4 overreactions from Texas football’s bewildering loss to Texas Tech

Xavier Worthy, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Xavier Worthy, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Steve Sarkisian’s lack of in-game adjustments will continue to cause Texas to suffer in Big 12 play

Many questions are being asked concerning Sark’s ability to get his team up for key games in Big 12 play. And rightly so.

More specifically, questions are being asked about Sark’s ability to make the necessary in-game adjustments. And it’s not just Sark that needs to make some real strides for the rest of the season in terms of the ability to make the right tweaks when needed in-game.

Texas and Texas Tech both were effective in the short and intermediate passing game this weekend. The difference between these teams, though, was that Tech knew what was working and stuck to their guns. McGuire and OC Zach Kittley only strayed from that gameplan when they had something surprising in the works at a key point of the game.

Yet, Sark and the Longhorns turned away from the short and intermediate passing game in the second half at key points, despite that being the most successful part of the offense most of the way. Texas tried to run the ball up the middle too often with Bijan and senior running back Roschon Johnson, which clearly didn’t work against the strong Texas Tech interior defensive line down the stretch.

This was also an issue that Sark and the Longhorns seemingly couldn’t figure out for the entire game. Texas ran the ball up the middle on nearly half of the 29 rushing attempts in this game. But that mustered just 45 rushing yards, two first downs, no rushing touchdowns, 3.5 yards per carry, and one fumble.

Meanwhile, when Texas ran the ball to the outside or Card scrambled, they registered 110 rushing yards on 16 attempts (6.8 yards per carry), six first downs, and two rushing scores. It’s pretty clear that Texas should’ve focused more on getting to the edge and letting all the athletes they have coming out of the backfield get into space instead of forcing them up the middle against a good Tech front.

Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Pete Kwiatkowski is another person on this staff I would pinpoint as having some issues in the last two seasons in terms of his ability to make the needed in-game adjustments against Big 12 foes.

This game was a great example of PK and the Longhorns’ defense just not getting the job done in some pretty obvious ways.

First and foremost, Texas never adjusted to account for Texas Tech’s ability to move the ball down the field effectively behind quarterback Donovan Smith predominantly by way of the short and intermediate passing game. Smith completed 24 of his 34 passing attempts in the short and intermediate passing game, good for 282 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, and no picks.

Smith also graded out significantly higher on short and medium-distance passing attempts than he did on deep balls and on screen plays and throws to the flats behind the line of scrimmage. Yet, PK and the Longhorns continued to play soft coverage and give Texas Tech the opportunity to find open receivers on chunk plays throughout the final two quarters.

It’s also worth noting that there were times in this game when it looked like PK and the Longhorns weren’t even trying to be aggressive and take some chances on blitz plays. Smith posted a passing grade of 86.4 on passing plays where he wasn’t blitzed, and a 55.9 passing grade when he was blitzed. Yet, Texas only blitzed on 19 percent of passing plays.

That’s a very confusing trend. It’s also one that leads me to believe that PK and the Longhorns could’ve simply blitzed more often to apply pressure on Smith and the Red Raiders in the second half.

This game seemed as simple as PK and the Longhorns mixing up the coverage looks to take away some of the easy passes on short and intermediate routes, along with blitzing more often. Texas Tech clearly struggled more when Texas was able to accomplish those two things. But PK wasn’t committing to what worked, which was the most confusing aspect of this game on the defensive side of the ball for Texas.