Big Opportunity Gets Away

Despite botching the coin toss and giving up 217 yards rushing (after giving up just 35 rush yards on 18 carries in the first half), Texas had a 17-13 lead and the ball against No. 12 UCLA with 4:17 left to play. And then a chance for Charlie Strong and Texas to have a signature outcome completely got away.

#1 … Great effort by Texas. Good enough to win. But it ends the way Texas lost the BYU game – with faulty special teams and no offense.

#2 … First, after Texas takes a 17-13 lead with 5:13 left, Nick Rose kicked off out of bounds, giving UCLA the ball at the 35. Then, UT gave up a 30-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage. Just like that UCLA had the ball at the Texas 35.

But Steve Edmond forced a fumble, and DT Paul Boyette, who replaced an injured Desmond Jackson, recovered it with 4:17 left.

#3 … But the Texas offense, after looking so good on its previous drive, ran for 5 yards on first down with Malcolm Brown, then lost five with Malcolm on second down and threw incomplete on third down.

That was 3 plays for minus-5 yards (there was a false start flag on Josh Turner on the punt) and ate up only 1:11.

#4 … Then, a 58-yard punt by William Russ is brought back 45 yards by UCLA’s Ishmael Adams to the Texas 33, and Jerry Neuheisel gets Duke Thomas to bite on the pump of a pump-and-go, and Jordan Payton gets behind Thomas for a 33-yard TD pass.

That 1-play drive took :06 and put UCLA up 20-17 with 3:00 to play.

#5 … Again, no answer from the Texas offense. … Drop by John Harris on first down. … 3-yard out route to Shipley on second down ... Swoopes sacked on third down … Incomplete to Geoff Swaim on fourth-and-7.

UCLA ball. Ballgame.

#6 … It looked like Shawn Watson going up tempo on Texas’ go-ahead scoring drive was going to be the game-winning storyline. It got Swoopes and the offense going.

Swoopes had a big throw on that drive - for 13 yards to John Harris - followed by a great run by Johnathan Gray with a great seal block by Kent Perkins.

Then, another strong run by Malcolm Brown to the UCLA 3. After an illegal formation penalty on Texas brought up second-and-goal from the UCLA 8, Swoopes found John Harris on an out route, shallow in the end zone for the TD.

Jerryworld was going nuts. But there was way too much time left on the clock (5:13).

#7 … There were all kinds of questions after the game for Charlie Strong and Shawn Watson about everything from UT botching the coin toss (UCLA got the ball to start both halves) to why Texas was still going up-tempo when it got the ball back with 4:17 left, up 17-13 (after Steve Edmond forced a fumble and DT Paul Boyette, Desmond Jackson’s replacement, recovered it at UT’s 25).

And no one will probably like the answers.

#8 … After UCLA won the coin toss and deferred until the second half, the officials asked the Texas players if they wanted the ball or to play defense to start the game, and DT Desmond Jackson told the officials, “We want to play defense first.”

Strong said, “One of our guys got nervous. I said to him, ‘What happened?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know Coach. I was just so hyped up and I just – they looked at me and they said, ‘You want to receive the ball or do you guys want to play defense?’ And he was like, ‘Oh, we want to play defense.’ I said, ‘We just lost the toss.’”

It ended up costing Texas a possession. Texas didn’t have any fumbles or interceptions in the game, but that ended up being a turnover.

UCLA coach Jim Mora said he couldn’t believe it.

“I told the official, I asked them probably four or five times, I said, ‘Are you sure?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, you get to start the second half (with the ball) as well.

“It became very relevant, and it helped us win that game tonight. We were able to steal a possession without taking the ball away.”

#9 … Shawn Watson said Texas kept going up-tempo, even with a 17-13 lead and 4:17 remaining because that was the mode the offense found a groove with on its previous possession - a 10-play, 80-yard, TD drive that took 3:55 off the clock.

“The decision we made as a staff was what was our best option to move the football, what was our rhythm? And our best rhythm was the no-huddle aspect of it. We were hoping to get ourselves moved down the field and get into our four-minute mode.

“You have to be really careful not to jump into it too soon. We chose to stay in our speed because that’s what was working for us. And then we had plans later on in that drive, after picking up a couple first downs to get into (the four-minute, clock-killing offense).”

#10 … Why didn’t Texas call a timeout when UT was facing fourth-and-7 from its 26 on what turned out to be Texas’ last possession?

The coaches said part of going up-tempo is not letting the defense get set, so they decided to see if Swoopes could make a play without stopping the clock.

#11 … Charlie Strong said his orders to the offense when UT got the ball back with 3:17 left, down 20-17 was to play for a field goal.

“When we got it back and there was three minutes to go, I said, ‘We just need a field goal. That’s all we need. It’s 20-17. Just get a field goal. Let’s drive the ball and just get a first down and keep the chains moving. Don’t try to get a big chunk,’” Strong said.

“And then we just misfired, and we weren’t able to get that first down. If we just continued to move the ball there, we had a chance, because now it’s all about the field goal, making sure we hit that. But we didn’t get a chance to do it.”

#12 … Did Strong’s conservative thinking there lead to conservative play-calling by Shawn Watson?

The final drive opened with two passes to the sideline – not toward the middle of the field where a receiver might be able to catch and run.

Watson said Swoopes had options on both passes (one to Harris that he dropped and a 3-yard gain to Shipley) and went with those passes because that’s what the defense was giving him.

#13 … Kudos to the offensive coaches for adding a whole bunch of things into the gameplan we didn't see last week in a 41-7 loss to BYU (and maybe some regret for not trusting Swoopes more last week).

Added into the offense this week:

- Counters (converted a third-down run by Malcolm Brown behind pulling OG Taylor Doyle);

- Speed sweeps (Shipley picked up 8 yards on a flip pass to start UT’s second possession);

- Play-action passing (several times, including the TD pass to M.J. McFarland);

- Swoopes throwing to the middle of the field

Asked what Swoopes could do this week that he couldn’t do last week, Watson said:

“I think he’s real comfortable, gaining more confidence - number one - and he’s very comfortable in what we’re doing with him.

“He’s knocked the lights out in practice. I expected him to play well. I’ve learned to trust his preparation.

“For a young guy, the hardest learning curve is learning how to prepare, and he’s been an excellent student of the game.”

Watson was asked, with a bye week coming up, how much improvement can Swoopes make?

“I think Ty is really moving a lot faster than I thought,” Watson said. “He’s playing confident football right now.

“We just need to get all of his tools around him right now. I like the way the receivers are coming around with him. I like that aspect of our game. Once we can get back to full speed, it will be interesting to see how far he can go. Because I think he’s a really exceptional player. I mean this kid is a good player.”

#14 … Everyone wants to know when the remaining suspended players – all on offense (RB/WR Daje Johnson, OT Desmond Harrison and OT Kennedy Estelle) – will be back.

When asked about the progress of the offensive line against UCLA, Watson wouldn’t say when but he sounded hopeful some or all will be back.

“That group, we’ve got five guys who are getting all the work. And they’ve bought into our situation,” Watson said of Marcus Hutchins, Sed Flowers, Jake Raulerson, Taylor Doyle and Kent Perkins.

“They have been stellar in their attitude. And I appreciate everything they’re working to give us. They’ve worked hard. We just keep working with them, and we’ll see if we get some guys back.”

#15 … When Watson was asked about taking more deep shots with Swoopes in the passing game, he said baby steps.

“We’ve got our issues. We’ve got matchup issues. We’ve got problems that are going to take some time to fix,” Watson said. “Ty can throw the ball down the field. The opportunities to do it will be the things we try to create in different ways. We have to be able to match up in protection.”

#16 … Swoopes connected on his first 11 passes and was 13 of 15 passing for 123 yards and 1 TD at halftime, when UT took a 10-3 lead into the locker room. He finished 24 of 34 passing for 196 yards and 2 TDs without a turnover.

On a 14-play, 62-yard touchdown drive in the 2Q that ate 6:23 off the clock, Swoopes helped Texas overcome a 4th-and-8 (with a 33-yard pass to John Harris to the UCLA 5).

On that same drive, Texas also overcame 2 penalties – 1) a clip called on TE Geoff Swaim that resulted in 2nd-and-21; and 2) a holding call against OG Sed Flowers that pushed Texas from 1st-and-goal at the 5 to 1st-and-goal from the 15.

Swoopes connected on passes of 15 yards to Jacorey Warrick and 8 yards to Jaxon Shipley to overcome second-and-21.

And Swoopes came through with a big, 10-yard run on second-and-goal from the 12 to get the Horns back into a manageable third-and-goal situation.

On third-and-goal from the 2, Swoopes was able to use play-action on his TD pass to MJ McFarland and have it work (UCLA LB Deon Hollins bit on the play-action and left McFarland open).

#17 … So will Swoopes have more designed runs going forward? Watson sounded hesitant.

“We want to use his athletic ability – his size and athleticism – and we’re being smart in how we manage that, because we also have to bring along the backup quarterback (Jerrod Heard),” Watson said.

“As time progresses, Ty has all the signs of becoming a big weapon. His ability to pass the football has been the greatest pleasure I’ve had in his performances. He’s very accurate with the football. He’s doing a nice job.”

#18 … Swoopes built confidence coming out of the BYU game and said he definitely built more confidence in the UCLA game. But this time he said that’s not good enough.

“I think I did pretty well,” Swoopes said. “But in the end, it’s not about me. We still didn’t win, so we’ll build confidence off of this and try to get the win next time.”

Swoopes was asked about the mood in the locker room after the game?

“Of course it hurts, but we fought hard and we’ll build on this, build confidence from this,” he said. “We’ve got a bye week, so that will be good, get some people back.”

#19 … Watson and Swoopes were both asked about the frustration of being in position to win, only to let the victory get away by not finishing Texas’ last two possessions?

“The frustrating part is we were in position to win it and we’ll sit back and look at it, and just being able to finish the game on the field would have been huge,” Watson said. “Then, you take all the pressure off of it.

“That’s where we have to grow as an offense. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We have a small group of guys we’re working with, and we just need to keep pounding, keep working.”

Swoopes said, “We have to finish games, finish drives, finish plays – finish in general. But if we keep fighting, we’ll be fine.”

#20 … RB Malcolm Brown said Charlie Strong praised the players’ effort after the game.

“We definitely played harder, and he told us he liked our effort,” Brown said. “But we still came out with a loss. That’s the bottom line. We have to do better.”

Texas finished with 30 carries for 126 yards (4.2 ypc), far better than last week’s 35 carries for 82 yards (2.3 ypc).

“We grew as an offense for sure,” Brown said. “We made some plays that were positive, so we just have to go back to work and get better.

On the offensive line, Brown said, “They grew. We had a great week of practice. I could tell then. We just need to get better as an offense.”

On Swoopes, Brown said, “Tyrone grew as well. He made plays not only with his arm but his legs. Some plays he made something out of nothing. That was good for us.”

#21 … Malcolm Brown got going on UT’s first drive of the 2Q (which led to a 33-yard Nick Rose FG), when Brown carried five times for 39 yards (7.8 ypc) – giving him 7 carries for 47 yards (6.7 ypc) with 10:25 left in the first half.

But Brown didn’t have another carry the rest of the half. Johnathan Gray came in for the next series (which led to Texas’ first-half TD drive) and got 3 carries for 8 yards (2.7 ypc).

Asked how he decides to alternate UT’s backs, Watson said that’s up to RB coach Tommie Robinson.

“Tommie (Robinson) manages that down on the sideline,” Watson said. “He manages that based on different things in the game, what we’re doing, what one does better than another. Tommie manages that.”

Brown got the first two series of the game, and then Brown and Gray pretty much alternated every other series.

#22 … Two unsettling trends are developing for Texas: the defense has given up a TD drive to start the 3Q in each of the past two games, while the offense has gone three-and-out to start the 3Q each of the past two games.

Because UCLA won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half, it got the ball again to start the 3Q, and Paul Perkins ran for 58 yards on the first play from scrimmage to the Texas 17.

UCLA played with backup QB Jerry Neuheisel from the 4:29 mark of the 1Q on – after Brett Hundley injured his left elbow and didn’t return. Neuheisel finished 23 of 30 passing for 178 yards and 2 TDs and 0 INTs (although S Adrian Colbert and LB Jordan Hicks both dropped INTs).

#23 … Freshman S Jason Hall finally got on the field on defense and made his impact felt with 4 tackles, including a sack for 7 yards. But he also ran into the punter twice – the first didn’t lead to a UCLA first down, the second one did (although that drive stalled).

The bottom line is Hall is a thumper and brings some of the same wallop Kenny Vaccaro brought to the Texas secondary. Exciting to see where he’ll end up.

“Jason Hall came in and did a good job. He needs to learn what to do. But he’s going to be a heck of a player for us,” defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said.

#24 … Bedford got into it with a reporter (Ryan Autullo of the Austin American-Statesman) about whether the Texas defense missed “a bunch of tackles” or “a few” against UCLA.

Bedford took issue with Autullo suggesting Texas missed “a bunch” and said it was only a few and really only one big one – on UCLA RB Paul Perkins’ 58-yard run to open the second half.

“Understand, when you come at me a certain way, I’m a different guy. I’mma shoot you straight. I’m honest, and I think you what I was talking about. So when you make a comment, make sure you have the right answers!”

#25 … Bottom line is the special teams got some excellent punting by William Russ and Nick Rose’s 33-yard FG in the first half. But the rest was pretty forgettable - no big plays in the return game, Hall's two running into the punter flags and poor coverage on returns.

The most resounding example was Russ’ 58-yard punt brought back 45 yards by Ishmael Adams to the Texas 33.

On the next play, Jerry Neuheisel gets Duke Thomas to bite on the pump of a pump-and-go, and Jordan Payton gets behind Thomas for a 33-yard TD pass.

That 1-play drive took :06 and put UCLA up 20-17 with 3:00 to play.

Some things to build on offensively.

Defensively, LB Steve Edmond (13 tackles, 1 TFL and a HUGE forced fumble) and LB Jordan Hicks (12 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 pass breakup and a QB hurry) were everywhere. But after holding UCLA to 35 yards rushing on 18 carries in the first half, the Texas run defense gave way too much ground and made UT's pass rush somewhat irrelevant in the second half (after 3 sacks in the first half).

And special teams needs to generate some offense for Texas instead of some offense for the opponent.

Lots of work to do in the bye week.

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