretty smart. He has participated in two years of spring practice, two preseason camps, three weeks of bowl workouts, and of course the nine starts. Yet, with all this practice, preparation, and game experience, if he’s still so nervous about being hit that he can’t look downfield, maybe he’s just not committed. In the last three games, in addition to his overall poor play, his effort looks half-hearted to me. He carries out his fakes in a half-speed jog and he slouches off the field after a drive stalls or ends in a turnover. I’d be very surprised if he’s the starter in 2015 and I wouldn’t be surprised if he transferred to a division two school, or quits football all together after this season.
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The last time I wrote Swoopes off was before his renaissance in the Oklahoma and Iowa State games, but since those games his play has reverted to the dark ages. His combined stat line for the Kansas State, Texas Tech, and West Virginia games: 37-79 passing for 458 yards with 2 touchdown passes and 1 interception. If you don’t count sacks, he’s rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries. Maybe he should run more. Of course, that probably involves getting hit; this segues nicely into my next topic.

Is the offensive game plan tailored to reduce the chances of Swoopes getting injured and being unable to play? Because what’s the plan if Swoopes does get injured? Playing Jerrod Heard and burning his precious redshirt for playing time in less then three games? If not, than as far as we know the next man up is Trey Holtz. Here’s his background from Texassports.com.
REDSHIRT FRESHMAN (2013)
Did not see game action.
FRESHMAN (2012)
Redshirted.
HIGH SCHOOL
Coached by Robert Weiner at H.B. Plant High School … helped Panthers win Florida State Championship his senior year … lettered as a junior and senior … served as a reserve quarterback … was primarily the team’s holder and rugby-style punter during its championship season … also participated in lacrosse.
Interesting.
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If Swoopes doesn’t like getting hit, I wonder how he feels about playing in real cold weather. The forecast is for the low 40s at kickoff in Stillwater.

Look for Oklahoma State to put nine defenders in the box and to blitz early and often.

The defense was great in the West Virginia game, especially in the second half, when the offense could do nothing. They were on the field for 90 plays. I don’t think they can hold up for 90 plays against Oklahoma State.

Given where this team was at midseason, it would be great if they could get six wins, qualify for a bowl and get the sorely needed three weeks of practice that goes with it. Oklahoma State looks very beatable on paper. They average less than 400 yards of offense per game and rank 72nd in the country in scoring, averaging 28.4 points per game. The news on their defense is even better. They rank 91st in points allowed surrendering 30.2 per game. They’ve been blown out in their last three games losing 42-9 to TCU, 34-10 to West Virginia, and 48-14 to Kansas State.

Yet, after watching Swoopes and our offense in the second half against West Virginia, I don’t have a very good feeling about this game.

HooK ‘Em,

W.E.

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