Archive for the ‘2014’ Category

Baylor Pre-Game

Never is Heard an Encouraging Word

 

Over the past 20 years I’ve gone through several phases of daily media consumption. Starting in the early ‘90s though about 2006 I was a daily consumer of C-SPAN, Seinfeld and a lot of news/talk radio while I was driving around in Jon Voight’s car. From 2006 to the present, my daily staples include PTI on ESPN with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon (Helen and I watch a recorded version around 7:30 pm), Colin Cowherd’s daily sports talk show on ESPN radio, The Office, and Law & Order (the original) of which Helen and I have seen every episode from 1990 to its conclusion in 2010; I have seen every episode at least twice.
Starting last fall I added Longhorn Football blogs to my daily consumption. Some of the ones I read are: Barking Carnival almost every day, Orangebloods about once a week, and – occasionally — Horns Digest and an email-forwarded copy of Inside Texas.

Among all those publications, I have not read a single article or posted comment that said Texas has any chance at all to beat Baylor tomorrow. Right off the top of my head I can’t think of a single post or comment that has predicted that the game will be competitive.

After my pre-season prediction that Texas would go 11-1 in the regular season, who am I to counter any of this abject pessimism? The last time I can remember Texas being a 16-point — or whatever the current line is – underdog was the 1996 Big 12 Championship game versus Nebraska. Could Texas pull off another shocking upset on Saturday? Tyrone Swoopes is no James Brown and Jonathan Gray is no Priest Holmes, so I don’t see a Texas win in the cards. But I predict the game will be surprisingly competitive; perhaps competitive enough to get our hearts beating a little faster during the fourth quarter.

Panning for Hope
Here are some odds and ends if you want to find any reason to be hopeful.

1. In Baylor’s last two games against highly ranked teams, they lost to Oklahoma State 49-17 and Central Florida 52-42. Okay, so the Horns aren’t a highly ranked team . . . I’m just sayin’.
2. Although there’s no absolute confirmation, it looks though Daje Johnson will play in his first game of 2014. Maybe he’ll be more assignment-responsible and a little faster without THC coursing through his veins.
3. If there’s a faster Longhorn than Daje it’s Amanti Foreman, who flashed that speed on a reverse against Kansas that went for 29 yards. Texas offensive coordinator Sean Watson praised Foreman’s practice performance and progress over the past few weeks. Perhaps Foreman, along with Daje, will transform Texas’ offense into an explosive scoring machine.
4. It’s not unreasonable to believe that Tyrone Swoopes, in his fourth game as a starter, will play his best game as a Longhorn.

Texas Football Brands
In addition to generally dismal expectations for the next two games, I’m also hearing a lot of angst from Texas fans about how Texas Football has been surpassed by in-state rivals Texas A&M and Baylor. Certainly the Aggies and Baylor have had better seasons the last three years or so, but so far as Texas being eclipsed by those programs, I don’t see it that way. When the Longhorns are really good, they win Rose Bowls and win or appear in National Championship games.
Let’s check out the bowl records of A&M and Baylor since 2010.
Baylor
2010, Texas Bowl L
2011, Alamo W
2012, Holiday W
2013, Fiesta L
Texas A&M
2010, Cotton L
2011, Meineke W
2012, Cotton, W
2013, Chick-fil-A W
Between the two of them there has been one BCS bowl appearance. Baylor lost to freaking Central Florida in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.
Sure, I’m not happy with the Longhorns’ seasons the last four years and this year may not end up all that pretty. But I’m not worried about keeping up with A&M and Baylor’s trips to the Cotton and Alamo Bowls. Complain to me at the end of 2015 when Baylor wins a second conference championship and A&M wins their first conference championship and goes to a major bowl for the first time since 1998.

Deep Horn

Deep Horn is deeply depressed and disturbed about the current state of the Longhorns. However, he believes Charlie Strong is doing what needs to be done to rebuild the program.

Deep Thought of the Day

Perhaps the most cited long lyric of the past 50 years is  Paul McCartney’s the love you take is equal to the love you make.  That’s too obvious. My favorite McCartney lyric is, For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool By making his world a little colder paul-mccartney-20070616-270745
Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah

Be warm and by all means,

HooK ‘eM,

W.E.

Over/Under Contest

 

 

 

 

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Kansas Post Game

The List

The last refuge of a columnist who can’t string together a coherent thought.

1. The offense’s performance against Kansas took me back to 1976.
2. At least we’re undefeated in conference.
3. Could be worse. We could be Michigan.
4. Kansas didn’t have a big punt or kickoff return against us and we had one nice punt return by Shipley. But Rose missed a friggin’ extra point and we had a field goal attempt blocked. The special teams aren’t very special.
5. Tyrone Swoopes self-flushes from the pocket. He needs to stand in there and keep his eyes down field.
6. Opposing defenses aren’t going to respect Swoopes as a run option in the zone read.
7. If Strong and company want to include the zone read, I’ve Heard they have a quarterback that might be effective running it. See what I did there?
8. After three and a half years Steve Edmond still isn’t getting it done. Does this fit the classic definition of insanity?
9. Even Tom Brady looks bad playing with a bad offensive line.
10. Where have you gone, Jerry Sisemore, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, woo woo woo.
11. I watched the Kansas game in a sports bar near the UCLA campus. From my perch I could watch, Texas A&M-Arkansas and Florida State-North Carolina State, but I focused my attention on the Longhorns. That’s love…or something.
12. I believe it was Charlie Strong who first said that the Longhorns weren’t going to win a championship this year.
13. I hope the Texas coaches are taking a long hard look at the Baylor-Central Florida film from last year’s Fiesta Bowl.
Over/Under and out.

HooK ‘eM,
W.E.

Over/Under Results

One of my fond memories from high school was when my French II teacher, Mrs. Bertoni, was calling students up to her desk to hand back their final exams. When she called me up and looked at my final she said loudly enough for the entire class to hear, “Monsieur Frink, 90. This final was too easy.”
This week the average score for the Kansas Over/Under was 7.8. This contest was too easy. Still, that doesn’t take away from David Frink’s grade, a perfect 10. David, you’ve always been a 10 in my book.
Mark Adams, Art Zeitz, and Wade Wallace tied for second with nines.

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Kansas Pre-Game

Catch Up Football

Since the disappointing loss to UCLA game the week before a bye week, I took the liberty of taking time off from my Willie Earl duties to do some soul searching and conduct an agonizing reappraisal of myself and the Longhorns. Ha! Just kidding, I haven’t done any soul searching or agonizing reappraisals since I shot 96 at Morris Williams about a month ago. Anyway it’s been too long since we’ve talked Longhorn Football so here we go.

One Toke Over the Line

Kennedy Estelle became the ninth player of the Charlie Strong era to be dismissed from the team. The reporters, bloggers, and talking heads that claim to be “in the know” tell us that Estelle was dismissed for having a third or fourth positive drug test for marijuana. We may never know for sure that was the reason and it’s interesting to note that he was suspended before last years’ Alamo Bowl for academic reasons. Maybe Estelle hadn’t been attending class regularly. If so, being a repeat offender would be another one of Charlie Strong’s dismissible offenses.

It’s been interesting to me that some commentators and fans have been critical of Strong for being too harsh a disciplinarian evidenced by the nine dismissals since he arrived in January. Well, two of the nine (Kendall Sanders, a projected starter, and Montrel Meander a valuable back up) were dismissed for felony sexual assault. Joe Bergeron, the veteran running back with 1,392 career rushing yards, and now Estelle were dismissed, according to unconfirmed reports, for multiple failed drug tests. Linebacker Deoundrei Davis was dismissed for stealing. I wonder which of those five dismissals Strong’s critics would disagree with?

Strong commented on this latest dismissal at a press conference Tuesday after practice. Here are some highlights of his comments as reported by Barking Carnival.
The blue print of this program has been and always will be the change in helping direct the lives of young people. I’m sorry that another player had to be dismissed, but when you’re told something over and over again…
We continue to develop young men. We will continue to ask them to follow our core values, which all of them have been brought up on. They understand what the core values are. When you are asked to do something and you are part of a team, and when you don’t do it then you affect the whole team, and you affect the whole program.
Young people want discipline in their lives, and it’s our job as a coaching staff to make sure that we provide him with discipline. I always look at it like this – right now, they are laying a foundation for 10 years from now. That foundation is the house they are going to live in, the wife they are going to pick to marry, their children and how they’re going to provide for them and how they’re going to raise them. If that foundation is provided for them now, 10 years from now they’ll just be able to lean back on it and look back and say ‘That’s the life that I want to live.
Any time a player is dismissed from this program it hurts me because we are here to help young men. We are not here to run young men off; that’s not our job. We’re here to help them, and it just bothers me. When you’re given an opportunity, you want to make sure you have every resource and everything available to help them be successful.
I always look at it – sometimes you see someone that has given so much and achieved so little and then someone that has given so little and achieved so much.
I’m not hard at all. Those guys have more fun around me then they will ever have around any coach, and that’s just the atmosphere that I provide for them. I give them a lot of chances to get it right because I want them to still be successful.
When you say you’re going to do something, it’s just like your own child, they’re going to challenge you. Now when they do challenge you, then what are you going to do about it? It’s not so much the program, it’s just that young men sometimes want to make a decision where they feel like it is their prerogative to do whatever they want to do. It just can’t happen here.

Good stuff in my book.

And while we’re on the subject of discipline, Thursday morning Chip Brown of Horn’s Digest reported that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association Director Maurice Smith are coming to Austin this Sunday to talk with Strong about his five core values. In the immortal words of L.M. Boyd, “interesting if true.”

What do you suppose Charlie Strong would do with Jameis Winston?

Seen but not Heard

Tyrone Swoops has played admirably. He has, as the scouts like to say, “arm talent” and he throws the short passes to the flat and the sidelines very well. I’m not being sarcastic about the short passes. If you’ve noticed the Greg Davis specials have actually been effective since Swoopes began playing because his timing, accuracy, and zip on those throws are excellent.
All that being said, for at least two reasons, Jerrod Heard has to play this year and there’s no better place to start playing than Lawrence, Kansas. The first reason is that this offense needs all the help it can get. Heard brings a running dimension from the quarterback position to the offense that Swoopes can’t deliver. The second reason is you don’t want Heard’s first action to be an unplanned emergency situation brought on by an injury to Swoopes. Can you imagine Heard coming in for an injured Swoopes in the Oklahoma game having not played a down? The last coaching staff made the mistake of not getting game experience for a backup quarterback. Can we please not have this staff make the same mistake?

Clock Management

After recovering the UCLA fumble with 4:17 left and having a four point lead, the coaches should have been sure to run the ball three times and run the play clock all the way down before each snap, right? I guess, but I’ve done the math and if Texas had done that, and not made a first down, they would have punted with 2:02 left. Let’s say for some magical reason that hasn’t been explained, that under those circumstances, Texas covers the punt effectively. Let’s say the punt play took eight seconds. That leaves UCLA with the ball on around their 30 yard line and two timeouts with 1:54 left. I don’t think that situation guarantees a Texas victory. I don’t care how loudly you scream at me.

The reason I muse on this point is that I don’t feel like throwing a coaching staff under the bus that, went for it on fourth and eight, resulting in a first down on the UCLA eight yard line, leading to a touchdown, and somehow kept their team in the game with a quarterback and four offensive linemen making their second career starts against the #12 team in the country. I think the coaching staff did I nice job in the UCLA game.

Play Heard and beat the hell outta Kansas.

HooK ‘eM,
W.E.

UCLA Over/Under Results

It looked like Reed Ramlow was about to take home his second straight victory but alas it was not to be. The High Plains Drifter was nipped by Wade Wallace’s stunning comeback in a contest that was decided on the point differential in the tiebreaker. Both of the lads answered seven questions correctly.
There was a six way tie for third that included, Mick Archuleta, Mike Frank, Greg Swan, Al LoCascio, Mark Stephan, and David Frink.

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Pre-Game UCLA

Are You Gonna Believe Me or Your Lyin’ Eyes?

Groucho

At his weekly press conference on Monday Charlie Strong said something to the effect that, we have everything we need right now to be a good football team. Well that’s a relief. After sitting through every second of the BYU game—in the stadium—I had my doubts about every position group on this team except the defensive line. If Charlie Strong is right, and Texas has everything they need, here are few things I’d like to see against UCLA.

Offense
The offensive coaches have to come up with blocking schemes that the raw, green offensive line can execute to be able to run the ball well enough to keep the defense honest. Joe Wickline needs a plan that deviates from the one he worked on from January through last week. I’m not talking 200 rushing yards but maybe 30 rushes for 130 yards. This is the most important thing Texas has to do against UCLA to have a chance to win and it’s the biggest challenge the coaching staff has to meet. Write this down. If Texas averages 2.3 yards per rushing attempt this week they lose.
Charlie Strong deserves to be harshly criticized if he doesn’t open up the offense this week. He said we have everything we need to be a good football team. If he believes that, the game plan has to include passes over the middle more than eight yards down the field, to receivers who are on the run, and not stationary. A couple of really deep shots wouldn’t hurt either. Freshmen receivers Lorenzo Joe and Armanti Foreman are the only game breakers Texas has right now and one or both of them needs to be on the field at all times when Texas has the ball.

Burn Baby Burn
Jerrod Heard needs to be in the rotation at quarterback. He brings a running dynamic that the offense needs to be competitive, especially given the offensive line’s problems pushing defenders out of the way. Maybe Hurd will unsettle the UCLA defense for a down or a series or two. It couldn’t hurt to try. The idea that Hurd’s redshirt should be preserved is silly speculation about what might happen four years from now. This team, this program, and this fan base need to see this coaching staff making every possible effort to win games now. By the way, Deep Horn agrees with me on this.

Defense
The defense—the third quarter of the BYU game not withstanding—can keep this game close. Lost in the third quarter meltdown were the six sacks of Taysom Hill. Six sacks though, against UCLA, won’t keep Texas in the game if Charlie Strong doesn’t find some defensive backs who can make tackles. Strong needs to empty the bench if necessary if the starters in the secondary won’t keep their heads up and quit missing tackles.
I heard a report this week that outside starting linebacker Peter Jinkens is training at middle linebacker. Good. Steve Edmonds hasn’t been getting it done for two plus years now.

Special Teams
The special teams are my biggest disappointment so far in regards to Charlie Strong. Veterans Marcus Johnson and Quandre Diggs made big mistakes on returns against BYU. Johnson fumbled on one kickoff return and was tackled on the seven yard line another. Diggs, once again, failed to field a punt against BYU that was downed on the one yard line. Time and time again over the last three years Diggs has made this same mistake. In my opinion he should be permanently removed from punt return duties. In coach speak terms, kickoff and punt returns need to be cleaned up.
What can you say about a kicker who can’t make field goals? It hurts. For the time being all we can do is hope that Nick Rose finds his confidence and starts making kicks. Rose is doing an excellent job on getting touchbacks on kickoffs.
William Russ is doing a good job punting. Punt coverage is mediocre at best. I thought this was an area that Charlie Strong would bring instant improvement to.
It’s real simple. Unlike 2004-2009 this team is not good enough to compensate for shoddy special teams play.

Deep Horn
Some of what I heard through back channels from Deep Horn this week I’ve related in the column. That is, the playing of Heard and the freshmen wide receivers and the comments about the defensive secondary.
Deep Horn is very angry at Mack Brown about the overall state of the program and the quarterback situation in particular. It seems that J.T. Barrett from Wichita Falls, the starting quarterback for Ohio State, wanted to come to Texas but Mack Brown wasn’t interested.
Deep Horn also reported that Brown played golf last season on Fridays with a couple of bigwig donors. Now that’s phoning it in.
This is the last time I’m going to write anything about Mack Brown in regards to this year’s team. Brown lost his job. It’s over. Let’s get on down the road.

Let’s Get Cray Cray
Texas players didn’t read Charlie Strong’s mind that he wanted someone to rip down and burn the posters with last year’s statistics from the BYU game. When I heard Strong telling this story at the press conference I was thinking, I wouldn’t have been able to read his mind correctly either. But if we’re going to play mind games, I’m in. Here are my suggestions for this week.
Suit up David Ash and the suspended players and run them through warm ups. That would give UCLA something to think about.
If Strong wants players to rip down and burn posters, maybe he would respond to Texas players if they demanded that Daje Johnson, Kennedy Estelle, and Desmond Harrison be allowed to play. Maybe team leaders Diggs, Jordan Hicks, and Jonathan Gray could offer up the team to take on all kinds of extra disciplinary measures like early morning wind sprints etc. in support of the suspended players so Strong would let them play.

At this point a victory over UCLA would be a huge achievement for Charlie Strong and the program. I’m doubtful but hopeful.

HooK ‘eM

W.E.

 

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Post-Game BYU

Reality Check

 

After further review it appears that my preseason forecast for the Longhorns may have been a tad optimistic. More on that later. Why did the Longhorn suffer another ignominious defeat at the hands of Taysom Hill and the rest of his BYU teammates? Here’s my amateur analysis broken down into its component parts.

All I am Saying is Give Swoopes a Chance

I would like to hear a credible explanation from Charlie Strong, Joe Wickline, and Shawn Watson of what their plan was for scoring points. Their plan for the early stages of the game was a good one and Tyrone Swoopes executed it well completing his first eight passes. Those completions were of short and intermediate range. But you can’t sustain drives and score points, unless you’re Peyton Manning, if you don’t throw the ball down field in the 15-18 yard range. After Swoopes went eight for eight you would think the coaches would have had the confidence in him to let him throw down field. That didn’t happen until late in the third quarter long after the issue had been decided. I also expected that Swoopes would be given the opportunity to take at least a couple of deep shots. That also didn’t happen until the third quarter when Swoopes attempted a desperation bomb down the right sideline on third and long from inside the Texas 20-yard line. Lastly, Texas’ conservative run the ball on first down plan left them with too many second and eights and nines.
Strong, Watson, and Wickline are going to have to let Swoopes try and execute a more aggressive game plan and let the chips fall where they may. If Swoopes is failing to make checks and change play calls at the line of scrimmage, he needs to be coached up in a hurry. If he is incapable of making even basic reads, Strong has to bench him in favor of Jerrod Heard. There is absolutely no point in repeating the offensive game plan Texas used against BYU again this season. None.

Defense

I’m not an expert on this but it looked like defensive end Shiro Davis blew his containment responsibility several times letting Taysom Hill get outside for some big games. Hello, Charlie Strong has been preaching lane responsibility on defense, particularly regarding the BYU game, since January. I can’t identify specifically what was going on in the middle of Texas’ defense in the second half without watching the replay. I’m not going to watch the replay. I am fairly certain though, that middle linebacker Steve Edmond didn’t have a good night. At times in the second half, the shoddy tackling that plagued Texas over the past four years reared its ugly head again.
Malcolm Brown had an Outland Trophy performance with 11 total tackles, 5 solo tackles, 5 tackles for loss including 3 sacks. The dude can play.
In defense of the defense, the offense and the special teams failures put them in an untenable position most of the night. The defense just spent way too much time on the field.

Special Teams

Nick Rose was 2 for 2 getting touchbacks on kick-offs. He was 0-1 missing a 43 yard field goal in the first quarter. With points at a premium for this offense he needs to improve on field goals in a big hurry.
William Russ continues to punt very well and has been effective in pinning opponents inside the 15 yard line this year.
Marcus Johnson had a terrible night returning kicks, turning the ball over on a fumble, and getting tackled on the 11 yard line after making an idiotic attempt to get to the sideline on the wide side of the field. In my mind this is close to being the equivalent of a turnover and it occurred after BYU had scored on the first possession of the second half to go up 13-0. It was all downhill for Texas after that. To add insult to injury, Texas was penalized for holding on another kick off and started their second drive of the half down 20-0 on the 7 yard line.
To sum up, kick returns were a disaster for Texas and was a major contributing factor to their defeat. Here’s to hoping, at the very least, this is an area Texas can greatly improve upon.

Optimism

Some of you are probably reading various Texas football blogs and their forecasts for the Longhorns which are quite gloomy. I’m not knowledgeable enough about Xs and Os to agree with or disagree with those forecasts at evidenced by my preseason prediction of 11-1. I do want you to know that I’ve been in optimism therapy for many years now (those of you who have known me for a long time know I needed to be) and that may have contributed to my prediction which now seems likely not come to pass.
Misery Loves Company
On a mostly unrelated note, Skip Bayless predicted last week that the Dallas Cowboys would win the NFC East. Skip, I feel your pain.
Believe it or not I’m looking forward to the UCLA game.
See you Friday.

HooK, ‘Em
W.E.

Over/Under Results

Our man in Amman, Reed Ramlow, flying by instruments, takes home the win this week with eight correct answers. Reed, as usual, also takes home the prize for the best comments of the week.

Al Locascio, Steve Holstead, Mitch Frink, and Greg Swan tied for second with seven correct answers.

I’m conjuring up a really difficult test of your skills for the UCLA over/under so hit the books.

W.E.

 

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