Interesting Alamo Bowl and other Willie Earl Nuggets

In the spirit of the Holiday Season, I’ve put my disappointment and dissatisfaction with Texas’ 8-4 season aside and have ginned up an interest if not excited anticipation of the Alamo Bowl matchup with Washington. Afterall, the Alamo Bowl is in the top tier of second tier bowls. It will be played in primetime the night a three-day weekend begins for people who aren’t taking the entire week off to begin with. Washington, though not the megabrand Texas is, is still a major college football brand, with a 10-2 record and are #12 in the final playoff rankings. Texas is #20.

Washington is the #1 passing team in the country averaging 376.7 yards per game and their quarterback Michael Penix is the nation’s second leading passer with 4,354 yards.  They have two receivers, Jalen McMillan and Rome Odunze with over 1,000 yards receiving. For comparison, Texas quarterbacks threw for 2,736 yards for the season and Texas’ leading receiver, Xavier Worthy has 676 yards receiving.  And Washington is no slouch running the ball with 1,740 yards total rushing. They average 40.8 points per game. Texas averages 35.7 points per game. You get the point. Washington will be the most prolific offense Texas has faced this season. 

Texas has the best defense they’ve had going back as far as I can remember. They’ve been good against mediocre to slightly above average Big 12 offenses, TCU notwithstanding, but I’m skeptical that they are an above average defense. Will they be exposed against Washington? It will be interesting to find out.

Bijan and Roschon        

With Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson opting out of this game to prepare for the NFL draft what kind of gameplan will Steve Sarkisian prepare?  During the regular season, Robinson and Johnson combined averaged 29 rushes per game totaling 2134 yards which was 80% of Texas rushing yards.  Robinson and Johnson’s rushing and receiving yards combined accounted for 49.9% of Texas’ total yards. 

Sarkisian emphasizes that his Texas team is a run first offense and the statistics bear that out. 56% of their offensive plays this season were runs.  I’m wondering if the run/pass mix against Washington will be similar with Jonathan Brooks and perhaps Jaydon Blue getting the bulk of the carries?  Maybe Keilan Robinson will get an opportunity to show that he can run effectively between the tackles.  My fear is if Brooks and Blue aren’t effective early Sarkisian will have Quinn Ewers chucking the ball all over the lot ala the Oklahoma State game when Ewers went 19 for 49 passing.

Motivation         

There shouldn’t be any lack of motivation to win this game for Texas.  The regular season was just okay and the closest thing to a signature win was beating 14th ranked Kansas State on the road. Texas missed opportunities for big wins at home against #1 Alabama and #4 TCU. 

Beating #12 Washington would be Sarkisian’s biggest win at Texas and a 9-4 versus an 8-5 record would be important to the fan base that hasn’t had much to feel good about in a long time.  Texas could really use a win in this one.

Bowl Practice Hype

Chip Brown, a good reporter who has been on the Longhorn beat for more than a decade wrote a story about Texas’ Alamo Bowl practices which included praise for Quinn Ewers on how good he has looked connecting on bombs to Xavier Worthy and how he’s cleaned up his foot work.  Why does a good reporter write one of these stories?  Since I arrived in Austin in August of 1974 I have been reading and hearing about what a great summer or great bowl practices some player or players have had.  One story in particular I remember that appeared in the Statesman was on Tyrone Swoopes about how hard he had been working and what a great summer he had had in 2015. He’s going to surprise people this year! Well, he was benched after the first game of the season that Texas lost 38-3 to Notre Dame.  I think Ewers could turn out to be a very good quarterback but spare me the glowing reports about practice performances and habits.  Hey, you should’ve seen me at the driving range last week.

History Lesson

Did you youngsters out there know that Steve Sarkisian isn’t the only Texas head coach to have done time as the Washington coach?  Darrell Royal coached Washinton for one season in 1956 before coming to Austin in 1957.

Texas is 3-1 all time against Washington. Texas played a home and home series with Washington in 1974-’75 winning 35-21 in Ausitn and 28-10 in Seattle. Washington beat Texas 14-7 in the 1979 Sun Bowl. Texas beat Washington 47-43 in the 2001 Holiday Bowl rallying from 16-point 4th quarter deficit. Major Applewhite was 37 for 55 passing with four touchdowns and three interceptions.

Playoff Pressure

You’re Steve Sarkisian in 2024. You’re coming off a 10-4 season in 2023 that included a Fiesta Bowl win and Big 12 Championship game loss to Oklahoma. Your team didn’t make the four-team playoff.  Are you thankful that in 2024 the playoff is expanding to 12 teams giving your team a greater opportunity to qualify?  Yes, I suppose. But doesn’t a 12-team playoff create a “Your team better qualify or else” situation? How many seasons of not qualifying for the 12-team playoff would Steve Sarkisian get before Chris Del Conte and company would have to move on?

Mike Leach

I always enjoyed Mike Leach and thought he was an overachieving coach.  I didn’t realize until he died the seemingly universal respect and affection there was for him by former players, coaches, administrators, and just about anyone who crossed paths with him.

In 2009 I thought when Kent Hance and the Texas Tech administration sided with the Craig James crime family in the made-up scandal involving James’s son Adam and fired Leach that they had made a huge blunder. They rushed to judgement and succumbed to media pressure.

Leach was 84-43 at Texas Tech.  They were 11-2 in 2008 and played in the Big 12 Championship game. Leach’s team won 9 games or more in five of his 10 seasons in Lubbock. Leach never had a losing season at Texas Tech.

In the 13 seasons since Tech fired Leach, they have had four different head coaches. The most games they’ve won in a season is eight and they have done that only three times. They’ve had seven losing seasons. Their overall record since they fired Leach is 78-82.

Over/Under 2022

Responding to popular demand the staff at Willie Earl’s Longhorn blog have tabulated the total number of correct answers by the top players in 2022 through the end of the regular season. Going into the Alamo Bowl Dan Adams, Greg Swan, and Mark Adams are tied for #1 with 80 correct answers. All three competed in every game including the Off Week contest.

David Frink is alone in fourth place with 76 correct. David might have been alone in first place if he had managed to get his TCU entry submitted. Oh well, we all struggle with technology from time to time. He still has a chance to win if he nails the Alamo Bowl and Mark, Greg, and Dan falter. Willie Earl’s advanced metrics say there is 1.9% chance that David could win. There’s a 14.4 % chance that he will finish in the top 3.

Here’s the standings of the top 10 players.

Greg Swan           80

Mark Adams        80

Dan Adams          80

David Frink          76

Clayton Frink       71

Mitch Frink          71

Helen Frink         67

Tyler Cotton        62

Andy Garrod       60

It will be exciting to watch Greg, Mark, Dan, and David coming down the stretch in the 2022 finale!

1 Comment to “Interesting Alamo Bowl and other Willie Earl Nuggets”

  1. Hello willieearl.com admin, Your posts are always well-referenced and credible.

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