Things in my head:
- Big news on Monday- Texas secured a commitment from junior college OT Desmond Harrison. The ramifications of this are HUGE. We will get more into that in the coming weeks.
- Congratulations to Chykie Brown, Justin Tucker, Tarell Brown and Leonard Davis on making it to the Super Bowl. The Ravens vs. the 49ers means two Horns will get rings.
- I didn’t even know Leonard Davis was on the 49ers until I saw Jim Harbaugh scream at him to get off the field. Good for you, big man.
- I don’t like the Patriots, so I am enjoying them not being in the playoffs.
- As far as Texas basketball goes, I don’t like the Patriots.
- Less than two weeks away from the start of Texas baseball.
The Bad 5
Last week we broke down five plays that went Texas’ way and helped the team along to an 8-4 record, culminating in the Alamo Bowl win. This week let’s take a look at five plays that did not go Texas’ way and helped the team along to an 8-4 record that culminated in the Alamo Bowl win.
Let’s do this! In descending order:
No.5: Defensive Indifference
Texas had an uphill battle heading to Kansas State the last weekend of the regular season: the first problem was the venue. The Horns had lost in Manhattan in a fantastically bad effort in 2010. It was the lowest point of the lowest season. In 2006 Texas lost Colt McCoy, the game and the chance to defend their National Championship up there. Secondly, this was K-State, who had been just as successful against Texas in Austin as they were in Manhattan. In fact, the Wildcats had won the last four over the Longhorns and 2011 aside, they weren’t really close. Third, David Ash was out after the injury before/ during the TCU game the week before (ribs, which we will get to shortly) meaning punter Alex King was the backup behind Case McCoy. Fourth, this K-State team was really mad. They blew a chance at playing for the National Title two weeks earlier in the loss to Baylor and had the previous week off to stew. Fifth, this K-State team was really, really, really good. Oh, and it was Senior Day for Heisman candidate Collin Klein, playing in his last home game in front of all the fans, his wife and the Heisman voters. To say the Horns had a lot of obstacles to overcome was an understatement.
The play on the field didn’t help early on, either. both teams traded punts on the first drive, and then Case McCoy throw a poor out route- POOR- that was picked off at the Texas 25 on the first play of Texas’ second offensive drive. It was returned for a touchdown. En route to the end zone K-State DB Nigel Malone dropped the ball as he crossed the goal line, an innocent enough gesture. The ball rolled to a stop at the one as his teammates mobbed him. It was initially ruled a touchdown, but the officials reviewed the play. It turns out he did not score, but instead Desean Jackson’d it, dropping it before he crossed the goal line, and it stopped on the one. See for yourself . It took awhile to sort out and this is what they saw: After the play as K-State celebrated and Texas’ offense left the field and both special teams units ran on, the ball sat in at the one untouched. Since neither Texas or K-State covered the ball, it was ruled “defensive indifference” and K-State was awarded the ball where it was dropped (the one) and one play later Klein punched it in and it was 7-0.
Texas rallied as McCoy hit 19 straight passes and the Horns fought and scratched their way to 17-14 third quarter lead and trailed 28-17 early in the fourth before it got away from them. A missed field goal and a fumbled punt return cost Texas points and led to K-State points, swinging the game from 28-20 to 35-17, and the final score (after a second interception returned to the 10) was 42-24, Midwest Purple.
I don’t think if Texas had jumped on the dropped ball at the one the game would have gone much different, but the opportunity to get one of those crazy, once-in-a-season breaks that underdogs can get on the road against a heavily favored opponent was there and, at the very least, K-State’s first touchdown of the day comes later on and not right then. And who knows? That game looks a lot different when headed to the fourth quarter if it’s 17-14 rather than 21-17, doesn’t it?
No.4: The Miss
This one took some time to vet. Texas’ loss to West Virginia, 48-45, had a lot moments that, had they gone the other way, probably lead to a Texas victory, but two stick out: the time out and the missed field goal. You could go either way with this one, and I went with the field goal, but let’s take a look at both.
Tied at 7 in the first quarter, West Virginia faced a 4th & 4 at the Texas 40-yard line. The Mountaineers went for it and at the snap the Texas sideline called timeout, but play continued. Couch Fires did not pick up the first down and the crowd went nuts, so nuts that they didn’t hear the whistles and play being blown dead. There was no play, so it was still fourth down. With a second chance, WVA not only got the first down, but scored when Geno Smith hit Tavon Austin over the middle and he then raced to the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown reception. 14-7, Mountaineers. An argument could be made that had Texas not called time out, they force the turnover and get the ball at midfield; however, I think the WVA players heard the whistle and stopped at the snap, or at least enough of them did to compromise the play. I’ve watched it a few times and I’m sure that is the case, which means the time out was not the game-changing play it would it would appear to be. Probably.
As for the missed field goal, I know you remember that. Texas had just turned it over on downs at the WVA 39. Trailing 41-38 with 8:09 in the game, the defense made a play. Alex Okafor sacked Geno Smith and forced a fumble, recovered by Chris Whaley at the Mountaineer 12. Facing a 3rd & 6 at the 8-yard line, center Dominic Espinosa and Ash got their wires crossed on the shotgun snap and Ash mishandled it and lost 16 yards in the process. Texas had blown a golden opportunity to take the lead, but a field goal would have tied it. Except it didn’t because Texas missed it. Trailing by three with 5:25 to play, the Texas defense wilted under the power of the WVA offense and allowed an 8-play, 76-yard drive that consumed 4:13 and ended with a five-yard Andrew Buie touchdown run and a 10-point ’Neer lead with 1:12 to play. A late Texas score cut the lead to three, which was the final.
A field goal in that situation may not change the outcome: the Mountaineers still drove down the field for a touchdown and that might have happened anyway, but Texas’ response with 1:12 to play completely changes when they have a chance to tie the game with 15 seconds left rather than make it a closer loss.
No.3: Thanksgiving Turnover(s)
After throttling Iowa State at home and honoring Darrell Royal, Texas climbed to No.15 and went to the bye week 8-2, winners of four straight. During the bye week, top-rated Kansas State lost to Baylor and it opened the door for Texas to slide into a Big 12 Championship with two wins in their final two games. But first things, first: Texas needed to beat an undermanned TCU team…
And they did not. The Longhorns came out flat as a pancake, there was no energy from the burnt orange in the crowd and the offense struggled all night. Dealing with some injured ribs, David Ash looked like a different player Thanksgiving night. It is unclear when he hurt those ribs. Some say it was on the late hit on the game’s opening possession. Some say it was in practice leading up to the game and that late hit aggravated them. He didn’t run well or throw well and was picked off twice and fumbled once, but that wasn’t the whole story. It was the impact of those turnovers. The first pick came on the opening drive when Texas stuffed it right down TCU’s throat. On first down from the TCU 30, Ash looked deep for Mike Davis, but the ball was underthrown badly and he was picked off at the 6-yard line. TCU marched right down the field and scored for a 7-0 lead. After making a field goal and a missed TCU field goal, Texas once again marched right down the field. This time, facing a 2nd & 10 from the TCU 18, Ash tried to throw it over the middle and it was picked off at the 2-yard line. Texas forced a punt, but rolling out to pass on his own 27, David Ash lost the ball out of his hand and TCU recovered it at the Texas 16. Of course they punched it in for a 14-3 halftime lead that seemed like 100-3. The second half started better- an interception on the opening drive and a field goal- but TCU chipped away at the defense and held a 20-6 lead late in the fourth quarter. Ash had been pulled for Case McCoy, but he wasn’t faring much better against the Southwest Purple defense. With 5:58 to play Texas made a run. McCoy led Texas on a 9-play, 82-yard drive that ended in a Jeremy Hills touchdown catch. The crowd came to life and the defense forced a 3 & Out. An 11-yard punt return set Texas up at their own 34 with 1:44 to play. On the first play McCoy scrambled out of trouble for 14 yards, stepping out of bounds at the 47. The next play the same thing happened: McCoy felt the heat and rolled to his right. He had at least 10 or so yards to run and had he run, Texas has a first down at about the TCU 40ish yard line with 1:20 or so to play. Plenty of time. But he didn’t run. Instead he lofted a pass into traffic, throwing on the run, and it was picked off by TCU. The Frogs ran out the clock and won the game.
It wasn’t all the turnovers (dropped passes, missed tackles, blown coverages, no help up front) but three of them directly cost Texas points: the two interceptions from Ash took at least six points off the board and the fumble gifted TCU a touchdown: With my limited math skills, that makes the score 19-13, Texas. If any one of those four turnovers doesn’t happen, the game likely ends completely differently. It was a bad loss and the most frustrating of the season, but I put this at No.3 for two reasons: First, it doesn’t really change much for Texas in the big scheme of things. The sooners beat West Virginia and Oklahoma State in their final two games, so Texas wasn’t going to have a realistic shot at winning the Big 12 even if they beat Kansas State. Second, it probably means Texas would have faced Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. I am very happy that didn’t happen.
No.2: The Tunnel
There is no reason to sugarcoat it. Texas lost the ou game when they left the Cotton Bowl tunnel in the pre-game. I am neither proud nor boastful about that, but it’s true. This isn’t one moment like the others, but there was a moment for all of you that Saturday afternoon when you said “uh, oh.” Mine just might have been earlier than yours.
THIS HAS TO STOP.
No.1: The Injury
Texas went to Ole Miss and smacked the Rebels around their own yard, but it wasn’t without a very high cost. Texas led the game, 17-7, with 11 minutes to play in the second quarter. The Rebels were driving, but it had stalled at the Texas 21 as they had a 3rd & 18. It seemed like Ole Miss was resigned to a field goal after a very short pass netted no yards, but Jordan Hicks was called for a personal foul on quarterback Bo Wallace, giving them a first down. The penalty was fairly harmless in the big scheme of the game: Texas sacked Wallace twice and Ole Miss ended up kicking a field goal from a yard farther back (the 22) than before the penalty, but that wasn’t the story. After the flag, Hicks painfully limped off the field. It was the last time we’d see him play in 2012. For the next several weeks, Hicks was “questionable” with a hip injury. If you follow the Texas lingo at all, you know “questionable” is not questionable at all. There was little doubt after a few weeks that Hicks’ injury was serious and he was going to be done for the season.
It was widely known going into the season that Hicks was the leader of the linebacking unit. He was also one of the mouthpieces of the defense; a guy the others could relate to and would follow. He was the best tackler, the most experienced and the most knowledgeable lb on the team. He was the one who got everyone lined up correctly and made sure everyone knew the call, both in the linebacking corps and up front. His loss was catastrophic at times as you saw on the field against ou, K-State, TCU and even in some of the wins. I’ll take it step further and say had Hicks been healthy and playing the nonsense that happened in San Antonio with him probably doesn’t happen, because he would have been a starter preparing to play. I think ESPN and the media as a whole did a very poor job of explaining Hicks was out for the year with that hip injury. In fact, I’m not sure I ever saw that. I don’t know how different the outcomes would have been, but I think the defense would have been more technically sound in many cases had he been there.
Sorry to bring everyone down, but like I said, we needed to talk about the good and the bad, right?
See you next week!