Archive for the ‘2017’ Category

Kansas State Knee-Jerk Reactions

Told you Sam Ehlinger should be the starter.  That’s a joke, son.

Turns out that Kirk Bohls’ play-calling is pretty good.   Collin Johnson caught several passes on curl and slant routs. Wiping a little egg of my face here.

Tom Herman has to learn that kicking field goals is not unmanly. Assuming Josh Rowland makes the 18-yard field goal in the first quarter attempt that Herman passed on, Texas probably wins the game in less dramatic fashion.  As I commented earlier, had Herman elected to kick a short field goal on the Texas’ opening drive of the second half against Maryland, that game could have turned out differently. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Texas is now 0 for 3 for the season on fourth down inside the opponent’s 5-yard line.

Reggie Hemphill-Mapps might be Texas’ best player.

I thought Shane Buechele did a very good job last year under trying conditions and could be a four year starter. Last night against Kansas State, in addition to all the great runs and throws Sam Ehlinger made, he displayed the “It” factor. We haven’t had a quarterback with “It” since Colt McCoy.  I don’t know yet and neither do you if Ehlinger can sustain his Kansas State performance for an entire season or career, but that it’s a possibility gives me visions of sugarplums dancing in my head.

Get healthy, Shane. With Ehlinger’s reckless-abandon running style, we may need you sooner rather than later.

An exhilarating if not exhausting win last night. Now it’s on to Dallas and let’s win there.

Hook ‘eM,

W.E.

Kansas State Over/Under Results

In only his second game ever, Joe Grubbs won with 8 correct answers. Like the Longhorns, Joe was extended into overtime by Reed Ramlow who also had 8 correct answers. In the tiebreaker, they both whiffed on their picks against the line so it came down to their UT-KSU score prediction. In a photo finish if there ever was one, Joe edged Reed by one point in predicting a Texas four point win to Reed’s three point Texas win prediction.

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Kansas State Pre Game

Offensive Angst

It’s already come to this. Four games into the Tom Herman era, Texas fans and the media—notably Kirk Bohls—are making personnel and play suggestions.  Bohls is calling for quick slants and curls to Collin Johnson.  Bohls should be embarrassed to be making play suggestions in print. That’s like saying Jordan Spieth needs to make more birdies. It reminds me of Richard Nixon calling Washington Redskins coach George Allen with a play suggestion before a playoff game in 1971 against the Francisco 49ers.  Bohls’ colleague Cedric Golden and a chorus of Texas fans are convinced that Sam Ehlinger will be better than Shane Buechele. A featured writer for Barking Carnival watched video and broke down every single Texas running play in the Iowa State game, and he has many suggestions about schemes and formations.  The writer has an advanced technical knowledge of football that I can’t come close to matching, but I will offer a critique of his analysis. You can’t scheme your way out of having an offensive line that is depleted by injury, forcing a backup right tackle to start at left tackle and true freshman to start at right tackle.

I’ll be patient and observe how Herman and his offensive staff deal with the bad hand they’ve been dealt by injuries for at least, oh, one more game before I offer any critique on their performance.   I’ll trust that they have better ideas than the fans, the media, and me.

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In his weekly Monday press conference, Herman made one of the most useful comments I’ve heard from a Texas football coach in years when he observed that when a play is blocked for one yard, running backs Warren and Porter are getting one yard, not three or four. When a play is blocked for four yards, they’re getting four yards not seven or eight.  I think that means he thinks Warren and Porter are average. Following up on that point, Herman said Toeneil Carter will see more playing time in the coming weeks. Incidentally, when Herman said Carter had the most “twitch” of the Texas running backs, it was the first time I had heard that expression. Darrell Royal once said one of his running backs had some “spurt.” I’m kind of sentimental about spurt, but I do like twitch.

Maybe Kirk Bohls submitted his play-calling suggestions to his editors before Herman said on Monday that getting the ball to Collin Johnson more often was one of his personal projects this week.

Speaking of technical knowledge of football, the guys at Barking Carnival make many references to “11,” “10,” and “20” personnel packages on offense.  I knew that it didn’t mean a 10 featured only 10 players or a 20 lined up 20 players. I knew it meant something about formation but I didn’t know exactly what, so I asked Willie Earl’s resident technical football knowledge expert, Greg Bowers.  As Greg explained, the first number indicates the number of running backs in the formation. The second number indicates whether there is a tight end. So, a 10 package has one running back and no tight end. An 11 package has one running back and one tight end, a 00 is five wide receivers, and so on.

I’d love to see a 32, which was one of Darrell Royal’s favorites.

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Since 2006, Texas is 2-7 against Kansas State.  Saturday will be the beginning of the end of that era.  Texas beats Kansas State 24-16.  Afterwards, Texas fans still complain about the offense.

Hook ‘eM,

W.E.

Kansas State Over/Under

  • Ertz is averaging 5.9 yards per carry in 2017
  • KSU is averaging 229 per game rushing in 2017
  • Yes this is repeat question from last week.
  • Tom Herman said getting Johnson more catches was one of his projects this week.
  • Tiebreaker: Pick the winners against the line

    West Virginia + 13.5 at TCU
  • Alabama -26.5 @ Texas A&M
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Forward Progress

After the game, in celebration of a solid conference road win (yes, I said “solid”), I fixed myself a short scotch on the rocks and sat down to scroll through the Barking Carnival live game thread. I usually review the thread to see how the younger- than-me Longhorn Football nerds were reacting to the game as it was happening.   I was in celebration mode, so, I was a little surprised at the ferocity of the complaints and criticism directed at the Texas offense during the second half.  The prevailing theme was that offensive coordinator Tim Beck is an idiot and Sam Ehlinger should replace Shane Buechele.

My observations and thoughts during the second half can be boiled down to concern that Texas might lose this game,  as they have lost so many games like it in the past three years.  Yes, the offense’s inability to move the ball out of their end of the field and thus surrendering field position to Iowa State in the third quarter was frustrating.  But I understood the offense’s struggles in the context of an offensive line that has been decimated by injury, forcing Derek Kerstetter—a true freshman—into the starting lineup at right tackle. Kerstetter had not played a down of college football before the Iowa State game. Tristan Nickelson—until a few weeks ago a backup right tackle—was  making his first start at left tackle, replacing the injured Connor Williams. Further, Shane Buechele was returning from a three- week absence due to a shoulder injury.  So I wasn’t thinking that Beck and Buechele were at fault; I was thinking Texas was in a tough spot on the road, and I was just hoping the Horns could catch a break or that Collin Johnson or some other receiver could make a play to get Texas out of the shadow of their own goal line.

Finally, after a 17-yard punt by Michael Dickson, Iowa State got the ball on the Texas 28 and scored a touchdown four plays later. That was their only score of the game, and Texas still led 14-7. Texas did get a break when a replay review showed that Armanti Foreman’s knee was down before he fumbled the ensuing kickoff.  After a 54-yard punt by Dickson and an interception by Deshon Elliott—in  what seemed like a miracle—Josh Rowland made a 49-yard field goal to give Texas some breathing room at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

I was very pleased that the offense was able to kill the last 7:35 seconds of the game with a 13-play 40 yard drive. Three yards and a cloud of shredded tire tread anyone?  That game-sealing drive put me in a celebratory mood.  I wasn’t cursing Tim Beck or Shane Buechele.  I was happy to be drinking a scotch and enjoying a Texas victory in a game that, over the past few years, would have been another bitter defeat.

Onward and upward!

Game Notes

Texas kicker Josh Rowland turned my head and should have turned yours with a clutch 49-yard field goal and four touchbacks.  Things could be looking up in the kicking game.

Not so much in the return game. Armanti Foreman was swarmed by Iowa State defenders just outside the 10 yard line. On kickoff returns,  it’s almost as if Texas blocks no one at all, zilch, zero, nada. Thank god for replay, which showed Foreman’s knee went down a fraction of a second before he coughed up the football.

Oh yeah, the defense turned in its third straight outstanding performance.  It seemed as though Iowa State quarterback Jacob Park was under attack on every pass attempt.  Don’t want to spit in the well, but Texas’ tackling has been the best it’s been in a decade.

Chris Warren III whiffed while trying to block an Iowa State defensive back on a flanker screen pass. If Warren makes the block, Texas has a big play. As it was, Texas lost a yard.  That play offers a clue as to why Warren is not the starter.  From my vantage point, Warren is not an instinctive runner. He often does not see where the hole is.  I’m guessing that coaches start Kyle Porter because he’s a good blocker. I don’t see any other reason he should be playing. Bring on Toeneil Carter.

 

Hook “Em,

W.E.

Over/Under Results

At the risk of being accused of nepotism, I’m obligated to report that Clayton Frink won the Iowa State Over/Under with 9 correct answers. Wes Peoples and Greg Swan tied for second with 8 correct.  It was interesting to me that more than 50% of the contestants picked Ehlinger over Buechele for more total yards.

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Thanks go out to the Willie Earl patrons who share the enlightening content we churn out each week which has resulted in several new readers subscribing this year.  We’d like to take this occasion to encourage more sharing.

BF

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Second Tier

There’s a story that has Abraham Lincoln quoting a man who had been being ridden out of town on a rail as having said, “If it weren’t for the honor of the thing, I’d just as soon it happened to someone else.”  That’s about how I feel about Texas playing on a Thursday night. Playing on Thursday night has second tier program written all over it.  So does losing to Iowa State.

I don’t have any idea how good or bad Texas is right now but I’ll take a shot at a prediction.

Texas 31
Iowa State 28

Hook ‘eM,

W.E.

Iowa State Over/Under

  • Iowa State has allowed 107 rushing yards per game in 2017
  • Iowa State has allowed 295 yards per game passing in 2017
  • Iowa State has averaged 311 yards per game passing in 2017
  • In college football sacks count as negative rushing yards.
  • Tiebreaker: Predict Winners. Scores aren't required



    USC at Washington St.
  • Michigan St @ Iowa
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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.

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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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