If this is what to expect from the Texas Longhorns football team in 2015, I’m switching from Kool-aid to the harder stuff.
Saturday night’s showing was beyond what anyone could have imagined. This is supposed to be a Texas Longhorns football team ready to take the next step. Last season’s failures are a thing of the past.
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It didn’t look like that on Saturday. Here are some things I noticed about the 2015 version of Texas Longhorns football.
Malik Jefferson was everywhere last night. The freshman showed us speed at the linebacker position we haven’t seen since Derrick Johnson. His best play was when he came off the edge and blew up a running play in the backfield. Jefferson had nine tackles in his debut. He still has some things to learn – the experienced Irish receivers found soft spots in the zone coverage, often settling in right where Jefferson should have been. He’ll learn the little nuisances of the game as he gets more experience.
Nick Rose looks more comfortable kicking this year. Yes he missed a 52 yarder, but only after his third try. Brian Kelly used his last two timeouts of the half to ice Rose, both times he converted the kick. Finally on his third try he missed. It seemed kind of bush league for Kelly to use time outs consecutively – the game was not as close as the 17-0 score indicated. But when you’re coaching to win, you pull out all of the stops.
John Burt had a nice catch. He may quickly become the John Harris of the 2015 season.
Do we have ourselves a special teams ace in the making in Kris Boyd? He was consistently beating his man down the field and blew up one Notre Dame punt returner.
Did Shawn Watson forget that Jonathan Gray traveled with the team? How does your best running back get just a handful of carries in the first half? He finished with eight for the game.
And what was with the wide receivers backtracking after catching the ball? Armanti Foreman and Daje Johnson both cut back across the field, but ended up losing yardage. Foreman was bailed out by a penalty. This team struggles to move the ball, go down field after the catch please.
The Jerrod Heard era got off to an inauspicious start. He did get the Longhorn’s first first down of the game. Then he got hurt and had to leave the game. He was back for the next series, and was blown up on a play where he appeared to be on the wrong page, running into Gray before getting crushed by three Irish defenders. This is going to happen as he learns the college game. I’m a bit surprised he didn’t get back into the game in the fourth quarter. It makes me wonder if he is injured.
The defensive line didn’t get the push and penetration it needed. Malik Zaire had all kinds of time to survey the field and find open receivers. Or else he took off running for big gains. In the second half the Notre Dame offensive line took over and opened up big holes for C.J. Prosise and Josh Adams. To be fair, the Irish have a very good offensive line. The left tackle is expected to be a high draft pick next year. Nonetheless, this is supposed to be the strength of the defense.
The secondary was shredded worse than the cheese on my fajitas. We knew the young guys would take their lumps, but who thought Duke Thomas and Dylan Haines would be the main culprits. The blown coverage on Will Fuller’s 66-yard touchdown reception is inexcusable. You don’t let the Irish’s top receiver roam free in the secondary. He finished with seven grabs for 142 yards and two scores. Haines took bad angles and gave up way too much of a cushion to Fuller on Notre Dame’s first touchdown.
John Bonney didn’t get beat on any throws, but he too gave a generous cushion to the receivers he lined up against. This isn’t a surprise to me and I expect the redshirt freshman to be fine as the season progresses.
The offensive line was downright dreadful. The running game never got going, unless you want to count the scrambles by Tyrone Swoopes. Connor Williams was on the receiving end of a pancake block. Kent Perkins and Sedrick Flowers struggled to defend an Irish front four missing its best interior lineman. Swoopes didn’t have time to throw – the same problem he had last year. Is Joe Wickline coaching these guys?
Speaking of Swoopes, I didn’t see the swagger or confidence that he supposedly found over the offseason. He finished 7/22 and 93 yards passing. He missed receivers pretty badly. If this is how he is going to play against good competition, this team is in serious trouble.
The coaching staff needs to share in the blame. Watson and Wickline didn’t have this offense ready to compete against a Top 25 team. In Texas’ last three games – TCU, Arkansas and Notre Dame – the opposing defensive coordinators didn’t have much to worry about from the offense. Before Strong gets on his players, he needs to let the coaching staff have it.
Last night’s performance came out of left field. Most fans didn’t expect the Longhorns to win, but we did count on the team showing up.