This is Texas football.
Everything that that went wrong in Saturday's game against Arkansas State was a failing that we already feared before the season. The linebackers looked out of place. The interior of the offensive line couldn't open holes. The defensive backs looked inexperienced. The offense spent most of the game running and throwing toward the sidelines.
These were each problems that were examined again and again and they all were weaknesses displayed by this team against ASU. It's not that Texas struggled but how it struggled that's important. Freakish things happen in college football, we saw that in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Texas only winning 21-13 in an opener isn't wildly surprising because a series strange events can happen. But it was Arkansas State that was playing better and got killed by early-season mental errors.
The point is, if the Longhorns play this Saturday like they played the last, they lose to TCU.
There is hope, however, because the true strength of this football team was also revealed: the defensive tackles.
Derek Lokey, Roy Miller, Thomas Marshall and Frank Okam (especially Frank Okam) ran roughshod over the interior of the ASU's offensive line and showed how hard it is to move the football when the quarterback doesn't have a pocket. The Indian's Corey Leonard was able to break free on several occasions and the defensive ends were inconsistent on contain, but it frequently got Arkansas State out of rhythm. Losing Brian Orakpo doesn't help matters, but the defensive line does provide a lot of hope for Texas.
Observations from Saturday's game:
-While Duane Akina's aggressive defensive scheme is preferable to Gene Chizik's gap-control system, the downside to it was also apparent when all three linebackers blitzed right past the running back on more than one occasion. While much of that is poor execution rather than play-calling, it still opened a huge hole.
-Speaking of Akina, I like him on the sideline as opposed to in the booth. He does a great job of firing up his defense and during a fourth quarter pass interference call was jumping up and down like a wild man.
-Texas' top four tacklers in the game were defensive backs, but it wasn't a product of the scheme, like we'd seen the previous two seasons. It was because of poor tackling. ASU was able to get to the second and third level far too often during the game and the linebackers struggled with making consistent, wrap-up tackles. It was similar to a few years ago when Texas players missed a lot of tackles because they were throwing a shoulder instead of making a clean wrap-up (Of course, Texas also had Derrick Johnson then, so it didn't matter as much).
-There was lots of rotation on the interior of the offensive line. Charlie Tanner, Chris Hall, Dallas Griffin and Cedric Dockery lined up every-which-way you could imagine (Tanner-Griffin-Hall; Tanner-Hall-Dockery; Tanner-Griffin-Dockery; Hall-Griffin-Dockery; etc.). It didn't look like any of them worked.
-On the other hand, there was no rotation at receiver. Outside of a very rare Montre Webber appearance, Limas Sweed, Nate Jones and Quan Cosby played the entire game. Not quite sure where these "great" freshmen receivers were.
-Quan Cosby on special teams was another bright spot for Texas. He diced his way through Arkansas State on kick and punt returns. He should be a weapon for Texas this season.
-Hats off to ASU quarterback Corey Leondard. He didn't get much help from his offense and played the game of his life.
-Colt McCoy's arm strength does appear to have improved. He was putting some zip on the ball and showed flashes of the accuracy he had last season, but was also surprisingly inconsistent. 9-for-9 to start the game, but 2-for-9 with two picks the rest of the first half. He finished 22-33, 223 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs.
-Trevor Gerland won the starting punter job, but maybe they should give it to McCoy. Texas' starting QB put Arkansas State on the six yard line and then the seven yard line with his pooch punts out of the shotgun on fourth down.
-Offensive guard Charlie Tanner was able to quickly return to the game after having the wind knocked out of him. He was actually jumping up and down on the sideline almost immediately after he came off.
-Brian Orakpo wasn't so lucky. While engaged with the left tackle, he had his legs taken out from him by a running back. It was about as dirty of a play as you'll see in football.
-Sweed was occasionally holding his injured left wrist and testing it, but it obviously didn't slow him. He made great catch after great catch and showed why he's McCoy's number one target.
-It was kind of sad that Texas fans had to be reminded to cheer on a fourth down late in the football game. On ASU's final drive, the Indians faced a 4th and 9. PA announced Bob Cole, to his credit, loudly said, "It's fourth down and nine!" At this point, Texas fans started making noise. Again, credit to Cole for saying it, but it was unfortunate that most Longhorn fans at the game had to be reminded that, hey, you're supposed to be cheering right now.
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