Pig In A Poke: Texas Drops A Shocker To Arkansas

You figured Texas’ erratic kicking game, inconsistent run defense, failure to contain an athletic QB and its absolutely nonexistent rush offense would cost it a game this year. You just didn’t expect it to be this one.

Earlier this week, head coach Mack Brown said we would know by 3 p.m. Saturday what kind of team Texas would have this year. Here’s what we know following Texas’ 38-28 loss at DKR to Arkansas (snapping the nation’s second-longest home-winning streak at 20): the glaring deficiencies that knocked Texas out of the championship hunt the past couple of years are still there. It ain’t fixed yet, folks.

Brown said he was "disappointed and crushed" following Texas’ first home loss since the 1999 Kansas State game.

Usually what a coach says following a meltdown like this is that everything is correctable. Problem is, we’re talking about the things that Texas has been trying to correct for more than a year. All those staff shake-ups, emphasis on leaner, meaner athletes, a supposedly more intense spring training and August two-a-days, lip service to a new-aggressive attitude, a commitment to improving both its run offense and run defense and getting pressure on the QB, all the rhetoric about "Finish" and "Take Back Dallas", and all you’ve got to show for it is a win over New Mexico Directional and now a third-straight setback to a team that has no business being within 14 points of you at home.

"What I’ve got to do is go back and try to figure out why we didn’t play well," Brown said. "I don’t know if ‘stunned’ is the word for (the way I’m feeling) but I’m really disappointed. I told the players, ‘Coaches lose games. Players win games.’ I’m the one who scheduled the game. I’m the one who schedules their practices. You don’t have to look anywhere (for an excuse) but here."

Well, it’s a good as any of a place to start since this was a game where Texas got out-executed, out-muscled, out-desired and out-coached (any time you have a coordinator that says ‘we tried everything and nothing worked’, it means the other guy is out-coaching you). It happened against an Arkansas team that has not been on the same radar screen as Texas during recruiting season. Add to the mix three fumbles, two punts that averaged 15 yards and a ground game that netted two-yards per carry, and you have a game that was uglier than the final score indicated.

And to think Texas had two weeks to prepare for these guys.

"We just have to suck it up," WLB Derrick Johnson said. "We can’t let this affect our season. We just have got to pick it up."

There’s no arguing the assessment from several Texas coaches that Arkansas QB Matt Jones made all the difference.

"He changed the game," Brown said, after Jones rushed for 102 yards on 12 keeps (including a 60-yarder). "We’ve talked so much about stopping the run and we didn’t do it."

In addition, Jones made some spectacular tosses (8-of-16 for 139 yards and no interceptions) in converting critical third down yardage.

"He’s the key to what they do," defensive coordinator Carl Reese said. "He’s the guy that made the difference in the whole football game. We tried to do several things to get to him but we were never successful."

Those "things" included zone blitzes, single-man blitzes, all-out blitzes, rushing five, while trying to slow Jones by showing different coverages. Nothing worked.

"We tried to stop their quarterback but we never did," Reese said. "If you make a mistake on him, he’s going to be out of the gate. If you take the kind of plays that he makes out of the game, it’s a different ballgame. We could not get in his face."

After Texas had jumped back in it, 35-28, on FL Tony Jeffery’s 11-yard fade route with 9:38 remaining, Jones thrust the final dagger with his 38-yard naked bootleg on 3rd and 1 from the Texas 39. That set up the Razorback field goal that put this one out of reach.

In fact, Arkansas continually deflated Texas’ balloon by converting on key third down situations (10-of-18) while the Horns moved the chains on but 5 of 13 third down plays.

"We knew running the ball against Arkansas would be difficult because of their structure," offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. "We went into the game with the idea that we would change up our pass protection, and we knew that we would throw the ball more than we did in the opening ballgame. It’s always nice when you can have balance."

That’s just it. Texas has not had offensive balance since Ricky Williams took his dreads to the NFL. Nobody expected Texas to run up and down the field on Arkansas (or anybody else, for that matter) but 150 yards is not unreasonable. Sixty-two yards on 29 attempts? What happens when Texas plays a real defense? The running game is consistently inconsistent and the entire offensive package has become decidedly one-dimensional in terms of total yardage.

Three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust would be an improvement for RB Cedric Benson, whose two-game rushing total tops out at 67 yards on 25 carries (27 yards on 13 carries against Arkansas). Meanwhile senior RB Cedric Cobbs gorged the D-line to the tune of 115 yards on 20 carries, including a 46-yard scoring rush up the gut to stake a 28-14 lead just four minutes into the third quarter. It came on the heels on Jeffery’s momentum-killing, midfield fumble on an end-around during Texas’ first possession of the second half.

All told, the Hogs rushed for 265 yards on 60 plays. They added 173 yards on 9-of-18 passing.

"You can’t give up 200 yards rushing, and Arkansas did that (rush for 200+) ten times last year," Brown said. "And they did it today. We gave up long runs, and we were trying to catch up all day on offense."

The inevitable Vince Young question surfaced after the backup QB never set foot on the field.

"We felt Chance was playing well," Davis said, "and because of what was happening he gave us the best opportunity to win the game."

SE Roy Williams broke Mike Adams all-time career reception record with his 10 grabs (117 yards) but never broke the plane of the goal line. Roy’s longest reception of the day went for but 24 yards in the first quarter and was kept out of the end zone for the first time since last year’s Iowa State game (October 26).

As predicted, FL B.J. Johnson came up big in a losing effort, contributing a game-high 123 yards on six receptions, including two touchdowns. In fact, Johnson came up big on Texas’ opening possession.

Taking early advantage of single coverage on you-know-who and borrowing a play from Bob Stoops' playbook with a successful fake punt attempt, Texas struck first with a 10-play, 77-yard scoring drive culminating in B.J. Johnson‘s 31-yard grab. QB Chance Mock opened the series from the UT 23 and moved the ball to near midfield on successive tosses to SE Roy Williams: a 12-yard swing pass followed by an 11-yard gain off play action. A quarterback draw netted 7 yards setting up 4th-and-2 from the Razorback 46. But the fake punt resulted in a four-yard Brett Robin gain. Three Benson carries gained 11 yards. Facing 2nd-and-9 from the 31, Mock found Johnson sprinting down the left sideline over FS Tony Bua. But Texas’ 7-0 lead would be as good as it got all afternoon.

Arkansas answered with a 72-yard eight-play drive because nobody wearing Burnt Orange could contain Jones or SE George Wilson. Jones’ 22-yard out pass to Wilson over CB Nathan Vasher spotted the Hogs at midfield to open the series. The visitors converted two key third downs to keep the drive alive: first, an 11-yard sprint draw from RB Cedric Cobbs followed by Jones’ falling-down, in-the-grasp-of DT Rodrique Wright 10-yard desperation completion to Wilson on 3rd-and-5. That spotted the Piggies at the Texas 18, where Jones found Wilson over the middle in the end zone.

A three-and-out series for the Horns resulted in a Richmond McGee punt that traveled all of 13 yards, giving the Razorbacks a first down at the Texas 35. Jones converted another pivotal, scrambling conversion for 18 yards behind behemoth All-American RT Shawn Andrews to secure a first down at the UT 14. Following a 12-yard completion to TE Jason Peters, Jones scrambled over right end (a-gain) for the three-yard score. The Pigs led 14-7 with 3:05 remaining in the opening frame.

Williams broke Adams career reception record (178) with a 24-yard gainer, thanks in part to a sensational juke on the DBs, but the drive stalled after Arkansas began putting two men on Williams. This time, McGee’s punt carried all of 17 yards.

On Arkansas’ first possession of the second quarter, a Jones pass hit true freshman DE Tim Crowder in the wrong spot (right in the numbers). He had nothing but real estate in front of him, but this was a day where defensive stops and scores still could not keep the momentum on the Texas sideline (not even FS Dakarai Pearson’s 77-yard fumble return for TD in the fourth quarter).

You could feel this one slipping away when Texas took over on its own 9 with 3:48 remaining until intermission, trailing 14-7. Davis said the primary goal in this situation was to get a couple of first downs and then punt. The first couple of pays, however, lost eight yards. (Benson lost five trying to rush over left guard followed by Williams’ three-yard loss on pass in the left flat. Mock completed a four-yard out pass to Williams, who was gang-slapped before fumbling. DE Jeb Huckeba recovered and TB De’Arrius Howard carried it in on the next play.

That made it 21-7 with 1:53 remaining until halftime.

Brown would comment that this was a day when Texas did not play well but always played hard. The result was that the Horns would jump back in it long enough to break your heart again. And again.

Following the Arkansas score, Texas responded with a 7-play, 68-yard scoring drive in 78 seconds. It was a hurry-up offense against a prevent defense that culminated with Johnson’s second TD of the half, a 9-yard slant pass to draw within seven heading into the locker room. Johnson would have but one more reception the rest of the afternoon. And the tight ends, inexplicably, were shut out all afternoon.

Huckeba came back to haunt Texas just after Cobbs reeled off that 46-yard TD run. Mock had guided the Horns from their own 20 to the Razorback 10 but, on 2nd-and-7, Huckeba deflected an option pitch that SLB Caleb Miller recovered at the 34.

That sort of thing happened all afternoon. On Arkansas’ next possession, for example, the Texas defense had the Razorbacks pinned at their own three, facing third-and-30. Jones’ out pass to Wilson came up nine yards short of the first down. But Brown elected to replay the down after Arkansas was whistled for a false start. This time Jones found Wilson all by his lonesome on a deep pass complete for 54 yards to the Texas 43.

"We were in a zone and we just blew it," Reese said, preferring to blame himself than single out a player. "I should have had them in man coverage."

But the most unkindest cut occurred just after Pearson's fumble return to bring Texas within 28-21. With virtually the entire fourth quarter staring at your disposal, this is when you just knew Texas was going to shake it off and pull it out.

But the kickoff brought back painful memories of the waning moments of the second quarter of last year’s OU game. With all the momentum and time that Texas would need for a hard-fought comeback, what would you give for a touchback when Texas needs it most? Instead, a redshirt-freshman ran the damn thing back to the Texas 36-yard line.

Eight plays later, Jones found Wilson on a drag pattern. Wilson made a one-handed catch on the one-yard line. Howard carried it in on the next play.

Brown summed it up like this: "We didn’t get enough production out of our running game. It seems like we were almost 14 points behind. And running out of time."

And running out of excuses for why Texas, again, failed to put its money where it’s mouthpiece is. Frankly, there are no excuses. Just the kind of crushed expectations that usually doesn’t happen until the second Saturday in October.

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