Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Clutch or Holding on for Dear Life?

For the second straight week, the Longhorns made a furious fourth quarter comeback to win by 3 against an inferior opponent. At least this week, it was on the road against a formidable Oklahoma State team that has played well since switching to Zac Robinson at quarterback. While it wasn't as bad as pulling out a home win against a Nebraska opponent that win on to lose 76-39 to Kansas, it was still very bad.

Perhaps the only area that Texas didn't struggle was in the kicking game, as Ryan Bailey continued his exceptional season, kicking a game winner as time expired earning himself the Big XII Special Teams player of the week award for the second consecutive week. Justin Moore had a solid game punting the ball as well. You know it's never a good sign when you have to start your recap of the game off talking about the kicker and punter.

Oklahoma State should get as much credit for this victory as Texas should. Through three quarters, Oklahoma State marched up and down the field on Texas, getting whatever they wanted offensively. The secondary had no answer for Adarius Bowman and Brandon Pettigrew, but even more alarming was the way they were able to shred the defensive line, picking up yards on the ground. Texas was especially poor on first down, consistently giving up 4 or 5 yards, making it easy for the Cowboys to march down the field. I think we've hammered home how terrible the linebackers are, and the absence of Sergio Kindle was evident as Scott Derry and Robert Killebrew got unhealthy amounts of playing time. I think the only amazing thing is that I would take Scott Derry over another player, that's how bad Killebrew is. However, once the 4th quarter rolled around, aggressive coach Mike Gundy called the dogs off and went into a milk the clock conservative offense. This strategy allowed Texas to load the box, make the necessary stops and put the ball back in the offense's hands. Oklahoma State continued to stay in this mode until Texas tied the score at 35. Then the Cowboys marched back down the field like they had in the first 3 quarters, until they missed the 32 yard field goal. It is unbelievable that Gundy went into an offensive shell, and if he hadn't, this game would've ended 56-28 OSU.

Offensively, Colt McCoy continues to struggle. He is getting to the point where he is due for a few bad decisions or bad throws per game. It doesn't help that his receivers are playing inconsistently and dropping balls, like the sure touchdown pass to Cosby and the interception that Nate Jones should have held on to. Part of the problem is Texas' decision to establish the pass before the run. In the 1st quarter Texas had 3 carries by running backs, and had 2 carries by running backs in the 3rd quarter. It's not surprising that Texas didn't score in either of those quarters. Texas is coming back to their most effective part of the team too late in games. The line is improving each and every game, and Jamaal Charles is playing the best football of his career, and Vondrell McGee has taken the short yardage and goal line pressure of Charles. Together, Texas has formed a powerful running attack that has been showcased in the 4th quarter of their last two games.

The other reason Texas needs to utilize the running game more is the disarray of the passing game. Texas is sorely missing Limas Sweed's deep threat as Billy Pittman has been non-existent this season, and Jordan Shipley is not the imposing physical receiver that Texas has relied on over the past several years. Texas has also hasn't exploited Jermichael Finley deep down the middle of the field as he was able to do against Oklahoma. He is definitely involved in the offense now, but he still hasn't been able to break off the large chunks of yardage like he did on his touchdown reception in the first half. Without Limas Sweed drawing safety help, Finley is being covered in the middle of the field. But most importantly Colt McCoy is still trying to do too much and making too many mistakes.

Last season he played within himself and used the weapons that were around him. Texas ran the football and let Colt distribute the ball to his weapons. This season, the plan to make Colt the focal point has backfired as Colt has been inconsistent, gotten hit too many times, and is trying to make up the difference in the weaknesses in his receiving corps. The last two weeks Texas has won football games because they pounded the ball with Jamaal Charles late in games. Facing weak defenses with high powered offense, Texas needs to be pounding the ball throughout the game to keep the defense fresh, and better yet, off the field.

The past two weeks Texas has resembled a team playing on borrowed time. The human polls have recognized that this is not a very good football team despite the 8-2 record, by dropping Texas in both the Coaches and Harris polls. You could make the case that Texas should not have beaten Nebraska, but they definitely should not have beaten the Pokes. Texas needs to improve to be able to win against Texas Tech and the season finale at College Station. The only problem is, I don't think the improvement is there. I think this is our team, and we're going to have to squeak out a way to win the rest of the season.

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