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1. If I had to describe how the Texas Longhorns played in their 63-21 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, I’d sum it up thusly: disgraceful. UTEP played OU better and with more heart, and the Miners are 1-4 this year.
And that was the biggest difference in this game. Heart. The Sooners were jacked up and prepared, sharing their fans’ enthusiasm and just beating up Texas at the line on both offense and defense. And that’s why Texas was blown out in this game. It’s true that you can throw out the record books and ignore what’s on paper because, the teams on paper are not separated by this much when it comes to talent and scheme. Flat out, Oklahoma just wanted this game more.
The above picture is all the evidence you need. As Trey Millard ran down the sidelines, he leapt over Mykkele Thompson, who just laid down in front of Millard I guess hoping that he would trip, and easily shed the attempted tackle of Adrian Phillips, who often forgets that he has arms when he’s tried to tackle opposing players this season.
Texas fans started leaving before the 1st quarter was over. Most of the fans that left their seats at halftime didn’t come back. By the time the 4th quarter rolled around, the Texas side of the Cotton Bowl was practically empty. It was nice to see. If I hadn’t had to write about this game, I would have left, myself. A team that lays down like that in a huge rivalry game doesn’t deserve the kind of support that Longhorn fans brought that morning before kickoff. There was still a great feeling after an amazing game the previous week against West Virginia. Even though the Mountaineers won, at least Texas fought to the end. Fans walked out of that game proud of what they’d seen and knew that the loss to the team likely to finish the season as the Big 12 champion and possible national championship contender could just be one setback and a great learning experience in a successful season.
One week later, all of that is completely thrown out the window.
Forget about a “Big Four,” every game is now up for grabs the rest of the schedule for Longhorns opponents. If Texas plays like they did in the Cotton Bowl, they might not win nine games this year. The Baylor Bears have to be licking their chops this weekend.
The coaches certainly couldn’t have bungled this game any more. Late in the 2nd quarter, I wanted David Ash out of the game. With the Sooners constantly getting pressure on him, I figured it was only a matter of time until Ash got hurt, adding injury to insult. By the 3rd quarter, my editor Adam Sweeney was wondering the same thing: Why is David Ash still playing? After all, he was one of the few players on the field that played with some heart. Despite his line not protecting him, he was trying to stay alive in the pocket, keeping his eyes downfield and hitting open receivers… only to have them drop a lot of passes that would have converted some first downs and kept drives alive.
Sure enough, Ash had to leave the game with a left wrist injury. Pictures and video from the sidelines made the injury look awful and people feared the worst. A broken wrist, even on his non-throwing hand, would sideline Ash for the rest of the season. In a rare stroke of luck from the weekend, yesterday we found out that Ash’s wrist wasn’t broken. This morning, Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com reported that Ash practiced yesterday and that Mack Brown says he’ll be fine, which likely means he’ll play this weekend against Baylor.
Texas didn’t completely get out of the woods on the injury front, though. Defensive tackle Brandon Moore left the game on a stretcher and Jackson Jeffcoat will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. The Longhorns didn’t just get beat. They got beat up. And if this keeps happening, not just against Oklahoma, you have to wonder if the Longhorns are going to start looking at Mack Brown’s contract and wondering if it’s time for him to go. Because donors are certainly getting sick of these annual blowouts in Dallas.
Photo courtesy Stephen Spillman/AP
2. But geez what a weekend it was in the Big 12. On Saturday, the conference theme was “expect the unexpected” as the unranked Texas Tech Red Raiders destroyed #5 West Virginia 49-14. It laid out the groundwork for how to beat the Mountaineers because that was the biggest thing that happened in this game.
There was a ton of talk about how Seth Doege ripped apart West Virginia after this game, but the Mountaineers defense has been torched before, previously by Baylor Nick Florence and the Longhorns running backs. But Doege wasn’t the story here, the Red Raider defense was as they basically held West Virginia to just seven points through most of the game.
How did they do it? Well, preventing the big play for one. They just tackled well and didn’t allow WVU’s offense to get many yards after contact, a big problem that Texas has had this season. Nick Kosmider of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal did a great story about how Tech has prevented big plays all year. Apart from good tackling, the Red Raiders just won the battle at the line of scrimmage on defense. Technically, they didn’t sack Geno Smith on Saturday, but Smith was constantly on the run. They played him better than the Longhorns did. Yes, Texas sacked Smith a few times and even got him to fumble twice, but Tech was on him all day and forced him out of the pocket. And that’s where Smith struggled. He can’t throw on the run.
Tech’s line dominance also prevented WVU from falling back on the run the way they beat the Longhorns in the 2nd half the previous week. That Red Raiders defense could be for real. I would stamp them as “approved” already, but one week trends don’t seem to last in Big 12 play this season, so we’ll hold off on that for a bit. We’ll certainly get a chance to see them tested again soon and often. Tech plays on the road at TCU and at Kansas State before coming back home to host the Longhorns. If Texas can manage to stay ranked for the next three weeks, that’ll make five consecutive ranked teams in a row.
Photo courtesy Layne Murdoch/Getty Images
3. Last week, Trevone Boykin looked like a freshman. He threw three interceptions at home against Iowa State. And with a weak running game, it looked like TCU’s season was over. Flash forward to Saturday against the Baylor Bears and he looks like a sophomore or junior building on his breakout year making throws like this.
Boykin finished the game 22-30 for 261 yards, four touchdowns, and no picks. The TCU running game was great, but not spectacular. The Horned Frogs were able to win this game and close it out because they put everything together. The defense was phenomenal, grabbing four interceptions and forcing two fumbles. Three of those turnovers came in the 4th quarter and allowed TCU to hold off Baylor’s powerful offense.
At this point, we really don’t know which Baylor team is going to show up from week to week. Their game against Louisiana-Monroe went down to the wire, they put up 63 points on the road at West Virginia, and then followed that up with six turnovers at home and a defense that surrendered a ton of points to a redshirt freshman quarterback making his 2nd start.
Baylor is going to get a chance to turn it around though as the Texas Longhorns team that they’ll play in Austin is extremely vulnerable.
4. Johnny Manziel is quickly becoming known as “Johnny Football.” And if you’ve seen him play, then you know why. He IS the Texas A&M offense. And the Aggies needed every bit of it as they barely escaped Louisiana Tech by beating the Bulldogs 59-57. Manziel racked up six touchdowns and 577 yards of offense. Right now, it’s looking like the only reason that the Aggies lost to Florida is because it was the first game of the season and the coaches weren’t able to work out the best way to utilize Manziel.
Manziel was big and clutch against the Bulldogs because the A&M defense continues to find ways to disappoint in the 2nd half.
It’s not always the defense, though. Against Ole Miss and Florida, the offense went through dry spells where they couldn’t move the ball and get first downs so the defense would wear down because they were constantly on the field. This time around though, the defense had no excuse. A&M had a big lead and should have continued to dominate, but the defense couldn’t keep the Bulldogs off the field and as the game went on the plays they allowed were bigger and for more yards.
Hopefully returning home will cure their woes and they can learn from their mistakes this past week because they’ve got the #6 LSU Tigers visiting Kyle Field this weekend in one of the must-watch matchups on Saturday.
Photo courtesy Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
5. Johnny Football has nothing on Robert Griffin III. So much for a more conservative game plan. RG3 racked up over 300 yards of total offense for the Washington Redskins in their 38-26 victory over the Minnesota Vikings yesterday.
Some of Griffin’s runs were too wide open for him to pass up. It’s tough for such an athletic guy to ignore an opportunity like the one he got when he broke for a 72-yard score. The pocket is quickly collapsing around him on that play and it’s so quick that the middle of the field is wide open and no receiver is looking for the ball. I’m not sure that this play was a designed run because of the number of receivers in the pattern and the routes that they run. In any case, Griffin’s decision to run was the smart one if it was a passing play.
Griffin’s running is also a great weapon when Alfred Morris isn’t getting things done on the ground. Morris had more rushing attempts than Griffin in this game, but far fewer yards even if you take away his long touchdown run. The balanced attack makes the Redskins a more dangerous offense no matter who is running the ball. In Washington’s three losses this season, Morris has run for 272 yards on 5.3 yards per carry. The key to the Redskins offense is a balanced air and ground attack. And Griffin’s athleticism and quick thinking, make it much easier for that offense to put it all together.
Photo courtesy Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
6. The Washington Redskins are now 3-3. But you know what other rookie quarterback has his team 3-3 and tied for a division lead? You might have guessed it, but you might not believe it, it’s Ryan Tannehill. The kid from Big Spring and recent graduate of Texas A&M beat the St. Louis Rams at home yesterday 17-14 and combining that with the New England Patriots loss means that there’s a four-way tie in the AFC East for first place with every team at 3-3.
What a great way to go into their bye week. Here are the teams that the Rams have lost to: Houston Texans, New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals (combined 12-6). Here are the teams that they’ve beaten: Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, St. Louis Rams (combined 7-10). They’ve bascially lost to teams that they should have lost to and beaten teams that they should’ve beaten. They’re somewhere in the middle of the pack of the NFL.
Which is amazing!
As a Dolphins fan, someone who watched Hard Knocks, and understands the depth of the team and what the coaching staff has done, this is not the team that people expected coming into the season. They’re halfway decent and they’ll blow games, but they could win six or maybe even seven games this year. Ryan Tannehill is getting better every week, the wide receivers are finally starting to step up and make plays, Reggie Bush is doing a great job carrying the running game, and the defense has found ways to keep the offense in the game.
If you watched Hard Knocks or any of the Dolphins preseason games, this all comes as a great shock. Give credit to Joe Philbin and his staff in Miami. The offensive play-calling is creative and exploits what the Dolphins do best. Tannehill is managing the game and the offensive line does what it can to protect him and open holes for Bush even if they’re not particularly great at it.
Miami might not be good, but they’re way ahead of the curve right now.