The Texas offense showed signs of life in a 38-7 win over Baylor. Sophmore quarterback Shane Buechele got the start in Waco while Sam Ehlinger remains in concussion protocol.
Let’s take a look at how the offense graded out:
Shane Buechele played a relatively solid game in his first start since the Iowa State game. Buechele finished the day 27 of 34 for 256 yards and a touchdown. He also added 9 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown. The sophomore displayed good accuracy in the passing game and seemed to moved around the pocket comfortably. His lone mistake of the day was a forced pass to Dorian Leonard that was intercepted.
The utilization of the quick passing game helped make Buechele’s job easier for much of the game. With the running game still inconsistent, the offense is at its best when the ball is getting out quick and the pass is setting up the run. Buechele did everything the coaches asked of him today, and there is no reason the coaches shouldn’t be 100% confident in him if Sam Ehlinger is not able to play next Saturday against TCU.
The youth movement at the running back position was on full display in Waco. Toneil Carter and Daniel Young saw the majority of the carries, with Chris Warren only carrying the ball twice for 3 yards. Carter led the way with 15 carries for 70 yards and looked very comfortable in the lead back role. Young displayed good power and vision between the tackles, and capped off his day with a 31 yard touchdown in the 4th quarter. I was even more impressed with both backs’ ability as blockers and catching the ball out of the backfield. Texas still struggled mightily to run the ball for much of the first half, and the running back group as a whole still continues to run laterally too much instead of cutting upfield, but progress was made.
At this point, Texas knows what it has in Chris Warren and Kyle Porter. Porter was still banged up with a shoulder injury and it helped open the door for Carter and Young. The Longhorns have to find a way to run the football effectively down the stretch, and continuing to give the freshman duo more carries may be a way to do that.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
It was a busy game for the wide receiver corps, with 6 receivers recording a catch. Lil’ Jordan Humphrey paced the unit with 5 catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. Collin Johnson recorded his highest catch total in 3 weeks with 6 catches for 36 yards. I am still not sold that the coaches are using him to his fullest potential, but maybe there are things the coaches see in practice that we do not. Lorenzo Joe saw a lot of action and finished with 4 catches for 53 yards. Armanti Foreman found his way back onto the field and caught 2 passes for 12 yards. There was not one receiver that really stuck out during the game, but the unit as a whole contributed solidly and kept mistakes to a minimum. Oh, and John Burt needs to see the ball more.
Cade Brewer had a very good game blocking and also added 2 catches for 18 yards. He is guy who has improved every week and his willingness as a blocker has made him a 3 down tight end that never has to leave the field.
Despite the overall offensive output, the offensive line still had a shaky day. There were numerous times when the 3 interior guys allowed heavy pressure right up the middle. Tristan Nickelson and Denzel Okafor split time at left tackle, and both still struggle with speed rushers coming around the edge. Terrell Cuney looked more comfortable at center than in his previous starts at guard, but still allows far too much pressure in pass protection. His run blocking was average, including a pancake block on a Toneil Carter touchdown run that was somehow called holding.
This offensive line unit is not very good when you ask them to move and try to block people at the same time. The sprint rollout passes and speed sweeps result in a defender breaking through the line far too often. TCU and Gary Patterson are going to give the offensive line fits next week. There is no way around it, but it will be interesting to see if Texas makes adjustments to help make the offensive line play enough to where it is not a complete liability.
Run Block Grade: D+
Pass Block Grade: D
Offensive Play Calling
It was a mixed bag of results for Tim Beck and the offensive staff. However, it was encouraging to see them bring back the screen game and quick passes that not only help out a quarterback, but a struggling offensive line. The wildcat package is something that can be effective down the road, but after the first 4 times Texas ran it unsuccessfully, it should have been shelved for the remainder of the game. Beck chose to reach into his bag of tricks a few times, and both plays were drawn up nicely and should have been touchdowns.
It was hard to tell if a poor Baylor defense or better play calling was the reason for an improved offensive output, probably some combination of both. What is certain is that it is obvious the coaches are willing to try anything to get this offense moving the ball. Whether that is good enough to get wins in the final 4 games remains to be seen.