K-State had seven defensive penalties in their opening loss to Auburn. Twice on Saturday I saw Wildcat coaches just in front of where I sat berating their players for what the coaches thought were penalties that could have been called. All that while Texas continues to make the same mistakes (and more) it has made since late last season.
That typifies what happened Saturday in Austin in the rain and in the sunshine; Former walk-ons out-playing sure to be NFL players and an opposing coaching staff determined not to let their team commit the same errors that cost them a game are good places to start when trying to understand why Texas lost by 20 points, at home, with everything to be gained by a victory.
The first time Kansas State got the football they marched 80 yards without flaw. Texas was playing a soft zone in the secondary so the Wildcats ran a receiver to the sidelines and played pitch and catch to the curl receivers. To vary that up they put one backed-off tight end in motion across their formation and threw passes to the other tight end in the seam.
Running back James Johnson picked up crucial yards by breaking to the outside and catching quick developing flare screens. Of course, his 85-yard kickoff return which gave K-State a second quarter lead after Colt McCoy threw and arching pass for a touchdown to Quan Cosby, who had made a sensational catch that tied the game at 14 apiece, was an early momentum changer.
If you got to see Auburn versus Florida Saturday night you saw what really passionate play looks like on defense. There were 300-pound Auburn defensive linemen making great plays in the fourth quarter. I only saw Derek Lokey and Aaron Lewis really gut themselves making plays late in the game.
Offensively, the Texas OL got manhandled and poor Colt McCoy took heavy punishment.
Now that the Horns' off-season ‘focus' on improving the running game has produced few results, Texas is committed to throwing the football, and all those protection breakdowns are what cause losses to the top teams, and even the want-to-be-good teams. The Longhorns cannot pound the football and do not let the young linemen come off the ball and attack, so short yardage is difficult and protection with an inexperienced, banged-up line has become a win-or-lose proposition.
The lack of offensive production when the score was 21-24 Kansas State in the third quarter was particularly disappointing. The offense had battled through the downpour that started at halftime and closed the game to three points. The wet Texas fans were yelling encouragement and, even after Colt threw another deflected interception, the Texas defense held the Wildcats to a field goal to keep the game in easy reach at 21-27.
But on their next possession, the Longhorns had lost whatever spark they had coming out of the half and they punted. Eighty-nine yards later the former K-State walk-on pitched the ball to the official and it was 21-34, and essentially game over.
Special teams are a reflection of desire, hustle and solid coaching. The Longhorns are generally well coached, regardless of how the booing fans feel, but the two crucial breakdowns show just how far this team has to go to win any of the tougher games on the schedule. Only against Iowa State and Baylor can Texas get away with such poor execution on special teams.
So here is what faces Texas in Dallas: an angry Oklahoma team that got upset because Colorado held the ball 38:54 of the game, running 46 times for 161 yards, and breakdowns in the kicking game. Both teams are frustrated but Colt McCoy's health could be a real problem.
I will not leave if Oklahoma starts to make this one sided, which they might. Texas has a chance but it's a very slim one. Oklahoma can run the football and Texas' passing attack is suspect because of protection. I call it OU 45, Texas 17.
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.