Baylor Over/Under Results

For the first time since I don’t know when, overtime was not needed to decide the winner. And the winner is David Frink with 8 correct answers. That’s David’s second win of the season. David takes home $40 for the effort.

Helen Frink, Dan Yoxall, Tyler Cotton, and Clayton Frink tied for second with 7 correct. Just 4 of the 17 players predicted Texas would have more punts than Baylor. Other than that, there wasn’t anything about the distribution of answers that stood out. The average score was also a nondescript 5.2.

The results for the Off Week Over/under will be determined Sunday when Texas’ bowl invitation is received. Those results will be included with my regular season wrap up column. Ther will be an Over/Under contest for the Bowl game.

What are the Chances

The team Texas thoroughly demolished last Saturday was not your father’s Kansas.  It was a respectable if not good Kansas team that had won six games and probably would have won one or two more if their starting quarterback Jalon Daniels hadn’t missed for four and a half games due to injury. The offense was scoring 36.9 points per game coming into the Texas game.  If Daniels hadn’t been injured in the first half against TCU they could have won that game.  Daniels started against Texas to no avail as Kansas was shut out during the first half while the Horns were scoring 31 points. Game over.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Texas’ defense was the weak link that would cost them a game or two coming down the stretch. It wasn’t my best observation as evidenced by the defense playing the game of the decade in losing to TCU and following it up by shutting down Kansas on the road.

On the offensive side for Texas, Steve Sarkisian seemed to have seen the errors of his ways. Quinn Ewers attempted only 21 passes while Texas ran the ball a stunning 57 times. Bijan Robinson had 247 yards on 25 rushes. The complimentary football Texas played was probably the way they should have been playing all season. Had they, Bijan Robinson would be heading to New York, and they probably would be playing in the Big 12 Championship game next week win, lose or draw Friday versus Baylor.

Baylor

Texas is Baylor’s rivalry game and though they’re only 6-5 overall and 4-4 in conference play this will be a tough game for the Horns. Baylor is a physical team that averages 202 yards per game rushing while limiting opponents to 131 yards on the ground.

If Texas struggles to run the ball early, Sarkisian has to have adjustments ready to find a way to be successful on the ground. If you rely on Quinn Ewers throwing the ball 30 + times I think you’re going to lose this one in a repeat of the TCU loss. This could be and should be a game that come hell or high water Bijan Robinson carries it 30 times.

Texas has not won two games in a row since mid-October and they’re 2-2 in their last four. It’s been a long time since you could forecast a dominating feel good win against an inferior opponent at home on the last day of the season for Texas.  It would be good to re-establish that tradition on Friday and continue it in the near future against the Aggies.

Bijan and Ricky

Wouldn’t be nice if Bijan went out with a Ricky Williams like 250 yards or more rushing leading Texas to a win and giving us 24 hours to hope that Kansas can pull off the upset and beat Kansas State?  Rock Chalk!

Speaking of Ricky Williams, what are the chances that Bijan will stay at Texas for his senior season, another shot at a Heisman Trophy and a championship run for Texas?  Nil you might answer but stranger things have happened when you consider NIL (see what I did there) and the big bucks he’s pulling down now that would get even bigger if he stayed.  It could happen.

Texas A&M @ Texas (November 29, 1996)

Texas came into the game with a 7-4 record, 5-2 in the Big 12 and unranked. They had already clinched the South Division of The Big 12 in its inaugural season. But still, it had been a disappointing season prior to this game. Texas was ranked #8 to start the season and then lost a heartbreaker at home to Notre Dame on a last second field goal. Next they were blown out by Virginia 37-14 in Charlottesville and fell out of the rankings. They later blew an 11-point 4th quarter lead losing 30-27 to Oklahoma in overtime.

As close as I can remember, Texas was a 3 or 4 point favorite over the Aggies. The kickoff was a few minutes after 10am on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The Notre Dame game also started at 10am that season. The early kicks were an accommodation for television.  It was cold and rainy when the game started. My lasting memories of the game are of Mike Adams and Wane McGarity catching multiple touchdown passes from James Brown and how the sun came out and warmed things up as Texas routed A&M 51-15. Reviewing the box score from the game confirms that Adams caught touchdown passes of 14 and 36 yards and McGarity caught a 53-yards touchdown pass.  

Celebrating with Helen and a legion known as the Yoxalls in the parking lot of the LBJ Library after the game, my brother David and Sister-in-law Cheryl offered to pick up our 6- and 9-year-old kids who were with a sitter at our house and take them to spend the night.  Helen and I now free for the afternoon and evening went to Sullivan’s in downtown Austin for a victory dinner. We ordered steaks and Helen asked me if we should split a baked potato, which was our usual custom. I replied that on a day when we beat down the Aggies I think we should each have our own.

Hook “Em,

W.E.

Song of the Week

If you’re taking nominations for the greatest song of all time, this is mine.  I’m sorry that whoever posted this video placed the “Gaucho” album cover in the beginning of it. “Deacon Blues” is on the “Aja” album.

I crawl like a viper
Through these suburban streets
Make love to these women languid and bittersweet
I rise when the sun goes down
Cover every game in town
A world of my own
I’ll make it my home sweet home

Kansas Over/Under Results

What do the Willie Earl Over/Under players have in common with the Texas Football Longhorns?  They both blew up the scoreboard Saturday. While Texas was scoring 55, the Over/Under players were averaging a stunning 7.4 correct answers and the players who got 7 correct tied for ninth place in a 16-player field! The over/under questions were as easy to solve as was the Kansas defense.

Jeff Otto and Dan Yoxall tied for first place with 9 correct answers so once again the winner was decided by the tiebreaker.  Here, Jeff stumbled with both his picks, Oklahoma State and West Virginia being losers. Jeff always bets on his home state school, West Virginia. He once placed a $10 bet in the preseason on the Mountaineers to win the national championship. I think the odds were something like 500-1. Dan went one for two with Oklahoma State and Kansas State so, for the second time in three games Dan Yoxall wins!  Dan takes home $35 for the effort.

Mike Frank, Dan Adams, Mitch Frink, Greg Swan, Andy Garrod, and Steve Holstead tied for third with 8 correct answers. There’s something all but one of these players have in common. What is it? It’s something more unique than being old.

As I mentioned above, there were 16 players this week which was the second fewest of the season. I’m sure this was due to the site being down Friday night and most of Saturday morning. I think we have our issues thoroughly resolved now.

Every player predicted Texas would lead at halftime and that Texas would have the game’s leading rusher. Only three players picked Kansas to average more yards per play than Texas. The question that the most players missed was which team would score more points in the 4th quarter with 8 players going with Kansas.

W.E.

Texas Needs a Surge of Leadership                               

Earlier this season, the week after Texas’ narrow loss to #1 Alabama, Texas found itself tied 17-17 at the half with UTSA.  Uh oh. Were the Horns hungover from their disappointing loss to Alabama? Maybe briefly before they outscored UTSA 24-3 in the second half to win comfortably 41-20. This ushered in The Texas Football Era of Good Feelings.   It was a short-lived era as Texas blew a 14-point second half lead and lost in Lubbock to Texas Tech. But then Texas went on a three-game winning streak that included a 49-0 blowout of Oklahoma and a 4th quarter comeback win over Iowa State.  Okay then. The loss in Lubbock was just a blip on the radar. Texas rose to #20 in the rankings with a 5-2 record. Texas had the wind to their back and the sky was the limit for their uber-talented team. Steve Sarkisian was well on his way to his first four game winning streak at Texas, then his team blew another 14-point lead against Oklahoma State.

The Oklahoma State loss put Steve Sarkisian’s record at Texas to 10-10 and raised disturbing questions about his leadership. If Sarkisian was such a brilliant offensive mind and play caller why did his team only score three points in the second half of losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State? Why didn’t he replace Quinn Ewers in the second half of the Oklahoma State game when he was 8 for 25 passing. Ewers finished the game 19 for 49. Are his play calling duties detracting from his ability to manage and lead the entire team? Crouching on the sideline staring at a laminated play sheet doesn’t look like leadership to me. The win over Kansas State, when Texas only scored three points in the second half and allowed Kansas State to close to with 7 points after trailing by 21, did little to dispel the questions.

Last Saturday Sarkisian and Texas found a new way to lose. They never led TCU and while the defense was playing their best game of the decade, the offense totaled only 199 yards and failed to score a touchdown. Once again Sarkisian declined to replace a struggling Quin Ewers with Hudson Card during the second half. Ewers finished the game 17 for 39 passing. Remember after the Oklahoma State game when I quoted Paul Wadlington. “Losing finds a way.”

Texas still has a chance to post an 8-4 record for the regular season which is what many fans said they would be satisfied with at the start of the season. I don’t get that mindset; more on that in a minute. Texas won’t get to 8-4 without a surge in leadership from the head coach. In my opinion the reason Texas is 6-4 at this point instead of 8-2 or 9-1 is Steve Sarkisian’s failure to lead his team during critical stretches in games they’ve lost.  As the offensive coordinator he has not figured out how to score points in the second half.  He continues to call deep shot after deep shot to Xavier Worthy without success. I heard a statistic on the radio this week that Texas is 9 for 38 on passes thrown more than 25 yards in the air this season. That’s not a winning formula. Part of leadership is the willingness to change course when the present course isn’t working.

I would start by replacing Quinn Ewers with Hudson Card to start the Kansas game. At the very least it would show that Sarkisian places more value on winning games now than protecting Ewers’ psyche.  At best Card is probably the better quarterback right now.

Card has completed 69% of his passes, Ewers is at 55%. Card’s average yards per attempt is 8.6, Ewers’ is 7.1. In 107 pass attempts Card has one interception. In 212 attempts Ewers has six interceptions. I could go on. Suffice it to say by any statistical measure Card has been better than Ewers. And if you take into account only Ewers’ last four games the contrast is even starker. Card also adds a running dimension to the offense. Ewers doesn’t.  In the four games that Card has had extensive playing time he has long runs in each of 17, 22, 32, and 20 yards. In this era of college and pro football an offense without a mobile quarterback is at a disadvantage.

Do I think there is a snowballs chance in hell that Card starts against Kansas? No. But if Ewers struggles against Kansas’ 117th ranked pass defense in the country and the game is on the line will Steve Sarkisian do something or just crouch there?

8-4

If we were handing out grades at the end of the regular season and Texas finished 8-4 I would give Texas a C. Is Texas paying Steve Sarkisian $5.4 million to go 8-4? I heard someone say that 8-4 would be a three-game improvement over last year’s 5-7 and should be considered a big step forward. So, 5-7 is our baseline?  Come on.

Aren’t you tired of hearing about the “process?” If you want to talk process how about Sonny Dykes’ process going from 5-7 to 10-0. Or Josh Heupel’s at Tennessee improving from 7-6 his first year to 9-1 at Tennessee. Here’s another. In his first year at LSU Brian Kelly took over a 6-7 team and won the SEC West. They’re 8-2 overall so far. One more. Lincoln Riley inherited a 4-8 USC team and they’re now 9-1. TCU, Tennessee, LSU, and USC now sit at 4,5,6, and 7 in the playoff standings.

Let’s stop making excuses for Texas.

Song of the Week

I’m afraid I’m one of those who wants “to go home again” so this song makes me wistful.  The song works. What a great song.

TCU Over/Under Results

I know I’m being redundant, but we had yet another barnburner this week in Over/Under.  Wes Peoples and Steve Holstead were nearly perfect, and they tied for first place with 9 correct answers. Steve’s only wrong answer was predicting a non-quarterback would throw a pass. Wes’s only stumble was picking Ewers over Duggan for the most touchdown passes.  In the tiebreaker both Steve and Wes picked Kansas State to cover versus Baylor which was correct and the Cowboys to cover versus the Packers which was a loser. So once again the contest came all the way down to the score prediction of the TCU Texas game. Both players predicted Texas would win. Steve had it 27-20 in Texas’ favor while Wes had Texas 28-24. Since Texas lost by 7, Wes prevails with his four-point spread in Texas’ favor to Steve’s 7-point spread. Congratulations to Wes!  I seem to recall that Wes won one of these last year or the year before.

Interestingly enough, Wes and Steve weren’t money ball players. So, who won the money?  That would be Eric Vogl who finished alone in third place with 8 correct answers. Mr. Vogl plays Over/Under about as often as Tiger Woods plays a regular PGA tour event. Eleven players opted in for money ball this week, so Eric takes home $55.

Mark Stephan, Dan Adams, Wade Wallace, Helen Frink, and Zach Moorhead tied for fourth with 7 correct.

We had 22 players again this week, another healthy turnout just one short of the season high of 23. Only 6 players correctly went under on17.5 points for Texas in the first half. In what turned out to be a gimme question, only three players went with no for the team with the most time of possession would win the game. When I formulated that question, I was thinking Texas might win the game throwing it around 35-40 times while having less than 30 minutes of possession. Texas thew it 39 times and had only 22:38 in time of possession.

The average score was 5.9

Who is Texas?

Texas’ win over a ranked Kansas State team was their first road win of the season and only their second road win under Steve Sarkisian. The win put the Longhorns back into the College Football Playoff rankings and the AP poll rankings at #18. Further, the college football computer geeks like Texas. They’re #6 in the ESPN Power Index and the ESPN SP+ rankings. More importantly, the win over Kansas State coupled with Oklahoma State’s loss to Kansas means Texas will get into the Big 12 Championship if they win their remaining three games in the regular season.

With the win over Kansas State has Texas put their road woes behind them?  Are they going to perform going forward like the talent laden team they are should perform?  Or is Texas still the under achieving team they have been? In their two conference road losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, and in their road win against Kansas State they scored only three points in the second half.  They were lucky at home to beat Iowa State, a 4-5 team that is in 9th place in the Big 12.  Nine games into the season I don’t know who Texas is.

TCU vs Texas

Big game experience

Although TCU rolls into Austin sporting a #4 College Football Playoff Texas is currently a 7-point favorite. Generally, in college football the home field is worth three points so the oddsmakers think Texas is the better team. Like I said, the football computer geeks like Texas.

TCU has no recent experience in games of this magnitude. Texas played #1 Alabama a couple of months ago, but the expectations were low. Remember, most Texas fans and pro-Texas media were just hoping Texas could keep the game within two scores. Texas was playing with house money.  So, I don’t think either team has an edge in big game experience.

Quarterback

If Quinn Ewers plays up to his potential I don’t think either team has an edge in the quarterback matchup. If Sarkisian continues to call numerous deep shot attempts to Xavier Worthy and Ewers is having an off day I think TCU with Max Dugan will have the decided edge. Duggan can hurt you running or passing. Texas will have a tough time containing him. He leads the Big 12 in total passing yards averaging 267 yards per game and touchdown passes with 24. He’s completed 66% of his throws. Texas struggles in pass defense even against average passers. Duggan has run for 282 yards averaging 3.7 yards per carry which seems rather modest, but sacks are factored into quarterback rushing stats skewing yards per carry and total yards lower.

Coaching

I don’t see an edge for either team in terms of coaching. Dykes and Sarkisian have faced each other once. In 2014 Sarkisian’s USC beat Dykes’ California team 38-30.  

Sonny Dykes has won 56% of his games as head coach of Louisiana Tech, California, and SMU.  He was 25-10 at SMU and that success got him the job at TCU. This will be the biggest game of his head coaching career.

Ironically, Steve Sarkisian has also won 56% of his games as a head coach with stops at Washington, USC, and Texas. His best year was in 2014 at USC when he went 9-4.  Reviewing the recap of that season without much context it looks like if USC had beaten UCLA in their last conference game, they would have been in the Pac 12 Championship game. They lost to #11 UCLA 38-20.  Anyway, that’s ancient history. This will be the biggest game of his head coaching career. Win and he would have a manageable task of winning a road game versus Kansas, and a home game versus Baylor to get in the Big 12 Championship which would be a successful season. Lose and it’s wait until next year. Again.

Making plays

Before the Alabama game I wrote that Texas players needed to make plays when they had opportunities. In that game, Xavier Worthy dropped a very catchable ball in the end zone. D’Shawn Jamison dropped an interception that hit him between the numbers that would have ended an Alabama scoring drive. And Ryan Watts missed a sack that would have been a game a game clincher on Alabama’s winning drive for a field goal. Texas can’t afford to miss those kinds of opportunities on Saturday.

Tale of two halves

By now we’re familiar with Texas’ second half struggles in their losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Last week in their win at Kansas State they only scored three points. What happens if Texas doesn’t have a good first half against TCU?

Classic matchup

This game isn’t a championship game. It’s not #1 versus #2 such as Nebraska vs Oklahoma in 1971 or USC vs Texas in the 2005 title game. But it is a classic Big 12 matchup of the 2010s. Those involve Texas with predominantly four-star recruits with a few five stars sprinkled in versus non blueblood programs like Iowa State, Oklahoma State, or TCU. Those programs’ rosters consist of mostly three-star recruits with a four-star here and there.  In the recruiting classes from 2019 through 2022 Texas’ average national ranking was 8. TCU’s was 38.

In 2020 after Iowa State beat Texas, Iowa State’s Breece Hall took to Twitter with “It’s five-star culture vs. five-star players.”  You know TCU will be coming into this game with five-star culture vs. five-star players chip on their collective shoulders.

Final

As Chris Schenkel said during the fourth quarter of the 1969 Texas, Arkansas game, “tension.”

We might get some Saturday night.

Song of the Week

When this song came out in 1977 and top 40 radio was still big in my life, it was played so often that I developed something close to a dislike for this song. In more recent years I have come to really appreciate it as one of the Eagles best.

Kansas State Over/Under Results

On a day when the average score was 4.55, four players shined. Zach Moorhead and Dan Yoxall tied for first place with 8 correct answers. Zach and Dan both picked a winner, Georgia and a loser, Clemson against the line. So, it came down to their score predictions to determine the winner. Zach had Texas losing 35-17. Dan predicted a Texas road victory 35-31 so Dan wins this week. I’m not sure, but I think it’s Dan’s first win ever. Dan takes home $40 for the effort. Congratulations Dan!

D.R. Flower and Helen Frink tied for third place with 7 correct answers which blew away the field’s average of 4.55.

Interestingly enough, no player scored a 6.

Zach Moorehead and D.R. Flower were the only two plyers who predicted Texas would score less than 10.5 points in the second half.

We had another large field with 22 players.

Study up your stat sheets this week for the biggest game in Austin for the Longhorns in a while.

W.E.

The Weak Link

Though I’m not an expert in analytics, frequently I use statistics as a guide and for inspiration in writing a column and formulating Over/Under questions. I was just looking at the Big 12 defensive statistics and was a little surprised to see that Texas is third in points allowed giving up 21.1 points per game. Then I noticed that all games are used in compiling these statistics not just conference games. And then I remembered that Texas hung a goose egg on Oklahoma.

When I think about Texas’ defense I remember the Texas Tech and Oklahoma State games. I also think about how the defense tried to give the Iowa State game away. You probably remember in the fourth quarter that Iowa State’s best receiver dropped a sure touchdown pass with no Texas defender within 20 yards. To their credit the defense sealed the win a few plays later by forcing an Iowa State fumble.

In my analysis of the Kansas State game and all the other remaining games on the schedule, I see Texas’ defense as the weak link that will probably cost Texas at least one of the next four games.

Texas’ defense doesn’t pass the eye test for me.

******

Since Kansas State’s defense is second in the Big 12 in scoring defense surrendering just 17.3 points a game, maybe analytics would tell you that the Texas – Kansas State game will be low scoring. The betting line on the over/under the last time I checked was 54.5. If I was dumb enough to bet on college or pro football I would be a sucker on this one for the over. I’m thinking both teams will score in the mid-30s.

Elimination game

I think this is a Big 12 Championship elimination game for Texas. The chances of Texas with three conference losses making the championship game are slim to none. If Texas loses to Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Kansas State would have the tiebreaker edge on them. Texas Tech with three conference losses also has the tiebreaker edge on Texas. At least Texas has the edge on Oklahoma. I’m wondering if Oklahoma is getting back to being Oklahoma and are on their way to finishing the season with a 6-game winning streak.

The vision thing

I think the off week Over/Under contest will become a permanent fixture on Willie Earl in future seasons. I enjoyed compiling the answers of the 15 players who submitted entries.

Here’s how the predictions for Texas’ final regular season record broke down:

9-3: 3
8-4: 4
7-5: 6
6-6: 1
5-7: 1

The players at 9-3 have something I don’t. A vision of Texas wining multiple conference road games against worthy opponents.

It was interesting to me that only one player hedged their bet by putting their final record prediction in conflict with their predictions for the outcomes of Texas’ four remaining games. It was a smart move in my opinion.

The bowl game destination predictions for Texas were more varied and entertaining than I anticipated. Here’s how those broke down:

Alamo: 4
Cotton: 2
Cheez it: 2
Texas: 1
Sun: 1
Armed Forces: 1
Frisco: 1
No bowl: 1
Cereal: 1
Bluebonnet: 1

Ah yes, the old Bluebonnet Bowl. For those keeping score at home, the Bluebonnet Bowl which morphed into the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl was played last on December 31, 1987. In that game, Texas defeated Pittsburg 32-27 in the Astrodome in front of 23,282 fans. I remember it well. Without conducting a deep dive on the game, I want to say it featured a speedy, diminutive Tony Jones scoring on multiple long pass receptions for Texas and hard-running Craig “Hammerhead” Heyward keying Pittsburg’s ground attack.

I don’t have to do a deep dive on the 1975 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl to tell you that Texas overcame a 21-7 halftime deficit to defeat 10th ranked Colorado going away 38-21. I’m pretty sure the game was a sellout with 50,000 + fans in attendance. The highlight of the game was Tim Campbell, Earl’s younger brother, blocking a Colorado punt and returning it for a touchdown. And I think I remember our Sig Ep fraternity brother Bill Hamilton recovering a fumble on Colorado’s opening possession of the second half setting up a short touchdown drive for Texas.  Texas finished the season 10-2 ranked #6 nationally. Those were the days my friend we thought they’d never end . . .

Players only meeting

The old “players only meeting” fix. This is what’s being reported by Horns247 and SB Nation on Texas’ second players only meeting of the week.

“We had a meeting after we lost to Texas Tech about just how important the details are,” junior wide receiver Jordan Whittington said, per 247Sports. “And this was just like catching back up to it. Just making sure everybody stayed on track and understood that we’re at the last stretch of the season, so the details matter even more. It was good and very much needed. And I think today, just watching practice, you could tell that it got implemented.”

Steve Sarkisian said he definitely sensed a renewed focus and energy at practice on Monday. “I like where our team is at,” Sarkisian said. “I can tell just today (Monday) at practice, and you guys know me, I don’t mind commenting on practice. Today was a tremendous practice. The intent, the energy, the way we went about our business. The focus by the players, that’s a really positive sign on a Monday for where we need to be come Saturday at six o’clock.”

We all know how another meeting solves everything.

The Kansas State Game

The timing of this game should be good for Texas for three reasons:

1. Texas is coming off a bye and should be healthier than they’ve been since early in the season.

2. Last week Kansas State thrashed Oklahoma State 48-0. Kansas State led 35-0 at the half. I’m thinking Kansas State will revert to its mean and come down to earth against Texas. They might even come out flat after a performance like the one against OSU.

3. If Taylor Martinez is healthy, Kansas State could have a quarterback controversy. Do you go back to Marinez as the starter after Will Howard’s 296 yards passing with 4 touchdowns versus Oklahoma State?

Watch the slant!

Rod Babers uncovered a telling stat on the Texas defense. In the last two games, opposing teams have completed 77% of their passes on slant and post routes; 66% of those throws went for a 1st down or a touchdown. To simplify, slant and post routes are passes over the middle. Will Kansas State try to exploit this weakness?  Will Texas fix this weakness?

Final

Texas is a 2.5-point favorite on the road versus Kansas State. Interesting. I’ll believe Texas with Sarkisian will win a game like this when I see it.

Song of the Week

I was going to feature Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” and not go with the more commercial “Born to Run”. But the “Born to Run” video was so great that I audibled out of “Thunder Road” into “Born to Run” Some may disagree but it’s nice to remember Springsteen when he didn’t take himself so seriously.

Oklahoma State Review

Oklahoma State

Paul Wadlington is my Texas Football guru and I’m going to summarize highlights of his Oklahoma State Postmortem: Offense column.  You can read Paul Wadlington at https://www.on3.com/teams/texas-longhorns/

Wadlington

Texas had a season high 19 offensive possessions. They had 9 meaningful possessions in the Iowa State game. Texas scored 31 points on 10 possessions in the first half. They scored 3 points on 9 possessions in the second half.

******

Texas had 14 penalties.  The Longhorn offense failed to convert a 4th and 3 on the Oklahoma State 28-yard line by lining up in an illegal formation. Later, the Horns had a 2nd quarter drive that got to the OSU 12-yard line, but false starts on Karic and Sanders helped to create 3rd and 22 and an eventual Auburn field goal. The Texas offense had 5 different penalties for procedure or lining up incorrectly. 

Willie Earl

Some Texas fans are complaining that Oklahoma State had no penalties while Texas was called for 14. Maybe Oklahoma State got away with a hold or two, but they didn’t have any procedure, lining up wrong, false start penalties, or jumping offsides on defense penalties. Texas had all of the above. Also, Oklahoma State was flagged twice. Texas declined one and the other was offset by a Texas penalty on the same play.

It seems like Texas is jumping offsides on defense in almost every game. This is a coaching deficiency, right?

*****

Question: How does a QB go 19 of 49 in modern football against a defense that surrendered 523 yards?

Answer: Because the head coach didn’t stop him at 13 of 34.

Willie Earl

My perspective on Sarkisian’s decision or non-decision to not replace Quinn Ewers with Hudson Card in the second half:  Making the switch would have been an adjustment. Sarkisian doesn’t do adjustments.

Wadlington

Texas was 3 for 19 on converting third downs. When the big plays dried up, it was incumbent on Texas to concern itself more with chain moving and making some scheme or personnel adjustments than trying to hit Xavier Worthy in double coverage downfield. If Texas even performs at the season average of other Cowboy opponents on 3rd down, the Horns are probably celebrating a win.

A passable Longhorn passing game would have meant 45+ points on the board, ultimately more Texas runs, and fewer possessions for Oklahoma State to rally. The cause of second half inefficiency was the nexus between head coach, quarterback and perhaps the Longhorn receivers.

Ultimately, when the offense you want to run isn’t working because the QB isn’t making the throws available, you can either hope it turns, pare down the offense considerably, or you can make a change.

Sark bet it would turn and it didn’t.

Willie Earl

Hope isn’t a plan. Again, it’s the adjustment thing.

Wind

David Bergstrom and I played in my club’s member-guest tournament last weekend. The format was a round robin of five 9-hole matches. All weekend the winds were southwesterly at 15-20 mph gusting to 25. It was very windy. So windy that even putts were affected. This required adjustments to club selections and shot alignment on almost every shot. Bergy and I staged a big comeback winning our last two matches. We won the last match 7 ½ -1 ½.  Every point counted in the overall, so all 9 holes were played in every match.  We finished second in our flight and won $450. Righteous bucks.

After our final round, Bergy and I sat down in the clubhouse to watch the Texas-Oklahoma State game picking it up midway through the first quarter. I commented that it’s got to be windy there too. Bergy checked the Stillwater weather on his phone which showed 18 mph south winds. I read some where that the field in T. Boone Pickens stadium runs east to west, one of the few if not the only football field in high school, college, or pro not to run north to south. Okies.

I’m wondering if Sarkisian’s gameplan took the wind into account. It wasn’t obvious to the untrained eye if he did. During the second half when it was clear that Ewers was having a bad day why weren’t more short passes called. Such as the one that went to Xavier Worthy for a touchdown when he lined up as a wingback and the pass to Bijan out of the backfield for a touchdown. It was the only reception of the game for Bijan. Keilan Robinson also caught a short pass out of the backfield that gained 19 yards. It was his only reception as well.  Successful or not, does Sarkisian not like running the same play more than once?

****

Paul Wadlington also does Postmortem columns on defense/special teams. I encourage you to seek out his offensive and defensive breakdowns weekly if you want to better understand Texas Football. Below is his Special Teams breakdown.

Wadlington

A terrific effort overall. Texas won every phase of the return game. Morice Blackwell blocked a punt, Trejo had a punt to the 1-yard line that should have turned the game and Worthy had multiple strong punt returns. Texas won this phase of the game convincingly and if you’d told me before the game that the Horns would have blocked a punt, returned another to the opponent 20, recovered a muffed punt in Cowboy territory and out gained the opponent by 100 yards in returns, a loss would have not been in my predictive index. Losing finds a way.

Willie Earl

Losing finds a way. That defines Steve Sarkisian’s tenure at Texas so far.

All Gas, No Brakes

Do you think No brakes refers to Sarkisian’s defense? 😊

Song of the Week

Those of you who were alive in 1974 and ’75 may remember the release of “Endless Summer” in June of ’74. It was a best of album with the hits from 1963, ’64, and ’65. I had the luck of seeing the Beach Boys in the Municipal Auditorium the evening of last day of class of the spring semester of 1975. I went with John Scott and met up with my brothers during the intermission. John and I sat on the floor about 20 rows back from the stage. When the Beach Boys went into a medley of their biggest hits–I’m gettin’ bugged driving up and down the same old strip I gotta find a new place where the kids are hip–we could see the balcony bobbing up and down to the beat.  It was crazy. I thought to myself, it’s okay that it’s doing that right? It won’t fall down on top of us will it?

Then, about five or six weeks later, home in Reston, Virginia, a girl who had spurned me in high school invited me to go with her to see the Beach Boys and Chicago in concert at the Capital Center in Landover, Maryland. Evidently she had come to her senses.  Now we’re talking sublime luck. The groups had a hugely successful tour that summer playing multiple sold out shows in most of the stops. During the concert, Chicago played, then the Beachboys, and then they played together! The Beach Boys became the soundtrack of that summer. It was a good summer.

Oklahoma State Over/Under Results

What does Willie Earl’s Over/Under 2022 have in common with Steve Sarkisian’s tenure at Texas?  Predictability.  You can count on Over/Under being a barnburner and you can count on Sarkisian to blow a two-score lead in the second half and lose. Harsh you say? Well, it’s just what came to my mind while grading this week’s entries. Now on to the results.

We had a season high 23 entries this week which is the second biggest field of all time. Willie Earl appreciates each and every player. The high all time was 25 entries for the 2008 Oklahoma Over/Under.

Tyler Cotton and Mitch Frink tied for first place with seven correct answers. They both went one for two in the pick ‘ems winning with TCU and losing with UCLA. So, it came down to their predictions on the Texas-Oklahoma State final score.  They both predicted Texas would win. Mitch had it 38-35 and Tyler had Texas 48-23. Willie Earl’s tiebreaker rule when it comes down to the score prediction is the one closest to the final point differential is the winner.  Texas lost by seven, Mitch had them winning by 3 making his prediction off by 10 points.  Tyler had Texas winning by 25 putting him 32 points off the mark. 

If you followed, you know that Mich Frink is the winner. Congratulations to Mitch who takes home the biggest pot of all time, $70.

Mark Stephan, Helen Frink, Andy Garrod, Wes Peoples, and Clayton Frink tied for third with six correct.

The average score was 5.1.

Only one player predicted that Mitch Auburn would miss more than 1.5 field goals, he missed one. If I played I think I would have gone over given the high wind typical in Stillwater and the pressure of the game.

Just three players went under on .5 TD passes for Quinn Ewers in the fourth quarter. He didn’t throw one.

Only four players correctly went over on Spencer Sanders passing for 227.5 yards. He passed for 391.

And only four players went under on 32:01 time of possession for Texas. They had the ball for 27 minutes.

Lastly, only 2 of 23 players predicted an Oklahoma State win.  I’m not sure what the reason is for the overwhelming optimism given Texas’ history over the last 13 years and especially Sarkisian’s history. Maybe it’s just hard to pick against your team. Players’ entries are strictly confidential so no one will be ridiculed if they pick Texas to lose. I thought that there was about a 60% chance Texas would lose in Stillwater.

W.E.

Gut Check

In the end, getting the win over Iowa State was a needed step forward for this team. Texas was 2-7 in one score games under Steve Sarkisian before this game. Here are a few thoughts on the game:

1. Texas’s game winning drive was 11 plays, 75 yards, and ate up 6:15 in the fourth quarter.  Other than the drive ending with a touchdown to take back the lead late in the fourth quarter what’s notable is that 9 of the 11 plays were runs.  This illustrates that Sarkisian can adjust his script in crunch time and orchestrate a game winning drive. Previously I was skeptical that he had that capability. Maybe he’s grown in the job.

2. Speaking of scripts, for the third straight game Texas went three and out on their first possession. As you recall, Keilan Robinson blocked Iowa State’s punt after their first possession giving Texas the ball on Iowa State’s 21-yard line. In three plays Texas gained zero yards on a Bijan run, and incomplete pass, and completion for zero yards. Then Bert Auburn missed a 39-yard field goal.

I’m assuming based on Sarkisian’s usual scripting of the first 15 offensive plays of the game, those first three plays were part of that script. Whatever happened to going for the kill shot immediately after forcing a turnover deep in your opponent’s territory?  Just asking.

3. From my seat on row 50 on the 35-yard line for the Iowa State game I observed Bijan Robinson turning down a couple three sure 5-6 yard runs and instead using his amazing jump cutting ability to try and make longer runs. The result was one- and two-yard gains. I may be wrong but sometimes Robinson should take the 5-6 yards.

4. Is it me or is Roschon Johnson faster this year?

5. Sarkisian addressed the recent slow starts at his Monday press conference. He kind of threw Quinn Ewers under the bus saying they needed to look at things to help Quinn make a faster start. Maybe the main thing to look at is Sarkisian’s conservative approach on the first possession of those games.

Oklahoma State

While we’re on the subject of faster starts, Texas might need to score on most of their possessions against Oklahoma State. It could be one of those games where you have to hold serve to keep up.

Spencer Sanders

As of this writing Spencer Sanders’ status for this game is unknown because of an injury to his throwing shoulder.  I’d be surprised if he didn’t play. Last week, versus TCU Sanders completed only 16 of 36 passes for 245 yards. For the season he’s completing a relatively low 58.5 % of his throws. He is however the leading passer in the Big 12 both in total yards at 1639 and average yards per game at 273.

Sanders averages 51 yards per game rushing which when combined with his passing yards makes him the leader in the Big 12 for total yards per game at 324.7.

If Sanders passing is limited by his shoulder injury, Texas’s ability to contain his designed runs and scrambling will be a big key to the outcome of this game. How many 3rd and 4th down conversions will Sanders make with his legs?

Quinn Ewers

Last week I pondered what a bad Quinn Ewers game would look like. If it was his 17 completions on 26 attempts for three touchdowns and 172 yards against Iowa State Texas is in pretty good shape. He would have had more than 200 yards and 4 touchdowns if Casey Cain hadn’t dropped a sure touchdown in wide open spaces.

Stillwater

Texas won 41-34 in overtime the last time they played in Stillwater in 2020. They lost there in 2018 and 2016. The media refers to Boone Pickens Stadium as a hostile environment for Oklahoma State opponents. It’s hostile if you’re mediocre or worse. If you’re a good team and the Oklahoma State star quarterback has an injured throwing shoulder, you should be able to quiet the crowd by sometime in the third quarter.

Final

I think we are all sensing that this Texas team might be of Big 12 Championship caliber. If our senses are good, Texas should march into Boone Pickens Stadium and relying heavily on the running of Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson with a few shots to Xavier Worthy sprinkled in, Texas should get a much-needed win for the program and Steve Sarkisian.

Hook ‘Em,

W.E.

Song of the Week

Donald Fagen, Boz Scaggs, and Michael McDonald Holy Crap!

Iowa St. Over/Under Results

Dan Adams won this week, and I was about to type it was his second straight victory. It is his second straight week winning Moneyball, but the outright winner last week was Helen Frink who’s ineligible for Moneyball.

The scores came back down to earth with Dan’s winning score of 7 compared to last week when two players tied with a perfect 10. The average score was 4.5. Only 3 of the 21 players picked ISU’s Xavier Hutchinson to have more receiving yards than Jordan Whittington. I was surprised by this metric since Hutchinson had 83 receptions for 987 yards last year and had 57 catches of 604 yards coming into this game.  Anybody doing research out there?

Dan takes home $55, the biggest pot in the history of Over/Under Moneyball. Dan seems to have found nice stream of retirement income.

Mark Stephan and David Bergstrom tied for second place with six correct answers.

This week’s 21 players ties with the West Virginia Over/Under for the season high turnout.

W.E.

Star Power

Steve Sarkisian is the producer and director of a star-studded offensive production that includes headliners Bijan Robinson, Quinn Ewers, and Xavier Worthy, with strong supporting players in Roschon Johnson, Jordan Whittington and Ja’Tavion Sanders. If the director and the cast can nail the scenes in the last half of the story this production could be up for some major honors when awards season comes along if you get my meaning.

Quinn Ewers

Bijan Robinson is a Heisman candidate, but Quinn Ewers is—to use an old cliché— the straw that stirs the drink. We’ve seen in just one quarter of the Alabama game and three from Oklahoma how Ewers opens up the offense and Sarkisian’s playbook. He makes everything blend and fizz.

From what we’ve seen from Ewers so far he looks like the best Texas quarterback in a generation. Yes I know that would mean he’s better than Vince Young and Colt McCoy. Call my supposition blasphemous if you will but Ewers’ passing is more potent and more valuable than Young’s running, and I don’t think I’ll get an argument in asserting he’s a far superior passer to either McCoy or Young.

Casual confidence

Quinn Ewers doesn’t swagger and doesn’t seem to celebrate his talent much. But he has the confidence–after a very short time–of a four-year starter. When he stands in the pocket whether it’s clean or muddled he looks casual like he’s throwing the football around in the street with friends. And he remains casual looking when he throws those intermediate darts and 50-yard bombs alike. I can’t imagine another college quarterback that can match his arm talent. I think there’s only about five NFL quarterbacks who can. No B.S. And he’s ours. Amazing.

Do you think Arch Manning is rethinking his position?

A glorious Saturday

I wasn’t in the Cotton Bowl last Saturday but I’m sure it was a glorious experience for the Texas fans that were as the Oklahoma side of the stadium emptied midway through the third quarter. It wasn’t too shabby for those of us who watched on television.

Virginia is for Lovers

The icing on the cake for me was to be in touch during and after the game with two great friends who I have known for 40 + years.

During the game and later during the Notre Dame – BYU game Joe Camarda and I were actively texting. Joe, who lives in one of my three hometowns, Reston Virginia, is my Masters, Players Championship, and U.S Open running buddy and partner in various other adventures. We drove from Reston to Austin where we hung out for a couple of days and then to Dallas for the 1978 Cotton Bowl. To say it was a great road trip would be damning it with faint praise.  Texas lost to Notre Dame spoiling a perfect season that would have ended in a National Championship had the Horns prevailed. It’s funny that in the years gone by since that game the loss takes nothing off the luster of that magical 11-1 season that came with a Heisman for Earl Campbell.

Anyway, for some reason Joe roots for the Horns as long they’re not playing Notre Dame. Joe, we’ve got to get busy with the historical novel we’ve been taking about for so long, Bill and Joe’s Excellent Bicentennial.

Joe wasn’t the only friend of 40+ years residing in Virginia that I heard from last Saturday. Reed Ramlow, my Daily Texan compadre, former roommate, and 30-year expat returned stateside checked in with me from a writer’s conference in Richmond. One afternoon in 1980 when Reed and I were living in the Bluffs of Barton, he came home and announced he was joining the Peace Corp and would I write a brief personal reference. Now Reed and I were former fraternity wise guys and were still on the party circuit so at first I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. Reed joined the Peace Corp which set him on a 30-year odyssey through Asia, Africa, and probably a few other continents. Our continuing friendship through all those years and since he’s come home have made me a smarter person.

It really was a Glorious Saturday.

On to Iowa State

Statistically, Iowa State has the best defense in the Big 12 giving up just 13.7 points and 277.5 yards per game. Granted, some these numbers were accumulated versus Southeast Missouri St. and Ohio University but games versus Baylor, Kansas, and Kansas St. are also included. Holding Kansas and Kansas St. to 14 and 10 points respectively looks impressive.

On the flipside, Iowa St. is last in the conference in scoring 23.2 points per game and yards per game at 364.

These statistics would suggest that Iowa St. poses reasonable opposition to the Texas offense and defense. Can the Texas offense run up big numbers against a good Iowa St. defense and can the defense dominate another struggling offense. I’m more confident in the former than the latter.

Golf is life

Helen Frink’s favorite golf expression is post birdie F ‘up. This refers to a golfer having a bad hole after birdieing the previous hole.  Will Texas have post birdie F ‘up—so to speak—against Iowa St. after the Oklahoma game?  The Eight Ball answers, my sources say no.

Then there’s this golf maxim. It’s not how good your good shots are, it’s how good your bad shots are.

We’ve seen Quinn Ewers play great against Alabama and Oklahoma. How good will his bad game be?

The Eight Ball answers, cannot predict now.

*******

Will Texas beat Iowa St. Saturday? Willie Earl answers yes, 45-12.

W.E.

Song of the week

This is a nice way to remember the Beatles. Though soon to break up, here they are, still young (all four still in their 20s), having fun, and looking fabulous.

Oklahoma Over/Under Results

Well, well, I hate to be redundant, but we had yet another barn burner for the Oklahoma Over/Under. For the first time in Over/Under history, there was a tie for first between two players who posted a perfect 10 score. Dan Adams and Helen Frink were the perfect ones.  Helen nosed out Dan for the win because she picked TCU and A&M in the tiebreaker. Dan picked Kansas which lost by 7. The line was 6 ½. Unfortunately for this Frink household, Helen was declared ineligible at the beginning of money ball because of her proximity to the Wille Ear staff so Dan takes the bag which was $50 this week. Congratulations Dan!

Thank goodness Hudson Card played one series and relieved the staff of deciding whether Card being the holder for extra points and field goals should be counted as playing in the game. Only two players predicted that OU would go over 99.5 yards in the first quarter. The average score was high at 6.9.

W.E.

OU Actually Sucks–For Now

I’ve always thought that the chant by Texas fans was classless. How can we complain about Horns down when we do that? I’ve never chanted that at an OU game or any other game. But currently with Oklahoma looking like a bad football team I couldn’t resist the headline.

In case you’re not following Oklahoma football closely, they have suffered two straight losses at the hands of Kansas State and TCU. In those two games OU has given up 96 points and 1177 yards. OU did amass 550 yards and score 34 points in the loss to Kansas State.

Oklahoma was the consensus pick by the media to win the Big 12 again but perhaps it was just out of habit. They returned only 9 of 22 starters and of course Lincoln Riley went to USC and took Caleb Williams with him. That smarts. Oklahoma hired longtime Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables to succeed Riley. So far it’s not working out all that great. Is Bob Stoops ready to step in as interim coach if Texas puts a thrashing on them? Just a thought.

As of this writing, Texas is an 8 ½ point favorite. By game time I’ve heard it could go a 10-point spread if Oklahoma’s quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who is in concussion protocol,l is officially ruled out for the game.

Not a must win

I don’t know what a must win game is. I do know what a bad loss looks like and If Texas loses this game it will be a bad loss. Clearly on paper Texas is a far superior team as of today and a loss would damage Steve Sarkisian if not the team and the program. The West Virginia win righted the ship. It was a win against a conference opponent and Texas dominated. Now Sarkisian needs to get a win away from home and it wouldn’t hurt if it came against Oklahoma. It would be Texas’s first two game win streak since early last season. A lot of chips are on the table for Sarkisian in this hand. I suspect that Texas will race to big lead in the first half as they did last year in this game, and it would be nice if Texas doesn’t let Oklahoma doesn’t stage another comeback.  From what we saw in the first quarter of the Alabama game I don’t this stage is going to rattle Quinn Ewers. The Texas media and certain readers of this column are touting the player development under Sarkisian. Saturday this development will be tested. Onward and upward.

Hudson Card

I’m not the first one to say this but hats off to Hudson Card for not taking his ball and entering the transfer portal after Quinn Ewers and Arch Mannin decided to come to Texas. Card was rewarded, so to speak, for sticking around and his performance has been strong considering the circumstance and his ankle injury.

My wife Helen is a high school guidance counselor and an associate of hers told Helen that when Hudson transferred to Lake Travis not because he was recruited by the school but because his family move to the area, neither he nor his parents asked for special treatment. They didn’t send Lake Travis coaches game film or anything like that. Hudson just signed up for football and showed up for practice. It seems evident that Hudson Card is an individual of high character at a young age.  I’m a Hudson Card fan.

The OU game

I could go on and on about what Texas-OU is all about. In fact, I have on this here blog. If you’re not a longtime reader and are interested in my perspective, check out these columns from years gone by: OU Weekend 1977 and Why I love OU Weekend. I hope the OU game is as big a deal to the current generation Texas of students and fans as it was to mine.

Cheers to all of the Longhorn revelers who will be there tomorrow.

Now let’s go win one for the old—okay—older Longhorns.

BEAT THE HELL OTTA OU!

Hook ‘Em,

W.E.

Song of the Week

One of the great rock songs of the 70s Rock Era

West Virginia Over/under Results

WVU Over/Under Results

It was yet another barn burner this week with a plot twist at the end.  David Frink, Greg Swan, and Mark Stephan tied for first place with 8 correct answers. Mark Stephan was eliminated when he missed both of his picks as he went with Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Greg and David both went 1-1 picking Oklahoma and Kansas State, so it came down their score predictions for WVU versus the Horns. To clear up any confusion on how the score prediction tiebreaker work, it simply comes down to the most accurate point differential in the predictions. Greg had Texas winning 45-24, that’s a 21-point differential not far off the 18 points that Texas won by. David had Texas 31-24 for a 7-point differential. So, Greg noses out David for the win this week. But there’s good news for David because Greg did not opt in the money ball game, so David takes the $50 bag.  Congrats to David and Greg.

Mike Frank, Mark Adams, Wes People, Mitch Frink, and Tyler Cotton (the protagonist’s namesake in my coming college football novel) tied for fourth place with 7 correct.

Only one player went under on third down conversions for WVU. Just three players went under on 1.5 sacks for Texas.

There was a season high 21 entries which is also in the top 10 all time for the number of entries for one game.  The average score was 5.7

W.E.

Fourth Down Showdown

In October of 1977 (there he goes again with the 1977), a week after Texas had defeated Oklahoma in heart-pounding game that concluded with a fourth down goal line stop by Texas in which Johnny Johnson knocked himself out when he tackled Thomas Lott, Texas was playing #8 Arkansas in Fayetteville. Once again the outcome wasn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter when Ham Jones, capping off an 80-yard drive, scored the only touchdown of the game, on 1-yard run that sealed a Texas win 13-9. The touchdown was set up by a 28-yard screen pass and run by Earl Campbell. Though Earl had 188 yards on 34 carries, he lost three fumbles during the game. Two weeks in a row and two dramatic wins over highly ranked bitter rivals that were exhausting watches for Longhorn fans.

I watched the game with my brother David at his duplex off of Barton Springs Rd. Just minutes after the game ended, the phone rang, and I answered. It was my father calling from Reston, Virginia. A nano second after I answered, my father screamed “I’m sick of this s – – t”!  The s – – t he was referring to were the dramatic finishes to the Oklahoma and Arkansas victories.

Back in real time, I’ll bet there are Texas fans that are sick of the current excrement coming from the Texas football team. I’m not one of them. It’s been several years since I’ve been perturbed by UT football, and you know my opinion on Steve Sarkisian.

Bad look?

Squatting on the sideline, staring at his big, laminated play card looking for answers as his team falters down the stretch, Steve Sarkisian looks in over his head.

Just the facts ma’am

Courtesy of Rod Babers here are some bad facts on Steve Sarkisian’s coaching record.

– He’s 1-6 in road games in 2021 and ‘22

– He’s lost 5 games in which Texas was leading in the second half in 2021 and ’22.

– Dating back to 2010, 80% of college football teams that have the lead to start the second half win.

-Dating back to 2010, 84% of college football teams that have the lead starting the 4th quarter win.

– In his tenure at Texas, 4 of his 7 wins have come against non-power 5 opponents. For the record, those wins were against ULM, UTSA, Louisiana, and Rice.

-He’s 3-6 in the Big 12.

– His overall record at Texas is 7-9.

– In his head coaching record overall, he’s won 38% of the games versus head coaches that have won 60% or more of their games.

Texts

After the Texas Tech game, a reader texted me his observation that the Texas offense was vanilla and stale with a lack of varied formations and motion during the second half.  This is a point that Rod Babers has been harping on and breaking down all week on his talk show. Willie Earl has readers that are experts.

During the game a reader texted me that Pete whatever his name is, the Texas defensive coordinator, should be fired after the game. I agree. During the game another reader texted me that Texas will win no more than 5 games this season. I can’t go all the way to agreement with that but give me a few days. I also received a text offering testosterone replacement.

A reckoning?

I read a book a few years ago by an author who was an alcoholic and after ruining yet again another family gathering with her drinking, she decided to quit drinking forever. And I read that George Bush 43, woke up hungover after bender celebrating his fortieth birthday and decided to stop drinking.

Could Steve Sarkisian, after blowing yet another second half lead against Texas Tech by repeating for the umpteenth time some of his coaching bad habits, have decided this week to stop ruining family gatherings (Texas football games) and break those habits?

We may soon find out.

Hook ‘Em,

W.E.         

Author’s note        

The title for this column was partially inspired by the Clair Bee book, “Fourth Down Showdown”. I read it when I was in the sixth grade. Good read.

Willie Earl’s Song of the Week

This song is a shout out to Tom, Andy, Bob, Molly, Kate, and Zach

Texas Tech Over/Under Results

Wow. What an exciting Over/Under contest that came down to the final tiebreaker. David Frink, Wade Wallace, Dan Adams, David Bergstrom, Clayton Frink, and Greg Swan tied for first with 7 correct answers. That’s a 6-way tie folks.

Wade Wallace, Dan Adams, and David Bergstrom were eliminated by picking Baylor and North Carolina against the Spread. Baylor was right, Carolina was wrong. David Frink, Clayton Frink, and Greg Swan got both picks right. David and Greg both predicted a Texas win by 38-20. Clayton Frink predicted a Texas win by 33-18. Obviously, Greg, David, and Clayton were way off the mark on their score predictions, but someone has to win and that someone was Clayton who was slightly more measured in his optimism gets the W.

There were 10 money ball players so Clayton bags 50 big ones for his effort. I might actually pay him. 😊.

The contest took a big turn on question #8 which was 40.5 yards for the longest run by Bijan. His longest run was 40 yards. If Bijan had gone for 41 on that run, David and Wade would have finished in tie for first all by themselves with 8 correct answers and David would have won because Wade picked North Carolina. In the infamous words of Maxwell Smart, David missed it by that much.

There were 18 entrants in all. Only two players predicted that largest lead of the game would be under 12.5. Only 3 players picked Tech to score first. The average score was 5.7.

I will give you my reactions to the game probably tomorrow evening. To quote Lyndon Johnson on his reaction to Robert Kennedy entering the primaries for the Democratic nomination for president. “You might not want to hear all my reactions this morning.”

W.E.

The Era of Good Feelings

Without reading further, do you know what and when was described as “Era of Good Feelings.”?

Give up? Here’s the Wikipedia description. “The Era of Good Feelings” marked a period in the political history of the United States that reflected a sense of national purpose and a desire for unity among Americans in the aftermath of the War of 1812.

This week, hearing the good feelings of Texas fans and sports writers and commentators ranging from Kirk Bohls to Joel Klatt, I thought, we are in a time of good feelings about Steve Sarkisian’s Texas Football team. The phrase “Era of Good Feelings” was specifically what came to my mind. I knew the phrase from somewhere, so I used the Google machine to research it and voila there it was. I think I learned it in my sixth-grade history class. Sixth grade was one of my favorite years. Avid readers of this blog know this, but I digress.

It’s been a while since good feelings have surrounded Texas Football.

In August of 1998 a few weeks before Mack Brown’s debut, I ran into and old fraternity brother Mike Barragan. He remarked ironically something to the affect that there sure is a positive vibe about Mack Brown, but we haven’t played a game.

In this current era of the positive vibe, Texas has beaten two teams with about 10% of UT money and resources and played a tantalizingly close game against Nick Saban’s Alabama dynasty. I might be the only Texas fan who took that close loss with a grain of salt. But I’m always the cynic.  

The Texas Tech game this afternoon in Lubbock presents Sarkisian and his Longhorns a chance to validate this current era of good feelings.  It’s the first road game of the year for Texas and the sellout crowd will be loud and hostile. Texas has won six in a row in Lubbock, the last loss was that game that we don’t talk about here. So, if we’re to believe that this 2022 version of Texas is better than past teams the Horns should roll against this Tech turnover machine. Two Texas Tech quarterbacks have combined for seven interceptions, (two of them pick sixes).

Tech’s defense has been statistically good giving up only 294 yards a game but are really kind of a paper tiger when you consider their opponents so far: Murray State an FCS team, Houston a 1-2 team that is sputtering on offense and North Carolina State, the 12th ranked team in the country attributable mostly to their defense which is 16th in the country giving up only 12 points per game.

So, it’s put up or shut up time for Steve Sarkisian and his Longhorns. Sarkisian hasn’t been shy this past year about touting this team’s leadership and culture. If he’s right about that, combined with Texas’s overwhelming advantage in talent and depth versus Texas Tech, his team should take the tortilla flinging crowd out of the game early and cruise to a 34-16 win.

Lose, and this era of good feelings could be the shortest era on record.

Follow up

Last week I mentioned that I was getting the feeling that Quinn Ewers would start the Tech game. Now I’m thinking the news that Ewers has practiced this week and is making the trip to Lubbock might just be a feint by Sarkisian to make the Texas Tech coaches think a little more about game planning. We’ll see.

Hook ‘Em,

W.E.

Willie Earl’s Song of the Week

The Boz. Reminds me of hanging out at the Sig Ep house in the fall of 1976

https://account.venmo.com/u/Bill-Frink

UTSA Over/Under Results

We had quite an exciting contest this week that included the first week of Over/Under Money Ball. 9 players wagered this week.  Wade Wallace, Helen Frink, and Zach Moorhead-Rosenberg tied for second with seven correct answers. Seven was an exceptional score this week because the staff had to throw out the question on the second leading receiver by receptions for Texas because two players had 5 catches. Bad on us for formulating a flawed question.

I said that it was an exciting contest, and it came down to the tiebreaker. Dan Yoxall and Mark Adams tied with eight correct answers which means they only missed one question. Mark Adams nosed out Dan by an eyelash by picking Miami and OU which were both winners against the line. Dan picked A&M and Oklahoma. Dan, I know you’re a levelheaded guy, but how could you pick the Aggies. 😊

Congratulations to Dan and Mark.

Mark takes home $45 for his win this week. Mark, please stay your humble self.

W.E.

UTSA Pre Game II

A few more thoughts on the Longhorns from my fertile football mind


1. It’s not breaking news and it doesn’t take a lot of expert knowledge to see that Quinn Ewers might just live up to his five-star hype. I’m not a recruiting expert so correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Ewers was the nation’s highest rated quarterback recruit since Vince Young.

Steve Sarkisian is going to have to find a way with Texas’s inexperienced offensive line to protect Ewers from the kind of shot he took that knocked him out of the Alabama game.

Reading between the lines on the reporting on the quarterback situation going into the UTSA game, I’m thinking Ewer’s injury may not be as serious as initially feared. I’ll go out on a limb and predict he’ll be back for the Texas Tech game next week.

2. Running against the grain of all the good feelings coming out of the Alabama game as I did yesterday, I’ll point out that Texas failed to make a few critical plays that would have turned the tide and scored them the victory.

Xavier Worthy failed to make a very makeable catch on a beautifully thrown ball from Ewers in the endzone in the first quarter.

You’ll need to help me here but either D’Shawn Jamison or Ryan Watts muffed an easy interception that may have resulted in a pick six for the Horns.

Ryan Watts had a clear path to sack Bryce Young for a sizable loss that probably would have derailed Alabama’s game winning drive and secured the win for Texas. This kind of missed opportunity has haunted Texas for the last 12 years. To have a breakout season, Texas needs to make these plays.

3. What the hell were Sarkisian and his defensive coaching staff thinking on conceding Alabama underneath pass routes at the beginning of their game winning drive. From my perspective, Texas basically let Alabama get to the Texas 40-yard line playing your basic prevent defense. This was a glaring strategic failure by Sarkisian and his coaching staff. You know the saying about the prevent defense, it prevents victory. It also gave Sarkisian his sixth one-loss game during his brief tenure in Austin.

Theoretically, Texas is still in the playoff race. The rule of thumb is losing a game early in the season to a quality opponent doesn’t eliminate you from contention for one of the four playoff berths for the national championship.

Further, Texas is still undefeated in the Big 12. 😊

Come on Horns, make some plays!

Hook “Em,

Willie Earl

For easy reference if you haven’t submitted your Over/Under guesses.

Pre Game UTSA

I went to Austin Shoe Hospital this week to see if they had burnt orange/bronze shoe polish for a pair of my golf shoes that are only about a year old but have faded quite dramatically in Texas sun.  The clerk assumed that I was so excited about the Longhorns performance that I was looking for burnt orange shoe polish for general purposes. I wasn’t. It was totally coincidental that I was in the neighborhood of this location a couple of days after the Alabama game. I had needed some special polish for these shoes for some time now. The clerk went on about how great Texas was now yada, yada, yada. 

A longtime friend of mine and reader of the blog called me to discuss the Over/Under results and wanted to know why I hadn’t made it a money game yet.  He also went on to gush over how great Texas’s line play was on both sides of the ball was versus Alabama.  My friend and the Shoe Hospital clerk are a pretty accurate reflection of where the Longhorn fan base is right now.

I’m thinking, let’s all calm down a little bit and reflect a little bit more coolly about the where the Longhorns are after the Alabama game.  Here are a few facts about the game that we should all take under advisement.

1. Alabama committed 17 penalties. This was not normal for them by a long shot and certainly was a big factor in keeping the game close.

2. Alabama rarely plays on the road in September and coming into Austin and playing in a hostile environment was a new experience for them.

3. My friend gushed over Texas’s line play, but our offensive line got their first and second team quarterbacks injured. Also, Texas rushed for only 79 yards and averaged just 2.9 yards per rush.

4. Texas scored only one touchdown on five trips to the redzone. That’s just like the Texas offense for the past oh, I don’t know, 12 years?

I will elaborate more on this Friday evening or Saturday morning when my work and family obligations have calmed down a bit.

Until then,

Hook “Em,

W.E.

I finally got some feedback on making the Over/Under a money game. This is what the staff at Willie Earl has decided.  There will be two options for players.

1.Enter the money game with a $5 entry fee. Winner takes all.

2. Enter just for fun. No entry fee required. This type of entry is ineligible to win the pot.

3. Helen Frink is not eligible for the money game. She’s just too good and it wouldn’t be fair. 🙂

To enter the money game, send $5 via Venmo to me @Bill-Frink. If you don’t have a Venmo account get one. It’s free. If you’re too old and tired to learn Venmo, contact me via email and we’ll work out a payment option for you.

https://venmo.com/

Alabama Over/Under Results

David Frink and Mark Adams tied for first place this week in a hard fought battle with lots of bumbs and bruises with 7 correct answers. David outlasted Mark in the tiebreaker going 1 for 2 in the pick ’ems with Tennessee, right, USC, wrong. Mark had Pitt and USC which were both losers. Both players played outstanding with 7 correct given that the scoring average was 5.05.

Mitch Frink, Homer Mark, Wade Wallace, and Tyler Cotton (classic QB name) tied for second with 6 correct answers.

W.E.

Alabama Pregame

 

An Austin sports talk host asked listeners to text him the outcome for the Alabama game they hoped for since Texas couldn’t be expected to win. Some listener texted that Texas needed to keep it no worse than a two-score game. Another one just wanted to Texas to beat the line which is currently 21. Joel Klatt on the Colin Cowherd show said beating the line was where the Texas fan base was. A loyal reader of this here blog mused that he was hoping for a monkey pox outbreak that would force a cancellation of the game.

What the bleep happened to the Texas I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you, W.E., we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. Saban, he’s a dead man! Young, dead! Anderson

Seriously though, folks, I don’t think Texas can beat Alabama. The offensive line and the quarterback are too inexperienced. I’m setting the over/under on sacks for Alabama at 4.5.  I don’t think the defensive line can stop Alabama from averaging five plus yards per rush. I think Texas’s secondary looked vastly improved against ULM but if Bryce Young has five seconds to find open receivers he’ll put up big numbers against any secondary. And I don’t like the matchup between Nick Saban and Steve Sarkisian.

With that being said,

Willie Earl’s Keys for Texas to Win

1. Start fast: Texas can’t afford three and outs early, especially if Alabama receives the kickoff and scores first. You might say a fast start is always a key to winning but note last week Texas’s first drive ended on a third down Ewers interception. Texas also went three and out on their first drive versus Louisiana last year and still won easily.

A couple of three and outs early by Texas that yield good field position for Alabama and the game will probably get out of reach early. Texas went three and out on three of their first four drives against Arkansas last year and you remember how that turned out.

2. Sarkisian adjustments: Last year I thought Steve Sarkisian failed to adjust his offensive play calling. Even after starting the second half behind 16-0 to Arkansas, he stuck to his script of a Bijan rush on first down followed up by two passes which were usually incomplete or completed for little or no gain.

3. Excellent Special Teams Play: Texas got a touchdown last week off a blocked punt. Alabama had a punt blocked last week versus Utah State. See where I’m going. Texas needs to prevent Alabama from gaining good field position from long punt and kickoff returns. And it would be nice if Bert Auburn made all his field goal attempts including 45 – 50 yarders.

4. Take advantage of easy opportunities: Defensive players must catch the ball if they have an interception opportunity. Texas can’t afford to muff freebees. Oh, and receivers also need to catch the ball.

If the Texas offense is presented with a short field they must score. A touchdown would be preferable. Anytime Texas gets to the redzone they must score. Again, a touchdown is preferred.

5. Don’t Play Scared:

Remember those OU games when Mack Brown and Greg Davis played not to lose?  They played scared. Steve Sarkisian can’t call a game not to lose or to keep the score down. He has to take some chances.

6. Play good situational football:

Speaking of not playing scared, there likely be situations when the right call will be going for it on fourth down.  For example, going for it on fourth and one from Alabama’s 36-yard line instead of trying for a 54-yard field goal.

In the red zone, Quinn Ewers needs to know when to live for another play and not try to squeeze the football into a tight window and risk an interception especially on first and second down.

Good clock management also comes under this heading. This includes being decisive on play calling and substitutions so you don’t waste timeouts or incur delay of game penalties. Mike Frank, feel free to elaborate on this point. I know it’s your favorite subject.

7. Push: My man Rod Babers gave a detailed analysis of Texas’s offensive success rates out of various formations in 2021. It was interesting and informative. He referred to his analysis as Steve Sarkisian’s “Cheat Code” for competing with Alabama. I can’t possibly regurgitate it for you here but that’s not my point.

Also, this morning I read a column on “Inside Texas” by Ian Boyd. It contained headings such as, Create Space for Bijan, Attack the Edges, and Protect Quinn Ewers.

All well and good but I internally chuckle at Boyd’s column and Rod Babers’ analysis. When it comes to breaking down schemes and Xs and Os, I always default back to Jeff Wards’ simple analysis he made years ago as a radio talk show host.  He said there’s no scheming that will help you if you can’t push the other guy around and if the other guy can push you around. Football is a simple as that. Amen. 

I’m pretty sure Alabama will win the push around game versus Texas, and I think that’s all that probably matters, game, set, match. But maybe if Texas can limit the extent they get pushed around on the offensive and defensive lines and play a near perfect game, they may get themselves into a one score game in the fourth quarter. Wouldn’t that be fun?

“Maybe we’ll win by 21” – James Brown 1996 before the Big 12 Championship game against Nebraska.

Hook ‘Em by God,

W.E.

Willie Earl’s Song of the Week      

Young at Heart

Fairy tales can come true
It can happen to you if you’re young at heart
For it’s hard, you will find

To be narrow of mind if you’re young at heart

Songwriters: Carolyn Leigh / Johnny Richards

Over/Under Results ULM

I think the Louisiana Monroe Over/Under contest was more interesting than the game itself.  It was a light turnout for the first game of the season with 15 players. 15 Players is average for the middle of the season, but the first game enthusiasm usually yield 20 or so entries.

Anyway, Helen Frink won the season opener with eight correct answers. Well done Helen especially considering that Helen nor any other player picked Keilan Robinson to be the Texas player to score the first touchdown of the season. 13 of 15 players picked Bijan and two players picked Xavier Worthy.

There was a logjam for second place with Dan Adams, Wade Wallace, Tyler Cotton, Greg Swan, and Steve Holstead all coming in with seven correct answers.  

13 of the 15 players predicted Qwen Ewers would throw more than 2 touchdown passes. He threw two. 13 of the 15 players predicted Ja’Tavion Sanders would catch more than 2 passes. He caught six.

The average score was 5.47.

Money Ball

There have been discussions at Willie Earl headquarters about making Over/Under a little interesting with a $1 or $2 entry fee with the winner taking all. Please let me know if you’re interested in participating and if so do you prefer a $1 or $2 entry fee. Those who want to play but don’t want to bet will still be welcome to play but won’t be eligible to win the pot.

https://account.venmo.com/u/Bill-Frink

W.E.

Louisiana Monroe Pregame

It’s About Sarkisian                                                       


Last season on Willie Earl’s Longhorn Blog

Heading into the offseason, I’m far from confident that Steve Sarkisian will be successful in turning the program around. To me, the aura of his program feels hauntingly like Charlie Strong’s.  Unless Sark and his staff hit it out of the park in recruiting and the transfer portal between now and February, it’s going to be a long couple of years for Sarkisian and Texas Football.

You may have heard that Sarkisian and his staff did indeed “hit it out of the park” in recruiting and the transfer portal. According to 247 Sports, Sarkisian hauled in the fifth ranked recruiting class in the country featuring desperately needed offensive line help with the signings of five-star interior lineman Devon Campbell and five-star tackle Kelvin Banks. Banks is projected as the starting left tackle.  Cole Hutson, a four-star recruit from the 2022 class is projected as the starter at right guard.  Texas also hauled in four-star offensive lineman Neto Umeozulu, Cameron Williams, and Malik Agbo.

You can’t overstate the importance of bringing in four and five-star offensive lineman to the program. I believe, as your offensive line goes, so goes your team. Evidently Steve Sarkisian shares my belief.

It is problematic though for 2022 that Texas is starting two true freshmen on the offensive line. Offensive line is probably the hardest position to play for first year players. Are Banks and Hutson up for facing Alabama’s defensive line in the second game of their careers?  Hmm . . .

As for the transfer portal, you may also have heard that Texas nabbed five-star quarterback Quinn Ewers who earned the starting job beating out Hudson Card. Technically Ewers is a redshirt freshman having been a third or fourth team backup at Ohio State last year. But considering that Ewers played only a handful of snaps and hasn’t thrown a pass since high school in 2020 he’s, shall we say, “raw” coming into 2022.

Evidently, Texas losing is no big deal not only to me but to some of the players as well. Seems like the last three coaches have been trying to root out that attitude with no success. 10/11/21

I wrote the above in reaction to the rant at the team by Texas defensive line coach Bo Davis after the 30-7 loss to Iowa State. In case you missed the story, Davis was quite mad at the casual demeanor of some of the players on the bus after the loss.

Regarding the attitude of some of the team last year, Steve Sarkisian told ESPN a couple of weeks ago,

 “The kids knew not everybody in that locker room was all-in last year,” Sarkisian told ESPN. “I think they could feel it, and they wanted to weed out some of the warts, some of the bad apples. I think they got a sense of reality about some of the things we were talking about and trying to instill last offseason. I don’t know how much they gave credence to it, and then those same things reared their ugly head in-season.

“They came back in January with this mindset of, ‘We’ve got to take these things to heart because they will show up again.’ They’ve made that investment and bought into every aspect of it, and you can feel it amongst our team.”

In my opinion for Sarkisian didn’t take the high road in making these comments publicly. It sounds like he’s shedding the blame from himself for 5-7. If Sarkisian is reading the year’s team’s attitude correctly why state it publicly? Hey Steve, why don’t you wait and see how your team’s attitude is if they go on a three-game losing streak against Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State.  

As a Texas fan, what concerns me is the possibility that Steve Sarkisian is just a poor gameday coach. Yes, he’s a good play designer. Maybe he’ll be a good recruiter and maybe he’ll foster a great “culture.” But I have seen nothing this year that suggests he’s anything but a liability on gameday when the bullets are flying.  11/19/2021

If you’re a college football fan you’ve probably heard that Scott Frost’s record in one-score games while head coach at Nebraska is 5-21. This storyline led me to research Steve Sarkisian’s record in one score games. I didn’t count his first year at Washington in 2009 since he was taking over a team that was 0-12 in 2009. Overall, in his six and half years as head coach from 2010 to 2021 his record is 13-13. That includes going 2-5 in one score games last year.  It’s not a terrible record but it’s nondescript.

Sarkisian’s overall record as a head coach (again taking out the 2009 season) is 39-29. Again, nondescript. With seven and a half seasons to judge, the jury is still out on Steve Sarkisian as a head coach.

*******

While the effectiveness of Quinn Ewers will be one of the keys to Texas’s success, Austin sports talk host Rod Babers voiced the best insight I’ve heard this preseason on Texas. Talking about the choice between Quinn Ewers the gunslinger and Hudson Card the game manager he said Bijan Robinson is Texas’s game manager. Amen. Sarkisian is an outstanding architect of the passing game, but his fortunes and Texas’s in 2022 would best be served if he put the ball in Robinson’s hands 30 times a game or more. Can you say Earl Campbell in 1977?  

*******

I had lunch with David Frink the other day and he said that an 8-4 regular season record in 2022 would have to be considered a success. I understand his thinking, but after more than 10 seasons of mediocrity or worse, I can’t get too excited about 8-4.  I want a Big 12 Championship now.

*******

The first time I ever heard about the “It” factor was when my father compared John Kennedy to Robert and Ted Kennedy. He said that Robert and Ted didn’t have “it.”  During the 1968 presidential campaign he changed his mind on Robert. He never did on Ted.

At this point and time, I don’t see the “It” factor in Steve Sarkisian. While he’s very well spoken on the subject of football, I don’t see the inner confidence that he can do the job. I sure hope I’m wrong.

As Dan Yoxall always says, “Let’s put the boot to the ball!”

Hook ‘Em,

W.E.

Willie Earl’s Song of the Week        

Seems apropos for college football fans for the first game of the season. Also, a little Frink Family inside baseball.

I wished that you were there
I looked across the room
And saw you standin’ on the stair
And when I caught your eye
I saw you break into a grin
It feels so good feelin’ good agai
n

W.E.

The Pecan Plantation Golf Championship, Arch Manning, Bijan Robinson and Earl Campbell

This weekend I played in the annual Pecan Plantation Golf Championship hosted by Mike Frank and his sons Josh and Zach Frank.  Many of the players were old college friends (old in more ways than one) and Willie Earl readers.

On Friday and Saturday evening after the golf, the conversation inevitably turned to the upcoming Texas football season. No new ground was trod here. The most notable topic was whether Arch Manning would be as good as the hype. Nobody expressed a strong opinion either way and the consensus was, nobody knows. I found it mildly interesting that nobody mentioned Quinn Ewers until I did and then nobody was interested in discussing the Longhorn quarterback most likely to be the starter for the first game of the year against Louisiana Monroe.

Anyway, I was flattered when a couple of the guys told me they were looking forward to another season of Willie Earl. I am as well, and I expected my first column of the year would be published as usual on the Friday before the first game of the season. But after reading Kirk Bohl’s column this morning on Bijan Robinson I was inspired to write here what would have been in years gone by my letter to the editor commenting on the column.

In the second paragraph referring to Robinson Mr. Bohls writes, After all, he’s the best running back in America, bar none. The 6-foot, 221-pound Texas junior is one of the best in school history. He’s got Earl Cambell’s stiff arm, Rosevelt Leak’s power, the late Cedric Benson’s toughness, Ricky Williams’ tackle breaking, Eric Metcalf’s versatility and Jamaal Charles’ explosiveness. Did I omit anything?

Don’t get me wrong, I love and revere all those Longhorn greats but if I was writing a column about Bijan I would write, After all, he’s the best running back in America, bar none. The 6-foot, 221-pound Texas junior is one of the best in school history. He’s got Earl Cambell’s stiff arm, Earl Campbell’s power, Earl Campbell’s toughness, Earl Campbell’s tackle breaking, Earl Campbell’s versatility (I bet you didn’t know or forgot that Earl blocked a punt versus Arkansas in 1974) and Earl Campbell’s explosiveness. Did I omit anything?

See you soon.

Hook “Em,

W.E.