Archive for the ‘2015’ Category

Oklahoma State Post-Game

The Meaning of Life

To adequately write a column about the Texas-Oklahoma State game requires addressing the age old question, “what does life mean?”  Toward that end I pose the following questions:

  1. Do you believe in luck?
  2. Do you think you are lucky?
  3. Do some people (other than coaches, players, and their families) place too much importance on the fortunes of their favorite sports teams?
  4. Do you believe in karma?
  5. Do you believe all people who do bad things are eventually punished?
  6. In sports, do you think the breaks always even out?
  7. Do you think Oswald did it, and if so did he act alone?
  8. Do you think the referees of this game should have their houses burned down?
  9. Do you believe that Poona Ford was holding?
  10. Do you believe that Texas players can recover mentally and emotionally enough to play their best football the rest of the season?
  11. If you’re a Texas fan, do you take away any positives from this game?

If you can answer these questions and feel good about your answers then yours is the earth and everything that’s in it, and—which is more—you’ll be a Man my son.

Over/Under Results

In a low scoring week, Dan Yoxall and Clayton Frink stood out from the crowd by scoring eight correct answers.  Clayton and Dan both picked the correct winners in the tiebreaker. Dan with his prescient 56-49 score prediction for the Texas Tech-TCU game barely edged out Clayton in the tiebreaker for the win.  It’s either the first win ever or the first in several years for the veteran if not infrequent Over/Under competitor.  When Dan was informed of his victory his first words were, sweet cream gravy!”

HooK ‘eM

W.E.

Editor’s note: A special thanks for help with this column go to Rudyard Kipling.

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Oklahoma State PreGame

The First Game of the Rest of His Career

When Charlie Strong was hired to coach the Longhorns in December 2013, the consensus was that he gets at least three years to turn the program around and he probably needs four years to make it championship caliber. When Strong took over, the talent deficit at quarterback and both the offensive and defensive lines was so stark that three–to–four years was a very reasonable timeline for him to achieve success. What this line of reasoning didn’t take into account was style points, positive and negative, and Charlie—like some of those poor Jeopardy contestants who have negative dollars—is in negative territory on style points, given the way 2014 ended and 2015 started.  We know Strong thought it was better to let last season play out with Tyrone Swoopes than to burn Heard’s redshirt. In terms of his grace period, I think Strong miscalculated and burned through more than one year’s worth in 2014 by sticking with Tyrone Swoopes. By doing so he earned zero style points, and lost the last two games in humiliating fashion. I don’t think I’m overstating the effect that Swoopes had on the team’s performance when you take into account the credible reports–which came from a person close to the program who I trust–that some team leaders went to Strong and told him they didn’t want to play with Swoopes any longer after the last game of the regular season versus TCU .

Changing play callers and naming Jerrod Heard the starter, and his performance versus Rice, earned Strong his first style points. I think Heard and the offense earned a few more style points for Strong in the California game even though it was a losing effort. There are no more style points to be earned by Strong with anything but wins from here on out.  Fewer than six wins for Texas this year and the unofficial three-to-four year grace period is going to look more like a two-year grace period.  If Jerrod Heard can’t carry this team to any more than four wins, there will be pressure on the athletic director—whoever he/she may be—to send signals to the media and Texas fans that 2016 is a win or walk year at UT for Charlie Strong.  Three wins or fewer and all bets are off on Strong coaching Texas in 2016.

What can Strong do to get his team to six wins this year?

  1. Gamble on defense. Put another body upfront to stop the run and man-up in the secondary. Play freshmen cornerbacks Greg Boyd and Davante Davis more. They’re tall and confident. They’ll make mistakes. So what? The upperclassmen they’ll be taking playing time from are making mistakes. Boyd and Davis are potential playmakers more suited to playing man-to-man coverage.
  2. Use Daje Johnson as a running back occasionally, if necessary, to get the ball in his hands more often than the current eight times per game.
  3. Replace Jonathan Gray as the starter with D’Onta Foreman. Foreman is a bigger, faster, and harder runner than Gray. What more is there to take into consideration here?
  4. Tell Nick Rose not to miss any more *#<&>@#*& extra points.

I’m sticking with the prediction I made earlier this week that the Horns win seven in the regular season. If you think that’s crazy consider this, the Horns won 5 Big 12 games last year. To fulfill my prediction they only need to improve to 6 wins in the Big 12 this year. And this year we got Heard.

Win #2 has to come on Saturday.

HooK ‘eM,

W.E.

 

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California Post Game

It’s Hard to Believe

It’s hard to believe that what might have been is might have been because of a missed extra point.

It’s hard to believe that Texas’ future opponents won’t be coming hard at Nick Rose from his right side.

It’s hard to believe, but when I went to bed early Sunday morning, I was over this loss.

It’s hard to believe after five long years that Texas has its next great quarterback.

It’s hard to believe that in his second game as a starter Jerrod Heard broke the Longhorn record for most total yards in a game, eclipsing Vince Young’s record performance against Oklahoma St. in 2005.

It’s hard to believe how much the defensive line misses Malcolm Brown.

In addition to his game-breaking running, Jerrod Heard’s pocket presence is so confident and patient that it’s hard to believe  Charlie Strong and Shawn Watson didn’t recognize it until he played in a real game.

It’s hard to believe that Shawn Watson will be on the Texas coaching staff in 2016. But then again, it’s hard to believe that Charlie Strong let him insist on sticking with Tyrone Swoopes at the beginning of 2015.

It’s hard for me to believe that I’m 60.

It’s hard to believe but this week I think Texas will win at least seven games this year when last week I thought they would be lucky to win five. If I had to declare today which remaining games Texas is going to win here’s that list: Oklahoma St., Oklahoma, Kansas St., Kansas, Iowa St, and Texas Tech.

To go for two or not to go for two

I had a modestly long text engagement with a friend—whose knowledge of football and expertise with metrics of any kind I respect—about whether or not Charlie Strong should have gone for two points after Texas’ last touchdown.

Anticipating Texas’ last touchdown I was thinking about whether or not they should go for two when they scored.  I decided that they should take the one because Texas had the momentum, they had stopped California on their last three possessions, and I thought Jerrod Heard was unstoppable that night so I liked Texas’ chances in overtime.

My friend, who tends to be aggressive in any kind of competition, took the position that Texas should have gone for two because that gave them a better chance of winning than did a serve and volley game in overtime with California and their NFL style passing attack.

I can definitely see my friend’s side of the argument. It’s a very subjective question with no absolute right or wrong answer.

I’m glad I don’t have to make those kinds of decisions for a living.

*************

It could be worse.

Happy Feller could have missed. 🙂

HooK ‘eM

W.E.

Over/Under Results

It came down to the tiebreaker this week. If Wade Wallace could have just picked either Northwestern or Texas Tech to win he would have had an unprecedented three game winning streak.  He didn’t. Neither did Mike Frank who tied Wade for first with eight correct answers this week,but his bad score predictions in the tiebreaker weren’t quite as bad as Wade’s so Mike is the winner this week.

Mike’s son Zach was a winner last year but I think this is Mike’s first win which is probably a surprise to many of us. Mike always the innovator and iconoclast, several times in past years went with the old UOUOUOUOUO. Yes Mike, I noticed. He also tried the old all under and the old all over methodologies.

Maybe Mike consulted with his dog this time.

A reader suggested that I publish the correct answers for Over/Under each week.  We here at Willie Earl’s Longhorn Blog we listen to our loyal readers. Enjoy this new weekly feature.

W.E.

 

25:01 time of possession for Texas
over
2. 96.5 yards rushing for Jerrod Heard
Over
3. 326.5 passing yards for California
Under
4. 2.5 sacks for Texas defense
Under
5. 1.5 turnovers by Jerrod Heard
over
6. 81.5 yards receiving for John Burt
Under
7. 40.5 yards before return for Michael Dickson’s first punt.
Over
8. 12.5 total points scored in the 1st quarter
Over
9. 35.5 yards for longest punt return for Daje Johnson
Under
10. Yes or No, California wins by more than 6.5 points
No
Northwestern
19
Duke
10
Texas Tech
35
Arkansas
24
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California Pre Game

All is Well…Interesting

In the last ten days, Charlie Strong has changed his offensive coordinator and his starting quarterback, and he has a new boss after Steve Patterson was summarily dismissed.  That seems like an entire off-season’s worth of change for one football program. Saturday’s game with California, it seems to me, is like the start of a new season.

2015 Reset

Jerrod Heard—by the way, Ahmad Brooks, that’s JERROD not Gerard—in his first game as a starter, took just 30 snaps, because Rice controlled the ball for almost 45 minutes.  Though Heard got a lot accomplished in those 30 snaps, 96 yards rushing, 120 yards passing and two touchdowns on only seven attempts—that’s a phenomenal 17 yard per attempt average—the sample size is way too small to know much about how he will fare in the long-term.   According to Scipio Tex, my favorite analyst at Barking Carnival, Heard audibled into, instead of away from a couple of Rice blitzes, and he made the wrong read on four or five zone read plays, unless the calls were made pre-snap by Jay Norvell.  Read Scipio’s breakdown of the offense versus Rice here.  Those mistakes should be easily correctable for Heard with more experience. What seems undeniable—even after one game—is that Heard is confident and a dangerous runner who adds a much needed dimension to the offense.  He recognized single coverage and was decisive on his two long touchdown passes. He also made quick decisions to pull the ball down and take off from the pocket, producing key runs on two of Texas’ scoring drives.  I had made a pre-snap decision not to go to the California game, but I’ve audibled in for Saturday night solely because of Jerrod Heard.  I wonder how many extra tickets Heard has sold for this game.

After watching about ten minutes of Jay Norvell’s media availability this week, l almost feel bad for mildly disparaging his resume in one of my columns last week.  I was impressed, and I liked him.  He was earnest, substantive, and articulate for a football coach. The most interesting thing I heard him say was that Jerrod Heard needed to think about only three options on a pass play: the primary receiver, the secondary receiver, and running. And maybe running needed to be higher in the pecking order.  Expect to see Heard run often from the pocket.

Although I told you before the first game that Texas’ defensive line, with Desmond Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway still not 100% healthy, might not be as good as it was touted to be, I didn’t expect it to be the biggest liability on the team.  If opponents are able to pick up five yards or more on first down after first down as Rice was, then it’s not going to be much fun for Texas fans the rest of the season.  I’m counting on my main man Vance Bedford to get his defense to achieve at least modest respectability, so we can watch more Jerrod Heard.

I have a final thought on the Steve Patterson affair.  The University of Texas and its athletic program gouged loyal customers and displayed little regard for them long before Steve Patterson arrived.  I can’t give you exact figures, but I have been a season ticket holder since 1995 and ticket prices have been increased unreasonably—in my opinion—year-to-year starting at least ten years ago.  There’s no question that Patterson was abrasive, arrogant, condescending, and obtuse, and I was very put off by his public appearances and statements. But to me, an alumnus and customer, the only thing new that Patterson brought to UT was the abrasiveness.  I know that the big money donors and Longhorn insiders are happy and will be happy with Patterson being gone, but I don’t expect the regular folks like my Longhorn fan friends and me to see any improvement in our relationship with UT Athletics.

Nonetheless,

HooK ‘eM Horns,

W.E.

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Rice Post Game

Hoarding

So Charlie, besides Jerrod Heard, who else have you been saving for some time in the near or distant future? We sure could use some run-stopping defensive tackles. Do you have any of those?  I think we all were thinking that Heard must throw like a girl. Uh… he doesn’t throw like a girl. But seriously, Charlie, how in the heck could you not have been playing a player on offense with such obvious—if not electrifying—play-making ability for your team, which has been so desperate for playmakers on offense?  Everybody except Shawn Watson is happy that Heard is now the starter, but I for one will be scratching my head wondering for a long time why in the wide, wide world of sports you weren’t playing Heard a whole lot sooner.

A Beaumont Expression

Daje Johnson’s performance against Rice reminded me of something my college friends from Beaumont used to say. “That sonbitch can go.”

Finally

After years of watching Westwood and McNeil High School kickers boom kick-offs out of the end zone on Friday nights, I now get to watch Longhorn kicker Nick Rose booming kick-offs out of the end zone on Saturday.  So we got that going for us…which is nice.

Ray Clay

I watched Rice pregame warms up with Mark Adams who sits with his brother Dan in the T-Man section. Raymond Clayborn stopped by to say hi and Mark introduced me to him. Clayborn,a three time Pro Bowl selection, has been named a 2015 finalist for induction into the New England Patriot Hall of Fame.Very cool.

A Win is a Win, But

It was great fun watching Jerrod Heard running, throwing, and doing pushups and Daje Johnson—who can go—reminding me of Johnny Rodgers.  But after watching Rice dominate the Longhorns on both sides of the line of scrimmage, I came away thinking that four wins was the best we can expect this year. In addition to Rice, I have Texas beating Iowa State, Kansas, and either California, Texas Tech, or Kansas State.  Unless there is dramatic improvement along the front lines, we’re going to see lots of lopsided times of possession stats and lots of Ls.

You Asked For It.

At press time it was reported that Steve Patterson has been fired but my thoughts are so profound I thought I’d share them with you anyway.

Evidently Steve Patterson has alienated almost all of UT’s big money donors, most of the fan base, and many on UT’s faculty and staff.  UT President Gregory Fenves is reportedly considering firing Patterson.  This situation is rather ironic because Patterson has alienated all these folks by doing exactly what he was hired over the more affable and diplomatic Oliver Luck to do, which is to grub and gouge every penny possible from the loyal Longhorn athletics’ fan base.  UT, which had been grubbing and gouging long before Patterson was hired, evidently has decided they might need to go back to grubbing and gouging in a nice way.  I’m I was kind of enjoying this situation.

I don’t care for Patterson’s public demeanor or the 25% increase in price for my football season tickets, but if he’s responsible for reducing the volume and number of commercials on the jumbotron which fans were subjected to during the Rice game compared to the last 10 years or so, then I applaud him for that.

Over/Under Results

After week one when the average score was 7.2, most Over/Under contestants struggled in week two with an overall average of 5.5 correct answers.  One player who did not struggle was Wade Wallace, who followed up his flawless performance in week one with a near flawless performance in winning again in week two, answering nine questions correctly. Wade’s comeback story is for real.

Jeff Johnson and Mark Steven Adams finished tied for second with eight correct answers. There was a logjam for third place with Helen Frink, D.R. Flower, David Bergstrom, and Homer Mark posting sevens.

HooK ‘eM,

W.E.

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