FROM THE STANDS: Bye Week

“Awesome. One of the most fun games I have been to in a long time. Texas jumped out early and then saw K-State storm back. In the end the defense shut down The Purple when they had to… Kansas State had the ball twice in the last 5 minutes, but the Texas defense held them.”

I wrote that October 5, 2003. It was the last time Texas beat Kansas State.  The Longhorns were limping into the game after an SEC team came in and dominated them earlier in the year with  a stronger will, better effort and better game.

Also in 2003, Lance Armstrong had just won his fifth Tour de France, the Do Not Call List was created to avoid telemarketers, Apple unveiled a little program called iTunes and three days after Texas beat K-State, California elected Arnold Schwartzenegger governor. In 2003 I dyed my hair shock white/blond, Everyone was still calling him “Vincent” Young, the Horns were a few months away from bringing in Greg Robinson to try and fix a bad defense and ou loomed on the horizon. And here we are, 10 years later. Texas is reeling from a loss to an SEC team at home, “Vince” doesn’t even need a last name in Austin, Greg Robinson is back to try and fix a bad defense, my hair has “gray highlights” according to several of you and ou looms on the horizon.

Remember, also, in that K-State game Texas was shuffling quarterbacks as Chance Mock was the starter and Vince was the change-of-pace player. The problem headed to Dallas was Vince had his foot turned backwards and while he played in that game, no one was sure how his ankle would respond. 10 years later we head to the bye week with David Ash’s status uncertain and the sooners two weeks away.

It’s a similar plot, isn’t it?

Game 4

KANSAS STATE 21 TEXAS 31

Texas got the K-State monkey off their back, winning for the first time in six games, but the cost is high. Let’s take a look. Here’s what I saw on Saturday night:

Quarterbacks: I think the bigger issue is not how the quarterback played, but if the quarterback will play again. David Ash returned from a concussion last week and had a solid first half, running and throwing with confidence and hitting on some big plays, namely the perfect strike for a 63-yard touchdown to Kendall Sanders. He went to the half with 166 yards passing and a touchdown as well as 27 yards rushing, but he didn’t return. Diagnosed with symptoms of a concussion, he was held out of the second half and once again Case McCoy came in and played well, going 5-9 for 59 yards and committed no turnovers and didn’t try to do too much and get the offense in trouble. The Longhorns controlled the ground game and made the qb the hander-offer for most of the game. It was solid day from both guys.

We will get back to David Ash later on, but as for as the K-State game goes McCoy and Ash managed the game well and led Texas to a much needed win.

Running Backs: Hello, Jonathan Gray. The sophomore made his presence known on the national stage with a 141-yard, two-touchdown performance on Saturday night. The effort earned him Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors and everything that got you excited about him in high school was on display Saturday night at DKR: the vision, the power, the speed and the athleticism… HOWEVER, if you would just pick your feet up, Mr. Gray, you’d have been easily over 200 yards. Yes, I am being nitpicky, I know that. But still, pick’em up, kid, and you have an even better day. I’ll take it every time, though.

Malcolm Brown was on his way to 100-yard day (9 carries, 42 yards, one touchdown) but sometimes you have to ride the hot hand and the hot hand on Saturday night was Gray. But better than his running was his blocking. He slid into the fullback role in the two-back set and cleared the way with a great lead block for Gray on one touchdown. That’s the sort of thing that gets things turned around. Guys putting the team above themselves. Brown did that on Saturday night and it didn’t go unnoticed by Kirk Herbstreit, his teammates and coaches or me. Well done, Mr. Brown.

Again with the bouncing outside. Joe Bergeron needs to remember he’s Joe Bergeron and get up field and punish people, not try and beat everyone to the pylon on the edge.

Excellent day from the backs as a whole.

Wide Outs/Tight Ends: The biggest (good) news on the offensive side of the ball was the emergence of Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson. After a great summer camp, Johnson was sidelined with a knee injury early in the season but you could see why everyone likes him so much on Saturday night. He had an NFL catch for a first down on 3rd & 5 when David Ash found him in between the levels of the zone defense. He laid the ball right on the sideline, 20 yards downfield, and Johnson extended, caught it and managed to drop his toe AND drag his foot for the first down, setting Texas up in the red zone and the first score of the night. It was a fantastic catch. He had five catches for 70 yards and, like Malcolm Brown, he took his game to the next level with outstanding blocking. He straight-up owned his man downfield, opening the way for Brown’s touchdown and setting up another by sealing the corner outside and allowing the back to cut back inside. It was a terrific night in all aspects for Johnson.

As for Sanders, he stepped into the playmaker role with Mike Davis and Daje Johnson out. His touchdown catch was a product of pure speed as the corner knew what he was doing but had no ability to stay with him and Ash delivered a perfect pass, which Sanders turned into points. He had a good night against Ole Miss and even better night Saturday, finishing with three catches for 80 yards and a score. His blocking was also terrific.

Jaxon Shipley had a clutch catch on fourth down to set up a touchdown and tight end Geoff Swaim continues to show why  he’s the starter as he did an excellent job of sealing the edge for the running game and added a 9-yard reception as well.

For a unit missing their best player they stepped up in every possible way. Outstanding.

Offensive Line:  Best game of the year. Best game in a long while. Game balls to Donald Hawkins and Trey Hopkins. I am an old offensive lineman so I know I’m biased, but that leg whip was a garbage call, especially when you consider what K-State got away with on special teams. GARBAGE.

I know it wasn’t the best dl in the country, but well done, fellas. Use it as a step.

Defensive Line: The set the edge. Only a few times did K-State get their backs/qbs downfield on long runs off the zone read or outside rush and that’s because the ends did a great job of setting the edge and not allowing them room to run. Jackson Jeffcoat was a beast, but the stats don’t even do his effort justice. He had five tackles, but all night when they ran at him he held the edge and allowed the rest of the defense to swarm in and make plays. And when they threw the ball he was a monster. JJ had two sacks and two more pressures and you could see the quarterback aware of him every time he dropped back to pass. That effort won him the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week award. More of that, please. On the other side, Cedric Reed continues to impress, adding a sack, a forced fumble and batted down pass to the defensive numbers. Just like Jeffcoat, his numbers don’t tell the story of a guy who held the edge and didn’t allow the Kansas State running game to get going. Great job, guys.

Inside Malcom Brown showed why I think he’s going to be a terror: go back and watch him tackle the quarterback AND the running back on the zone read play again. Terrific. He’s so big and athletic he’s hard for an offense to control (even in the two losses there was little if any room in the middle because of his presence) BUT YOU CANNOT JUMP OFFSIDES ON FOURTH DOWN. I’m sure he’ll be paying  for that this week because that is Not Our Standard, but he’ll be fine. Great game from the tackles in general as the trio of Brown, Chris Whaley and Desmond Jackson had seven tackles including a sack and two for loss (all from Brown) as well as two fumble recoveries.

Amazing what happens when you play technically sound, fundamental football on the defensive line, isn’t it? Well done.

Linebackers:  I said, it’s amazing what happens when you play technically sound, fundamental football on the defensive line, isn’t it? There is work to be done, but the unit as a whole was much better. But there was a heavy toll: gone for the year is Jordan Hicks, who is one of the leaders of the defense and the best linebacker on the team. He ruptured a tendon in his ankle, possibly the achilles. Godspeed, Mr. Hicks. That’s a tough injury to recover from. Also gone for the first half of the Iowa State game is Steve Edmond, who was hit with targeting for his helmet-to-helmet shot on quarterback Jake Waters. YOU CANNOT DO THAT, STEVE EDMOND. Not only was unnecessary (the play was whistled dead) but it is dangerous and will be a flag every single time. While I applaud your aggressiveness, that’s the sort of thing that gets you to the bench permanently.

Texas has a week off to find some answers at linebacker. It’s a shame that Hicks is lost, because the unit was playing well.

Secondary: It was clear that Greg Robinson’s approach going into the game was this: if you want us beat us, you are going to have to throw to do it. Texas committed their front seven and their safeties to stopping the run and left the corners outside to deal with the passing game. And it worked, because Texas won the game.

But that doesn’t mean the corners get a pass. If these guys are truly the NFL-type cornerbacks I think they are, they have to handle that. You can’t let the best receiver, the only receiver, on the other team get behind you late in the game when you KNOW that other team has to throw deep to score. THAT CANNOT HAPPEN. You guys are better than that. Right? Right??

I thought the safeties, playing a more traditional role with less responsibilities, looked like safeties. They tackled well, took better angles and seemed a lot more comfortable in Robinson scheme.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was much, much better. A week off should help and they’ll need it, because the teams coming up throw and run very well.

Special Teams: OUTSTANDING. Texas held the terrifically dangerous return men for Kansas State in check all night. And yes, I am completely discounting and ignoring the final punt return for Kansas State because there were two blocks in the back AT LEAST. I saw three, possibly four, that could have been called. If that was a fair catch in the TCU/Tech game, those sure as bleep were blocks in the back.

What about ADT? Alex De La Torre took a fake punt 19 yards to set up a touchdown with Texas leading 17-7 in the third quarter. It was exactly the type of play I always stress needs to happen for a team to break through. Texas got one, and they got one against the team that they never, ever seem to get one against.

Anthony Fera missed a field goal, but Texas clearly won the head-to-head match up. Kendall Sanders and Jaxon Shipley were oh so close to popping a long return, weren’t they?

Week 5

TEXAS (2-2/1-0)   BYE

No one has needed a bye week this bad in the history of Texas football.

The priorities of this bye week:

  • Health. Texas needs to get Mike Davis, Daje Johnson and the offensive linemen healthy. A week to sit, ice/heat/repeat and heal will go along way towards getting them there. No one is ever 100% during a football season, but this off-week will get them closer. I expect Johnson and Davis to be back for Iowa State.

  • I don’t know what to expect from David Ash at this point. I see a guy that’s had to leave with two head injuries in consecutive games he’s played. If he’s cleared, he’ll play, but the process of getting cleared is far more extensive and detailed now, if they even allow him to try and play. I just don’t know. I assume no and Texas moves forward with Case McCoy and Tyrone Swoopes. This week will be about getting those two guys ready to play in Ames and if Ash gets cleared and ready to go, then we adjust, but I plan for the worst case if I’m in charge.

  • On the other side of the ball, Greg Robinson gets a mini-spring practice to install some things for his defense without having to worry about game-planning for anyone. He gets to mix and match and find some linebackers, move some people around and get some much-needed reps in for his unit.

Texas got some confidence back last week, and now it’s time to build on that. I liked the four sacks, the emergence of Sanders and Johnson, the breakout day for J. Gray and the overall energy and attitude of the team. Enjoy the week off, boys, and heal up and rest. Back at it next week.

Last Week in the Big 12

No.11 OKLAHOMA STATE (3-0)   BYE

No.12 oklahoma (3-0/1-0)   BYE

IOWA STATE (0-2)   BYE

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 10 KANSAS 13
The Jayhawks came back to score 10 unanswered fourth quarter points for their first win over a I-A opponent in two years. Congrats, La Tech, you are now in the record books.

 WEST VIRGINIA 0 Maryland Terrapins 37
Turns out nothing good happens in Baltimore in the daytime, either. The Land of Burning Couch was held to 175 total yards, had as many turnovers (six) as first downs and made the Under Armour Test Lab that is Maryland look like the Denver Broncos. I’m not sure who the qb is at WVA right now, but they should change to someone else. That was ugly, and I don’t just mean Maryland’s helmets.

Louisiana Monroe Warhawks 7 No.20 BAYLOR 70
Remember in 2008 when ou ran the score up on everyone and their grandparents to win the hearts and minds of the voters who only see scores on the ESPN ticker before they vote and it helped them climb in the polls? That’s 2013 Baylor, it seems. No confirmation on the rumor I just started about them playing the Waco-area Lane Bryant All Stars to open the season next year. They will score 100 on you, ladies. Believe it. Enjoy your week off from this killer non-conference schedule.

Texas State Bobcats 7 No.25 TEXAS TECH 33
The Bobcats held tough, limiting Tech only one first half touchdown and that was a returned fumble. It was 13-7 Tech in the third quarter before the Red Raiders opened it up. What was Randy Quaid’s name in Dead Solid Perfect? It should have been Davis Webb, because it’s awesome. Not sure if it’s better than Baker Mayfield, but awesome nonetheless. Anyway, he came in for Mayfield in the second half to ignite the offense and get the win, but the Bobcats played very well. If Fran can get some more talent to the River, he’s got something cooking. And being at the river in the summertime and seeing all the trappings it has to offer, it shouldn’t be that hard of a sell.

 

This Week in the Big 12

TEXAS (2-2/1-0)   BYE

No.18 BAYLOR (3-0)   BYE

No.25 TEXAS TECH (4-0/1-0)   BYE

KANSAS STATE (2-2/0-1)   BYE

KANSAS (2-1)   BYE

 

Thursday, September 26th

 IOWA STATE (0-2) @ Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (1-2)   6:30pm   Fox Sports 1
Why is Iowa State playing at Tulsa? That shouldn’t happen. Anyway, we get a preview of the next opponent on Thursday night and I’m curious to see how they look. If they drop this game it’s going to affect the kids in the stands the following week. Check that, it will affect the timing of the kids of the stands next week. A win and they are there, wearing their Christian Ponder jerseys and yelling at Texas fans until the fourth quarter. If they lose, they will be there in their Christian Ponder jerseys and yelling at Texas fans until at least halftime. Like Texas last week, they need some good things to happen early to keep their fan base tuned in and participating. I like Paul Rhoads, but this team is struggling. A loss and they lose a big portion of their home field advantage next week in my opinion. Again, they need some good things to happen and I just don’t see enough good things happening this week and I think the Clones are on the way to 0-3.

Saturday, September 28th

No.11 OKLAHOMA STATE (3-0) @ WEST VIRGINIA (2-2/0-1)   11am   ABC
This is going to be a bloodbath. The Mountaineers are 110th in the nation in points scored and leave their defense on the field waaaaaay too long. This might be competitive for a series, but eventually Oklahoma State is going to get the ball and they are going to score. And then again. And again. And again. You get the idea. This anemic offense will have no answer. A long day awaits West Virginia as Ok. State rolls

SMU Mustangs (1-2) @ TCU (1-2)   11am   Fox Sports 1
SMU is doing their best to resurrect the Southwest Conference, playing Tech, A&M and TCU in the first four games. And Houston is scheduled down the road. Don’t know why you’re ducking Rice, Ponies. Seems like you should finish what you start. And you also should have Baker Mayfield on your team. Don’t know how a kid can play quarterback in this state with that name and not be at SMU. It’s like if he was a third basement he’d have to be a Texas Longhorn. It just makes sense. Oh, TCU is going to turn GG over five times at least. Probably. I’m still stuck on the Mayfield-at-SMU scenario.

No.22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-1) @ No.14 oklahoma (3-0/1-0)   2:30   NBC
Where was Ruxin last week on The League? It isn’t the same without him insulting everyone all the time. And what the hell am I supposed to do next Sunday? The series finale of Breaking Bad and the season premier of Homeland are right on top of each other. RIGHT. ON. TOP. OF. EACH. OTHER.

That’s it for this week. You can reach me at FromTheStands@gmail.com or on Twitter @TreyMcLean.

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