Archive for the ‘2017’ Category

Oozing Optimism Redux

Remember the excitement and optimism surrounding the Longhorns after their season-opening victory over Notre Dame last year? That optimism was reinforced by the national polls that elevated the Longhorns to # 11 after that game. How’d all that work out? Texas’ almost victory over USC Saturday night seems to be inspiring in UT fans the same kind of optimism as the Notre Dame win last year.

The all-out effort in the USC game was something we haven’t seen out of Texas since the OU game in 2015. For me the effort didn’t inspire optimism it inspired, “About f’ing time!” It’s not a given that we will see this kind of effort for the remainder of the season. If we do—with remaining games against top 10 teams Oklahoma and Oklahoma St., #16 TCU, West Virginia in Morgantown, and Longhorn nemesis Kansas St.—Texas still might be lucky to get six wins on the season for a number of reasons.

1. Texas is offensively challenged. They didn’t score an offensive touchdown in the first half against Maryland or USC. In the USC game, the Texas offense scored only 17 points in four quarters and two overtimes. Tom Herman tried to explain away why Chris Warren III had only four carries against USC, but his explanation was disingenuous and doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. And, I might add, his explanation was delivered in a prickly and condescending manner in his Monday press conference, indicating to me that he knows he has a problem with the play calling. He better get it fixed if he wants to beat anyone beyond Kansas and Baylor.

2. The injury to left tackle Connor Williams adds to the woes of an underperforming offensive line. I can’t emphasize the magnitude of this problem enough.

3. To my deep disappointment, Herman hasn’t improved Texas’ terrible special teams. After Reggie Hemphill-Mapps stupidly fielded a punt on the 3 yard line, he went ahead and caught another one on the goal line just a few minutes later. Texas was lucky to avoid disasters both times. After Texas took the lead with 45 seconds remaining in regulation, Josh Rowland failed to get the kickoff into the end zone and the coverage team allowed USC to return it to the 35. If Rowland could have forced a touchback or if the coverage team could have held USC inside the 30, Texas probably wins the game in regulation.

4. As well as the defense played, breakdowns in the secondary at the end of the first half and at the end of regulation essentially cost Texas the game. Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph must be salivating.

5. In my opinion, Herman’s in-game decision making has been suspect. Against USC, on Texas’ first possession of the game, with fourth and two from the USC 17, if Herman opts for a field goal attempt instead of going for the first down, Texas probably wins. Granted, Josh Rowland converting a 34-yard field goal attempt was not a sure thing, but he did make a 37-yarder in the third quarter. Herman made the same type of decision on UT’s opening drive of the second half against Maryland. By opting to try to convert a fourth and goal from the 5-yard line, he eschewed what would have been a 22-yard field goal. A field goal there would have changed the complexion of that game greatly.

We’ve already discussed the abandonment of running back carries against USC, which also goes in the Herman in-game decision making column. Herman-Beck did the same thing in the Maryland game.
All that being said, Texas looked like a different team against USC from the one we saw in 2016 and in the Maryland game. The defensive front seven is the strength of the team, and if they keep playing like they did in the USC game, Texas will have a chance to win most, if not all of their remaining games. A healthy Shane Buechele and or a more-experienced Sam Ehlinger down the line should give the offense a reasonable chance to improve.

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Asked whether he thought Texas’ off-week was coming at a good time, Herman answered that it was. He said that counting the five weeks of preseason workouts and three games, his team was half-way through the season. Eight weeks down, nine weeks to go. In the spirit of having the first half of the season behind us, I decided to review our readers’ answers to a couple of the queries on the preseason questionnaire I posted before the Maryland game.

1. Predict Texas’ final regular season record.
More than half of the contestants predicted Texas would go 9-3 or better. I’ll bet none of them contemplated a loss to Maryland. I’d take 8-4 today and run like a bandit. One contestant who shall remain nameless (Mark Adams) had Texas going 12-0.

2. Name the starting quarterback for the OU game.
Every contestant picked Shane Buechele. In formulating that question, I was pretty sure—one way or another—the quarterback situation would get interesting by then. Would any of the contestants like another shot at the question?
Below, I’m giving readers another opportunity to answer these two questions.

*******

Kurt Vonnegut

On a totally random note, I read an interesting tidbit about Kurt Vonnegut in Dan Jenkins memoir,” His Ownself.” In the mid-fifties Vonnegut worked at Sports Illustrated for one week. Jenkins met Vonnegut at a party and asked him if the story he had heard about the ending of Vonnegut’s brief tenure at SI was true. Vonnegut confirmed the following. For his first assignment at SI he was given a set of photos of an equestrian event and told to write a 100-word test block to go with the photos. Unable to think of 100 words. Vonnegut submitted the following piece. “The horses jumped over the fucking fence. I quit.”

And so on.

Hook ‘eM,

W.E.

2017 Season Predictions Redux

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Over/Under Results

Our apologies for not posting the results for the San Jose St. game last week. Here they are.

1.Clayton Frink, Mark Adams, David Frink, Greg Swan ties for first eight correct. Clayton Frink won in the tiebreaker.

Steve Holstead finished 4th.

The average score was 5.9.

USC Results

  1. Mike Frank’s first participation of the year results in a win. Mike posted 9 correct answers
  2. Helen Frink, Homer Mark, and Art Zeitz tied for second with 8 correct.

The average score was 6.1

A record breaking 19 players entered last week. Very cool.

The off week gives me a chance to post Over/Under standings for the season to date based on the total number of correct answers. Hopefully this will add a little more interest to the Over/Under Contest.

Texas’ all-out effort on Saturday night was the program’s best since the 2015 OU game.  My USC column will be posted by this Wednesday or Thursday.

W.E.

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Does Anybody Choke or Throw Up?

When my daughter Molly was about six, our family watched Mrs. Doubtfire on our home VCR.  Those of you who enjoyed the movie as much as we did probably remember the restaurant scene where Mrs. Doubtfire performs the Heimlich maneuver successfully on Stu.  Molly was quite disturbed by this scene and for the next year or two she would ask before the family sat down to watch a movie, “Does anybody choke or throw up in this movie?” That pretty much ruled out us watching The Exorcist.  Anyway, Molly’s question became and remains a stock phrase in the Frink household.

As I prepare to watch the USC game Saturday night, based on what I’ve seen of Texas so far this season    it seems wise to ask, “Do the Longhorns choke or throw up in this football game?”

Orange blows out White

In the annual early September Orange and White game played in DKR Memorial Stadium last weekend, The Orange team methodically dismantled The White team 56-0.

Two weeks of Tom Herman

A friend confided to me the other day that he was already tired of hearing Tom Herman talk. I can’t go that far but I’ve noticed that his preseason oozing of confidence and competence has turned into oozing too hard to sound smart and in control.  In simpler terms, in media appearances Herman has taken on an unpleasant edge. While I can’t say that I’m already tired of hearing Herman talk, I am hearing him more and enjoying him less.

What do I think?

Before big Texas games, I’m often asked the simple question, what do I think?  Sometimes it seems like a straightforward question and sometimes it seems like a plea for reassurance that everything will be all right for the Longhorns.  Putting in perspective what I’ve seen of the Longhorns and USC over the past two weeks, if I’m asked today, “What do I think?”, my gut tells me the Longhorns are going to choke and throw up Saturday night in the coliseum.

Hook ‘eM,

W.E.

USC Over/Under

  • THE DAILY DOUBLE
  • In college football sacks count as negative rushing yards.
  • Tiebreaker: Predict Winners. Scores aren't required



    Clemson at Louisville
  • Harvard @ Rhode Island
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Manhandled is a Verb

Manhandled is a Verb

Walking out of the stadium after Maryland’s last touchdown that made the score 51-34 with 2:08 remaining in the game, I was thinking of several glib observations I could write for this column.  I won’t go through them all but $8,700 lockers and million dollar salaries for defensive coordinators were at the top of the list. But before I was thinking of glib observations, my first reaction to the game was, this program has devolved into a total farce.

Now, six days later, I’ve recalibrated my position on the 2017 Tom Hermans.  Herman was not forthcoming or likeable during his appearance post-game press conference when he miscategorized the word manhandled as an adjective (it’s a verb, Tom) or his weekly Monday press conference when he still didn’t shoulder any blame for the Maryland defeat, but I’m still betting that he will lead Texas to at least seven regular season wins this year and ultimately to a string of 10 win or better seasons.

Here are the reasons why.

  1. Herman hasn’t become stupid since he arrived in Austin. His success as a coach has been well documented and is real. Perhaps he became preoccupied with the music being played in the stadium during games, a water bottle being left in a meeting room by P.J. Locke, and the color of players’ peepee.  After the Maryland humiliation maybe he’ll refocus on football.
  1. Despite what some fans and sports analysts think, Texas’s current roster has enough good players to have a winning season this year. In predicting eight regular season wins, I expected Texas to lay an egg at some point and lose a game when they were the favorite. Maybe Maryland was that game.
  2. Texas receivers caught 34 passes against Maryland. They didn’t drop a single one. Their sure-handedness bodes well for the offense. Reggie Hemphill-Mapps is a budding star.
  3. Speaking of Hemphill-Mapps, he looks like a gamebreaker on punt returns.
  4. It’s so predictable that many fans will blame the quarterback after a disappointing loss no matter what actually happened. Buechele is a good quarterback. He didn’t display the accuracy he did last year in missing on five or six attempts of more than 40 yards but he threw touchdown passes of 33 and 32 yards and completed several other intermediate range passes. If the offensive and defensive lines had played as well as Buechele, Texas would have won. When Buechele gets healthy Herman and offensive coordinator Tim Beck need to produce game plans more suited to his skill set.
  5. It’s a football cliché that teams improve the most  from game one to game two but with a new coaching staff it’s quite reasonable to believe Texas will greatly improve after the Maryland debacle.

Greg Bowers observations and a little inside information

Greg called me Sunday afternoon with information about Texas’ kickoff strategy and observations on the Texas defense.  He assured me that Josh Rowland is capable of kicking the ball deep into the end zone but Josh told his dad who told Greg that the strategy against Maryland called for his kicks to go into the corner on the one yard line which he executed perfectly.  Going forward I hope Tom Herman lets Josh kick it into the end zone and rely less on his shaky kickoff coverage.

Most interesting to me was Greg’s observation on the Texas defense.  He told me that defensive coordinator Todd Orlando used the same tactics he used at Houston but the Texas players looked big and slow compared to Houston’s.  This week Herman said players were thinking too much about not making mistakes which made them a step slow versus Maryland.  Players echoed this critique. Let’s hope over-thinking was the reason the defense looked big and slow not that they actually are big and slow.

Hook ‘eM.

W.E.

Maryland Over/Under Results

The bloodbath last Saturday in Royal Memorial Stadium overflowed into the Over/Under contest.  The average number of correct answers was 3.2.  Not surprisingly, no contestant predicted a Maryland victory.

Greg Swan, Clayton Frink, and D.R. Flower tied for first with five correct answers. All three picked Alabama over Florida State and UCLA over A&M which took it down to their predictions on the Alabama-Florida State final score.  The three were still very close with Greg Swan finally prevailing by predicting the Alabama win by a score of 35-21 and coming closest to the final margin of victory.

San Jose State Over/Under

  • THE DAILY DOUBLE
  • Tiebreaker: Predict Winners. Scores aren't required



    Oklahoma at Ohio St.
  • Houston @ Arizona
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Maryland Pre Game

Willie Earl Unedited and Unfiltered

 

Catchy headline huh? You might even call it provocative and think I’m going to unload some Bill Frink 1970s style outspoken and somewhat abrasive opinions. Not so. It simply means that I waited too long to write this so I don’t have time to send it to my editor before release. Now on with the show.

Kicker Information

I got a call from my old friend Greg (Sid) Bowers—Greg is the first friend I made after arriving in Austin in August of 1974— earlier this week.  After reading my comments in my preseason column on the Longhorns’ new kicker Josh Rowland, Greg called to offer some inside information.  Greg and his wife Suzie are good friends with Josh’s parents and have known Josh since he was a three-year-old riding his tricycle in the Rowland’s driveway.  Josh was an all-district soccer player as a sophomore and junior at Madison Central in Madison Mississippi who surprised his parents when he decided to try out for the football team his senior year.  Josh’s parents are Mississippi State graduates and Josh was hoping to attend there on a scholarship after an outstanding senior season.  No scholarship was offered but Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen encouraged Josh to walk on and perhaps earn a scholarship after putting in two to three years of hard work.  That wasn’t good enough for Josh and he accepted a scholarship to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College where he was an all-American in 2015. When Dan Mullen caught wind that Josh was going to  Texas on a scholarship, he called Josh and told him he was disrespecting his parents’ alma mater.  Nice job, Coach Mullen.  Anyway, Josh asked Mullen if he had a scholarship for him. The answer was no so Josh told him he was going to be a Longhorn.

Greg tells me that Josh is a great kid with a ton of talent but the largest crowd he’s ever played in front of was less than 5,000. So as fond of Josh as Greg is, he concedes that how Josh performs in front of 100,000 people is anybody’s guess.  I feel the good karma about Josh as a Longhorn and based on that alone I predict he will perform admirably as a Longhorn.

Greg Bowers on Tom Herman and Todd Orlando

After a couple of wild and woolly years at UT, Greg transferred to the University of Houston and graduated in 1978. Greg was the starting center for the Westchester Wildcats in 1973 and when I met him he knew the height, weight, and college of every single player that was currently on an NFL roster. I really mean every single player. It was kind of amazing.  Greg’s two sons both played college football, one at U of H and one at Ole Miss.  So when Greg offers an opinion on football I almost always take it to the bank. Being a University of Houston alum, Greg is a Cougar fan and he told me during our conversation this week that Herman will most likely return the Longhorns to their former football glory. He was even more effusive about Texas’ new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando who came with Herman from Houston.  In true Greg Bowers parlance, to told me that Orlando was a beast who’s attacking defenses had beat Oklahoma’s and Louisville’s asses last year.  I’m inching a little bit towards the Unbridled Optimism side after my conversation with Greg.

Musing without a Muse

I know Texas has had three straight losing seasons but an 11am kick off on September 2? Really? I think it’s time for Texas to get a real athletic director.

Even so-called curmudgeon Kirk Bohls is in the unbridled optimism camp. In today’s Statesman he has Texas beating USC and finishing 9-3. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think sports writers are supposed to be cheerleaders for the home town team, just the opposite in fact.  That’s why I said so-called curmudgeon. I’ve thought that Bohls is a very good columnist for decades but lately he’s gotten a little sentimental and political for my taste.

This will be the first season since 1995 when there are no Frink-Yoxall-Zeitz tailgates planned. It was a truly great run and I’m sure there will be an occasional tailgate in the future.  The very first tailgate was a very humble affair in the LBJ Library parking lot out of the trunk of Helen’s hail damaged 1993 Camry. It was just Helen, Dan and Michelle Yoxall, and me that damp evening before the Horns annihilated Texas Tech 48-7 in what was supposed to be a close game matching the two teams sharing first place in the Southwest Conference.  The first half was one of my favorite halves of Longhorn football ever as Texas ran up a 28-0 lead. I particularly remember Helen during the pre-game gate offering four UT students—who we didn’t know—beers and roast beef sandwiches as they walked by the four of us huddled around the Camry’s open trunk.  One of the students had a boyfriend who was a football team manager and the young lady informed us that according to her boyfriend, the Horns had had a great week of practice and were going to trounce Tech. Nice call.

On a related note, this is the first season since 1994 that Helen and I don’t own a UT Football parking pass.  I’m looking forward to a change in our game day routine. From 1974 to 1977, on game day, I took so many memorable walks to and from the Sig Ep house, across campus to what was then simply Memorial Stadium. Sometimes I walked with a date and more times it was just with a SPE brother or two.  Perhaps the most memorable of these walks was the trip back to the house after the Horns beat Texas Tech in 1977. I was with Larry Campbell and we ran and jogged to beat the start of what had become the weekly post-game unhinged, and yes, unbridled drag celebration. When Larry and I got to the drag, Austin police had already taken up their posts. Crossing San Antonio Street we passed the porta-potties that the city had deployed in response to the many complaints the previous weeks about public urination.  Everything about that season seems like a dream to me now.

Remembering those walks has given me an idea for parking sans parking pass. We’re going to leave the our house around 9am and head to the Sig Ep house in the hope of parking somewhere in the neighborhood and walking to the stadium from there.  It’s probably a half-baked plan but I’m a lucky guy so I’m optimistic. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Let the Tom Herman Dynasty begin.

Hook ‘em,

W.E.

San Jose State Over/Under

  • THE DAILY DOUBLE
  • Tiebreaker: Predict Winners. Scores aren't required



    Oklahoma at Ohio St.
  • Houston @ Arizona
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