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1. The Texas Longhorns certainly closed out September with a bang as the now #11 Longhorns beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys 41-36 on a last-minute drive to come back late in the 4th quarter. First, let’s gush a little bit because, after all, the Longhorns did pull out the victory.
First of all David Ash has proven what we all suspected after the Longhorns beat Ole Miss: he’s ready for prime time and can make big plays in the clutch. Ash was great all night on 3rd down and on a 4th down with the game on the line in the 4th quarter, he hit DJ Grant perfectly in stride to continue what turned out to be the game-winning drive. The passes that he put to his receivers in stride and in perfect position so well all night was a much better testament to how he’s advanced as a quarterback than any previous game this season. In fact, his day should have been better as Mike Davis had a couple of key drops, including a perfect pass in the end zone. Still, Ash has come full circle from a guy who only had a small package as a quarterback who was mostly used as a runner to a true pocket passer with a great arm.
Texas is also as deep as it’s been in a long time at both running back and wide receiver. Malcolm Brown hurt his ankle in the 2nd quarter and didn’t come back, but Joe Bergeron picked up the slack and freshman Jonathan Gray ended up leading the team in rushing while DJ Monroe also had some carries including a separate 4th down conversion that led to a Texas touchdown.
Gray was most impressive. His patience at the line and his body control was a wonder to watch as his instincts are beyond his years. He’s not a one-cut running back nor does he rely solely on his speed. He was great at just waiting for a hole to develop and then hitting it hard. This is the first time we’ve got an extensive look at his game and he really stepped up.
The Longhorns are also deep at wide receiver and pass-catchers. Jaxon Shipley set a career high with three touchdown catches. Mike Davis had a couple of tough drops, but pulled down the pass that set up the game-winning touchdown. Marquise Goodwin continues to make plays. Daje Johnson was clutch in some big spots. This offense at Texas is more potent than anyone expected because all of these guys are coming into their own at the same time. And the scary thing is, of all the guys that I just listed, only Monroe, Goodwin, and Grant are seniors.
OK, now to be critical, and rightfully so. The Texas defense looked terrible. Oklahoma State racked up 576 yards of offense. And it wasn’t just one thing that the Cowboys were exploiting. The Longhorns showed bad tackling early and often. The front seven did get some sacks, but OSU quarterback JW Walsh, a redshirt freshman, was given a lot of time to throw. And it felt like every time Joseph Randle took a handoff, he had a huge hole to run through and was breaking a big play.
The secondary didn’t look good either. They were often settling into a zone and the OSU receivers found holes on the run way too easily. I was talking to my editor Adam Sweeney after the game and was telling him that the film session should be brutal this week. The Longhorns won the game, but that had little to do with the defense. Maybe the coaches could bring in some drill sergeants from Fort Hood to straighten these guys out. Because they really need to get the message and play better with West Virginia coming to town.
Photo courtesy Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
2. Speaking of the Mountaineers, boy did they put on a show on Saturday afternoon against the Baylor Bears as they won a true shootout 70-63. The two teams racked up over 1500 yards of offense in a game that was tight the whole way. Even when WVU took a 21-point lead, Baylor bounced right back to score two touchdowns quickly and get back into it.
The thing that really separated the two teams was Baylor’s complete lack of a pass rush. Geno Smith had forever to just sit in the pocket and wait for one of his receivers to get open because, so often, the Bears only rushed three guys. As a result, the Mountaineers just made big play after big play. On the other side, Nick Florence was often flushed out of the pocket and took some hits. But, most impressively, he threw for 581 yards and five touchdowns.
And that’s what I think people are forgetting when talking about this game. Smith threw for 656 yards and eight touchdowns, but Baylor gained more yards than that as an offense. People are forgetting that the West Virginia defense just gave up 63 points at home. Baylor didn’t run particularly well and the offensive line struggled. For anyone thinking that Texas is in trouble just because of how many points West Virginia scored, I’d say that the Mountaineers are more in trouble based on going on the road after their last defensive performance.
We’ll have more analysis about this big matchup this weekend in Austin as the week goes on.
Photo courtesy Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
3. Since we’re on the subject of dominant performances, Texas A&M finally got their first conference victory as a member of the SEC and Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel broke a long-standing record in the process. Manziel totaled 557 yards of offense in A&M’s 58-10 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The freshman quarterback broke a record previously held by Ole Miss legend Archie Manning and LSU’s Rohan Davey. Let me stress that again, he’s a freshman. When the Aggies lost to the Florida Gators at home in a close game, we didn’t really know what to expect from there. A&M blew a lead in that game, but they haven’t done so since. They’ve blown out their last three opponents, now including an SEC team. With an offense this powerful and getting better every game, the Aggies are going to be in a lot more games and may pick up a few more wins than we expected.
The defense looks solid and the offense has a lot of firepower. I honestly expect them to win their next two games on the road at Ole Miss and at Louisiana Tech (the make-up game from when the season opener was delayed because of a hurricane). All of that builds up to the Aggies hosting the LSU Tigers on October 20th. Will A&M be a ranked team with something to prove and possibly take a huge step for the program? The fact that we’re even asking that question already shows that the Aggies are ahead of the game.
4. TCU on the other hand is struggling heavily in their first year in the Big 12, and they haven’t even played a conference game in two weeks. The Horned Frogs were expected to be one of the teams competing for a conference championship. They’ve turned the ball over eight times in the past three games. Luckily for them, they still beat the SMU Mustangs 24-16.
Casey Pachall has regressed as well. Against SMU, the sophomore quarterback went just 10-27 for just 107 yards. He had two scores, but life was difficult with the offense struggling so much overall. The running game wasn’t much better. The only reason that TCU won this game is because SMU turned the ball over six times. One of these days, TCU’s turnovers are going to haunt them in the form of a loss. And that day may be coming soon as TCU has to travel to Baylor in two weeks.
5. It took them way too long, but the Texas Rangers finally clinched a playoff spot with an 8-7 win in the 2nd part of a double-header against the LA Angels. Texas should have clinched in the afternoon game, but Joe Nathan blew a save for just the 3rd time this season. He closed out the nightcap for the victory as the Rangers celebrated a postseason berth for the 3rd straight year.
But their work isn’t over. Texas needs to win one game against the Oakland A’s on the road starting tonight to clinch the division and they need to win all three games in Oakland to clinch home field because both the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles are one game behind them.
The worst part is who they’ve got to kick this series off. The dreaded 5th spot in the lineup is up for the Rangers and Martin Perez has got the start. He’ll have a short leash as he hasn’t lasted more than five innings in any start he’s made since July. In fact, Texas hasn’t even won any game that Perez has made an appearance in since June. That’s an 0-9 streak.
Texas got a bit of a scare when Adrian Beltre and Michael Young both left last night’s game with injuries, but both are expected to play in this series. And the Rangers will desperately need Beltre’s production. The Rangers are in the playoffs, but they’ve got a lot left to play for. So we’ll be watching them closely this week.
6. Finally, the Houston Astros have been the definition of futility this season but at least it won’t be all-time historic futility in the annals of major league baseball. With a 7-0 win last night over the Milwaukee Brewers, Houston “clinched” not losing 110 games this season. In fact, the Astros have won three of their last four games and had a 13-14 record in September, but far their best of the season.
Their next loss will “clinch” their worst record in franchise history. But we’ve said time and time again. Look at their roster. Look at the injuries. Look at who they traded last season at the deadline and this year before the deadline. They should be worse. But they’ve got a lot of young guys growing up together and management is pretty much out of trade pieces to give away. They move to the AL West next year. But it’s unlikely that based on that move alone they’ll have a worse record than this year because we’ve seen a few guys show some promise like Jose Altuve, Jed Lowrie, Dallas Keuchel, Bud Norris, Matt Dominguez and JD Martinez.
2013 should be interesting to watch because it’ll feel like they’re taking on the world in a new league. But at least they’ve made this journey and grown together.