Monday, September 17, 2007

View from the Really Cheap Seats

While I didn't make it down to Orlando for the game, I did catch the broadcast on ESPN 2. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly from the 35-32 victory at Central Florida.

The Good
Colt McCoy
In what seems to be the most frustrating job ever, Colt McCoy once again took what the defense gave him. He only tried to force a pass once and it was intercepted. Other than that Colt was extremely accurate. The most reassuring aspect of his game is his calmness and composure throughout the game. He had defensive lineman in his face the entire game and he is extremely elusive and stands tall in the pocket. Not the yardage numbers you would like, but he played well and was the reason the offense was effective.

Jamaal Charles
He had a great game running the ball, with not much room to do it. He made a lot out of nothing for many of his runs, and he finally showed his big play ability with the 46 yard touchdown run to seal the victory (even if the other team stopped because of the offsides penalty). The only real concern that cropped up from this game was the fumbles. A fumble on the two yard line that blew a touchdown opportunity and the fumble late in the 4th quarter that made the game an 11 point win, running out the clock, to a 3 point victory after a failed onside kick.

Wide Receivers
With Limas Sweed in the locker room and Billy Pittman still suspended, Nate Jones and Quan Cosby showed off their abilities as possession receivers. They did a great job of getting open all game, and anytime anything was thrown at them, they made the catch. Cosby had several amazing catches when Colt stuck the ball close. For the most part, McCoy was accurate, but even when it was off, Cosby and Jones made spectacular catches. Once the deep threats return, look for this passing game to be very dangerous. Jermichael Finley continued to improve as a third down safety valve.

Ryan Bailey
He rebounded nicely from a missed field goal in the third half. He had several long field goals in wet conditions at crucial points of the game, and all of them were directly down the middle. The most telling field goal he had, was when Texas had a 3rd and 10, and Mack decided to throw a wide receiver screen, which set up the field goal and picked up three yards. Bailey rewarded that faith and drilled the field goal. I questioned the decision at the time and still do, but it's nice to know that Bailey is looking like a reliable clutch kicker.

The Bad
The secondary still is inconsistent. They showed great athleticism and closing speed on several defensed passes, but as a whole, the unit is not very good. They are giving far too much cushion to a passing offense that was averaging around 150 yards a game. There were several opportunities to convert third and long, and Central Florida converted a 3rd and 8 and a 3rd and 14 on their two touchdown drives. Texas can't cover, and Oklahoma and Texas Tech are licking their chops.

The linebacking corps failed to impress me. They don't come off as very athletic, they take poor tackling angles, and they don't make anything happen. They get lost in the defensive line and don't tackle very well. There's nothing you can really say about it, but you can stick anyone you want in the linebacking corps and you wouldn't be able to distinguish their performance from anyone else's.

Coaching Staff
You can look anywhere you want to place blame for the coaching staff. Offensively, we ran out of shotgun too much. The offensive line isn't very good, and having them try and hold blocks for 3-4 seconds as you run out of shotgun going towards the sidelines isn't going to work. Charles broke off a few big runs, but Texas couldn't consistently run the ball all game long. They were far more effective out of the single back format, and Colt under center. Just pound the ball out of the single back formation and throw out of shotgun, you might not fool too many people, but we're talented enough it doesn't really matter. You can mix it up, but running out of shotgun consistantly doesn't fool anyone, because Colt McCoy isn't a threat to keep the ball and run.

Defensively, Texas needs to continue to bring pressure. On third and long and late in the game, Texas sat back, and let Central Florida pick them apart for 15 yards a piece. The secondary can't cover, and if we don't bring somebody, the quarterback will have too much time.

George O'Leary outcoached the Texas staff and kept his team in the game. We know that Mack isn't the best gameday coach and we accept it, because of the recruiting side of it. But going for two to make it a 13 point game instead of a 12 point game almost cost Texas the game. Decisions like that shoot your team in the foot. He also can't afford to be passive. Setting your team up for field goals on third and 10? Texas made 5 of 6 field goals, and it's a sign of not being aggressive enough once you cross the 50. We let Central Florida stay in that football game. They bounced back from 23-10, they wouldn't have tried to come back from 31-10.

The Ugly
Offensive Line
This will be the biggest reason Texas won't be able to win the Big XII title this season. The offensive line can't run block and they certainly can't pass block. It seemed like every pass play Colt was delivering the ball as he was getting knocked down, or he had to dodge two or three pass rushers before getting rid of the football. They also are not opening up holes for the running game. Central Florida was able to play Texas close because of a good gameplan. They were able to stop the running game without loading up the box, which allowed them to drop back into coverage and force Colt to dump the ball off underneath. This forced Texas to make 15 and 16 play drives to score, and eventually the drives stalled, resulting in field goals and keeping Central Florida close. This was all possible because Texas cannot lineup and pick up 6 yards a carry and force a team to stick 8 guys in the box. If Texas could force a team to stop the run, then Colt McCoy will be able to make the big plays in the passing game that we saw his freshman season. Right now, the offensive line can't run block, and Colt is running for his life, because they can't pass block either.

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