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DAN NEIL: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES COME AT CRITICAL TIME

After each game this season, former Longhorns’ All-American OL DAN NEIL, who won three conference titles at Texas and two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos, is providing a breakdown to HD of what he saw. Here's his analysis of Texas' 24-20 home loss to West Virginia:

 

This was certainly a game of missed opportunities.  

 

Whenever you play a good team like West Virginia and you are trying to turn your season around, you cannot miss opportunities to win the game.  

 

This starts in the beginning of the week and carriers over to game day. Let's go through the Missed Opportunities:

 

#1 ... The first missed opportunity for this team was Holton Hill being benched.  

 

Hill and P.J. Locke and been really helping this team in nickel and dime as the third and fourth corners.  

 

To lose Hill to some issue the young man keeps having was a missed opportunity for this team to get the best coverage players on the field.  I’m not sure what is going on with Hill, but his being on the bench hurts this team.

 

#2 ... Shane Buechele's pass to Collin Johnson on the wheel route in the end zone on the opening drive was another missed opportunity.  

 

Buechele simply underthrew Johnson and missed scoring a touchdown.  They had to settle for a field goal on that drive. The difference between a TD and FG is four points. Texas lost 24-20.

 

#3 ... Points off turnovers: West Virginia converted three Texas turnovers into 0 points. Texas converted four WVU turnovers into 7 points.

 

#4 ... RG Kent Perkins missed a blitzer and almost got his QB killed, and it resulted in a turnover in the red zone.  He was beat on this same blitz on 3rd and 9 in the first quarter that also resulted in a sack.  This was a missed opportunity to score 6 instead of settling for 3.

 

#5 ... Texas missed an opportunity to tie the game 17-17 going into halftime, when it had first-down at the WVU 11 and ultimately fourth-and-1 from the 2 before settling for 3 at the end of the first half, making the score WVU 17 ... Texas 14.

 

#6 ... Texas suffered a blocked field goal that would have gotten Texas to within one point in the third quarter.  This was also off of a turnover.

 

#7 ... Texas was shut out the entire fourth quarter when a touchdown would of won the game.  Missed opportunity.

 

#8 ... Running a 5-yard out route on fourth-and-6 when time is running out at the end of the game - down by four points - is the equivalent of a turnover. Missed opportunity in the fourth quarter.

 

You hear about the three phases of a football game all the time.  

 

I know it can get redundant. But it is about all three phases on the same day.  Texas has done its job offensively for much of this year. But on the day the defense steps up and plays maybe its best game of the season, the offense has its worst game.  

 

I'm not even going to discuss the special teams phase of the game, because it has been nonexistent all year.  

 

I would be happy with just the offense and defense playing well on the same day.  Texas desperately needed to play a complete game Saturday, and they failed to play well on offense.

 

Everyone wants to know why the offense did not play well.  I will attempt to give some insight to what I saw on film.  

 

I also think we need to take a minute to talk about what the coaches are thinking.  I will always give the benefit of doubt to the coaches, because they are the ones spending the time in the film room and have more information than we do.  

 

I may not always agree with the play calling, however, I know Sterlin Gilbert has his reasons for what he does. I believe Sterlin is a good coach and deserves some benefit of the doubt.

 

When I talk about the offense, we will always start at the same position:  The offensive line.

 

The O-line is what decides what kind of day the offense will have.  This was not the line's best day.  

 

At this point, the left guard play has been inconsistent, and the team is trying to fit a guy in that spot who they believe in.  

 

LG Jake McMillon was out with an right knee injury and they rotated Elijah Rodriguez and Patrick Vahe.  This unit played well at times and looked confused by the blitzes at times.  

 

It looked like one guy would break down either physically or mentally every play and prevented this offense form getting any consistency going.  

 

It is tough on an offense when there are players breaking down and making mistakes.  The offense needs to gain momentum, and mistakes take away your momentum.

 

When I watched the Iowa State game, I saw the Cyclones were not honoring Buechele as a runner and allowed their backside end to crash down on D'Onta Foreman.

 

Iowa State held Foreman to 136 yards rushing on 30 carries.  When a team does not have the backside end stay home, it creates lanes for the QB to run in.  

 

Buechele ran Saturday because West Virginia was not keeping its backside end home.  

 

The biggest problem with Buechele running is he is not very good at it.  He was good enough Saturday, but there was certainly more yardage out there for the QB to rush for.

 

West Virginia’s defensive philosophy is attack.  It was like looking at the Texas defense.  

 

The Mountaineers want to bring pressure with blitzers.  You beat the blitz by running into it and having a back that can make people miss or throwing the ball in the area the blitzer comes form.  

 

To be successful throwing into a blitz, the QB has to be able to recognize where it is coming from and throw to the right receiver.  

 

The QB must be able to do this while under duress and it is not easy.  I personally like blitzing because the defense is trying to dictate the tempo of the game and not just reacting to the offense.  

 

West Virgina won this phase of the game.  Texas was not able to make West Virgina pay for its aggressive defense, and Buechele was hit hard all day.

 

My questions for this offense:  

 

Why didn't the offense stretch the field with the deep ball?  

 

Why was Devin Duvernay not a target on the last drive of the game when you needed a big play?  

 

I really don’t have an answer to these questions and would love to ask Sterlin Gilbert why?  

 

I’m sure Sterlin had a good reason, but I want to know what that reason was. 

 

A few observations:

 

Zach Shackelford is a tough player.  

 

Watch him push the pile in the second quarter when Texas was driving for their first touchdown.  It is the play before Buechele scores.  That is the extra effort I look for in players.

 

WR Jake Oliver had a great day and has been a consistent player for this team.  

 

I'm trying to figure out why there is not more consistency at the wide receiver position.  

 

Where was Devin Duvernay and Armanti Foreman?  They have so much talent at the receiver position that there is not any consistency in who plays.  I like rotating guys, but you need to have 4-5 guys who are your guys and the QB is comfortable with - especially in a last-drive situation like Texas was in Saturday vs WVU.

 

D'Onta Foreman did not look the same.  

 

I don’t know why. But he did not run the same way he did the last three games.  

 

With the number of carries he has been getting, it may be taking its toll.

 

I know where this team and the fans are at this point.  

 

The team still wants to get to a bowl game, and the fans are getting tired of the rollercoaster ride they have been on for the past three years - which is really seven years.  

 

This is as up and down as I can remember this program being.  

 

I have my opinions on where this program needs to head and we'll get into that at the end of the season.  

 

Right now, I'm just trying to figure out what this team needs to do to put all three phases together on the same day and get to a bowl game.  

 

This is a 5-5 team with 2 games left.  I will wait until they play those 2 games to decide what needs to happen within this program.  Until then, I will be pulling for a bowl game.

 

 

 

 


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