And the Band Played On...

Technical analysis: a coach's look at the Longhorns' offensive performance vs. A&M.

It was the old story of same song, different verse on Friday at DKR. The UT offense couldn't run, and Greg Davis almost beat the dead horse a little too long.

Though I would like to see the UT offense run more, I can sacrifice it if I know that the passing game will get the victory, as it did in most games this year, including vs. the Aggies. And what Chris Simms did this season is amazing. Never has a UT quarterback had to put the ball in the air so much to win games. The lack of a running attack from the Longhorns in key games made the task of Simms and his receivers that much more difficult, but they managed to put up enough points to walk off the field victorious in 10 of 12 contests.

But back to Friday specifically. Against A&M, it was only a question of when, as in…when are the Horns going to start throwing the ball down the field? When Terrence Kiel and Jaxson Appel are making the tackle and/or first contact on every running play, you know two things: one, the safeties are dedicated to stopping the run and, two, someone will be single covered in most of UT's offensive sets. Also, with the safeties selling out to stop the run, it is highly likely that there will be a coverage mismatch (a linebacker on a slot receiver, for example). By the time Davis finally decided to can the run and throw the ball, it was almost too late. But when the Horns finally did get the aerial assault rolling, the Aggie defense couldn't decide whether they were coming or going. If they laid back, UT hit the hitch for five yards. If they brought pressure up the middle, the line picked it up, and the Longhorns hit a long post over the middle. If they played man, a Texas receiver outran the A&M DB across the middle. If they played zone, Chris Simms picked them apart. Once the UT pass offense got rolling, A&M really had no shot.

Kudos should be given to the Longhorn offensive line for doing a great job against the Aggie blitzes. Although the commentators constantly mentioned how much the A&M D played in its base defense all year, the Aggies did a fair share of blitzing on Friday. There were only a few times that the blitz wasn't picked up. In a tough game, I was proud of every lineman's performance. (The only thing I can add to this is that I wouldn't switch UT's offensive line for A&M's. Ever.)

So, since this will probably be one of my last articles for the year, I want to comment on Greg Davis and the problems with the UT offense. After this paragraph, many of you will be screaming at your monitor that you have said the same thing all along. It is good for coaches to respect other coaches. Sometimes, coaches get so caught up with visions of grandeur that they forget another team is playing on the same field. They believe their team will beat anyone on any day, and they don't take the other team's threats seriously. (Did OU even show up on Saturday?) This is not the case with Mack Brown, Greg Davis, or the Texas players. It is almost the exact opposite. Too much respect is given to opponents at times. The risk-level of the playcalling is inversely proportional to the importance of the game. The more that is on the line, the closer the playcalling is to Davis' vest. When games are gimmes (Baylor, Kansas, etc.), the Horns will roll out wrinkle after wrinkle. But against OU, you will see ISOs and three-yard hitches for hours. It seems that the Horns want to put all of the pressure on the defense to win big games. The old mantra that defense wins championships is true, but the defense can't do it by itself. The offense has to help some. And in the biggest game of each of the last two years, it did not.

I think that we will see a very different UT offense next year. The Longhorns should be sitting pretty at nearly every offensive position, save quarterback, and the battle for that starting position should be fierce. I'm just hoping that whoever is under center next year, it is Texas' Tee Martin (Tennessee QB who led the Vols to the national championship after Peyton Manning moved on to the NFL) and the Horns find themselves in the title game. That, of course, could depend on a change in the coaches' offensive risk aversion strategy. And the trend doesn't look promising.

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. His 'Technical Analysis' column appears each week on InsideTexas.com.


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