The first non-Texas A&M Thanksgiving game couldnâ€™t have gone any worse for the Longhorns. The team played from behind the entire night and was embarrassed on a national scale during a day when the entire nation was watching them self-destruct in the only college football game that was being played on Turkey Day. Itâ€™s been a roller coaster of a season and I think the most obvious thing we can take away from this game, if you havenâ€™t already learned it, is that the fans, the media, and even the coaches really never know what Texas team will show up on a week to week basis. Sighâ€¦
1. Recipe for Disaster: The blueprint for Texas to lose was almost perfect. Both quarterbacks turned the ball over badly in a game where they were going to need to be relied on more than most, since TCU has one of the nationâ€™s best run defenses. The Longhorns ended the day with 4 total turnovers compared to TCUâ€™s 1, they were 3/11 on third downs, they lost the time of possession battle, and also managed to fail to rush for more than 100 yards for the first time since their embarrassing loss against OU earlier in the season. Though this loss wasnâ€™t even in the same category as the loss to OU, it was still a very, very bad loss to a beatable TCU team and it hit home the point that there is still a lot the Texas football program needs to improve on.
2. David Ash: Wow. Where do you even start with him? Some games he looks great and other games he makes bad decisions, poor throws, and his confidence is no where to be found. For Texas to have won this game Ash would have needed to at least make a few plays in the air, manage the offense, and not turn the ball over.Â None of that happened, and on Ashâ€™s second pass of the game he under threw an open Mike Davis that probably would have led to a touchdown but instead the interception led to his demise in the game (0n the night, Ash was 10/21 for 104 yards, 2 interceptions, and 1 ugly fumble) and a long night for the Longhorns.
For me, the David Ash quarterback situation is very delicate because of his mentality, leadership and up and down confidence. I donâ€™t know the guy personally but he seems like someone who isnâ€™t outspoken as much as quarterbacks usually are and need to be. He seems shyer than most and is the type of leader whose leadership depends largely on how he plays rather than being confident up front, like Case and Colt McCoy are. This entire season, each game Iâ€™ve been keen to watch how Ash carries himself and how he performs after mistakes heâ€™s made or games that he has been benched. But I have also been someone who has preferred roll with David Ash instead of Case McCoy because Ash simply has a stronger arm that can open up the playbook more and he can make more throws than what Case can make. Donâ€™t get me wrong; I understand that Case can bring a different element to the game, which largely is his leadership ability, along with his mentality. But I donâ€™t think he has the arm to make half the throws Ash can make down the field, leaving Coach Brown with the decision of playing McCoy and his weak arm or Ash and his weak mentality/confidence.
The problems I have with Ash lie in his accuracy, decision-making, and confidence. Heâ€™s really made some great throws this season. But for as many good throws as heâ€™s had I can go back to each game and point out some terrible throws and poor decisions heâ€™s made. Iâ€™m not saying I expect him to be perfect in each game, thatâ€™s dumb. But the mistakes he continues to make arenâ€™t getting fixed and thatâ€™s a problem. We still see under thrown balls, we still see him make some boneheaded passes into double (and tripleâ€¦) coverage, and he still has a tendency to stare down receivers. But what makes the problem even worse is how is confidence comes and goes so quickly that you never really know what you may be getting with Ash each game. Some games he is slinging it all over the field with out hesitation. And other games, for whatever reason, he is hesitant, he tries to force passes that lead to interceptions, he throws balls to the ground, and/or he looks out of sorts. If David Ash is going to be the starting quarterback in 2013 then he has to become more confident in himself and improve as a leader. Thereâ€™s no way this football program will get any better if their quarterback canâ€™t lead them consistently no matter if the game is going his way or not.
3. Coaching Staff on Ash: What David Ash does on the field, how he carries himself, and how he leads is one thing. But Iâ€™m very, very curious to know exactly how confident Mack Brown and the rest of the coaching staff are with David Ash. Iâ€™m not going to sit here and argue whether or not it was right for Ash to be benched in any of the games in which this happened this season. But if I was on the team and I consistently saw David Ash get pulled when he made some mistakes in games then I would have to come to one of two conclusions. Either the staff really thinks Case McCoy can come into the games and physically make all the throws and plays that Ash has the ability to make. Or that the coaching staff is not confident in Ashâ€™s ability to fight through adversity and over come his own mistakes. So when the going gets tough and Ash starts making bad decisions the staff knows he will continue to spiral down so they pull him before things get even uglierâ€¦ I donâ€™t think the first choice is the real choice. Case McCoy has entered a few games since Ash has been here and actually led Texas to wins. So if Coach Brown and the staff thought McCoy could actually make all the throws that Ash can then there would be no reason as to why McCoy wouldnâ€™t be the starter after games he had won. And McCoyâ€™s stats are actually pretty good in the games he has come into to relieve Ash. But Ash has continued to start each game. So that leads me to believe that Coach Brown and the staff realize Ash has the better arm but they are not confident that David Ash can overcome his own mistakes, maintain his confidence, and lead his offense out of trouble when adversity strikesâ€¦ And thatâ€™s not good at all.
The remaining games (KSU game and bowl game) will tell more about the quarterback situation going into 2013. But the same problems will be there next fall if Coach Brown and the staff arenâ€™t confident in Ash, or whoever the quarterback is, to not only start the game and play the entire game, but also finish a game if mistakes happen or problems arise.
4. Manny Diaz and HIS Defense: This is easily the one problem with the team Iâ€™m most disappointed in. We all knew the offensive line would be a work in progress. We knew the quarterback situation would be one to monitor. We knew the kicking game would be shaky. But no one, I mean NO ONE, thought the defense would be this bad the entire season. They have consistently had problems stopping the run, missing tackles, being out of place, and just playing poorly. I cannot think of any reasons as to why Manny Diaz should be brought back. But honestly, as much as it pains me to say this, I can see Mack bringing Manny backâ€¦ It just isnâ€™t in Mackâ€™s DNA not to. Thatâ€™s not what history tells us. But I can only hope that Coach Brown realizes the state that the program is in and how poor of a job Manny Diaz did coaching and preparing this defense that was thought to be one of the best in the country.
5. Bad Day On The Ground: Give credit to TCUâ€™s run defense. They are one of the best in the nation and they showed why on Thursday by holding Texas to 86 yards on 33 attempts. Thatâ€™s good (or bad) for an average of 2.6 yards per rushâ€¦ Thatâ€™s really bad. Jonathan Gray, the bright spot of the Texas running game the past few weeks, was the leading rusher for the Longhorns but he ended the game with a dismal 47 yards on 15 attempts, 0 touchdowns and a fumbled ball that he was able to jump back on and recover. Joe Bergeron had another one of his no show games and ended the day with 12 yards on 5 carries with 0 touchdowns. (It really is amazing how Bergeron either has big days or does absolutely nothing in the game.) The only other running backs we saw were Daje Johnson, who ran twice for 14 yards, and Jeremy Hills, who ran once and scored an 8 yard touchdown run on his only attempt of the entire game. Malcolm Brown was sidelined with his injury and D.J. Monroe was not given any carries, which disgusts me. But Iâ€™ll get to that in a bit.
It was impressive seeing Texas and Gray run the ball on the opening drive of the game. Jonathan Gray ripped off runs of 8 yards, 9 yards, and 6 yards on his first 3 attempts before the David Ash interception. Gray basically racked up half of his yards (23 yards) on the opening drive alone. But after that first turnover the rushing attack was never the same for the Longhorns and they continued to fail to do much of anything on the ground the rest of the evening.
6. Playmakers: I harp on this quite a bit after each game but can anyone tell me why Marquis Goodwin, Daje Johnson, and D.J. Monroe continue to not touch the ball multiple times on offense? Marquis had 1 catch for 18 yards, Daje Johnson had 2 carries for 14 yards, and D.J. Monroe failed to receive any touches on offense. These guys are home run threats and game changers and should be touching the ball way more than that. I find these three guys to be similar to Tavon Austin and Stedmon Bailey of WVU. Go look at what those guys do when they actually get a good number of touches per game. They change games and score points. And Iâ€™m even more confused as to why these guys wouldnâ€™t touch the ball if the run game were being slowed down. Get anyone of those three speedsters in space and let them fly all over the field. It was sad to see senior Marquis Goodwin get 1 touch, and sadder to see D.J. Monroe fail to get any touches on offense the entire game on their senior nights. Thatâ€™s terrible.
7. Offensive Line: Itâ€™s great for the Longhorns to have many weapons on offense and talented running backs in the backfield. But all that talent gets hindered with a bad offensive lineâ€¦ Has the line improved over the course of the season? Yes. Are they playing at the level the University of Texas offensive line should be capable of? No, they arenâ€™t. The Texas football program is obviously in a funk and has been for the past few seasons. And the offensive line has definitely been in a funk too. Itâ€™s frustrating to see the Longhorns continue to get these top-rated recruiting classes that end up failing to produce any big time quality linemen. I canâ€™t even remember the last Texas offensive linemen to be drafted in the first 3 rounds of the NFL draft (I looked it up, it was Justin Blalock in 2007. He went in the 2nd round to the Atlanta Falcons. The only other lineman to be drafted at all was Tony Hills, who went 4th to the Steelers â€“ MackBrown-TexasFootball.com – Official website of the Texas Longhorns – Texas Football). In my mind there should be no reason as to why Texas cannot recruit and develop top rated linemen each year. The school has some of the nations best training facilities, itâ€™s in the heart of the state that has the nations best recruits, and the school should have the top position coaches around. The fact that the offensive line is even an issue is mind-boggling. On the plus side, there are a number of talented young linemen on campus and headed to the 40 acres. Itâ€™s time for new offensive line coach Stacy Searels to show why he was sought after and brought to Texas.
8. Jaxon Shipley/Mike Davis: Both Shipley and Davis finished the day with 6 catches and 0 touchdowns. Shipley had the edge in yardage with 80 compared to Davisâ€™ 54. Davis should have had about 30 more yards and a score on the first drive of the game but an under thrown ball by Ash led to an interception and a swing in momentum. It was a tough day for the receivers due to poor play from their quarterbacks. But these two guys have been one of the more refreshing pair of players to watch all season long for the Longhorns. Sure there have been games when Shipley wasnâ€™t involved in the offense like he should have been and when Davis had some drops that could have been big time yardage and points. But they still continue to make plays all season long and are fun to watch with the ball in their hands. If Texas just had consistent quarterback playâ€¦
9. Has a TE Emerged?: If you havenâ€™t noticed him or know his story then get to know the sophomore tight end Greg Daniels. Before the season the question of who would emerge as the Longhorns starting tight end was still up in the air. But over the past couple of games Greg Daniels has started to show up more in the passing game and also in the run game. Though he only had 2 receptions for 18 yards against TCU, he also hauled in the deep pass in the Iowa State game and ended that day with 2 receptions for 62 yards. But what makes his story interesting is he was recruited and brought to Texas as a defensive end and was one of the top 25 defensive ends in the nation from his recruiting class. This past off-season he was moved from the defensive line to tight end, and he and his 6â€™5â€ 258 frame have really started to show some good progress these past few games. I still donâ€™t know why the TE position isnâ€™t utilized more in this offense because I think it would really help the quarterbacks out. But in order to use the TE more the team first needs to find a viable option at TE and Iâ€™ve liked what Iâ€™ve seen from Greg Daniels recently.
10. Place Kicker: Nick Jordan was 2/2 on the evening and his longest field goal was for 25 yards. Thatâ€™s all fine and dandy but I have 0 confidence in any of the kickers on the roster outside of 35 yards. Again, here is another position Iâ€™m confused as to why Mack Brown wasnâ€™t able to recruit anyone better than what is currently on the roster. Nick Jordan doesnâ€™t have a strong leg. And Nick Rose, usually designated to only kick offs, isnâ€™t the most accurate kicker either. I know the junior transfer Anthony Fera was brought in to try to help out this position after losing Justin Tucker, but he has also had problems with accuracy. And even before Fera was recruited to leave Penn State for UT all Texas had were Nick Jordan and Nick Rose as plans for kicking duties. And currently there isnâ€™t a kicker that is committed to come to Texas next fall either. This makes me nervous because kickers are always important in football and currently the three options the Longhorns have on roster have all been rotating in a carousel for field goal duties.
I was actually ecstatic when I learned that Anthony Fera was transferring to Texas. He had been nominated for a couple of awards while at Penn State and had actually held the punting and kick off duties as well as the place kicking duties. But since arriving to the 40 Acres he hasnâ€™t been able to secure the kicking job yet and that has really disappointed me in what I had thought was one of the question marks on the roster that he could have answered.
After seeing Texas play well against Iowa State, knowing the team had extra days to get ready, and the fact that it was a home game I had hoped the Longhorns wouldn’t come out flat and instead would come out fired up, prepared for TCU, and play a great Thanksgiving Day game. I couldn’t have been more wrong and more disappointed with Texas. It was a complete embarrassment on a national level and reiterated the fact that there is still a lot of work to be done to this program before it is back at a level where the team can compete nationally and be a dominant force in their own conference. There really should be no excuse as to why Texas has played this poor going on three seasons. But instead of dwelling about it I hope the team continues to improve and answer the questions that are scattered all over their roster and throughout the program.
Texas will travel to Manhattan, Kansas to take on KSU on December 1st. Kick Off is TBD.