The Texas Longhorns football team left a lot to be desired on the field at Notre Dame Stadium.
13 minutes and 58 seconds in the 2015 Texas Longhorns football season, I turned to my wife and, with absolute certainty declared, it’s over. Notre Dame running back Josh Adams had just scampered into the end zone from 14 yards out to push the Irish lead to 13-0. The season was not even a quarter old and I had seen enough to make that prediction as calmly as declaring that the sun would rise the next day.
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All the months of talk out of Austin proved to be just that: talk. All the hype about improvement, the excitement of Shawn Watson when talking about the new offense, the “rapidly improving” offensive line. None of it rang true Saturday night in South Bend.
The Longhorns’ 38-3 loss to Notre Dame was the type of beatdown from which no positives can be gleaned. Perhaps, if you really try, you can point to the play of Malik Jefferson, who certainly appears to be every bit as good as advertised. However, when the only player on the team who appears competent is a true freshman, they doesn’t speak very highly of the rest of the team.
No reasonable Longhorn fan expected a win against Notre Dame. What was reasonable was to expect a young, aggressive team to charge onto the field, put up a fight and get a few licks in. The only thing the Longhorns licked Saturday night was their wounds. They likely failed at that too.
This loss and the pathetic display of football that accompanied it lay totally at the feet of Charlie Strong and his coaching staff.
I’m a supporter of Strong and pined for him long before his name popped on the Longhorns’ radar. However, it’s impossible not to be down on him right now. I’m not going so far as to say that he should be fired, though there was plenty of that sentiment on the message boards last night. My confidence in him is shaken though.
This staff has now had two springs, two off-seasons, two recruiting classes and two fall camps to get this team ready and that was the best they could do?
The defensive line, the supposed strength of this team and by far the most experienced unit, couldn’t generate any sort of a pass rush. Yes, the Irish O line is good, but you’d think that at some point in the game, someone on the Texas line would win a battle. Wrong. At one point, Irish QB Malik Zaire dropped back, did some homework, had a snack and signed some autographs before calmly stepping up and throwing a perfect pass for a first down.
The secondary was dreadful. Dylan Haines was the most noticeable offender and he looked every bit like a former walk-on on this night. Duke Thomas, the supposed “shut down” corner, got torched for a long touchdown. There weren’t holes in the Longhorns’ pass coverage. There was no Texas pass coverage. That would require a Longhorn defender to be within five yards of the guy he was covering.
Shawn Watson’s failings were on full display Saturday night. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
Then we come to the offense. I’m not ready to fire Charlie Strong yet, but I am ready to pull the plug on Shawn Watson. Watson was the uninspired pick of Strong to head his offense and was a mistake from the get-go. His failures, both as an offensive coordinator and as a quarterback coach, were on full display Saturday night. His offenses are bland, his gameplans poorly constructed and he has no idea how to use the players at his disposal.
Jonathan Gray, arguably Texas’ best offensive player, didn’t touch the ball until late in the first quarter when the game was already getting out of hand. For the game he averaged 5 yards per carry. He only carried the ball 8 times!
Watson got a free pass for last year, despite the fact that he failed to adequately prepare Tyrone Swoopes to take over, even though it was common knowledge that David Ash was one good shot from quitting football. He installed an offense that was a poor fit for Swoopes and for his only incoming quarterback recruit, Jerrod Heard.
Now both Swoopes and Heard have been in the program for two years. This offense was supposed to be tailor-made for them. Yet, neither could do much. Heard didn’t get much of a chance and Swoopes looked just like Swoopes looked late last year: lost, beaten and ineffective. He may not have the skills to be a big time college quarterback but I also don’t think Watson is helping him at all.
Then we have Joe Wickline, who is supposed to be the best offensive line coach money can buy. Strong made Texas look bad by giving him the phony offensive coordinator position in order to hire him away from Oklahoma State, then exposed the ruse by all but admitting that Watson was the real OC. Then entire ploy gave Texas a black eye, but it was at least a small comfort that we had the best in business and we had taken him away from a conference rival.
Think they’d take him back?
Two springs, two recruiting classes, two falls and Wickline’s charges were atrocious on Saturday night. The “we’re starting two true freshman” excuse doesn’t work for me. If they are starting, then that shows that the more experienced players have failed miserably. Where were Elijah Rodriguez and Alex Anderson, two of “Wickline’s guys” from last year’s class? Where was Marcus Hutchins and Jake Raulerson, both of whom started at times last year? If Wickline has had them for two years and they got beat by two true freshman, who then stunk the place up, what does that say about Wickline’s developmental skills?
Texas should handle Rice easily in the home opener, but beyond that it’s hard to imagine the Texas team we saw last night winning more than 3 games. I wrote earlier that Texas would be a beast by the second half of the season, but that was because I was drinking the burnt orange Kool-Aid Strong and his staff had been serving. Now I’ve seen the 2015 Longhorns with my own eyes and it is ugly.
I shouldn’t be able to watch fourteen minutes of football and declare a team dead in the water. I don’t care how good Notre Dame might be. The Longhorns showed nothing on Saturday night. They showed no heart, no fight and looked incompetent to boot. The coach staff seems lost and clueless. Right now any hope for even a 6-6 season seems foolish.
It will take much more than beating Rice to change that. This is going to be a long season.