Archive for the ‘2019’ Category

The First Game of the rest of Todd Orlando’s Life

Did anyone but me notice during the Rice game telecast that Todd Orlando: a) looked like he hadn’t slept in a few days or b) hadn’t taken his antipsychotic medication? I don’t know, maybe I just can’t get used to men under 50 no longer shaving on a daily basis. Anyway, it would be understandable if Orlando hasn’t slept much lately and when he does sleep if he has the recurring dream that I so often have of being on the way to a final exam for a class you haven’t been to all semester.

In case you haven’t heard, Oklahoma State runs a spread offense averaging 49 points per game this year and is ranked 12th nationally in total offense. And – as noted on these pages last week – that Todd Orlando’s defense, in the last six games against spread offenses, has surrendered an average of 538 yards and 40.5 points per game.

So do Longhorn fans have any reason to believe that the Texas defense will suddenly be improved against Oklahoma State on Saturday?  I’ll believe it when I see it. The best breakdown of Orlando’s defense I’ve heard or read was by my man Paul Wadlington aka Scipio Texas at InsideTexas.com

Summarizing Scipio’s breakdown, Orlando is playing the game “Battleship” against the opponents play caller, guessing which plays will be run and then running his players blindly to predetermined spots to defend.  This, as opposed to training his players how to play cornerback, safety, and linebacker etc., recognize plays and react.  When Orlando guesses wrong – which has been often – you see receivers running wide open and running backs darting through gaping holes.

It seems to me that the question about the defense going into the Oklahoma State game is, whether Orlando continues to play “Battleship” or will this be the game be where he takes a new approach to defending the spread offense.

On a positive note regarding the Oklahoma State game, Sam Ehlinger and the Texas offense are humming.  Ehlinger is third in the country in passing touchdowns, and 11th in passing yards per game. Pretty great considering he sat out half of the third quarter and all of the fourth against Rice and most of the fourth quarter versus Louisiana Tech. And Ehlinger and the offense put up five touchdowns (four of them on Ehlinger passes) and 530 yards on an LSU defense that still manages to be 34th in the country in total defense despite being dominated by Texas.

My Hat’s Off to “The Man”

Using my father’s phrasing that I love so much, “Do we all agree that right now Mike Gundy is a better coach than Tom Herman?

I do. Herman may have a higher ceiling in the long run but right now Gundy is a better coach. He is 124-59 from 2004 through last week at Oklahoma State.  In 2014-2018 he is 37-15. He has one conference championship (2011) and in 2013 was jipped out of another by officiating in OSU’s game with Oklahoma.  Oh, and he’s riding a four-game winning streak and has won seven of the last nine versus Texas.

He’s compiled this strong record at Oklahoma State where he rarely has the luxury of four, much less five star recruits.

You may not like his haircut but he’s a good coach.

My Call

Riding another strong performance by Sam Ehlinger and the offense, Texas wins tomorrow night 44-41.

Hook ‘Em!

*********

Private inquiries have been made about how my first date with Connie turned out back the fall of 1976. Connie was referenced in my column a couple of weeks ago “First Dates and Hopeless Romantics.”

Well, to tell you the truth, there is a story there that you would probably find even more entertaining than “First Dates and Hopeless Romantics.” Maybe I’ll tell the story, maybe not.  Believe me, the story is “G” rated, but it’s still a tough call for me as to how much I want reveal about some of my 21-year-old behavior.

W.E

Oklahoma State Over/Under

  • Hubbard has 521 yards rushing through 3 games averaging 7.9 yards per carry.
  • Tiebreaker: required

    Pick the winners against the line

    Notre Dame +14.5 @ Georgia
  • Auburn +4.5 @ Texas A&M
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Rice Over/Under Results

In a surprisingly large field of players given the opponent was Rice, David Frink emerged the winner with eight correct answers.  Mike Frank was second with seven correct. Mike was the only player to correctly predict that Keaontay Ingram would be the first UT player who would have a pass reception. 

Eric Vogl, Clayton Frink, and Helen Frink tied for third with six correct answers.

The question formulators had a good outing as the average score was just five correct answers.

Coming Friday, what Big 12 team has the longest current winning streak against Texas? No fair using the Google Machine.

Talk at you Friday.

Hook ‘Em

W.E.

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“How Do you Solve a Problem Like Orlando?”

To be sung to the tune of,
“How do You Solve a Problem like Maria”
                                                                             — Rodgers and Hammerstein

Over the summer, I asked a friend if he agreed that Todd Orlando was overrated. He said no. I haven’t asked him that question since the LSU game.  Why taunt him? After all, I feel bad too.

Here are some facts about the Longhorn defense versus LSU as summarized by Paul Wadlington, aka Scipio Texas on the “Inside Texas” blog

LSU QB Joe Burrow was 31 of 39 for 471 yards passing.

LSU converted 50% of their 3rd downs. On par with the rate Orlando surrendered last year in Big 12 play, where Texas surpassed only conference winless Kansas in money down defense.

All three LSU primary receivers went >100 yards receiving. Jefferson: 9-163-3td. Marshall: 6-123-1td. Chase: 8-147-0. Jefferson was in single coverage on his game sealing 3rd and 17 zero blitz 61 yard touchdown catch. Of course, so was every other Tiger receiver.

LSU had only 11 meaningful possessions. They scored on 8 of them.

The Texas defense was never placed in a bad spot the entire game. LSU’s average starting position was their own 23 yard line.

In the second half, in a game played in 98 degree heat, Texas dominated time of possession: 20:38 minutes to LSU’s 9:22.

Due to the Longhorn O dominating Time of Possession, LSU ran only 68 plays. But had 573 yards of offense. That’s 8.4 yards per play.

****

In Texas’ last six games against spread offenses, Orlando’s defense has surrendered an average of 538 yards and 40.5 points.

So here I am – less than three weeks removed from predicting 11-1 and eight days away from our lads facing Oklahoma State’s spread offense – sounding the alarm on Texas’ 2019 season. Unless Tom Herman does something fast about his defense and defensive coordinator, our dreams of a Big 12 Championship and College Football Playoff berth are just that – dreams.

That being said, I guess the Horns could give up an average of 33 points and 451 yards a game and still win the Big 12 and make the CFP like Oklahoma did last year.

Briefly

I’m saying right now on this here blog that Roschon Johnson is a running back forever more.

The Texas offense played magnificently against LSU.  The O scored on every position of the second half.

9 plays, 86 yards, TD

7 plays, 75 yards, TD

7 plays, 75 yards, TD

10 plays, 46 yards, FG

8 plays, 75 yards, TD

If only on third and 17 . . . Oh Orlando.

Glad we don’t play Maryland this year.

Hope I don’t jinx him but punter Ryan Bujcevski is having a good year averaging 42.5 yards per punt.

A reader wrote me a note this week that was highly critical of my man Collin Johnson’s performance versus LSU. While he did have trouble getting separation from LSU’s future NFL defensive backs in the first half, he caught three crucial passes for 49 yards in the second when Texas scored on every possession. That’s a pretty fare 16.3 yards per reception by the way.

On to Rice.

Speaking of Rice, you youngsters (anyone under the age of 60) might be surprised to learn that Texas has played Rice 94 times starting in 1914. 

It used to be a big deal when Texas played Rice in Houston. It was a convenient opportunity for Houston alums to see the Longhorns play when the Horns were only on television two or three times a year. You youngsters might also be surprised to learn that the first Texas-Rice game to be televised was in 1984. The game was a big social event for Houstonians. Kind of like Georgia versus Florida, the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party. Kind of.  

The 1970 Rice game was an especially big deal to yours truly

Texas – Rice October 1970

Rice Over/Under

  • Tiebreaker: required

    Pick the winners against the line

    Dallas - 5.5 @ Washington
  • New England -18.5 @ Miami

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LSU Over/Under Results

In a near record turnout of 21 players, young Hunter Stephan (I knew him when) emerged from the crowd winning the LSU Over/Under with a superlative nine correct answers.  Going forward – when Hunter chooses to shows up – he’s going to be a force in this game.

David Frink and Steve Holstead tied for second with eight correct. Wes Peoples, Tom Yoxall, Colby Malek, Tyler Cotton, and Mitch Lewis tied for third with seven correct.

The average score was six. The staff at Willie Earl consider that a loss for the question formulators. Our goal is an average of less than 5.5.

W.E.

On Another Night

On another night when Keaontay Ingram doesn’t drop that pass, the opposing quarterback doesn’t do his best impression of Joe Montana, and the Longhorn secondary is more seasoned and experienced, the home team wins in front of an adoring crowd.

Still bullish on the Horns here.

More on LSU and Rice coming Friday.

Hook ‘Em,

W.E.

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First Dates and Hopeless Romantics

You look in her eyes; the music begins to play.
Hopeless romantics, here we go again.
                                                                                 
— Don Henley / J.D. Souther / Glenn Frey

I had a lot of first dates in my college years. When I say a lot, I mean way more than other people I knew. I’m guessing in those four years I had about 40 during spring and fall semesters and in my hometown, Reston, Virginia, in the two summers I was home.  I approached most of those dates thinking, “This could be the one.” Sure, I knew ahead of time that some of those girls I wasn’t going to marry or even go out with more than once, but most of the time I was hoping this one might be the one.  No matter how often I was disappointed, no matter how many times I had my feelings hurt – which  was more than a  few – I didn’t get discouraged, I didn’t quit dating. I kept looking and kept hoping that maybe that this next one could be the one.

In particular, I remember a first and only date I had for the first Sigma Phi Epsilon party of the fall semester in 1976. It was a blind date set up by one of my roommate’s girlfriend, although my roommate was unaware of the arrangement.  Those of you familiar with the Greek social scene would know what I mean when I say it was on pledge line night.  I remember which sorority she was in, but I don’t remember the girl’s name. I have a vague memory of what she looked like – five, four or five, five with chin-length medium-brown hair parted in the middle – though I couldn’t identify her in the 1977 UT yearbook that I consulted not more than ten minutes ago. I remember that she was a junior like me that she had a great sense of humor – she laughed at all of my jokes – and she made several witty remarks and observations herself.  We had a great time. I was attracted to her, and I thought we had chemistry. We were among the last to leave the party, and when I was walking her to the door of her sorority house, it started to sprinkle large drops, portending an eminent hard rain.  As we got to the door, in the brief moment that I was wondering if she wanted me to kiss her good night, she scrunched her shoulders, girding for the rain and said playfully something along the lines of, “Hurry up and kiss me before we get soaked.”  I did and it was a pretty good kiss, not perfunctory.  As I drove away in the rain, thoroughly smitten, I was already planning on asking her out for the next weekend.

At this point if you’re confused, let me assure you that you are reading Willie Earl’s Longhorn Blog.

The next day, my roommate asked me if I had a good time at the party, and when I told him I had he asked me who my date was.  When I told him, he was surprised because he knew the girl and that she was in a pretty serious relationship. He asked his girlfriend about this and found out that the reason she accepted a blind date with me was because her boyfriend wasn’t back in Austin for the semester yet.  My roommate, being one of the nicest and most honorable guys I’ve ever known, thought that the girl behaved shabbily in accepting a blind date to the party with me and leading me on .  He wasn’t too pleased with his girlfriend for setting it up, either.

How did I react to hearing this news?  Well, by now you must know I was a hopeless romantic. So, being a hopeless romantic, I knew that the girl really liked me. We laughed together. We had chemistry! She couldn’t be that mercenary. 

Though I was a little fazed, I called her a couple of days after the party and asked her out.  She politely declined and told me that she had a boyfriend. 

Wah-wah.  A metaphorical cold shower and a lesson in the mysteries of human nature.  Bloodied but unbowed, within hours I was on to finding my next first date.  I think it was Connie.

***************

I had my first date with 2019 Longhorns last Saturday.  I’m thoroughly smitten.  I’m smitten with the overall talent level and team speed.

As I mentioned last week, I’m pretty taken with Sam Ehlinger. Obviously the La Tech game was just a warmup for him for LSU. I suspect he was working with only about 40 percent of the playbook. 

I love the way Keaontay Ingram ran against Louisiana Tech. The preseason hype about his added bulk turns out not to be hype. He’s definitely bigger with the same twitch he had last year.  As for the worry over Ingram being the only healthy scholarship running back, I can remember when the number two running back didn’t play much more than the number two quarterback.  Quick, tell me who the backups were for Ear Campbell, Ricky Williams, and Cedric Benson?  So maybe I’m a little infatuated to draw a comparison between Ingram and Campbell, Williams, and Benson but I think he can carry the load for a few weeks.

As the offensive line goes, so goes the team’s chances of winning and I loved the way the offensive line blocked last week and I like the depth of the unit. In addition to the starters, Zach Shackelford, Parker Braun, Junior Angilau, Derek Kerstetter, and Samuel Cosmi, Denzel Okafor is really a co-starter at right tackle and Tope Imade is an up-and-coming left guard. 

I loved Devin Duvernay’s role last week as a slot receiver/running back.  Besides Ehlinger, he could be the most important player on offense versus LSU. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a combination of 15 receptions and rushes this week.

I also loved the way Jake Smith handled himself in his first college game receiving punts and catching passes. 

I expressed my abiding love for Colin Johnson last week.

As for the defense, to start with, I’ve been a big fan of Malcolm Roach since the first game of his freshman year. He’s up to the role of team captain and leader of the defense.

Deondre Coburn looked solid at nose tackle in the first start of his career last week.  Sure, he’ll have growing pains but I think he’s a potential All-American as is linebacker Joseph Ossai who had one interception last week and interception return for a touchdown that was negated by a penalty.

The Longhorns have good to great players all over a defensive backfield lead by senior safety Brandon Jones and sophomore safety Caden Sterns.

The cornerbacks need to tackle better (what else is new) and maybe Kobe Boyce shouldn’t be a starting cornerback. The only thing I really didn’t like last week was when Boyce seemed to be celebrating breaking up a pass while the Louisiana Tech receiver was catching the ball and running down the field.

***********

The hopeless romantic that I am, I’m allowing myself to believe that the 2019 Longhorns just might be the “one” and I’m confident that my affection for the 2019 Longhorns after our first date will be reciprocated with a win over LSU Saturday night. 

One final thought. 

Tom Herman was born to win this game.

Hopefully I’m more perceptive now than I was on that late August night 43 years ago.

Hook “Em,
W.E.

LSU Over/Under

  • Tiebreaker: required

    Pick the winners against the line

    Texas A&M + 17.5 @ Clemson
  • Miami -5 1/2 @ The Mack Browns
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