Let me make this as clear as I can: the Texas offensive line and protection schemes were not prepared for the quickness and relentless attacking Wazzu defense.
The Texas offense, after establishing an identity over the second half of the '03 season, was back to square one as Horns were outplayed by a hungry defense and outschemed by an opposing coaching staff. It has happened before, but this one was somewhat unexpected.
The Longhorn front had come so far since the disaster in Dallas vs. Oklahoma. At regular season's end, that forward wall and a charging rushing attack of Vince Young and Cedric Benson dominated Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Tuesday night at Qualcomm Stadium, they needed help from their coaches and Greg Davis couldn't find a solution until it was too late.
A solution -- and there was more than one, which makes it all the more inexcusable that Davis and Co. failed to find even one -- was for the Longhorns to deploy two wide receivers and let the other eight block for the quarterback. The Cougar blitz would not have gotten home. To go to this alignment, Texas had to have two excellent receivers and a top-notch running back. I believe Texas could come up with those ingredients, don't you?
Two interesting red zone possessions decided the outcome of this game:
1. Early in the fourth quarter with the score 26-10 in Washington State's favor, the Longhorns got to the Cougars two with first and goal. Benson got just one attempt at running behind the offensive line and fullback to score. When Benson failed to get a touchdown, the Longhorns tried to pass on both second and third down and, surprise!, got blitzed and failed to cover those two yards. And this from a "running" team?
2. With a little over two minutes left in the game and behind 28-20, Mock got enough time to hit Roy Williams with a 45-yard pass to get the ball to the Cougar 11. With time and timeouts remaining, Texas tried to pass again, but Mock rolled outside his protection and as he tried to throw the ball away the football slipped backwards and was recovered by the Cougars. Basically, game over.
Two Washington State defensive players were keys to shutting down the Longhorns. Linebacker Will Derting, at 6-0, 235, refused to be blocked and kept the pressure on. It was Derting that knocked Roy Williams out of bounds on his late-game 45-yard reception.
Free safety Erik Coleman, at 5-10, 202, was the best player in the stadium. He had eight tackles and two sacks. (Yes, the Cougars were blitzing their free safety because Texas doesn't throw the ball down the middle of the field.) Coleman's hit on David Thomas at the Longhorn 11 jarred the ball loose, allowing teammate Jason David to scoop it up for the score.
The Texas defense also fell victim, again, to the Oklahoma-type draw play, with Cougar running back Jonathan Smith imitating former Sooner Smurf Quentin Griffin. And cornerback Cedric Griffin, trying to play bump-and-run coverage but with terrible technique, was beaten on a simple fly pattern for a 54-yard score to give Washington State the lead in the third quarter.
But those are just a few of the discouraging sights on a night of discouraging sights. The most discouraging, though, may have been the sideline shots of Vince Young. To the Longhorns' credit, they fought back, but it was as if they had one hand tied behind their back. Without Young, the Longhorns were strictly a passing team and this we have known for some time: the Texas offensive line can't hold the defense off the quarterback. And the Texas defensive line can't get pressure on the QB in games vs. passing. History repeated itself.
It was a forgettable performance.
Pat Culpepper played for The University from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary will appear regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.