Archive for the ‘2013’ Category

Post-Game Texas Tech/Pre-Game Baylor

Whichever Way the Wind Blows

Texas’ win over Texas Tech might have been their best performance since 2009. At no time during the game did I think Texas Tech had a chance to win. Texas completely dominated an average team the way that good teams are supposed to. As dominating as the performance was, Texas still managed to showcase their ineptitude on special teams by roughing the punter, leading to a field goal by Texas Tech at the end of the first half. That’s three points they probably can’t afford versus Baylor.

Speaking of that dominating performance, what a difference a win over a 7-4 unranked team coming off four straight losses makes. Just a week earlier, when Texas suffered its most lopsided home loss in the Mack Brown era, the writers, talking heads, and talk show callers were pretty much universal in their agreement that Brown was finished and the team was crummy and headed to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl—the  kind of bowl my wife calls a “lame-ass bowl.” Now, with a win over Texas Tech and Baylor’s second straight lackluster outing, people are penciling in a Texas victory over Baylor. Assuming a win over Baylor, Mack Brown has been nominated for Big 12 Coach of the Year by the usually level-headed Austin American-Statesman sportswriter Kirk Bohls.  Whoa!

Well, Brown’s not getting my vote. Even if Texas manages a victory over Baylor on Saturday, they would finish the regular season 9-3 with three blow-out losses, one to an unranked BYU and two at home.  Let’s be clear, 9-3 is far below the lofty pre-season expectations created by Mack Brown himself. I don’t think you’re the coach of the year because you screwed up the beginning of the season so badly that wins over the bottom six teams in the conference looks like a great turnaround. Unless Texas pulls off the win in Waco and Oklahoma State losses to Oklahoma, it will be the fourth straight year without a conference championship and BCS Bowl bid. In Mack’s own words, not our standard. Further, three full years after the “rebuild” began, the program’s trajectory is flat. The Horns will start 2014 with uncertainty at quarterback and the loss of four out of five of their best defenders, five out of five if Cedric Reed leaves early for the NFL. Mack Brown is stuck on two conference championships and four BCS bowl appearances in 16 years. Short of winning the National Championship, given the resources available, I don’t see how any UT football coach ever wins coach of the year.

Willie Earl’s Report Card

While we’re on the subject of 9-3, I thought it might be interesting to see how I’ve done in the predictions game this year.

1. Cutting against the grain of the preseason conventional wisdom, I predicted on August 30th that Texas would finish the regular season 9-3. I’m going to be close or right on the number.

2. I predicted on October 7th that—excluding mid majors—there would be only one undefeated team at the end of the regular season and that team would be Baylor. I’m a failed two-point conversion away from being right about one undefeated. If Michigan State beats Ohio State on Saturday, there will be only one undefeated team left. I was wrong about Baylor going undefeated.

3. I predicted on November 15th that Texas would beat Oklahoma State.  Clearly, this was flawed in thinking that Texas could beat a good team. I won’t make the same mistake again this year.

Nick Saban

I don’t think Saban blundered by trying a 57-yard field goal to beat Auburn on the last play of the game, even though the odds of success were long. Yes, I understand that the field goal unit lacks the personnel to cover a kick, but given that a 50-yard or even a 90-yard return does no damage, I think it was reasonable to assume that if the kick was returned, it wouldn’t be returned for a touchdown.

I do think Saban made a very poor decision not to attempt a 30-yard field goal to put Alabama up 10 late in the fourth quarter. Also, I don’t understand why on fourth and inches, coaches don’t more often call a play action pass to a tight end or fullback like Major Applewhite did late in overtime against West Virginia. Defenses rarely stop that type of play.

The Baylor Game

It was Case McCoy’s four interceptions in  2011 in Texas’ 48-24 loss to Baylor in Waco that prompted Mack Brown to anoint David Ash as Texas’ quarterback of the future. McCoy has a monumental opportunity to redeem himself Saturday in Texas’ biggest game since the BCS Championship Game versus Alabama nearly four years ago. Texas’ chances of winning most likely will hinge on McCoy’s performance, if you believe Baylor is going to score anywhere near their average of 55 points per game. Even if Texas holds Baylor to 40 points, their average total over their last four games, McCoy is going to have to do something other than hand the ball off for Texas to have a chance.

Parting thoughts

I expect Baylor to play well back home after two rough weeks on the road in Stillwater and Fort Worth.

In addition to McCoy versus the Baylor defense, the other critical match-up is Briles versus Brown. Who do you like in that one?

In my final prediction of the year I’m going with, Baylor 44-28, on the strength of a solid performance by Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and the weakness of Texas at quarterback and special teams.

Still I say,

HooK eM,

W.E.

Texas Tech Over/Under Results

It’s fitting that in the week I commemorated the Longhorns 1974 Thanksgiving weekend triumph over the Aggies, that two of my 1974 Sigma Phi Epsilon pledge brothers finished first and second last week. Greg Swan, who sacrificed his new 1974 Ford Pinto for the good of Sig Ep, was the winner with nine correct answers and John Scott was a close second with eight. Hey bros, if Texas beats Baylor and Oklahoma State beats OU lets drive a car onto the Main Mall.

Willie Earl Extra

Most if not all of you know about the report by InsideTexas.com that Nick Saban and the powers that be at Texas have come to an agreement to make Saban the Texas head coach in 2014. If the report is true I think Mack Brown would be the perfect candidate for the Alabama opening.

W.E.

Baylor Over/Under Contest

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Texas Tech Pre-Game

   Piling On

Quoting Howard Beal, I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. Even so it’s worth noting that Texas—including the 2009 season in which they went to the BCS Championship game and counting this year’s win over Oklahoma, is 7-14 versus Top 25 teams over the past five seasons. We know things are bad worse than bad…The last six losses to Top 25 teams were by scores of: 41-20, 38-13, 63-21, 42-24, 38-26, and 55-17.  Instead of lamenting Colt McCoy’s injury in the opening minutes of the BCS Championship versus Alabama, Mack Brown should be thankful that the Horns didn’t have to beat a team ranked higher than #13 to get there in 2009. Brown can take solace; Darrell Royal’s record against top 25 teams in his final five seasons was 4-10-1. Royal resigned voluntarily after the 1976 season. At least I think it was voluntary.

         Howard Beale

Howard Beale

Looking forward to next year, if David Ash is unable to play, the quarterback position falls to Tyrone Swoopes and/or incoming freshman Jerrod Heard. In other words, the Horns will be starting from scratch at the most important position on the field.

Texas Tech

In my Oklahoma State Pre-Game column, I penciled in a win against Texas Tech. The Horn’s performance against Oklahoma State leaves me less confident about the Horns capability to beat any team that’s no worse than average.  Even though Texas Tech has lost their last four games and their most impressive win was against lowly West Virginia, they have a good offense that scored an average of 31 points in losses to Oklahoma State, Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma. It appears to me that Texas Tech is better than any team the Horns have beaten, except Oklahoma.

If Texas does beat Texas Tech, all they have to do to win the Big 12 is beat Baylor and have Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State. Should Oklahoma State’s destruction of Baylor make Texas feel better about their chances to beat Baylor in Waco?  Maybe a little bit. Especially if they can get Baylor’s quarterback Bryce Petty to trip over his own feet on the one-yard line instead of walking in for a touchdown. This play I refer to happened in the first quarter with the score tied 0-0. If Petty scores that touchdown or if Baylor doesn’t fumble and punches it in from the one, the game may have unfolded much differently. Baylor evidently wasn’t quite ready for the big stage, on the road, in the cold. Count on them to be ready for Texas in Waco on December 7th.

Focus

In the wake of the Texas’ catastrophic 2010, season I read a story about the team’s preparations leading up to their last game of the season versus Texas A&M. To summarize, the story was that most of the coaches weren’t coaching because they were preoccupied with finding new jobs. Now I’m reading stories indicating that the current coaching staff all believes they will be looking for new jobs after this season. I wonder whether the possibility that Texas could still win the conference and go to the Fiesta Bowl is keeping the coaching staff focused on the last two games versus Tech and Baylor.  

Swoopes

Speaking of what I’m reading on the UT Football blogs, people are still talking about Tyrone Swoopes getting serious, early, and meaningful playing time Thursday night.  I’ll bet you a dollar right now that, unless Case McCoy gets injured, Swoopes will only play late in the 4th quarter if and when the game has been decided. If it all.

Thanksgiving Smorgasbord

My roommate had already left for the Thanksgiving break so I could go to sleep with my clock radio playing as loudly as I wanted in my Jester Center dorm room. It was a good thing. The three pitchers of beer I shared with Larry Campbell and David Bergstrom at Scholz that evening weren’t helping me get to sleep. I must have reset the timer at least six different times but each time I was still awake when the radio clicked off. I must have heard that freaking “Angie Baby” by Helen Reddy four times between midnight and three a. m. on the computer automated top 40 station I had the radio tuned to. Strange that I would be so excited that I couldn’t get to sleep the night before I was merely going home to be with my parents for Thanksgiving. There was no girlfriend in Reston that I hadn’t seen in three months. I’d never even had a girlfriend. After we had moved to Virginia I attended Herndon high school only a little more than a year before graduation so there wasn’t a crew of high school buddies that I would be reunited with. I was just so desperately homesick and lonely during my first semester at UT in the fall of 1974 that I wanted to get home. I couldn’t wait just three more weeks for the Christmas break, so my parents indulged me with a $300 (in 1974 dollars) round-trip ticket on Braniff Airlines to fly me home. Thirty-nine years later I realize that my empty-nester parents might have also been indulging themselves. 

As I mentioned it wasn’t a reunion with a girlfriend or high school buddies that every Thanksgiving has me thinking about that trip home in 1974.  It is the memory of the six-and-a half mile drive home with my father from Dulles Airport. On the way we stopped by the drycleaners to pick-up my father’s pressed white shirts which were pretty much required for IBMers, in boxes not on hangers. During the ride my father asked me if my first semester at UT had lived up to my high expectations. If for the Texas-OU game alone, the answer was yes. It was having my mother’s home cooking and eating dinner with my parents. Just the three of us as it had been for the five years after my brother David had left for UT. During those five years a bond developed between the three of us that existed uniquely within the boundaries of our entire family. That bond still holds.

Late that first night home, after my mother had gone to bed, my father had dozed off momentarily while we were watching an old movie on television. Just as he awoke and was on his way to bed, a commercial for a women’s product came on. In 1974, this category of products had only recently started to be advertised on television. Noticing the commercial, as a parting shot for the evening, my father said something I’ll never forget, “I can remember when things were different.”  The humor and the irony of what my father said didn’t strike me until I was lying in bed later that night. Since that night 39 years ago I have laughed hundreds of times about what he said and use that line often myself.

If my father’s line for the ages wasn’t enough to make my trip home memorable we did have some classic football that weekend. In 1974 the game with the Aggies was on the Friday after Thanksgiving. So on Thanksgiving we could focus our attention on the Cowboys and the Redskins. My hatred for the Redskins had become intense after we had moved to the Virginia suburbs of D.C. where it was all Redskins all the time. For me it was what it must be like for Aggies who live in Austin. The hated Redskins were leading 16-3 in the third quarter when Redskins defensive end Dave Robinson knocked Roger Staubach out of the game. Enter Clint Longley. The unknown Longley had become the Cowboys back-up quarterback after they had traded Craig Morton to the Giants. Longley led the Cowboys to two touchdowns in the third quarter, one a 35-yard touchdown pass to Billy Joe DuPree, to take the lead 17-16. The Redskins scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter to retake the lead. With only 28 seconds left, they were still leading 23-17. The Cowboys had the ball at midfield, but were out of timeouts. The Redskins seemingly had the game won. Somehow though, the Redskins allowed Drew Pearson to get behind their pass coverage and Longley hit him for a 50-yard touchdown pass and the epic Cowboy victory. It was sublime.

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The broadcast of the Texas-Texas A&M game opened with a shot of male Aggie cheerleaders, crew cuts and all, in their white ice-cream man uniforms, doing cart-wheels down the middle of our field. I was enraged! Why were we letting them do that?!  In 1974 the Aggies were riding as high as they had ridden in years. They were 8-2 and ranked #7 coming into the game. With a victory over Texas, they would win the Southwest Conference and a trip to the Cotton Bowl for the first time in seven years. The Longhorns on the other hand at 7-3, were not going to win the SWC for the first time since 1967 and were only ranked #17.  It was stingingly cold and windy in Austin at game time. Other than that it was a perfect day.

A&M received the opening kick-off and on their ensuing possession they fumbled on the first play from scrimmage and Texas recovered. On Texas’ first play, Raymond Clayborn scored on a 24-yard touchdown run. The Aggies then fumbled the ensuing kick-off and Texas again recovered. The exact details of the touchdown that Texas scored after this fumble escape me, but I think it was also scored by Ray Clay. Texas was now up 14-0. I do remember all this occurred within the first: 53 of the game.  Pooorrrr Aggies. They weren’t quite ready for the big stage. Maybe their hands were cold.  Texas went on to win 32-3. In addition to the first :53 of the game, the other highlight that endures is Earl Campbell coming face to face with the Aggies biggest defensive star, maybe their biggest star period, their big, bad linebacker, Ed Simonini. Simonini had Earl one on one, straight up, face to face, in the open field and Earl ran right over him, putting him on his back and stepping on his chest in the process. Oh—my—god, it was pure ecstasy. The kind you can’t manufacture in a lab. By-the-way, have I told you lately that I love Earl Campbell.

**********

On Saturday of that weekend we had the USC-Notre Dame game for our viewing pleasure. Notre Dame was leading 24-0, when Anthony Davis returned a kick-off for a touchdown for USC just before halftime to make the score 24-6. Davis then returned the second half opening kick-off for a touchdown as USC scored 49 unanswered second-half points to win 55-24. It was a good dessert to top-off the Thanksgiving football feast.  This may make me seem like a small person but I really enjoyed this game (sorry Joe). You have to understand that some of us Longhorns were still smarting from the loss to Notre Dame in the 1971 Cotton Bowl that ended our 30-game winning streak and cost us a consensus national championship.

For some reason the memory of simply hanging out with my parents, just the three of us, and watching those three classic football games in our small cozy wood-paneled den in Reston, Virginia, that Thanksgiving holiday weekend is still vivid.

Happy Thanksgiving, and by all means,

HooK eM,

W.E.

Over/Under Contest

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Oklahoma State Post-Game

 Mired in Mediocrity

I was slightly surprised when I heard that the 38-13 loss to Oklahoma State was the most lopsided home loss during the Mack Brown era.  Watching the game from the same seats my group has sat in since 1995, the loss didn’t feel as bad as the Ole Miss loss earlier this season or the UCLA loss (when all this mess started) in 2010. By the absolute metric of point differential, however, the 25-point deficit was marginally worse than the 21-point Ole Miss loss and the 22 point UCLA loss. Maybe the recent blowout losses to Oklahoma, while not home games, had conditioned me to Longhorn losing.  Or maybe I’m in the final stage of grief—acceptance. 

You Might Be Mediocre If…

The game got away from Texas on three plays that were emblematic of the team’s mediocrity over the past four years.

1. Oklahoma State’s 12-yard touchdown pass near the end of the first half went right through the hands of Adrian Phillips. Phillips, a senior and team leader, is arguably Texas’ second-best defensive back. After the game, Phillips said that’s a play he always makes in practice. I assume he meant that in practice he makes the interception, not that it also goes through his hands in practice. If your second-best defensive back can’t at least knock that ball down, you might be mediocre.

2. Case McCoy’s pick-six interception at the end of the first half was one of his six interceptions in the last three games. It was a poorly timed, weak throw. McCoy now has nine interceptions against eight touchdown passes for the season. I read on a blog this week that McCoy blamed the interception on a UT trainer who had given the officials the wrong ball to use for that possession. That’s a head-shaker. McCoy is mediocre at best, and that reflects the mediocre coaching, player development, and recruiting by Mack Brown’s program.

3. Trailing 7-3 in the second quarter, Daje Johnson fumbled attempting to field a punt inside Texas’ 10-yard line. He was able to recover at the 4-yard line, but four plays later Texas had to punt, giving Oklahoma State the ball at the Texas 42-yardline. Five plays, later Oklahoma State scored a touchdown to go up 14-3. Texas’ special teams have been a liability all this season and most seasons during the Mack Brown era. I’ve never played organized tackle football above the little league level, but I’ve read and been told that good execution on special teams is just a matter of attention to details and focus on the part of coaches and players. Texas special teams are beyond mediocre in the wrong direction.

At the doorstep of another 8-4 year and a trip to the Alamo Bowl, this season seems like almost a total waste. I say “almost” because potential big-time players Marques Johnson, defensive tackle Malcolm Brown, and Dalton Santos have gained valuable game experience. But when you consider the replacement of the defensive coordinator after the second game and the lack of an adequate number two quarterback, the season was set up to be a huge disappointment from the beginning.

HooK eM,

W.E.

Over/Under

Journeyman Clayton Frink notches his first victory of the 2013 season this week by answering eight questions correctly. Just kidding Clayton, about the journeyman part.  Wade Wallace finished alone in second place with seven correct.

The Longhorn’s season may be taking a turn for the worse but here at Willie Earl’s Longhorn Blog we’re looking forward to a meaningful and exciting finish. See you before Thanksgiving.

W.E.

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Oklahoma State Pre-Game

  Mack is Back?

Let’s pencil in a win for Texas against a cratering Texas Tech team on Thanksgiving night in Austin. Given that, if Texas beats Oklahoma State Saturday, I don’t see any way Mack Brown can be forced out of his job in 2014. He may decide to resign in a blaze of glory after winning a bowl game and finishing 10-3, but that’s the only scenario I can anticipate in which he’s not Texas’ head coach in 2014 if Texas beats Oklahoma State. There’s much at stake on Saturday, which should make for lots of fun.

Resume Enhancement
You can only play who’s on your schedule, but Texas’ current six-game winning streak comes against opponents with a cumulative 23-33 won-loss record. Oklahoma State presents the Horns with an opportunity to enhance their resume with a win over an 8-1 team with a #12 ranking. A victory for Texas in this game would go a long way towards showing that Mack Brown’s rebuilding is near completion.

Moxie
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a bit premature to be assigning moxie to Case McCoy and Texas because they have figured out ways to beat Iowa State and West Virginia. Also, the players are bragging about their great team chemistry, yada yada yada, and Case McCoy seemed to be boasting a little when he said of his touchdown pass in overtime against West Virginia that he could have thrown it to two or three guys because they didn’t cover anybody. Hey Case, you ever heard of the expression, “act like you’ve been there before?”  I’m probably over-analyzing but I get the feeling that the Horns think they’ve accomplished more than they have

Keys to Victory
It’s hard to go wrong if you run the ball effectively, don’t make turnovers, and stop your opponent from running effectively and force them to turn the ball over. Texas has been doing these things over the last six games. An important part of the game that Texas has not been handling effectively is kick returns. They’re giving up good field position with poor kick-off coverage, and they aren’t returning kick-offs effectively.  Oklahoma State has returned one kick-off for a touchdown, they have two touchdowns on punt returns, and their kick coverage has been very good. If Oklahoma State ends up with a big edge in the return game on Saturday, it could be the deciding factor in the game.

Mack’s involvement in play calling
Mack Brown has been accused of tightening up and playing too conservatively on offense in big games. It will be interesting to see how Brown and the Major call this game if it’s close in the fourth quarter, especially with Case McCoy playing quarterback. Also, with Jonathan Gray out, will Brown and Applewhite get the ball more than six or seven times to Daje Johnson in the running game?

My Gut
My gut is actually smaller than it was when I was in college….Okay never mind.  Oklahoma State is the favorite in this game and much has been made of the fact that they have won the last two games they’ve played in Austin. But this Oklahoma State team doesn’t have players like Dez Bryant, Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden and their resume isn’t any more impressive than Texas’. Their biggest win was against Texas Tech compared to Texas’ big win over Oklahoma. Also, I’m not all that impressed with Mike “I’m a man, I’m 40,” Gundy. I don’t think Oklahoma State is up to pulling of the big road win in Austin this year. Call it Texas 27-20.

HooK eM,

W.E.

Over/Under Contest

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West Virginia Post-Game

Magical Mystery Tour

Roll up, roll up, for the mystery tour! Roll up We’ve got everything you need. What with blocked punts, Mack Brown laughing it up before an all-or-nothing fourth and seven, the little children laugh at him behind his back, Greg Daniels recovering Malcolm Brown’s fumble just before the winning touchdown pass, in overtime, caught by a player who had never caught a pass on the college level before, satisfaction guaranteed. Roll up, roll up, you got Case McCoy throwing three touchdown passes off his back foot, living is easy with eyes closed, and Steve freaking Edmonds preserving the win with not one but two pass break-ups in the end zone. But you know I know when it’s a dream. The magical mystery tour is coming to take you away…magical mystery tour

It all adds up to 7-2, 6-0 in the Big 12, for a team and a head coach given up for lost causes six weeks ago. I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello. Oh and by the way, Hela, heba, helloa. Hela, heba, helloa. Hela, heba, helloa Texas is now #24 in the BCS Standings.

It’s not where the Horns wanted to be or where we thought they’d be at the beginning of the season, nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be, but right now, it’s getting better all the time. I used to get mad at my school…. no I can’t complain.

Luck, the Bad, the Good

Texas has been a little unlucky in the injury department. I say a little, because at this point in the season most teams have a laundry list of injuries, including starters who are lost for the season. It’s a tribute to Mack Brown’s recruiting over the past three years that he has able replacements for Jonathan Gray (Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron) and Chris Whaley (Desmond Jackson).  If Case McCoy is injured, roll up, roll up, for the mystery tour roll up, We’ve got do we have everything we need?

Texas was very lucky for the second time this season with fumbles inside an opponent’s five-yard line in the waning moments. First, against Iowa St, it was Jonathan Gray’s fumble that wasn’t called a fumble, and Saturday night, it was Malcolm Brown’s fumble in overtime that bounced right to Texas tight end Greg Daniels.

Another decisive bit of good fortune came Saturday night on a defensive holding penalty against West Virginia negating a fourth-quarter Case McCoy interception that might have sealed Texas’ doom. The official’s call was right and just, but the hold by the West Virginia defensive back was unnecessary, I get by with a little help from my friends.Paul & John

The Long and Winding Road

I’ve never been one of Mack Brown’s biggest fans, but I admire what he’s been able to accomplish since the early season debacles with BYU and Ole Miss. His success may come to an end in the next three games, and the prediction of the so-called experts and insiders that he won’t be here in 2014 may still come true. Don’t bet on it. I’m not so sure that Mack Brown will be singing, will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?

HooK eM,

W.E.

Over/Under Results

Rookie Steve Holstead got his first win by posting eight correct answers for the wild and crazy West Virginia Over/Under. His win reminds me of Hunter S. Thompson when he said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Congratulations Steve. 

There was a four-way tie for second with Greg Swan, Rick Mosher, Mark Stephan and Jerry Smith posting seven correct answers.

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