A BIG STEP BACK

Texas suffered its first shutout loss in 132 games. Charlie Strong suffered the first shutout loss of his head-coaching career (61 games). But more than that in Saturday's 23-0 whipping at Kansas State, the Longhorns' progress on offense the past two games was lost.

Quick hitters from post-game:

After the game, KR Rod Bernard (knee) was on crutches. It's unclear how severe the injury is - he suffered it on a 3Q kick return and left the game.

Charlie Strong said RG Kent Perkins has a knee injury that will be evaluated. 

UT officials said WR/RB Daje Johnson aggravated the hamstring on Thursday after practicing well on Tuesday and Wednesday. Frustrating.

Strong was asked if RB Malcolm Brown or LB Steve Edmond were hurt in the game, because they didn't play much as the game wore on, and Strong said both players were fine.


* CHARLIE STRONG:

"I liked the way our guys competed. But you just can't give away opportunities."

"We have to play a complete game. One week it's the offense. One week it's the defense. One week it's the special teams. But all three phases have to play well. That's the only way we're going to win games. We had our chances today, but we just didn't take advantage of em."

* On  Tyrone Swoopes:

"Last week, he made those throws and made a lot of plays. And we would have liked to see that today, because it was there for him."

* On Texas being shut out for the first time since 2004 (12-0 vs Oklahoma), a stretch of 132 games:

"You never want to be shut out. You want to go get some points. We thought we had the game plan, and we just couldn't get it executed. We had the fourth-and-1 in their end, you get that and go score, and it's a 16-7 ballgame, and it's a different ballgame."

* On the lost fumble on the exchange between RB D'Onta Foreman and WR Jaxon Shipley on a reverse on UT's first possession of the 3Q - on first down from the KSU43:

"That was a big play, because we thought we had the play set up. And we just didn't make the handoff. If we make the handoff to Shipley, we had a wall set up, and he probably would have scored or at least taken it a long ways."

It looked like Shipley was expecting a handoff on that play, but QB coach Shawn Watson said the play called for a pitch, which Foreman did. 

When asked if Foreman should have been the one executing that play instead of the more experienced Malcolm Brown or Jonathan Gray, Watson said RB coach Tommie Robinson decides when the backs are going in the game, but added that Foreman had practiced the play earlier in the week and knew what to do.

* On his message to the team after the game:

"When given opportunities, we have to make plays and stick together and play a complete game."

* On if the offense took a step back:

"I don't know if we took a step back, we just didn't make the plays we should have made."

* On giving up six explosive pass plays on third down:

1) 24 yards on 3rd-and-13 and 29 yards on 3rd-and-14 on the same drive to a TD and 13-0 lead in 2Q;
2) 17 yards on 3rd-and-9 on a drive that ended in a punt on KSU's first possession of the 3Q;
3) 18 yards on 3rd-and-20 enabling KSU to kick a 38-yard FG for a 16-0 lead with 2:49 left in 3Q
4) 18 yards on 3rd-and-4 and 16 yards on 3rd-and-10 on the same drive to a TD and 23-0 lead in 4Q

All but one of those plays were on drives that led to points:

"It's really frustrating, because we got them to third down, and then we just didn't make the play. That's the money down, and you want to get off the field on third down."

* On if he thought Johnathan Gray picked up the first down on 4th-and-1 from the KSU 14 early in 4Q:

"I didn't see it. Officials officiate, and I just got to coach."

* On the offense picking up in the 2Q when Swoopes started running:

"He's more effective when he runs. He can be very effective when he uses his legs, because he puts pressure on the defense."

* On Swoopes missing open backs and tight ends in the flat as checkdowns throughout the game and instead pressing the ball down the field into traffic:

"Sometimes when you get pressed, you try to make a big play. And he's just got to relax and let the game come to him. You have to take advantage of what you have open, and then everything else will open up for you."

Swoopes said he has to take the next step as a QB in finding his checkdowns.

* On who called the plays on offense today:

"Guys, we have (Joe) Wickline and Shawn (Watson) both calling plays."

* On his level of frustration:

"It's frustrating because it's self-inflicted. We're hurting ourselves. And that's when it gets frustrating."

* WR John Harris:

* On being shut out:

"I just don't feel like we played like we've been playing the last three weeks. Don't know what happened. We just couldn't get anything going. To move the ball and score points the way we have the past three weeks and then to get shut out, I have no answer for that."

"We didn't capitalize. Maybe we didn't get a couple calls we wanted. But at the end of the day, we didn't make enough plays.  When we got in their end, we hurt ourselves and just didn't make plays."

* On if the offense took a step back:

"I don't feel like we took a step back. We just never got in rhythm and never gave ourselves a chance in certain situations."

* On Tyrone Swoopes' performance:

"He looked a little flustered. I felt bad for him. We weren't helping him out at first. We were dropping some balls early. We're just going to have to learn from it and move on. It hurts for him, too, just as much as it hurts for me."

* On what Charlie Strong said to the team after the game:

"Just try to get to a bowl game. Just get the next win and try to get to a bowl game at this point."

* On if it's realistic to make a bowl game:

Texas is 3-5 and needs to win three of its next four against Texas Tech in Lubbock; West Virginia at DKR; at Oklahoma State; and home vs TCU on Thanksgiving.


"It's realistic at this point. There's some games we can win. I don't think there are any games we can't win. We just need to play better football. We've shown we can score points. We can't come on the road and just have a lapse like we did today."

* Harris said the offense came out flat to start the game:

"It did feel kind of flat. There really wasn't any energy on the field to start the game. I know it was an early game. But there was just no energy in the stadium. And that energy has to come from us. We can't expect to go on the road and expect there to be energy for us. That's on us."

* Harris said he thought Johnathan Gray picked up 4th-and-1 at the KSU 14 early in the 4Q:

"That's the way it looked to me on the replay screen. It looked like he rolled off the K-State defender and extended the ball. Maybe they thought his elbow touched down or something."


* TYRONE SWOOPES:

* On what happened to the offense after making progress the past three games, only to get shut out at KSU:

"We just didn't execute. That's the bottom line. When you don't execute, it puts you in a really difficult position to win.

"It was stuff we were doing more than what they were doing to us. It's a young offense still learning. We didn't take a step back. We just  kind of stopped and didn't take a step forward. 

"We'll get it fixed next week and we'll be fine."

* On how much accountability he takes for the offense's struggles Saturday:

"Of course, I take accountability. But it wasn't just me out there. It's the whole team out there. So we'll just go out on the practice field next week and get it fixed."

* On if he should be the one to get his teammates hyped before a game to create some energy and not come out flat:

"I honestly just feel like everyone is their own individual, and you have to come out ready to play, no matter who you're playing and no matter where you are at. We did kind of come out a little flat at the beginning. But then we started moving the ball and just suffered self-inflicted wounds."

* On checkdowns that were open that he overlooked when trying to press the ball downfield at times:

"That's just one of those things, being young and not having a whole lot of experience, that I'll have to grow into."


* SHAWN WATSON:

* On the last time he was part of a shut out:

"It's been a long time, and it doesn't feel very good. It's very humbling. We just didn't do a good job today of executing up front. We had trouble handling just base defense today."

* On if the offense took a step back:

"We didn't play well, I know that. But I'm not going to go down that track. We have to keep these kids headed in the right direction and keep moving them forward positively. We just have to get better."

* On Swoopes missing some checkdowns that were open:

"He had a lot of pressure on him today that he had to deal with, and it wasn't so much blitz pressure as it was twist pressure. That's part of the evolution of a young QB.

"But we did involve our backs in the chip game to help handle some of that twist pressure, and maybe they didn't get out as fast as they normally would. We were trying to help our line with our backs, so it can be a Catch 22."

* Watson said the exchange on the reverse that resulted in a lost fumble is supposed to be "a soft pitch" not a handoff.

* On the failed fourth-and-1 run by J Gray:

"That stung. Anytime you go for it on fourth down, you have to get it, especially from one yard away."

* On Swoopes' running:

"It helped, and then they made a nice adjustment to take Ty away. He did some nice things with the run decides today. Whenever we hurt them, they'd take him away, and then we had to go back to the run game with the backs."

* On if he called the plays vs Kansas State:

"With Joe's help I did. Joe (Wickline) is always helping me."


* LB Jordan Hicks:

"We battled. We were able to keep them out of the end zone for a while. We have a lot of things on third down we have to correct. But I felt like the team was prepared. It was a good week of practice. We knew it was a big game against the No. 11 team in the country at their place."


* DE CED REED:
 
"A bowl game is still in reach. If we win out, we still have a chance to go to a bowl game."

* On defense giving up big plays on third down:

"We had a lot of pressure that didn't get home, and Waters did a good job of extending plays and finding his receivers downfield. That's not us. We can and will do so much better. That was disappointing."

* On Texas' four-man rush, which has struggled recently:

"We can do a lot better, starting with me. I take full responsibility for my play this year. I've been hearing a lot about it.

But I'm trying every day. I'm giving it all I got on the field. Sometimes, I might draw a holding call. Sometimes, the ball doesn't come my way. But I'm giving it all I got. I don't want there to be excuses. I'm giving it all I got."

* Reed said he's frustrated about his season so far:

"I don't regret anything. I just know I'm a lot better than what I'm showing, and I will play a lot better."

* I asked Reed about his first step and if it's as explosive as last year:

"I think it is, but there's just some other factors involved. Sometimes, big Malcom (Brown) and Hassan (Ridgeway) are just getting back there first. But I'm not going to get into everything right now."

* When asked about the offense not scoring any points, Reed said the defense needs to do a better job of getting takeaways to help set up the offense. Texas lost the turnover battle 1-0 on Saturday.

"If their defense gets a takeaway, we have to come up with one, too. And we didn't do that today," Reed said.


IN CONCLUSION - MY FIVE TAKEAWAYS:

#1 ... Tyrone Swoopes took a big step back today, in part, because he apparently didn't have enough confidence to help fire up the offense.

So the offense came out flat.

Swoopes looked intimidated again - like he did against Baylor. That's a big part of the reason the offense lacked energy to start the game. 


Swoopes had shaky pocket presence from the beginning. He locked onto his first read or looked for John Harris when he had underneath receivers open. I counted five times Swoopes had either a back or TE open in the flat but instead pressed the ball downfield, twice almost getting picked off.

He was 5-of-10 passing for 27 yards after the first quarter and finished 13 of 25 passing for 106 yards.

All of this happened against K-State's base defense. Most of the pressure KSU brought was by twisting rather than blitzing.

Amazingly, or maybe more frightening than anything, Swoopes was UT's leading rusher with 8 carries for 31 yards (3.9 ypc). And Swoopes didn't run the ball once in the first quarter after having 95 critical yards in the win over ISU last week. How does that happen?

Texas still has no identity on offense. You thought it was going to be more running by Swoopes. But as soon as KSU started giving Swoopes give reads, by gawd, Watson said they went away from it. Well, what about some other QB running plays? QB counter, QB power, QB draw?


#2 ... When the offense did get energy on offense, that side of the ball would then spontaneously revert to playing like a last-place team with self-destructing mistakes.

I thought this offense was starting to turn a corner. But it went back to square one on Saturday. 

Here are the offensive lowlights from all 10 of UT's possessions:

Possession #1:

Two false start penalties (on Marcus Hutchins and Kent Perkins) on UT's opening drive set the tone for a miserable first half on offense and let to a punt on fourth-and-16 from UT's own 19.

Possession #2:

Three straight passes (two of them incomplete) lead to three-and-out on UT's second possession.

Possession #3:

Texas drives into K-State territory (to the KSU 45) and can't convert second-and-4 or third-and-4. Punt.

Possession #4:

After UT defense pins KSU into a punt out of Wildcats' end zone, Texas gets the ball at the KSU 40, down 6-0, and finally starts running Swoopes with success (for carries of 12 and 8 yards).

On second-and-9 from the KSU 16, Texas got called for a questionable holding call on Kent Perkins, leading to second-and-19. After an incomplete pass, Swoopes took a 10-yard sack on third-and-19. So after having first down at the KSU 17, Texas got no points in a 6-0 game.

Possession #5:

On UT's next drive, facing a 6-man box on third-and-5 from the 50, midway through the 2Q, instead of running a draw to Malcolm Brown or Johnathan Gray (again, vs a 6-man box), Swoopes threw into traffic and nearly had his pass picked off. 

Possession #6:

After K-State converted two huge third downs on a TD drive to go up 13-0, UT had one final drive of the first half. The Horns went up-tempo and moved the ball from the UT14 to the KSU45.

But then Ryan Mueller went right around Camrhon Hughes for an 8-yard sack of Swoopes back to the Texas 47.

Swoopes threw incomplete on second-and-18 and third-and-18. Punt

HALFTIME (Texas trails 13-0)


Possession #7:

Two big plays - a 16-yard run by D'Onta Foreman and an 18-yard pass to John Harris moves the ball to the KSU43. 

Then, Foreman and Jaxon Shipley fumble the exchange on the reverse, and KSU recovers the ball. 

Possession #8:

Three big plays - a 21-yard pass to Marcus Johnson, a 15-yard pass to Shipley and a 12-yard run by Swoopes gets the ball to the KSU23. Then, on fourth-and-1 from the KSU14, J Gray is whistled down just shy of the first down. 

Possession #9:

Three-and-out

Possession #10:

Three-and-out


3. The defense did a solid job of limiting Kansas State to 6 points until midway through the second quarter.

But giving up passes of 24 yards on 3rd-and-13 and 29 yards on 3rd-and-14 on a TD drive right before halftime was mind-boggling.

And then giving up 7 chunk plays on third down just takes mind boggling to a whole new level.

1) 24 yards on 3rd-and-13 and 2) 29 yards on 3rd-and-14 on the same drive to a TD and 13-0 lead in 2Q;

3) 17 yards on 3rd-and-9 on a drive that ended in a punt on KSU's first possession of the 3Q; 

4) 18 yards on 3rd-and-20 enabling KSU to kick a 38-yard FG for a 16-0 lead with 2:49 left in 3Q

5) 18 yards on 3rd-and-4 and 6) 16 yards on 3rd-and-10 on the same drive to a TD and 23-0 lead in 4Q

7) 20-yard run by Joe Hubener on 3rd-and-2 from the Texas 25 on the final play of the game.


When Texas brought players on the blitz, they would slow up as they collided with blockers. Ram into them and push them back into the pocket. Punish them. 

And give me Caleb Bluiett over Naashon Hughes for right now. Hughes got pushed around all day from what I saw. Bluiett goes all out and is a much more physical player.


4. Texas trying to establish that both Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline are calling plays might have been funny at first. But now that it's in litigation, we can't tell if that situation is now just clouding up the offensive game plan.

That's a ridiculous situation. Pathetic. Pitiful.


 5. Texas has had so many opportunities to change the outcome of games this season (UT self destructed in close losses to UCLA and OU and in the first half against Baylor).

And it appeared the Longhorns were improving on offense. But this 23-0 loss to K-State now sends UT back to square one.


It's one thing to lose to a solid K-State team ranked No. 11 in the country.

It's the WAY Texas lost.

It was the same old story again in Manhattan that we saw in losses to BYU, UCLA and Baylor: Defense hangs on as long as it can despite offense and special teams ineptitude (Will Russ' 12-yard shank punt helped set up a KSU field goal) before things spiral into a loss.

The offense appeared to be making strides the last two weeks against OU and Iowa State. But then it all relapsed on Saturday, raising new questions about if Swoopes can be the QB for UT in 2015.

And Texas is still looking for a signature win. And Charlie Strong just suffered his first shutout loss as a head coach (61 games).

Now, for UT to go to a bowl and get valuable bowl practices to help this coaching staff prepare its team for 2015, the Longhorns will have to win three of four against:

* Texas Tech in Lubbock
* West Virginia in Austin 
* at Oklahoma State
* TCU at DKR on Thanksgiving

After watching West Virginia pound Okie State in Stillwater 34-10 today and TCU pound Texas Tech into oblivion - 82-27 - I don't see three wins. Maybe two - vs Tech and Okie State. But those are both on the road. And Texas' offense didn't make the trip to K-State.

It's grow-up time for Swoopes  - and for this coaching staff now playing hide-and-seek about its offensive play-calling. Or it will be a very long off-season - especially without a bowl game and those valuable practices.


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