Culpepper's Commentary: Arkansas State Game

I retired from coaching football in 1998 and was able to begin watching the Longhorns in person again, and this was the worst opening game I've seen Texas play since that time. Poor effort and execution show a Longhorn team in serious trouble just one game into the season.

Offensively, the Texas running game has been dead for one year and one game, since the day Vince Young left the Forty Acres. And despite a full off-season of promises that the running game would be fixed, we saw the same ol' thing Saturday. The zone read play is a waste of time. Colt McCoy, regardless of what the Texas coaches say, is a lumbering runner and a perfect target for linebackers. Jamaal Charles has become a dancer and he is mastering the two-yard sideways running play that is offensive coordinator Greg Davis' idea of running the football. Even Derek Lokey at fullback on the goalline did not stop Charles from running sideways in Davis' east-west scheme.

The argument by the Texas staff is that there is nobody that plays fullback that would make the offense better than the array of wide receivers that can be on the field for the Longhorns. Given that, I'm not sure Texas can make a third-and-two yard play against anybody running the ball, so now everything falls back on Colt's shoulders. No change from last season.

So 2007 will be the year where Texas lives and dies by the no-huddle passing offense. And right away there were protection problems – Colt got hit and some passes came out wobbly and several were underthrown. Colt could have – should have – been intercepted four times instead of two. Believe me, protection must improve over the next six days or Colt will have another erratic day when TCU visits.

It will be a supreme challenge for the Longhorn front to hold up against an experienced and talented Horned Frog defense. TCU plays a much better version of the 4-2-5 defense that Texas A&M employs and the Aggies confused Colt last year, and Greg Davis had no answer since he can't or won't implement a scheme that allows Texas to effectively run the football. So TCU will get to Colt this Saturday and when that happens, Colt and the one-dimensional Texas offense are in deep trouble.

Sadly, the best quarterback on the field Saturday night was Arkansas State's Corey Leonard. He took the almost identical offense Colt McCoy ran without the speed at wideout and kept Texas defenders frustrated and by game's end worn down.

A lone bright spot on offense was Limas Sweed, who started his season on a high note but who will find some interesting coverages thrown at him by TCU (and without a running game to take some of the pressure off).

How poor was the Texas defense? Arkansas State had the exact same number of plays as UT (71) and gained 397 yards to the Longhorns' 340.

Texas did not tackle well at any position and there is a big drop-off from last season at defensive end. There is no Tim Crowder- or Brian Robison-like warriors out there. Yet. Newcomer Eddie Jones did make an impressive zone blitz interception that prevented a possible touchdown and, until he got tired, gave good effort. Frank Okam played in top form early and Rashad Bobino did put pressure on Leonard at crucial times.

Aside from that… there's little good to say.

Charles' quote after the game gave a glimpse of what was wrong: "I thought we'd beat them real easy. I took them too lightly."

Perhaps this game is a wake-up call for Charles and the rest of the team, as Mack Brown claimed Monday. If not, TCU will win its sixth straight versus Big 12 competition.

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 appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.

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