Archive for the ‘2016’ Category

UTEP Post Game

Dreaming

Take me, shake me and tell me this ain’t a dream
                                                                        ~from Stephen Bishops”Save it for a Rainy Day”

Texas beats Notre Dame. Texas easily handles a lower tier opponent and beats the point spread. Texas is #11. Texas has a good and potentially program-changing quarterback.  If you told me these things were going to happen six months ago, I would have told you you’re dreaming.

Observations from the UTEP game and the weekend

The offensive line, without three starters most of the game (four if you still count Tristen Nickelson a starter), played better than any Texas offensive line since 2008. Tackle Elijah Rodriguez, in pass protection, was the only glaring weak spot I noticed. As long as Kent Perkins, Conner Williams, and Zach Shackelford come back healthy this week, this is a unit with serviceable depth.

Jacorey Warrick, with nine receptions and a touchdown after two games, is a real weapon for this offense.

How ‘bout that three-star recruit Travis Roach?  The freshman linebacker has had a noticeable impact in both games so far and is logging much more playing time than five-star linebacker recruit Jeffery McCulloch. He’s #32 in your program for those of you keeping score at home.

The lady who sits behind me did show up. Sigh.

I thought running back Chris Warren looked just OK against UTEP. He needs to develop some vision for the holes and run lower in my opinion. According to my favorite Longhorn blogger Scipio Tex, Warren is miscast as a standstill running back in the spread offense. In other words, he needs a running start like tailbacks get in an I formation. On the other hand, I like what I saw from freshman running back Kyle Porter. In the words of Darrell Royal, he’s got some spurt.

I attended Westwood High School football games for seven years and they always, I repeat always, had a kicker who could get kickoffs into and in many cases out of the end zone.  Why is it so difficult for Texas to have such a kicker?

To kill the boredom while stretching before a nine-hole round of golf on Sunday, I was watching the Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers game. I saw #85 on San Diego catch a pass and I thought, that’s Antonio Gates. Then I wondered, how the heck do I know that? If you’d asked me five minutes earlier, the only Charger I could have named was Philip Rivers. I don’t know anything else about Antonio Gates, not where he went to college, not how long he’s been with Chargers, zilch, zero, nada yet I knew who  #85 was who just caught a pass.  Then, five minutes later, Helen, while doing a crossword puzzle, asks me, hall of famer Wagner’s first name?  Without missing a beat I answered Honus, as I walked out the door. Again, how do I know that? I don’t know what position Wagner played, what team or teams he played for, or what era he played in and yet I instantly, confidently knew the answer.

I’m not gloating. Not at all. In fact if anything just the opposite. Just think what I might accomplish if so much useless information wasn’t stored in my brain.

That’s all for now.  Seems like I’m much more prolific when I’m criticizing the Longhorns than when I’m pleased with them. Let’s hope these columns remain short.

Over/Under Results

The contest this week proved to be slightly more difficult than last week with an average score of 5.8. Interestingly, all 16 contestants correctly prognosticated that Shane Buechele would throw fewer than two interceptions.

We may have to label Steve Holstead, “tough-luck Steve,” as he tied for first place for the second straight week but was nosed out by David Frink in the tiebreaker. Steve and David’s educated guesses were right 8 out of 10 times this week. David earned his victory calling it Giants 24, Cowboys 20.

By-the-way, if, over the years, you’ve wondered, why my write-ups of the Over/Under Results are kind of goofy, I’m mimicking my 5th-grade gym teacher’s style in the 1967 Vestal Hills Elementary School “Hoop Scoop” intramural basketball reports.

HooK ‘Em,

W.E.

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UTEP Pre Game

Encore! Encore!

 

The consensus of opinion among the Longhorn faithful is the victory over Notre Dame Sunday night was the best game played at DKR in a generation. That’s a pretty tough act to follow. How can the Longhorns do it?

They can start by avoiding these glaring fundamental mistakes they made against Notre Dame.

  1. No botched snaps. Three botched snaps killed drives and almost lost the game.
  2. Luckily, John Burt’s drop of what should have been an easy touchdown catch didn’t turn out to be the difference maker. From where I was sitting, it looked like he bobbled his 72-yard touchdown catch before securing it. Another touchdown bomb or two with no drops in between would be nice.
  3. Not giving up any long punt returns like the 40-yard return that set up a 4th quarter Notre Dame touchdown is a requirement.
  4. Another requirement is clean execution of extra points. What the hell was going on on the sideline before that blocked extra point?

For pure fan entertainment:

  1. I’d like to see D’Onta Foreman collect 120 yards or so before retiring from the game before halftime.
  2. Would it be too much to ask for a dominant defensive performance that shuts down UTEP’s running game and forces 2-3 turnovers?
  3. Free beer delivered by the Texas Pom.
  4. I wouldn’t mind terribly if Tyrone Swoopes scored 4-5 touchdowns and got on pace to at least tie Ricky Williams single season touchdown record of 28 even if it meant running up the score a little.
  5. Let’s get Jerrod Heard running the jet sweep on tape for future opponents.
  6. I hope the woman with B.O. who sits behind me doesn’t show up.

I acknowledge that this seems a little greedy, but I am talking about an encore to the Notre Dame game and pure fan entertainment.  Reasonably, I’d like a win with a team performance that isn’t terribly flat and most importantly, no injuries.

Are the Horns worthy of being ranked #11?

First of all, rankings after the first week of the season are meaningless. That being said, here are some observations about Texas’ ranking.

Of the teams ranked ahead of Texas, I would bet on the Horns in match ups with #9 Georgia and #10 Wisconsin.

I would not bet on Texas versus #15 TCU, #14 Oklahoma, and #21 LSU.  I know Oklahoma looked bad in the second half against Houston,but Big Game Bob seems to rally his team after early season losses and losses to Texas (reference 2015). I don’t know why LSU dropped all the way to #21 by losing late at Lambeau Field to a solid Wisconsin program, even though I think Texas would beat Wisconsin if they played tomorrow. Maybe the long drop is a show of disrespect for Les Miles.

So yeah, in terms of rankings this time of year, I suppose Texas deserves to be #11.

I’m seeing this one, Texas 38-14.

Prediction

If Oklahoma loses three or more games this year, Bob Stoops will be replaced by Houston’s Tom Herman.

Over/Under

UTEP Over/Under

  • Tiebreaker: Predict Winners. Scores aren't required



    Texas Tech @ Arizona St.
  • Arkansas @ TCU
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Notre Dame Post Game

On to UTEP

One of the many anecdotes surrounding Texas’ 2005 National Championship team has Vince Young scolding unfocused teammates during 2005 summer workouts, “Rose Bowl’s over y’all.” Young was referring to Texas’ victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl,the year prior to their victory over USC. If necessary, I hope somebody on the 2016 Longhorns will tell teammates, “Notre Dame’s over y’all.” As I’m writing this on Monday/Tuesday afternoon, the Longhorns’ celebration over the program’s biggest win since 2009 should be over. It’s time to get on with the rest of the season.

That being said, here are some observations of the Notre Dame game.

Shades of Earl Campbell

When I got home after midnight, I watched my recording of Tyrone Swoopes’ 10-yard run to the six-yard line, two plays prior to his winning six-yard touchdown run. It brought to mind Earl Campbell’s runs that featured tacklers bouncing off a fully-animated man seemingly made of stone. I couldn’t stop replaying that run over-and-over in regular time and in slow motion. It was nothing short of inhuman the way Swoopes absorbed what seemed like a vicious hit unfazed and kept on plowing towards the goal line. I might add the Notre Dame player that delivered that hit lay unconscious, or at the very least badly dazed, on the field turf for at least five minutes after the play.

In addition to all the wonderful things being said about Swoopes the person and teammate, he is an incredibly well-conditioned and strong athlete with great balance.  What a far cry from the player who two years ago admitted to getting nervous in the Baylor game after taking a couple of hits.

D’Onta Foreman

Foreman is very good and potentially great. After one game, he’s the best player on offense and possibly the team. When he was out of the game I thought the offense missed a step and I couldn’t wait until he was back in. After the game, I didn’t think he had gotten the ball enough. It turned out he had 24 carries and I realized that’s about the right number. I wish he could carry it 40 though.

Offensive Line

Wow. What a difference a year and a new offensive coordinator and line coach make. I haven’t seen the scouting reports on the rest of Texas’s opponents but, against possibly the best defensive line they’ll face all season, Texas averaged 4.9 yards per carry (if you factor out the botched snaps which were counted as -26 yards in rushing). That’s the kind rushing performance Mack Brown yearned for and that Charlie Strong has finally achieved. Also, the offensive line didn’t give up a sack in 27 passing attempts. There was unsuspected depth displayed as well with nine offensive linemen seeing action. In case you’re wondering as—I was—who  the heck is Alex Anderson, see his bio here.

One of my long-held tenets of life is, as the Longhorns’ offensive line goes, so goes the Longhorns.

Playbook

If everything I read during the month of August is correct, Texas beat Notre Dame using about 30% of their offensive playbook. So we got that going for us, which is nice.

Shane Buechele

There’s nothing about Mr. Buechele’s performance you haven’t already heard, read or witnessed but I want to offer one observation. I’ve heard many fans and commentators draw comparisons of Shane Buechele to the redshirt freshman Colt McCoy. It’s understandable that such comparisons are being made but Shane Buechele, as a true freshman, is far more advanced as a quarterback and passer than the young Colt was.

We’re Texas

Texas goes from 5-7 and unranked to #11 in one fell swoop. Pretty funny.

Now it’s on to UTEP and let’s win there. (Yes, I know the game is in Austin. I’m just saying).

Notre Dame Over/Under Results

Willie Earl didn’t stump many if any contestants in the opener. The average score was 7.7 correct answers. That’s not to diminish the performance of Mitch Lewis, Steve Holstead—in my Sig Ep world the older guys—and Helen Frink who tied for first with nine correct answers. Each of them went 1-1 in predicting winners in the tiebreaker. Helen broke the logjam and emerged victorious by predicting Texas would defeat Notre Dame by three points. Well done Helen!

Hook ‘Em,

W.E.

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Texas Football 2016 Preview

August Fluff and Stuff

Late August through Labor Day rings in a New Year in some ways just as January 1 does, particularly in academics and football. Students resolve to study harder, teachers promise themselves to complete lesson plans sooner, and parents vow to be more available to help with homework. Football players resolve to tackle better, train harder, spend more time in the film room, help more old ladies cross the street, and..… you get the idea. I myself resolved to bathe and brush my teeth every day. Don’t get me wrong, I love August fluff, because it brings back fond memories. Here’some excellent August Fluff from one short year ago:
– “Tyrone Swoopes has been terrific.” He was demoted to second team after the first game.
-Strong told 2016 recruits before the opener at Notre Dame, “Watch for our up-tempo offensive.We’re going to run 85-90 plays a game.” The Horns ran 781 plays in 12 games. I’ll let you do the arithmetic.
This August the fluff has been as fluffy as ever. The following quotes are just from Thursday’s Austin-American-Statesman.
– Malik Jefferson on Charlie Strong, “I see hope and passion in his eyes.” More from Jefferson, “Guys are really coming for one common goal, there’s no selfishness or anything like that. This whole summer we’ve been working really hard.”
– Charlie Strong,” I really like this team. I just like their overall attitude. At every position it’s been so competive.”
I kind of prefer what Darrell Royal once said this time of year. “We’re as average as every day wash.”
I believe Texas went 10-1 that year.

Mr. August
Charlie Strong should know by now that Swoopes’ six-foot-four inch, 250-pound chiseled frame and rocket arm create the illusion in August that Swoopes will be a winning quarterback in September and beyond. But if the reports from fall camp are accurate, Swoopes just might get another chance to start Sunday night. This has sent shudders through the Longhorn faithful, and it should. My hope was that Strong would delegate this decision to the new offensive coordinator, Sterlin Gilbert, but then I remembered Gilbert said that to avoid absorbing negative thoughts about his players he would watch no game film from last year. Uh, oh, see my reference to the August illusion above.
For my money, we know what Swoopes can do—let’s go with the kid. My wife, Helen, who is frugal with her opinions on Longhorn Football, at times can see the forest that I can’t see for the trees. She told me last night at dinner, “Strong’s not stupid, Buechele will start.” Hope she’s right.

Why Texas Will be Better this Year than Last.
I’ll go out on a limb and predict that new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert will be a vast improvement over Shawn Watson and Jay Norvell. After all, flying on a booster’s private jet, UT president Gregory Fenves and UT athletic director accompanied Charlie Strong to Tulsa to woo Gilbert to Austin. Paraphrasing Ron Burgundy, Gilbert must be kind of a big deal.
Caveat
Gilbert’s last two coaching positions were with Tulsa and Bowling Green, so he hasn’t performed on the big stage yet. No matter how his offense performs this year, this time next year he’s sure to comment on how steep the learning curve was for him during his first year in Austin.

The offensive line
Anchored by returning starters Kent Perkins, Connor Williams, and Partick Vahe. Perkins has been a solid if not spectacular performer the past two years. Forced to play tackle last year because of depth issues, this year he moves to his natural guard position. Williams and Vahe were named to some freshmen All-American teams in 2015.
Caveat
The starting center was going to be true freshman Zach Shackelford. A true freshman starting at center isn’t ideal to say the least. It may have gotten even less ideal since Shackelford sat out most of fall camp with an ankle injury, making Jake McMillon, a converted defensive tackle, the probable starter for Notre Dame.

I don’t have Jonathan Gray to kick around anymore.
D’Onta Foreman was Texas’ leading rusher in 2015 with 681 total yards and averaged a team best 7.2 yards per carry but Jonathan Gray led the team in rushing attempts with 123. Foreman only carried the ball 95 times. What’s up with that? With Foreman and Chris Warren getting the most carries this year, the running game should be much improved.
Caveat
Foreman and Chris Warren are checking in at 250 pounds or more each. Are they getting fat?

Rising Sophomores:
Wide receiver John Burt, afore-mentioned offensive linemen Connor Williams, and Patrick Vahe, and running back Chris Warren were major players as freshmen in 2015. In 2016, they are veterans and rising stars. On defense, the same can be said for linebackers Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler, defensive ends Charles Omenihu and Breckyn Hager, and cornerbacks Davante Davis, Holton Hill, Kris Boyd, and John Bonney. OK, Bonney is probably not a rising star, but he was a starter last year.
Caveat
Texas will start just nine juniors and seniors, if you count Swoopes as a starter. Five on defense, four on offense. The only standout in this group is running back D’Onta Foreman. This is good news for 2017 but it’s not so great for 2016.

This is not and should not be a make or break year for Charlie Strong
Unless the wheels completely come off and Texas goes 4-8 or worse, Strong will be back in 2017. Even at 5-7 or 6-7 Strong gets a fourth season, and he should, considering the sophomore and freshman classes Strong has assembled.

2016 Prediction
We received 18 season predictions from our loyal readers. After throwing out the 14-0 prank — rymes with Frank — prediction, the average predictiction was 7.4 wins, 4.6 losses.

To make my prediction, I grouped the season into three sets.
Set One
1. Notre Dame
2. Oklahoma
3. Baylor
4. TCU
Set One record: 1-3
Set Two
1. Cal
2. Oklahoma St.
3. Kansas St.
4. Texas Tech
Set Two record 2-2
Set Three
1. UTEP
2. Iowa State
3. West Virginia
4. Kansas
Set Three record: 4-0

Willie Earl’s 2016 season prediction: 7-5.
If my father was around, he might ask, “Do we all agree that Texas will go 7-5 this year?”

“Pretty much Dad.”

Notre Dame Prologue

There weren’t many cars on the road as I drove through the winter darkness to Austin from Dallas, where a few hours before Texas had lost to Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl and with it the National Championship that was ours to lose. I had to be more vigilant than usual, because there were random ice patches on I-35 where thawing ice and snow from the storm the night before had re-frozen. More vigilant driving for me on January 2, 1978 mostly meant that I wasn’t smoking a joint. Just north of Hillsboro, the radio broadcast of the Orange Bowl started, pitting Arkansas against Oklahoma. I knew the winner would be ranked ahead of Texas in the final rankings although Texas beat both teams in back-to-back weeks during October in two of the most stirring Texas football games in my memory. The irony of this minor injustice didn’t escape me, but I was at peace with it, as I was with Texas’ loss of the National Championship just hours earlier.
Alone in my car, a calm and sense of well-being had come over me since I left my close friend Joe, a Notre Dame student, and his friends at their motel as they celebrated their victory and, courtesy of the AP and UPI polls, what would be their National Championship. Somehow, only a couple of hours after such a disappointing loss, I had taken to heart that nothing could diminish the joy and excitement I experienced during that 1977 Texas Football season.
***************
Playing Notre Dame first out-of-the-chute heightens the joy, excitement, and anticipation of a new season to a level experienced around Austin only once or so a decade. The Longhorns luck with the Irish hasn’t improved since that season-ending loss nearly 39 years ago. Since then there have been losses in 1995, 1996 and last year in that debacle in South Bend.
If Texas loses a fifth straight time to Notre Dame Sunday night, will Charlie Strong and Longhorn fans feel anything akin to a calm and sense of well-being about the short- and long-term prospects for Texas Football?

HooK ‘Em,

Willie Earl

Notre DameOver/Under

  • Tiebreaker: Predict Winners



    UCLA @ Texas A&M
  • LSU vs Wisconsin @ Lambeau Field
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Longhorn Fan Survey

By definition, the readers of this column are some of the most informed, intelligent and insightful Longhorn Football fans. Therefore the staff at Willie Earl want your opinions. If you’re so inclined, please submit your answer to our one question survey by Thursday at 5pm. We want your response to be uninhibited so there isn’t a requirement to submit name or contact information with your answer.
The 2016 Season premiere of Willie Earl’s Longhorn Blog will be released this Friday.

2016 Longhorn Fan Survey

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