It has been a bit of a disappointing season considering our high expectations. However, even in this so-called down year, we finished with a winning record and a bowl invite once again. And if that's not enough, we're still going to finish ahead of A&M in the Big 12 South again, assuming they don't pull off a big surprise at Texas. There were games in which we were awful, and games in which we were absolutely spectacular. There have been areas this season in which we have progressed very well, and areas that we struggled. First, I will review each game with where we struggled, where we did well, what we learned, and why we won or lost the game. That will be followed tomorrow by a unit breakdown of who has shown us promise for the future, which holes need to be filled, and what is a concern for next season.
This was a game that exacerbated our high hopes for the season with strong performances on both sides of the ball. Harrell looked sharp except for his one INT, the receiving corps looked capable without Jarrett Hicks, and the defense looked better than in years past. We dominated a team that is now headed to a bowl, and the effort was what we wanted to see in our season opener.
Where we struggled: We started to see our defensive Achilles' heel with Justin Willis beating us on a few QB scrambles.
Where we did well: Shannon Woods proved that he could fill in where Taurean Henderson left off.
What we learned: The season had some serious potential.
Why we won: The playcalling was excellent, the offense executed, and the defense shut SMU down overall.
Our first road game was no slouch as we went down to El Paso to play a fairly good UTEP team. The offense played extremely well, but the defense was a bit suspect. The raucous environment nearly got the better of us. Harrell again played very well, and Robert Johnson had a few touchdowns taken from him by poor officiating, which would again make itself apparent later in the season.
Where we struggled: Defensively, our scheme killed us as Johnnie Lee Higgins tore our linebackers a new one and Jordan Palmer had a few big scrambles from poor tackling.
Where we did well: We again played well offensively, and Harrell showed us some leadership abilities to get us the win.
What we learned: Harrell has the ability to handle a loud road environment.
Why we won: We got the win because we were the better team and we never gave up.
Our second road game was a big test against a talented TCU team. Most Red Raiders expected us to get a good win over TCU like in 2004, but our offense absolutely did not come to play at all. It was not the game that anyone thought that it would be, as both offenses struggled to get anything going. It was a relatively boring game, and didn't turn out like we had hoped in a strange 12-3 loss.
Where we struggled: Offensively. The receivers couldn't catch a thing, Harrell didn't hit the receivers in stride, and the O-line's protection was poor.
Where we did well: Our defense shut down their passing game and rushing game, despite struggling to defend the bootleg.
What we learned: Our offense is much less potent without Jarrett Hicks, and Harrell isn't as flawless as we all thought.
Why we lost: We scored three points, which was the most pathetic offensive showing that I have ever seen as a Red Raider.
We returned back home for a pre-conference tune-up game against a much lesser opponent. We beat them in every way possible, but we were supposed to. However, perhaps this was the confidence booster that we needed following the lackluster performance at TCU. It appeared to have done its job in getting us back on track, considering the effort that we brought the following week against A&M.
Where we struggled: We didn't beat our 80 point showing against Sam Houston last year.
Where we did well: Everywhere; most notably in special teams and punt returns.
What we learned: We are still good at blowing out lesser opponents.
Why we won: We were playing SE Louisiana.
We had a tough conference opener at A&M that was a gut-check game for both teams. It was a hard-fought game in every possible respect by both sides, and we were able to pull out the win once again. The offense was running like a well-oiled machine, and the defense stepped up in some key situations. The TexAgs meltdown was classic, and we saw the first appearance of Field Goal Fran.
Where we struggled: Their triple option rushing attack gave us trouble, and we took too long to adjust to it.
Where we did well: We played our game, and got in the end zone with an Air Raid attack that made us proud.
What we learned: Harrell is good at leading game-winning drives and Robert Johnson is capable of being a touchdown machine.
Why we won: We're in the Aggies' heads at this point, and our team just wanted it more.
After riding high again following the big win over A&M, we set ourselves up for a letdown at home. And that is exactly what happened. Harrell looked like he was hung over or something as he started off horribly. The Tigers got to him all day long, as the Mizzou defense was able to read Harrell like a book and the offensive line struggled in protection which led to forced fumbles. It was a disaster.
Where we struggled: We put ourselves in a big hole early, and we had too far to go to get back in the game.
Where we did well: We showed some fight in trying to make it back into the game.
What we learned: Harrell is either hot or cold, and the season began to show signs of a rollercoaster ride.
Why we lost: Turnovers gave the game to Missouri early.
This is where we hit rock bottom. The team and fans were focusing too much on what went wrong against Missouri, and not worrying about getting it done against a Colorado team that had nothing to lose and everything to gain. We thought that we could go in there and give a half-hearted effort and still get the win. As we quickly learned, anyone can make you pay with that mindset.
Where we struggled: Everywhere; the offense couldn't get it going and the defense couldn't stop anything.
Where we did well: Uh...
What we learned: The attitude of entitlement needed to go, and there were issues to be addressed in the "air it out" meeting.
Why we lost: Colorado wanted to win, and we didn't.
The team got back on track against an Iowa State team that was also having cohesion problems and was failing to meet expectations. The Cyclones could have easily taken advantage of us if we had been down following the CU loss, but our team rediscovered their motivation with cards from our fanbase and better communication with each other. Iowa State was where we turned it around.
Where we struggled: Ball security. We had two costly fumbles that kept the game close for longer than it should have been.
Where we did well: Shutting down Bret Meyer and Stevie Hicks in the rushing game and getting it done on offense.
What we learned: This team was back, and ready to take on Texas.
Why we won: We had our heart back.
Everyone thought that we were going to pull off a shocker and defeat the Texas Longhorns when we went up 21-0. It was the strongest start that we could have expected, but it fizzled in the second half. Part of it was due to the adjustments made by Gene Chizik, and part of it was due to us patting ourselves on the back too much. And the officiating certainly didn't help us out.
Where we struggled: We gave up big plays defensively in the second quarter to let them back in it, and struggled to score in the second half.
Where we did well: Picking apart the Texas defense in Harrell's best performance to date, and causing turnovers on defense.
What we learned: We have trouble holding on to big leads, and Texas still gets the calls.
Why we lost: Zero points in the second half.
This could have easily been another loss to an upstart Baylor team following the heartbreak against Texas had we not played with an inspired effort. This might have been our most complete game on both sides of the ball, as there was no real weakness in our performance. It was an impressive showing, and proved that our team was not planning on just laying down and calling it quits at all.
Where we struggled: Uh...
Where we did well: Everywhere; especially on the defensive line and running the football with Shannon Woods.
What we learned: Our team planned on finishing out the year with a strong effort.
Why we won: We played with a fierceness on both sides of the ball that punished the Bears.
Well, the Sooners expected to blow us out, and that sure didn't happen. Much like against UT, we had a strong start and got out to an early lead. However, we made a huge mistake at the end of the half in giving up a late touchdown that killed our momentum. And, it was a similar second half performance to what we did in the Texas game as well, as we failed to score a point in the second half.
Where we struggled: We had trouble getting the offense to move the ball consistently and score points.
Where we did well: The defense forced four turnovers and tried to give our offense the chances to win the game.
What we learned: The second half is really not our friend.
Why we lost: We didn't get it done when we had our chances.
We had a big game against the Cowboys to possibly finish out the year with a winning record and a better bowl appearance. Oklahoma State had their share of good athletes, and we pulled out a key victory to close out the season on a high note. This game meant more to the team than you would think, as the Seniors were able to go out on a high note with a win over a good team.
Where we struggled: We should have closed out the game earlier by scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
Where we did well: The Special Teams was absolutely incredible, and the Secondary shut down the talented OSU receivers.
What we learned: We should have what it takes to give our bowl opponent all that they can handle.
Why we won: The defense stepped up their game and refused to let OSU beat us.
Overall, the year was another interesting ride, and it was not as bad as some people are making it out to be. 7-5 is not the end of the world. Sure, this season could have been a little better with the talent that we had, but I think we learned and grew quite a bit. We haven't regressed much as a program, if at all. We didn't have a few things go our way this year, and that was the difference. I'll explore where we stand as a team in greater detail tomorrow in part two of the regular season in review.