Archive for the ‘2014’ Category

Pre Game TCU

Payback Time?

With TCU knocking on the door of the four team playoff for the national championship, it might be a good time for payback. Just to refresh your memory, on November 18, 1961, #1 ranked Texas lost 6-0 at home to lowly 2-4-1 TCU spoiling the Horns chances for the National Championship. It was that loss that prompted Darrell Royal to compare TCU to a cockroach—“It’s not so much what he gets into and carries away but what he falls into and messes up.” Do you think 53 years and 9 days is too late for payback?
Speaking of ancient Texas football history, for seasons 1961-64, Darrell Royal’s teams were within two losses of three national championships in four years. Texas finished the ’61 season 10-1 and ranked #3. They won the National Championship in ’63. In 1964 only a failed two-point conversion try against Arkansas prevented Royal’s team from a perfect 11-0 season and a second straight national championship. Royal had a good run don’t you think?
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Here’s an interesting statistical comparison I read on the Barking Carnival blog. TCU is allowing 30 points per Big 12 Conference game. Texas is allowing 15. Texas is scoring an average of 24.8 points per conference game. I’ll let you do the rest of the math.
Statistical comparisons aside, Texas’ chances of beating TCU come down to two variables in my opinion: special teams and the performance of Tyrone Swoopes.
Special Teams
Nick Rose can’t any miss 28-yard field goals, Texas punters can’t shank any 12-yarders, and the kickoff coverage team can’t give up series of 50-yard plus returns. Texas is not good enough to make these kinds of mistakes and beat #5 TCU, as they weren’t good enough to overcome those types of errors against UCLA and Oklahoma. In the Baylor game, a blocked field goal attempt in the first quarter that was returned for a touchdown set a negative tone early.
Swoopes
He’s eighth in the Big 12 in total passing yards and quarterback rating, but he’s thrown only six interceptions in 325 attempts, so at least he’s not a turnover machine. There is good and bad news here. Swoopes’ low interception number is largely because Sean Watson and Strong don’t trust him to throw passes over the middle. This limits interceptions, but it also creates a relatively low ceiling for the passing attack. I think Swoopes will have to be given a bigger playbook in the passing game to beat TCU. A few quarterback keepers of the zone read wouldn’t hurt either, but I’ve come to the conclusion that’s not going to happen in order to avoid an injury to Swoopes.
Records
Texas has only beat one team with a winning record, West Virginia (6-5). The combined won-loss record of the Horns’ vanquished foes is 24-41.
The combined won-loss record of teams that have beaten Texas is 41-12, and four of those teams are ranked in the top 25 of the College Football Playoff Rankings.
Bowl eligible
Yeah, Texas will play in a bowl because they’ve won the requisite six games to be bowl eligible, but I’ve always thought that a 6-6 team playing in a bowl game was fraudulent. If Texas loses to TCU, I don’t think we’ll be looking back at it as the big one that got away in three, five, or ten years from now, but it is a big deal right now. A win guarantees a winning season, and I’d like to see Charlie Strong show he can be a clutch game-day coach by beating TCU.
Life after culture change
By the time Charlie Strong came to Austin and instituted culture change within the football program, Rick Barnes was a year into the culture change of his basketball program. I hope Strong’s culture change is as successful as Barnes’ has been.
Beware of Kansas State
Everybody’s talking about TCU and Baylor. Should TCU be ranked ahead of Baylor even though Baylor beat them? If the both finish 11-1 will either one of them make the four team playoff? This conversation bores me. If Texas beats TCU and Kansas State beats Baylor—not an unlikely scenario—the entire conversation is moot.

Charlie Strong
I’ve become addicted to watching Charlie Strong’s Monday press conferences this year. Before he got here, Strong had a reputation for not being fond of or adept at dealing with the press. I have found just the opposite to be true. Strong is the most open and candid college football coach I have ever witnessed. He provides true insight into what is going on with his team. Since I’ve been watching, he has never been terse or defensive in answering questions. He appears to take his responsibility to communicate with the press seriously, and he has been respectful with them week in and week out. He has accepted responsibility for his team’s poor performances without qualification. He doesn’t appear to be overly image-conscience. He has an endearing sense of humor that’s not the least bit biting or sarcastic. He laughs easily and heartily. What I have been most impressed with is how animated he is when he talks about his players. The little stories he tells about his one-on-one conversations and relationships with players reveals a man and a coach who genuinely cares about the young men, enjoys being around them, and is making real connections. I heard Kirk Herbstreit on the radio today talking about how much the Texas players like Strong and how hard they’re still playing for him through the adversity they’ve faced this year. I was so impressed with Strong at his press conference this week that I wanted to share my admiration for Strong with Helen and asked her to watch it. If you’re interested you should check it out on YouTube. At the end of his appearance, Strong laughs so hard while telling a funny story about an encounter he had with kind of strange guy outside the practice facility earlier this year, that he’s still laughing as he walks away from the podium. I don’t know whether Charlie Strong will be a big winner at Texas, but I’ve grown quite fond of him.

HooK ‘eM,

W.E.

 

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Oklahoma State Post Game

Let’s Go Bowling !

Did I ever tell you about the time in 1978, when I went bowling with Mike Frank, John Spafford, and John Hairston on….Wrong forum, never mind.

Despite the fact that Oklahoma State is a bad football team, that has now lost four straight games by an average score of 38-10, Texas’ win in Stillwater Saturday night is a very, very good win and a big win for our team and our program. I thought Charlie Strong may have lost this team after the 23-0 stinker of a loss to Kansas State, but the three game winning streak since then goes a long way towards proving Strong can build a team and a program.

What a weird way to score 28 points. Two botched extra points, three field goals, and a missed 21-yard field goal.

I know there are concerns about 2015 because the team will lose seniors Quandre Diggs, Jordan Hicks, Cedric Reed, John Harris, and junior Malcolm Brown, but Strong has shown he can develop and create players and leaders where none existed before. I’m bullish on the future.

I am concerned about the future of the Longhorns at quarterback. Tyrone Swoopes played a solid game against Oklahoma State. It was his first good game since the Iowa State game a month ago. Swoopes’ good performances this year, Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State came against teams that ranked 6, 9, and 7 respectively in Big 12 total defense. He has struggled and hamstrung Texas in all the other games. If you were paying close attention Saturday night, you will have noticed that when Texas had troubles in the third quarter, the main reason was that Swoopes was spooked by the Oklahoma State pass rush, both real and imagined by Swoopes. All year long, if there is any traffic in the pocket, Swoopes takes his eyes off his receivers and starts looking for a place to fall down or run out of bounds. His beautiful 45-yard touchdown pass to Armanti Foreman in the fourth quarter, started with an absolutely clean pocket with no Oklahoma State defender within five yards of him. Unless he develops the ability to ignore the flak and step up in the pocket, he is not the answer at quarterback.

On to TCU. They rank fourth in the Big 12 in total defense but seventh in pass defense. The Horns have a chance.

Revelation
It was gray, misting, and 48 degrees around noon on Saturday in Austin. In other words, great running weather, which is what I was doing on the cushioned field turf at Clark Field on the UT campus. For the first 30 minutes or so I was there, I was running all alone, lost in my thoughts and my iPod. It was then that I received the answer to a question that I have pondered for decades. What is the greatest song of all time?

Answer, “Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan.
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Willie Earl
Willie Earl

HooK ‘Em,
W.E.

Over/Under Results
I know you’re out there. You know that you scored a nine and you’re thinking you won. You would be wrong, all six of you. Yes, six players made nines this week, but my pledge brothers, John Scott and Greg Swan were perfect 10s. Greg edged John in the tiebreaker by correctly predicting that Georgia and Wisconsin would come out on top Saturday. Congratulations Greg!
Mike Frank, Clayton Frink, Justin Merendino, Steve Holstead, Mark Stephan, and Art Zeitz were the nines.
The ever growing by leaps and bounds Willie Earl’s Longhorn Blog received 28 Over/Under entries this week.
Any investors out there?

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Pre Game Oklahoma State

Swoopes?

There seems to be a consensus amongst sports writers, bloggers, and analysts that Tyrone Swoopes doesn’t like to get hit. Swoopes himself said after the Baylor game that he got nervous after getting hit a couple of times. Charlie Strong and Sean Watson say that Swoopes is looking at the oncoming rush and not at pass routes developing downfield. This is troubling and with nine starts under his belt, you have to wonder if Swoopes is capable of developing into a serviceable college quarterback.

I have a theory and a crazy prediction. I don’t think Swoopes has the desire required to develop into a serviceable college quarterback, much less a good one. He’s big and tall, has a strong arm, and by all accounts is pretty smart. He has participated in two years of spring practice, two preseason camps, three weeks of bowl workouts, and of course the nine starts. Yet, with all this practice, preparation, and game experience, if he’s still so nervous about being hit that he can’t look downfield, maybe he’s just not committed. In the last three games, in addition to his overall poor play, his effort looks half-hearted to me. He carries out his fakes in a half-speed jog and he slouches off the field after a drive stalls or ends in a turnover. I’d be very surprised if he’s the starter in 2015 and I wouldn’t be surprised if he transferred to a division two school, or quits football all together after this season.
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The last time I wrote Swoopes off was before his renaissance in the Oklahoma and Iowa State games, but since those games his play has reverted to the dark ages. His combined stat line for the Kansas State, Texas Tech, and West Virginia games: 37-79 passing for 458 yards with 2 touchdown passes and 1 interception. If you don’t count sacks, he’s rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries. Maybe he should run more. Of course, that probably involves getting hit; this segues nicely into my next topic.

Is the offensive game plan tailored to reduce the chances of Swoopes getting injured and being unable to play? Because what’s the plan if Swoopes does get injured? Playing Jerrod Heard and burning his precious redshirt for playing time in less then three games? If not, than as far as we know the next man up is Trey Holtz. Here’s his background from Texassports.com.
REDSHIRT FRESHMAN (2013)
Did not see game action.
FRESHMAN (2012)
Redshirted.
HIGH SCHOOL
Coached by Robert Weiner at H.B. Plant High School … helped Panthers win Florida State Championship his senior year … lettered as a junior and senior … served as a reserve quarterback … was primarily the team’s holder and rugby-style punter during its championship season … also participated in lacrosse.
Interesting.
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If Swoopes doesn’t like getting hit, I wonder how he feels about playing in real cold weather. The forecast is for the low 40s at kickoff in Stillwater.

Look for Oklahoma State to put nine defenders in the box and to blitz early and often.

The defense was great in the West Virginia game, especially in the second half, when the offense could do nothing. They were on the field for 90 plays. I don’t think they can hold up for 90 plays against Oklahoma State.

Given where this team was at midseason, it would be great if they could get six wins, qualify for a bowl and get the sorely needed three weeks of practice that goes with it. Oklahoma State looks very beatable on paper. They average less than 400 yards of offense per game and rank 72nd in the country in scoring, averaging 28.4 points per game. The news on their defense is even better. They rank 91st in points allowed surrendering 30.2 per game. They’ve been blown out in their last three games losing 42-9 to TCU, 34-10 to West Virginia, and 48-14 to Kansas State.

Yet, after watching Swoopes and our offense in the second half against West Virginia, I don’t have a very good feeling about this game.

HooK ‘Em,

W.E.

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West Virginia Post Game

Wo Ho Two in Row!

The win over West Virginia seems like the most celebrated victory that simply gets the Longhorns to .500 since 1976, when they defeated Arkansas in the last game of the year to finish 5-5-1 in Darrell Royal’s final game as the head coach.

My thoughts on the game
It was quite a day on defense for Cedric Reed, Jordan Hicks, and Quandre Diggs. If any one of the three hadn’t played the outcome of the game may have been different. Do we know who replaces them and sure to leave for the NFL, junior defensive tackle Malcolm Brown, in 2015?

If Cedric Reed plays anywhere near as well as he did in the West Virginia game, against Oklahoma State and TCU, I like our chances.

I could become a J. Gray fan.
J. Gray needs more than 10 carries against Oklahoma State and TCU.

Where in the wide wide world of sports is Daje Johnson, only two carries, one of which went for 22 yards?

Geese Louise, is there any chance that Tyrone Swoopes can play better in the final two games?

Do you think Oklahoma State might load up the box against Ty?

Texas gave up a 48-yard kickoff return and Nick Rose missed another field goal attempt. One decent performance on special teams before the season is done is all I ask.

I’m not one to follow possible bowl scenarios with four weeks left in the season, but I believe an Advocare Bowl matchup with A&M is a distinct possibility for the Horns. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Over/Under Results
First timers continue to have strong outings in 2014 as David Bergstrom tied for first with six correct answers. David was edged in the tiebreaker by David Frink as he notches his second victory of the season. It was an unusual tiebreaker in that neither of the Davids picked the winning teams, A&M and Arizona State.
Judging by the scores in this week’s Over/Under, the West Virginia game was the least predictable so far this year. The average score was 4.1.

HooK ‘Em,
W.E.

 

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West Virginia Pre Game

Predictions and Bad Hats

When I first started getting to know my Sigma Phi Epsilon pledge brothers at UT in 1974 and ’75, they were surprised and bemused when they learned about the depth of my knowledge of Longhorn football history and trivia. For instance, back in those days, I could recite the exact scores and arcane details of every Longhorn football game going back to 1968. They weren’t always so bemused by the fact that I was kind of opinionated about football and a few other subjects. Oh well, I’ve never been accused of trying to win popularity contests. Now-a-days I still remember the scores and details of a handful of memorable Longhorn games going back to the late ’60s, but my savant like memory is long gone.

A few weeks after Helen and I began seriously dating in September of 1979, we went to the OU game together. Years later Helen would say that one of the things about me that she was attracted to was my knowledge of where to park at the Cotton Bowl. Parking for games at the Cotton Bowl is a specialized skill set.
Over the years, some people have assumed that since I was so consumed with UT football that I would be able to foresee the outcomes of big games. Well, in 1977 when Texas was a 16-point underdog to Oklahoma, I boldly predicted that Texas would win because of Earl Campbell and a stout defense. That prediction was more of a hope than anything else, but I didn’t let on to that at the time.

The night before the Big 12 Championship game versus Nebraska in 1996, when Texas again was a big underdog, I told a couple of highly skeptical drinking buddies that I thought “we” just might win. At the time, the only other person who was willing to state that opinion publicly was James Brown. In that instance I really thought we could beat the big bad “Big Red” because in spite of Texas’ 7-4 record going into the game, I knew that three of those losses didn’t reflect how good Texas really was. Texas lost to Notre Dame on a field goal at the gun. Hung over from that heartbreaker, they lost the following week in a torrential down pour to Virginia in Charlottesville. They lost a 17-point fourth quarter lead and the game to Oklahoma in overtime. Since those midseason woes and a 3-4 record, Texas had bounced back with four straight wins, including a very satisfying 51-15 beat-down of the Aggies.

To show you that I’m not just cherry picking some lucky “homer” predictions, I told Helen on the drive to the UCLA pre-game tailgate in 2010 that I thought “we” were primed for a big loss. I was right about that game, but I didn’t think the entire season and—as we know now—the program was about to slide into mediocrity.

You’re probably wondering, as Mark Kelting once asked David Bergstrom, “Bergy, what’s your point?” Or you’re thinking I’m going to make a bold prediction about a Texas win Saturday against West Virginia. No, I’m not predicting a win, but I am going to give you some reasons to be optimistic that Texas will get their first win of the season against a ranked team.

1. Dana Holgorson has really bad hair, or as the Sig Eps in the ’70s would say, he has a “bad hat.”

                                                                                                            Another Bad Hair Day

Another Bad Hair Day

     Bad Hats of the 70s

Bad Hats of the ’70s

      Nice Hat!

Nice Hat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. The offensive line will have the same starters for the fourth straight game and could—emphasis on could—open some nice holes for Malcolm Brown and J. Gray against a smallish West Virginia front seven.
3. Speaking of J. Gray, as Darrell Royal would say, he showed some “spurt” against Texas Tech. Maybe he’ll use that spurt to break off a long touchdown run.
4. Speaking of “spurt,” two words, Daje Johnson.
5. Two more words, Armanti Foreman
6. Mykkele Thompson can now see during games.
7. Jason Hall will be the healthiest he’s been since the OU game.
8. Back to the “bad hat.” This could be the game where Dan Holgorsen’s head actually explodes.
9. West Virginia gave up 34 points to Texas Tech. If you take out their shut out against Towson, West Virginia gives up 29 points per game.
10. Tyrone Swoopes might actually make a read on the zone read.
11. A Texas win would make my weekend.

Here’s a great story by Kirk Bohls on former UT assistant coach and recruiter Ken Dabbs, who is credited with bringing Earl Campbell to Texas.

http://www.mystatesman.com/news/sports/college-football/bohls-uts-hall-of-honor-a-perfect-spot-for-dabbs/nh22R/?icmp=statesman_internallink_textlink_apr2013_statesmanstubtomystatesman_launch#12001ed1.3510651.735544

HooK ‘eM
W.E.

Over/Under Contest

 

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