Exposed

How quickly the fortunes of war and a college football team can change.  So there the “royal we” were, rocking along on a six-game winning streak, ranked sixth nationally, and alone in first place in the Big 12.  But the loss to a below average, 4-3 Oklahoma State last Saturday not only exposed the Longhorns as a top 10 team pretender and dropped them into a tie for first place in the Big 12, it also exposed some serious defensive personnel  and troubling coaching flaws.

With the prospects of a truly great season and a Big 12 Championship on the line, how does Texas come out as flat as Head East’s biggest hit single in Stillwater?  Evidently the same way they came out flat in the opening game of the season against Maryland.  These two games were cut from the same cloth and I don’t know how you can rest blame anywhere but with Tom Herman and his coaching staff.

We know what Mike Gundy and his staff were doing during their off-week before the game. They were formulating a game plan that focused on attacking Texas’ defensive personnel weaknesses and then coached their team into executing it nearly to perfection during the first half which essentially won them the game.

What were Herman and his staff doing during the off-week?  Maybe they were preoccupied—like the media who covers them—with recruiting.  Whatever the case, they were clearly outcoached and out prepared by Gundy and his staff.

Through eight games this season, I count four of them, Maryland, Tulsa, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State as games in which Texas looked underprepared and under-motivated. They were fortunate to hang on and beat undermanned Tulsa and Kansas State teams.  The under-motivated part of this equation is baffling and I can’t account for it. I do have some thoughts on Herman and his staff’s tendencies to bring their team into games underprepared.

Defensive personnel

After one Oklahoma’s four touchdown passes against Texas, I turned to my son Bob sitting next to me in the Cotton Bowl and commented, “I don’t see why P.J. Locke plays at all.”  Smarter football people than me who breakdown game film for a living have been making the same observation—with details to back up the assertion—since the  start of this season.  Locke (#11) plays Nickle Back which is a hybrid linebacker-safety position. In the pass-happy Big 12, Locke, on a majority of plays is responsible for covering a receiver.  This may be a slight exaggeration, but when observed on television, Locke, on many plays, isn’t in the picture when his man is catching a pass.  He seems to be out of position much of the time which also causes him to frequently miss tackles.  It was clear that part of Oklahoma State’s game plan was to throw passes to whomever Locke was responsible for covering.

Josh Thompson (#29) is Locke’s backup.  A sophomore and a four-star recruit, Thompson is considered to be more athletic and generally more talented than Locke.  Thompson is smaller than Locke and considered as capable in run support.  Locke, a senior, is also more experienced than Thompson.  The coaching staff has stubbornly stuck with Locke, a senior, mainly I suppose because they’re more comfortable with his experience.

Oklahoma State’s game-sealing third down conversion for a first down with 1:37 left in the game happened because Texas linebacker Anthony Wheeler blew his assignment to cover the backside of the play.  It’s clear that Wheeler is slow- footed for a linebacker and still struggles with fundamental defensive principles such as backside containment as outlined above.   That he’s a starter is perplexing but again it seems that the coaching staff sticks with him because he’s a senior.

Locke and Wheeler are weak links that Orlando needs to figure out how to scheme around if he’s unwilling to replace them. Know for sure that West Virginia—like Oklahoma State—will be coming after them.

Offensive game plans

In the Oklahoma game, Texas’ offensive game plan was aggressive and exploited Oklahoma’s defensive weaknesses.  In that game and, to a lesser extent, the USC and TCU games, it was obvious that Texas had an offensive game plan designed specifically to attack those team’s weaknesses.

Early in the season (I think it was after the Maryland game) Tom Herman was asked a question about the offensive game plan.  The pull quote from the answer to that question was, “We’re just going to run our stuff.” This in contrast to how Mike Gundy’s game plan against Texas that took advantage of specific defensive weaknesses.

Other than the three games mentioned above, and especially the Oklahoma State game, Herman’s offense just ran “our stuff.”   This is lazy game preparation.

West Virginia

Watch for Will Grier and the West Virginia offense to go after P.J. Locke and Anthony Wheeler and watch what Todd Orland tries—if anything to counteract those tactics.

On paper, West Virginia has a better defense than Texas giving up less than 20 points per game.  You’d think that Tom Herman and his offensive staff are looking at West Virginia’s only loss of the season to Iowa State in which Iowa State held the ball for 37:22 and rushed for 244 yards.  We’ll find out if they have been or if they’re just going to run “our stuff.”

HooK “Em,

W.E.

5 Comments to “Exposed”

  1. My calling in life is to teach clock management to the dumb asses who coach football. UT had the ball against a team that was obviously powerless to stop them in a game in which you knew the last team with the ball would win. Willie Earl, who could also teach that class, texted me after the UT TD catch that we scored too early. The strategy is to run the clock down and score as time was expiring. A FG was all we needed. So frustrating!

  2. Will be difficult to fix defense after performances against Baylor& OK State. And last quarter against Sooners.

    Maybe we can out score em!!!!!

  3. Just wanted to make sure you were reading me.

  4. Flat As A Pancake was an album, not a hit single. Let’s hope the loss to OSU was more of a one off than a precursor for a season in decline. There’s Never Been Any Reason for me to think we can’t right the ship.

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