Longhorns use big plays and Baylor miscues to win

Well, I guess the easiest way for me to describe the Baylor - Texas game yesterday is this: It wasn't as bad as I expected. Early last week I posted that it would be just like our Bears to rebound and give the Horns more than they bargained for. Later in the week, I saw which Bears were out with injuries and my optimism ebbed. However, Baylor did hang in there against perhaps the Big 12's most talented team into the second quarter. It's nothing to shout about, but it is encouraging.

Believe me, I'm not jumping up and down giddy from the positive signs from the contest with the Horns. Far from it. There were some positives though, just unfortunately they were far outweighed by the miscues and the opposition.

I'll start with the glamour position - quarterback. Zachry played well and completed nearly 60% of his passes. He finished 21 of 36 for 173 yards, not gaudy numbers but effective. Zachry was also the Bears second leading rusher (32 gross yards) including the only touchdown of the game. Josh just looks much more comfortable back there and his mobility is pretty good.

Though he got playing time in short bursts, there was a point in the first half when I was extremely encouraged by the play of Davon Vinson. I believe it was the first time Davon got more than two consecutive snaps so far this season and he made them count. Included in the mini-drive were a 10-yard quarterback draw where Davon made something out of not much and an 11-yard pass completion. Vinson showed us glimpses of the future and that is encouraging.

Once again, punter Adam Stiles showed great promise as a starting punter in the NFL. In fact, if anyone is responsible for Nathan Vasher's long punt returns it's Stiles. On one punt we outkicked the coverage by almost 30 yards. I estimated the ball traveled nearly 60 yards in the air.

As far as returns go, you have to be impressed with Bobby Hart. Looking like the Hart of old, he sliced through the Horns repeatedly and finished with 119 total return yards.

On the defensive side of the ball, there were numerous players that I watched with great appreciation. I guess I would characterize them as guys who give me reason to believe that this defense will only get better.

Up front, Kevin Stevenson is a trooper. Despite being sick this week and listed as possibly out for the game, he played quite a bit. Overall the front four did very well against a huge and talented offensive front from Austin. Of course, A.C. Collier continues to provide pressure on opposing QB's, something missing the past few years. Another DE that looked really good to me was Khari Long. At 6-5, 255 he looks like he belongs on the field with anyone. He's also mobile - on one sweep away from his side Long ran down Cedric Benson from behind before he could turn up field. Throw Aaron Lard back in there and we are very talented.

In the linebacking corp there were several good performances. John Garrett made his usual share of plays, but the play of Justin Crooks and Colin Allred is what has me excited. Both true freshman, Crooks has been playing all year and Allred's shirt came off Saturday due to injuries. Crooks and Allred both are smart, strong and can really run. With the rest of the season to gain experience and improve they will both be solid performers in the Big XII.

Much maligned last season and somewhat this season, the secondary really did fairly well against the "Big 3" of Texas. The bottom line is Roy Williams, BJ Johnson and Sloan Thomas may be the best receiver trio in the nation. While playing tight man-to-man coverage may be considered foolish by some, I was glad to see it. After playing Tech last week with a soft zone, getting in the receivers' faces against Texas was encouraging. Did we get beat deep a couple of times, sure. But, truthfully, I'd rather take that chance than watch Simms pick us apart 5 yards at a time.

Thomas' catch at the south endzone was a very good catch while Williams called touchdown in the back of the north endzone was just a bad call. Replayed on the ten o'clock news, it was clear that Williams did not have control of the ball when he went out of bounds.

Overall, Texas made some great plays with both amazing catches and perfect passes. Our coverage could have been tighter on some of those plays but it's really hard to cover for too long with the receivers UT has. Personally, taking the tight man-to-man approach was fine, I just wish we would have blitzed more to force Simms into some bad throws. More pressure would also have resulted in a physical toll on Simms.

One guy in particular really stood out to me in the secondary and that is Marcus Stenix. As a 6-1 corner, Stenix possessed the height and athletic ability to cover well. Playing man-to-man basically boils down to lining up across from the receiver and matching him athletically. Stenix and Hart are the kind of corners that can do just that, even against guys like Williams and Johnson. Stenix provided good run support at the corner and made solid tackles on receptions made in front of him. By game's end, Stenix had collected nine tackles.

So, those were the individual performances that caught my eye. While the final score was discouraging, certainly there were some positives to be gleaned from the game. However, the bottom line is winning and playing well for four quarters and the next two weeks will show us alot.

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