Coach's Look: Why So Close? A Lot Of Reasons

I never really bought into the line that Arkansas was going to be bad this year. Sure, the Hogs lost a lot of talent and only returned one offensive starter. Sure, they are picked near the bottom of the SEC. However, the player they returned on offense ripped the Horns for tons of yardage last year. Also, when a team has a lot of talent taken in the NFL Draft, there often is a lot of talent behind them. This isn't high school... coaches have some say on the influx of talent from year-to-year.

This game made me the most nervous of any game on the Texas schedule. Why? Maybe I’ve come to the realization that a loss to OU would not be unexpected, but expected. Maybe I’ve come to the realization that Texas will probably be fighting for an at-large BCS spot most years. This game made me nervous, because this is a game that UT loses most years. Why? Well, that’s water under the bridge. I am content right now to enjoy this one, because a close win is much better than a close loss.

What do we know about this team? What can we expect in the OU game? I will try to provide some of those answers in this article, since the next two weeks will probably be spent on describing the new formations/plays that UT is putting in for OU that, if history is any indication, they will end up not using (i.e. the "bunch" formation from last year). In the meantime, I will give you my perspective on why this game was a lot closer than a lot of Orangebloods (and oddsmakers) predicted it would be.

Here are the top reasons this game was closer than predicted by some "in the know".

  1. Arkansas is underrated, pure and simple. Whenever you have a special athlete like Matt Jones as your QB you are going to be in most games.
  2. The atmosphere at the stadium was electric. It’s hard to realize the hatred that some Razorback fans have for Texas.
  3. Though it was much better than last year, the tackling from the Longhorn offense still isn’t up to "standard". Some have figured out that their arms can be used for more than holding sweatbands and tattoos, and some haven’t.
  4. Penalties in the critical drives of the game made a HUGE difference. Texas never got the separation it needed in the first half. The halftime lead for Arkansas gave the Razorbacks all of the motivation they would need to keep it close.
  5. Houston Nutt is a pretty good coach, and an even better coach against the Longhorns.
  6. Inexperience at the WR position almost cost the Longhorns the victory. Wrong routes, poorly run routes, etc., cannot be tolerated if the Horns are to beat any remaining ranked opponent (read: Oklahoma).

After watching the game, my first impressions were that the play calling in the second quarter should have emphasized running the ball more. It wasn’t until later, when I watched the film, that I realized that the play calling wasn’t horrendous in the second quarter; it was what it had to be because of tough penalties (caused by the atmosphere of the stadium). For those who might be in disagreement, I want to break down the plays the Horns had in the second quarter:

Down & Distance



1st and 15

3 yard stop route to Jeffery

Not a horrible play call. Though I don’t want to see this 5 times/game, you still have to try the outside, especially when the safety cheats up into the box. The worst part of this is the Longhorns had already had a 5-yard penalty before this play.

2nd and 12

Benson ISO w/ Jeffery motion for 4

What do you do on 2nd and 12? Most people would say "pass", so you have to hand it to Greg Davis for calling a run. Good solid blocking, but the play was hamstrung because Arkansas knew what was coming. As soon as Jeffery went in motion, the OLB on Jeffery’s side indicated to the other OLB to blitz hard off of the corner. I think I mentioned something about tendencies last week.

3rd and 8

Scramble by Vince off of rollout for 7

Nice scramble, Vince. You just came up short because of a false start penalty on 1st down.

Down & Distance



1st and 10

ISO for 8 yards

Best blocking I’ve seen from a Longhorn line and fullback in a long, long time. (Almost) complete domination. Will Allen looked shaky. What’s not to like with this play selection?

2nd and 7

Benson for 4 yards on ISO

Nice block by Will Matthews. The main problem with this play was the poor double-team block by Allen and Glynn. I can’t argue with the call, though.

3rd and 3

Vince fumbles for 1

I guess we’ll never know.

1st and 10

Bomb to Jeffery/Benson

New life for the Horns after the Hogs run into the punter. Poor route design or poor route running by Jeffery. I think Benson could have had this ball if Jeffrey wasn’t coming for it, too.

2nd and 15

Pass to Enard for 8

Illegal substitution penalty that falls into the lap of the coaches. There is no excuse for this. The play call wasn’t bad…what else can you do on 2nd and 15? The throw was poor, ensuring that Enard wouldn’t get any yards after the catch.

3rd and 12

Pass incompletion

Instead of 3rd and 7, the Longhorns are faced with a much bigger task, because of another false start penalty. The throw by Vince was too late and behind the receiver. A poor throw.

Down & Distance



1st and 10

Zone Counter Trey for 2

This was not a great play, but it was not because of poor blocking or effort. There was just one too many men in the box for the Longhorns to block. Not a bad result considering the circumstances.

2nd and 8

Swing pass to Jeffery for -1

Boo. Hiss. Rip this play out of the playbook. Someone will get killed. This only works on undisciplined teams. Boo, again, I say.

3rd and 9

Pass incomplete to middle

It’s rough sledding on 3rd and long. Did Greg Davis really think that the 2nd down play would work? Max protection, and everyone was covered on this play.

Down & Distance



1st and 10

QB Draw for 6

Good call, nice play. Great blocking.

2nd and 4

Young to Jeffery for 7

Good throw by Vince and a good first down. Maybe they should have done that on the last drive and the Hogs wouldn’t be ahead.

1st and 10

Young incomplete on swing pass

Someone is going to get killed on this play. Young was too slow in getting the ball to Jeffery, but it didn’t matter. He was toast either way. Poor play call. I really don’t understand it.

2nd and 10

Young rush for 3 on rollout

Not bad, he got some yards and got out of bounds late in the half.

3rd and 7


Too slow in making a poor decision. Poor throw to boot.

As you can see, the Longhorns only had a couple of plays where they might have run instead of thrown. There is not much that you can do when penalties dictate your play calling. The Longhorns made this a close game because of mistakes in the second quarter, and that can’t happen versus good teams. Great teams will beat you by three touchdowns (or more) with mistakes like that. Fortunately, the Horns probably will face just one great team this year, and that will be October 9th in the Cotton Bowl.

Mark Kissinger has coached high school football in Texas and Tennessee, coaching OL, TE, WR, DT, DE, and serving as both an offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. In high school, he was coached by the legendary G.A. Moore. Mark recently retired from coaching and received his M.B.A. from Rice University and is in his third season of writing for IT. His 'Coach's Look' column appears after each game during football season on

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