Former Longhorn and two-time Super Bowl champion Dan Neil talks about how big of a win UT's victory over Baylor was

This season, here on HornsDigest.com former Texas All-American offensive lineman DAN NEIL, a two-time Super Bowl winner with the Denver Broncos (1997 & 1998) who opened holes for 2,000-yard rusher Terrell Davis, is breaking down film of Texas games and telling you what he sees.

Post your questions for Dan in this thread, and he will answer them. Catch Dan on “Upon Further Review” on the Longhorn Network on Mondays at 6 pm CT.

 

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I don’t want to say I told you so, but I told you so! 

I know some of you who have been reading my breakdowns here at HD this season probably thought I had taken too many hits on the football field.

Or thought I was some pathetic homer looking at life through burnt orange glasses when I kept saying at the end of every one of these posts this season that Texas was going to beat Baylor.

How did I know Texas was going to win? Why did I keep saying it would happen - even after painful losses at Iowa State and WVU and after losing to Tech on Thanksgiving?

Because, from the beginning, the game mattered.

Let me explain.

 

This was an important game to everyone on the field Saturday. 

Baylor was playing for a spot in the Sugar Bowl, for a 10-win season, for taking down Texas three years in a row for the first time EVER and to declare themselves the premier team in the State of Texas. 

Texas was playing to remind everyone that Baylor is not the premier team in the state, to mark its territory by going undefeated in McLane Stadium, to avoid becoming the first senior class to lose to Baylor three years in a row and to prevent the seniors from tying the 1989 senior class with the most losses in a UT career (24).

This game was HUGE!! And I knew it would be all year.

This was a game I knew Texas needed to win if they wanted to change the direction of this program. 

Texas needed to remind everyone that Baylor is Baylor and Texas is Texas.

Texas is THE premier athletic program in the state of Texas and always has been. 

Facts are facts. No other athletics program in Texas compares with UT in history, tradition, location and academic excellence.

I understand there are ebbs and flows and up and down years.

I understand Texas is in a down cycle and Baylor is experiencing the best years Baylor athletics has ever known.

It’s time for Texas to get back on top, and winning Saturday was a key step in doing that.

UT athletics has the support of president Greg Fenves and chancellor William McRaven.

Fenves has named Mike Perrin the athletic director through the 2017-18 school year.

Perrin’s trying to do things the right way – giving Charlie Strong the support he did not have from Steve Patterson when Strong got here (bringing back John Bianco back, etc).

The next step was to beat that team from Waco in their new stadium!

There are more things that need to happen for Texas to take the next step and start winning Big 12 titles.

Those will happen in the next few weeks, and Chip and the HD staff will keep us all up to date on what will happen next.

For those who say Texas beat a Baylor team with no QB and it was a fluke game, I have one thing to say:

In 30 years, no one is going to look in the record book at the score of that game and see that Baylor had its fourth-team QB in the game.

What they will see is Texas (and we had our own injuries to deal with, by the way, but more on that in a second …) rolled into Waco and left with the win.

At the end of the day, sports are judged by wins and losses. That’s it.

As I watched the game, once again I saw some great things going on and some bad things and a few ugly things. Y’all know how I love the Western “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” (Netflix it!)

That has been the theme for this team all year. 

They have some great players and some bad players on the field.  (And some uglies like the Big Uglies up front!)

We all know this team has been thin on talent. Because of injuries, Texas was playing with true freshmen all over the field – especially on defense.

It takes time to change the talent level.

When I see the young guys on the field playing for Texas, I get excited about where this program will be next year.

I also know some things have to change to go in the right direction. So let’s take a look at some of those things on offense and defense:

 

OFFENSE

#1 … The most important change has to be at the QB position

Texas does not have a QB with the ability to consistently throw the football accurately and on time.

Everyone sees it, and it is a problem. A really big problem.

Facts are facts, and they have to solve the QB position.

I don’t care how or who solves it as long as it is solved. 

#2 … Right behind getting settled at QB is finding 5 on the O-line.

It takes 5 guys to play up front, and by the end of the year, I did not see 5 guys who can play at a Big 12 championship level.

There are guys who can play on the line and some outstanding talent. There just needs to be 5 on the field at the same time instead of one or two.

This inconstancy up front was the reason for the inconsistency of this offense. 

You MUST have an offensive line to win.  Period, end of story.

#3 … An offensive identity comes once you have a QB who provides the threat of the pass and a line that can protect him.

Texas must get a base offense that allows them to run plays that lead to consistent success.

There was a lot to overcome on offense this year, as evidenced by the demotions of Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline and elevation of Jay Norvell to play caller and Jeff Traylor to run-game coordinator.

Norvell tried to find different ways to make this offense work and never seemed able to get any consistency. 

Going forward, this offense needs to find an identity.

I really believe if these issues are addressed on offense, this will be a good unit next year because there are some talented pieces to work with at each position group.

 

DEFENSE

#1 … Improve the run defense

It fell apart at the end of the year.

The last three games, the defense gave up 257 yards and 2 TDs rushing to West Virginia … 293 yards and 5 TDs to Texas Tech … and 395 yards and 2 TDs to Baylor.

Injuries to the team’s leading tacklers - LBs Peter Jinkens and Malik Jefferson – as well as the team’s best DT Hassan Ridgeway definitely played a role.

And early in the season, when Texas was struggling against the run, Ridgeway as well as DTs Tank Jackson and Poona Ford weren’t healthy.

All of that combined with so many young players seeing the field had an impact on the terrible numbers allowed by this year’s defense.

But facts are facts and the above numbers need to be fixed.

Texas needs to get back to playing run defense like it did in Year 1 under Strong (when it had studs like DT Malcom Brown and LB Jordan Hicks).

If that happens, this defense will be nasty, because the secondary is loaded with play-making, young talent and has a chance to be special in the coming years.

The linebackers need depth, but the starting talent is good.

The natural tendency of fans will be to throw out the coaches because the numbers this year’s defense allowed.

But this was the kind of year the coaches learn about who they can depend on going forward, and, like the offense, there are talented pieces to work with.

Remember that ol’ saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water?” Yeah, I never liked that saying, either. But you know where I’m going.

The victories over Baylor and Oklahoma proved there is talent to work with. Now that talent needs to mature into leadership.

I will make my next bold prediction now:

The Baylor game of 2015 will be looked back upon as the beginning of Texas’ return to Big 12 dominance!

 

Hook’em!


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