Game Observations

Defensive aggression, rushing woes, an MVP debacle and more. Inside Texas' Ross Lucksinger gives his observations from the Longhorns 26-24 win over Iowa in the Alamo Bowl.

-Defensive coordinator Duane Akina was not timid when it came to his defensive schemes against Iowa.

"By nature I'm going to be aggressive," said Akina. "That's my background."

Akina's aggression paid off at times and bit him at others. Iowa responded with bubble screens and play action to off-set the Texas blitz, producing big plays from the passing game. The aggressive defensive scheme also resulted in big plays from the defense, like Marcus Griffin's tackle on third down to snuff out a wide receiver reverse pass.

But the biggest play against the Texas defense, Iowa WR Andy Brodell's 63-yard touchdown on the Hawkeye's second drive, came against a very non-aggressive play call.

It was a cover three soft zone, so Aaron Ross fell back to cover the deep ball, Marcus Griffin moved to the middle of the field to cover the post and the linebackers were supposed the shift underneath to stop the curl…but the linebackers did not shift underneath. Drawn off by a play-action fake, the backers bit on the run, leaving Brodell open for the curl. Brodell then made Ross miss and was off to the races.

Curl routes are difficult to execute precisely against zone because it allows the man in coverage to sit on the route. Good play-call, poor execution.

Overall I'd rate Akina's performance a B+. Occasional over aggression that resulted in screen passes turning into 40-yard plays, but in general good usage of his personnel and he put his guys in position to make the right plays at the right times.

Whether or not the performance will be enough to get his the defensive coordinator job remains to be seen.

-It seems curious that Aaron Ross, although he did have several big plays for the Longhorns, was named defensive MVP after giving up 159 yards and two touchdowns to Brodell.

Here's how it happened:

Media members vote on the Offensive and Defensive MVPs of the game. In the third quarter, ballots were passed out in the press box that read "If Texas wins my Offensive and Defensive MVPs are (blank). If Iowa Wins…" The ballots were then gathered up in the fourth quarter so the MVPs can be awarded on the field when the game ends.

After the game there are two different press areas, one press conference for people covering Texas and one for people covering Iowa and each of the teams hold their respective press conferences and interview sessions there. Myself and the rest of the media covering the University of Texas were gathered in the interview room before any of the Texas players, coaches or staff had arrived and Cedric Golden of the Austin-American Statesman leaned over and asked who I voted for.

"Micheal Griffin," I responded. The guy was all over the field and played a great game and I gave my vote to him, regardless of which team won.

Golden said he voted for Rashaad Bobino and asked Suzanne Haliburton who she voted for and she said Roy Miller. I asked Chip Brown of the Dallas Morning News and he said Michael Griffin. As we asked around the room, we were getting a variety of answers, but no Aaron Ross. Eventually Golden said: "Is there anyone in this room that voted for Aaron Ross?"

Silence.

Then we realized what happened. If someone is not terribly familiar with a team's defensive personnel, they're going to only notice a player when they make a big play. Almost every person covering the University of Iowa voted for Aaron Ross, while those of us covering Texas split their votes amongst several different players, giving Ross the MVP.

-In the week leading up to the game, Texas offensive coordinator said he and the Texas coaches had "tweaked" the Longhorns running game. "Tweaked" was an accurate word to use because we did not see a major change in the running attack, just slightly more I-formation and off-set I than usual. The primary running play was still zone handoff and run straight into the defensive end.

The Longhorns averaged 3.3 yards per carry against Iowa (21 rushes for 70 yards) and only managed 18 rushing yards in the first half, 14 coming on a reverse to wide receiver Jordan Shipley.

There were a variety of factors that combined to create the low total, including Iowa stacking the box and challenging Texas to pass and a run/pass imbalance in play calling -- 40 pass to 21 run -- but it's apparent that the running game will have to be more than "tweaked" in the off-season.

-On the subject of run/pass imbalance, I didn't have any issue with the play calling in terms of runs and passes because if they're going to give it to you, go ahead and take it.

"At halftime, Coach (Brown) said ‘I don't care if you throw the ball every down. Go out and win the game,'" said offensive coordinator Greg Davis.

What's most important about the play-calling is that Texas did not make the same mistake they made against Ohio State by moving away from the most effective part of the game. Against the Buckeyes it was the run, against the Hawkeyes it was the pass, but the Horns continued to attack where they found match-ups they liked.

-Linebacker Sergio Kindle played on both sides of the ball and actually got five grinding yards for the Longhorns on one attempt. It was only a single carry, but it shows great promise for the freshman as a situational runner for Texas.

At this point, Kindle has supplanted Henry Melton as the Longhorns' power back. Melton will move to defensive end full-time next season and, with the departure of seniors Brian Robison and Tim Crowder, should figure heavily into Texas' DE rotation.

Expect the Texas running attack next year to feature a rotation of Jamaal Charles and Vondrell McGee, with Charles getting most of the carries and Kindle getting the ball in select situations.

-There were several records broken or tied at the Alamo Dome on Saturday. Colt McCoy broke the NCAA single season freshman passing TD record with his 72-yard touchdown pass to Jamaal Charles. It was McCoy's 29th TD pass of the season, which is the record for passing TDs by a Texas quarterback, freshman or otherwise, in a season. Limas Sweed hauled in McCoy's first touchdown of the game and with that catch tied the Texas single season record for receiving touchdowns (12), set by Roy Williams in 2002. In addition, the official attendance of 65,875 was the largest crowd in the history of the Alamo Dome.

-Roy Miller was everywhere. The sophomore DT led the Longhorns with 11 tackles in the game…from the nose tackle position. To give you an idea of how difficult of feat that is, the nose tackle lines up between the center and offensive guard and usually takes up two or more blockers on each play. It was truly an impressive day for Miller. In retrospect, I probably should have voted for him for Defensive MVP. Not that it would have made a difference.


Horns Digest Top Stories