Archive for the ‘2015’ Category

Kansas State Pre-Game

One Hit Wonder?

After Jonathan Gray’s 15-yard run to start Texas’ last drive of the Oklahoma game, my heart started pounding and I began, literally and physically, feeling five years of pent-up emotion simmering inside of me. “Ball security” I repeated at least three times as Gray ran again for two yards. Oklahoma calls their last timeout with 2:50 remaining, and my breathing starts coming up a little short.  After the timeout, Jerrod Heard rushes to the Oklahoma 15. It’s another first down and I say, “That should do it.” My eyes are beginning to fill. Gray and Heard run it three more times, and that’s it. Game over.  Bob and I stand up and bro hug. No words as the five years of pent-up emotion are now in full physical release.   Bob says, “How ‘bout a beer?” Bob and I sit down on the couch with our beers in his L.A. apartment, and I’m barely able to choke out, “We won’t forget this anytime soon.” Bob gently pats me on the back, and I briefly go into full chest-heaving weeping, but I have to control it as best I can so Bob’s girlfriend Kate doesn’t hear me from the kitchen.

Why a Texas Football game can generate so much soul penetrating emotion, I’ll be asking myself for the rest of my life. Maybe it’s rooted in the 1800 miles that separated me from the Longhorns for most of my childhood and teen years.  Who knows?—and anyway, that’s a conversation for another time. Now, for better or for worse, the Longhorns have six more games to play.

The Oklahoma win led me to modify my editorial schedule a bit. You may have noticed I haven’t issued part 2 of “How We Got Here “about key decisions Charlie Strong has made over the last 18 months or so.  As you might have guessed, I wasn’t exactly going to heap praise on Strong about what I think were the key decisions that led Strong to his 7-11 record before the Oklahoma game. The emotional win in that game hasn’t completely allayed my concerns on Strong’s decision-making in the long-term.

Long-Term Decisions

It was a mistake to bring Shawn Watson along from Louisville as the offensive coordinator. Strong had the budget to hire anyone in the country, and he opted for a comfortable choice by picking the familiar Watson. If I’m Charlie Strong in December 2013, after landing a career-defining, life-altering job, a job that could give me and my children financial security for life, I’m not making the hire that is going to have perhaps the greatest impact on my success based on loyalty and my comfort zone.  With as much as Strong had at stake, I find it disappointing that he would choose Shawn Watson, a journeyman offensive coordinator with a C+ resume at best. It was Watson who convinced Strong that Tyrone Swoopes was the best option at quarterback to start this season.  As it turns out, hiring Watson proved to make Charlie Strong very uncomfortable, and Watson’s tenure as offensive coordinator and Swoopes’ tenure as the starting quarterback ended one game into Strong’s second season.

The decision to hire Shawn Watson goes hand-in-glove with Strong’s decision to redshirt Jerrod Heard in 2014. I’m on record in the middle of last season criticizing the decision. I thought at the time that Swoopes didn’t give Texas their best shot at winning games in 2014 and that redshirting Heard was pure speculation on its long-term benefit to the program.

We all feel much better about the Longhorns and the 2015 season than we did a two weeks ago, but, to—borrow my father’s phrasing—do we all agree that we would be even more sanguine about the rest of this season if Jerrod Heard had more than five games of experience?


I’m no recruiting maven.  I confine my reading of college football recruiting news to the month of January and early February.  I made an exception during the spring and summer of 2014 and 2015 when I saw stories about Charlie Strong and Shawn Watson looking at quarterback transfer candidates.  I thought Texas was in desperate straits at quarterback during those times, and I was hoping Strong would land a transfer to at least compete with quarterbacks already on campus.  As you know, there were to be no quarterbacks transferring to Texas in 2014 and 2015. Further, the only drop-back quarterback from whom Strong and Watson received a verbal commitment in 2014 or 2015—Zach Gentry—ended up signing with Michigan and Jim Harbaugh.

With Texas so desperate to find a quarterback in 2014 and 2015 why was Kai Locksley (who was considered an athlete as much as a quarterback prospect) the only quarterback Charlie Strong signed in two recruiting seasons?  I have a theory, and it’s just a theory. I think the elite high school quarterbacks, their parents, and their coaches didn’t think Shawn Watson was the right coach to develop their talents, Teddy Bridgewater notwithstanding.  Can you say one hit wonder?

If my theory has any validity, then between the Swoopes debacle and quarterback recruiting, Shawn Watson has really hamstrung Strong’s program during these past two years.

Going Forward

It’s somewhat ironic that Texas’ MVP at this point in the season, Jerrod Heard, is a player Mack Brown recruited and whom Charlie Strong was reluctant to play until he got desperate.  Heard was Texas’ leading rusher in the Oklahoma game with 125 yards in 21 carries, and it wasn’t a fluke. It was part of the game plan. Texas can’t execute that plan and win that game without Heard.

Let’s hope that Strong has learned from his mistaken hire of Shawn Watson and his mistake of not finding out what he had in Jerrod Heard in 2014. Texas is still hampered by those mistakes in Heard’s and Norvell’s inexperience, but Charlie Strong deserves credit for making the move to Heard and replacing Watson with Jay Norvell as the play caller and all the good that has happened since.

If Charlie Strong and his staff can follow up the Oklahoma win with more well designed and executable game plans in the next three weeks against very beatable opponents, then the Oklahoma win will be validated as the turning point for Strong and the Texas football program.  If they stumble against Kansas State, Iowa State, or Kansas then the big Oklahoma win will just be a one hit wonder.

Lock of the Week

I’m 2-0 in Locks of the Week in 2015 with Alabama beating Georgia and Notre Dame beating Navy and covering the spread.

It might be my memory playing tricks on me, but it seems like over the years, after Oklahoma has lost to Texas, they right the ship and go on to have very good seasons.

So my lock this week is Oklahoma at home to cover the 15-point spread against Texas Tech.

Author’s Note

I have written often about my father in these pages over the years, and I was thinking of him this week as I was writing the first part of this column.

In December 1972, my father and I watched on television as Roger Staubach came off the bench to rally the Dallas Cowboys from 15 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC playoff game. When Ron Sellers caught the winning touchdown pass from Staubach, I started crying. My father said to me, “That’s OK, Bill, I didn’t see you cry when things went against you.”  I guess that’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

HooK ‘eM,


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Oklahoma Post-Game

The Payoff

To love is to take risk.
james street

As often as not love is painful
sad texas fans 2

But when love pays off, boy does it payoff.



Over/Under Results

Winning the OU Over/Under is a bit of a special honor and Art Zeitz—he of the understated post game smile—was the victor this week with eight correct answers. Art has been a solid player for several years and I believe this was his third career victory. Greg Swan, Dan Yoxall, David Frink, and Helen Frink tied for second with seven correct.

It was an interesting contest this week. There were fewer entries than any contest in the last 14 extending back to last year. Perhaps there was a loss of interest after 50-7. The other thing that was interesting was the consistency of the answers contestant to contestant. The scores were tightly bunched between five and eight correct. There were two questions everyone got right, two questions that 10 of 12 got right and 3 questions that 9 of 12 got wrong. I think most of the contestants had very similar expectations as to how the game would progress and which team would win.


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OU-Texas Pre-Game

How We Got Here

I probably wouldn’t be writing this column if Nick Rose makes an extra point and Michael Dickson doesn’t botch a long snap from center. So it goes in life, love, and poker.  Charlie Strong’s Longhorns are 1-4, and it’s a bad 1-4, with two embarrassing blowout losses. Barely halfway through his second season in Austin, Strong—a consensus sure thing at Texas—is  already in trouble. What happened?   In discussing this, I’m going to cover three topics. Charlie Strong’s record at Louisville, key decisions he’s made since becoming the coach at Texas, and for perspective, a comparison between the roster he inherited and the roster Jim Harbaugh inherited at Michigan.


Strong’s first head coaching job was with Louisville, 2010-2013. Louisville was in the Big East Conference in 2010-2012. The Big East became the American Athletic Conference in 2013. These are Louisville’s conference opponents during Strong’s tenure:

2. Rutgers
3. University of South Florida
4. Connecticut
5. Syracuse
6. Cincinnati
7. Pittsburgh
8. West Virginia
9. Memphis
10. Central Florida
11. Houston

Not exactly the murderers row of college football. That being said, you can only play the teams on your schedule and Louisville shared the Big East Championship in 2011 and 2012 with 5-2 conference records. In Strong’s final two years, Louisville  was 11-2 in 2012 and 12-1 in 2013. In 2012, #11 Louisville lost to a 5-5 Syracuse team and the next week lost to 5-6 Connecticut. Their biggest victories in 2012 came at the finish, with victories over 9-2 Rutgers and #3 Florida in the Sugar Bowl to finish at 11-2 on the season.  The win over Florida is the biggest win of Charlie Strong’s coaching career.

In finishing 2013 at 12-1, Louisville played just one ranked team, the University of Central Florida, and they lost.  In fact, in doing my research, I was hard-pressed to find any ranked teams that Louisville defeated in Strong’s four-year tenure, other than Florida.

In a fantasy world, how do you think Strong’s 2015 Longhorns would fare playing the 2013 Louisville schedule, 9-4, 10-3? Just saying…

Despite the unimpressive competition, Strong received high marks—and deservedly so—for his performance at Louisville from everybody, including Louisville’s players, administration, the Louisville community, his fellow coaches, and the national media.  Strong’s performance also earned him a promotion from Louisville to Texas and a salary of $5 million a year.  I think it’s fair to compare Strong’s move from Louisville to Texas to a highly touted triple A minor league baseball player being promoted to the major leagues.  By all available data, the minor leaguer and Strong appeared ready for the big leagues, but they weren’t proven commodities at the highest levels of competition. Some Triple A stars burst onto the scene in the Big Leagues, while others grow into the job….. and, of course, some others just fail.

Coming Monday, I’ll open for discussion some of the key decisions Charlie Strong has made in his first 21 months at Texas.


HooK ‘eM,


Lock of the Week

Lock of the week goes into its second week of existence with 100% winning percentage.  This week I’ll take Notre Dame at home versus Navy and lay the 14 ½. The Domers are coming off a tough loss on the road to Clemson—a game they should have won, you would think Brian Kelly would know when and when not to go for two—and I think they’ll lay a red ass whooping on the Middies who have yet to face stiff competition in 2015.

Need more for your Pre-OU Game pleasure?  Here’s an oldie but goodie.

Why I Love OU Weekend

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TCU Post-Game Preamble

More to Come

In light of Texas’ second blowout loss of the season, and their fourth loss of that kind in the last six games, I’ve decided to take more time, work a little harder, and combine the TCU Postgame and Oklahoma Pregame columns into one State of the Texas /Charlie Strong Program column. This Friday you’ll have more to look forward to than just OU Weekend.

Over/Under Results

After losing by a nose in the tiebreaker last week, Clayton Frink is the big winner this week as he beat out one of the all-time great Wedding Usher’s, D.R. Flower, in the tiebreaker.  Clayton and D.R. came in with eight correct answers in regulation play. Greg Swan, Reed Ramlow, and Steve Holstead tied for second with seven correct.

HooK ‘eM


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Pre-Game TCU

Various and Sundry

With a tip of the hat to the legendary Texas political figure Ben Barnes, here’s my annual Various and Sundry column.

Jim Harbaugh

When the Texas Football Head Coaching job opened up in December 2013, if I had been in charge, my first choice would have been Jim Harbaugh. At the time, it was being reported that a mutual contempt had developed between Harbaugh and his employer, the San Francisco 49ers, and it was rumored that Harbaugh had expressed interest in the UT job through the coaching grapevine. I knew that Harbaugh’s personality and UT weren’t a good fit and that it was extremely unlikely he would be hired.

When Charlie Strong was hired I was very pleased and fully on-board. But I can’t help having a slight case of the green-eyed monster, looking at the early success Jim Harbaugh is having in his first year at Michigan. It is his first year and he’s only four games in. His predecessor at Michigan, Brady Hoke, was 11-2 his first year with a Sugar Bowl win. So there aren’t any statues being built in Ann Arbor just yet. I’m just saying…

A Vast Majority

Big 12 supervisor of football officials Walt Anderson said, regarding the officiating of the UT-Oklahoma State game, ” I evaluate every play, and I think we got the vast majority right.”  Ok, I think I get it, it’s like, a vast majority of the people who ate Blue Bell ice cream didn’t die, or a vast majority of the information on my federal income tax return was accurate, or a vast majority of the planes that took off on the morning of 911 didn’t fly into buildings, or I wasn’t drunk or stoned on a vast majority of the days while was in college? Well, three out of four ain’t bad.

May You Live in Interesting Times

Last weekend, I was in my bathroom, you know, reading the Wall Street Journal on my iPad when it started ringing.  This really blew my mind, the fact that me, an overfed, long-haired, leaping gnome…  But really, I thought to myself, what could that mean? Am I going crazy, or is this just a dream? Now wait a minute, I know I’m in my bathroom reading the Wall Street Journal, so it’s all in my head and then my iPad kept on ringing. Wow. It turns out I made some kind of selection when downloading the new Apple iOS on my iPhone that hooked it up with my iPad. You can talk on the telephone with an iPad. Who knew?

Right after my iPad rang, I was so discombobulated that getting ready to shave, I splashed pre-shave lotion in my eye.  That smarts.


I’m not sure what it is that Tyrone Swoopes did on his runs in the Oklahoma State game that Jerrod Heard couldn’t do. Swoopes didn’t run over anyone and, in fact, we know that he doesn’t particularly care for contact. Oh well, I guess at the very least it saved a few hits on Heard. I’m not sure those plays could be effective again, unless Jay Norvell adds a quick pass out of that pre-snap look.

Big Downer

Charlie Strong seemed genuinely surprised when he was told by a reporter at the end of his weekly press conference that Texas was 18-point underdog against TCU he muttered, “What a big downer,” as he walked from the podium.

Speaking of big downers, if you think there aren’t any more creative ways for Texas to lose, think again mon frère. In addition to a missed extra point and fumbled snap by the punter, here are few more Texas could add to their repertoire:

  1. The old fumbled hold on an extra point or field goal trick.
  2. The old Tyrone Swoopes fumbled snap on the goal line a la the Baylor game last year.
  3. The oldie but goodie failure to successfully defend the Hail Mary.
  4. Daje Johnson could, while wide, wide open in the end zone, drop a pass.
  5. Duke Thomas, who wears Blake Gideon’s #21, could let a game clinching interception slither through his hands, arms, and legs.

I’m just trying to be helpful.

Lock of the Week

Welcome to Willie Earl’s newest feature, the Lock of the Week.

Alabama +2 @Georgia.

Georgia always chokes. Take Alabama and the points. Alabama wins by 9.

My Gut

My gut tells me Texas starts as if the 11:07 a.m. kickoff is too early for them, and they fall behind 21-0 before they wake up.  The Horns lose again this week 48-31.

Take heart. Sometimes I’m wrong.

HooK ‘eM,


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