One Step Forward…

RIP, Big Tex. In full view of the whole world, we had our own version of Burning Man. Burning Tex. Burned from the jaw area down. Gone but not forgotten. We hardly knew ye. Seems fitting he would go up in flames at the same venue where the ‘Horns immolated. What a difference one game makes! Even after the loss to WVU, we fans had high hopes for a much-improved defense, and for the offense to put on a show. Oh, they put on a show all right. Just not a good one.

Last Saturday was a pivotal game, and Texas came away on top. Whew! Nope, Baylor wasn’t ranked, so we still have that skid mark to deal with. Still, there were lessons from that sloppy win. What did we learn? I learned that Michael Fassbender is in Austin and I am not. I learned that Natalie Portman is a Longhorn fan, making her the smartest actress in Hollywood. I learned that my local ABC affiliate chose to show the two Florida teams playing each other, forcing me to watch the ‘Horns on PPV, causing me to miss the first touchdown of the game. Seriously? Florida? The only time citizens of the great Pacific Northwest care about Florida is on a reality TV show featuring people who tongue-kiss alligators for sport or something. NOT FOR FOOTBALL. Get a clue!

There were football things learned as well. We have a true leader in David Ash. That kid has more guts than I imagined. He makes the occasional sophomore error but can’t you see the flashes of greatness? He remains calm no matter the circumstances. In the win against Baylor, he effectively led the offense and established the running game early on. Remember–that was my key to victory! Run the ball and win. Even without Malcolm Brown (*pour one out*respect*), the offense has many weapons-grade players to choose from. What about Daje Johnson? He had rocket shoes on! Joe Bergeron, human rickshaw and one-man wrecking crew! Five touchdowns, yo. Not too shabby. Of course I must mention living candy corn Johnathan Gray, my spirit animal. He made a critical touchdown in the fourth quarter that helped put the game out of reach for Baylor. And “Magic” Mike Davis. He of the almost-golden hands. He tore up the Baylor secondary, scampering all over the field. Still needs to work on the long ball, or lay off the football repellant. Something. The offense racked up 525 total yards. Optimism! It’s back!

Wet blanket time! The defense is still Swiss cheese. But first, let’s cover the “good.” Turnovers! Two of them, which the ‘Horns capitalized on, and ended up making the difference in the game. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. The defense manages to get the ball back, and the offense scores a touchdown. A one-two punch that actually worked. And check out Josh Turner! A sophomore who turned in a career performance at corner! He made a huge difference in the backfield. The defense did show some good stuff once in awhile, against a very good offense. Pressuring and sacking the QB. Breaking up plays. Good pass protection, sometimes. But then there were the unnecessary penalties. You have to make the sad trombone sound when Kenny Vaccaro blows a defensive stop with a cheap hit out of bounds. Discipline! Find some. Yeah, I’m still looking at you, Manny Diaz, and my eyeballs are getting tired. The defense gave up a ton of yards. Jordan Hicks is still out, despite my hopeful pronouncements week after week that he’s coming back. I might need to get a new Magic 8 Ball because this one is just straight-up lying to me now. The ‘Horns got away with some sloppy playing last week, but this kind of defensive play will not hold up against the likes of Iowa State or certainly Kansas State. Could be another dismantling like the one we just experienced but will now only talk about in whispers after the children are asleep.

So who’s up next? Kansas Jayhawks! Texas travels to Lawrence this Saturday, to the largest university in the state of Kansas. The jokes write themselves, folks. They play in Memorial Stadium, just not the proper one. You might recall KU’s win over the Virginia Tech Hokies (I’m not making this up) in the 2008 Orange Bowl. KU went into the game ranked 7th in the nation. This was their last memorable season. The only notable alumnus I ever heard of is Gale Sayers, who was a terrific running back, NFL player, and Hall of Famer for both college and professional football. His friendship with fellow player Brian Piccolo was the basis for the movie Brian’s Song. If you need a good cry, check it out on Netflix! (Running to check Netflix, BRB.)

To be fair, they have a terrific basketball program.

Here’s a fun fact! KU and Missouri have the second oldest football rivalry in the country, known as the “Border War.” After we invaded Iraq, they changed the name to the “Border Showdown,” but I kinda doubt anyone really says that. The series began in 1891, and only skipped 1918 due to the flu epidemic. The name comes from actual warfare between the abolitionist “Jayhawkers” of Kansas and the pro-slavery “Bushwhackers” of Missouri, during the  Civil War. There was pillaging and burning on both sides, and the schools recreated the fun in an annual football showdown.

Let’s talk statistics. Kansas is dead last in the Big 12. The ‘Horns are playing on the road, which brings its own set of challenges. However, let me repeat that KU is last in the Big 12. Texas is not. The Jayhawks do have a prolific passer in Crist, who has thrown for 1101 yards and 3 touchdowns. Ash has racked up 1663 yards and thrown 12 TDs. Their leading rusher, Sims, has a total of 101 carries for 446 yards and 5 TDs. Bergeron has 92 carries for 418 yards and 14 TDs (*cough* almost triple *cough*). Their leading receiver, Pick, has 18 receptions for 266 yards and NO touchdowns. Magic Mike has 30 receptions for 500 YARDS and 4 TDs.

Without analyzing each position, you can see the ‘Horns have a clear advantage, at least offensively. KU’s one win came against South Dakota State in their first game. They’ve lost at home, on the road, on the plane on the way to the game. KU made a respectable showing against Okie State and TCU. And, again, it’s a home game for them. This game is not in the bag by any means, but if Texas stays focused they should prevail. The defense just remains such a Mystery of the Universe. Who will show up? The undisciplined crew we’ve seen? The butt-kickers who almost beat WVU? Swiss cheese? This defense just makes me have The Feelings and I get all uncomfortable and faint and desirous of Manny Diaz receiving a pink slip.

OH! Did you see that sublime moment in the Baylor game when Coach Brown was all up in Diaz’s grill, screaming? I drank a toast to that (it was Diet Coke). I hope that was the prelude to many screaming sessions behind closed doors this week.

At presstime, gentle readers, we don’t have a favorite yet so I can’t guide your bookmaking exercises. Use your best judgment. Hooves crossed.

Hook ‘em!

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