Greetings, ‘Horns fans! Our boys have a bye this week, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about football. So we’re all feeling pretty good about that win against K State, right? You gotta admit it’s nice to get a W after two pretty embarrassing Ls. As much as I want to, I’m not putting on my celebration boogie shoes just yet.
I want the ‘Horns to have a winning season as much as the next fanatic. But one game does not a winning season make. The K State game was certainly a balm to soothe our troubled spirits, but the ‘Horns can’t be in their final form yet or there are many more Ls in our future. And here are five reasons why.
1. Kansas State lost just about everyone but the water boy last year.
Not to take away from the victory, because a W is a W. However, the truth is that the team Texas faced last weekend is not the Big 12 Champion of last year. Gone is Collin Klein and his Heisman-caliber skill at QB. Linebacker Arthur Brown was scooped up by the Baltimore Ravens. Brown had 100 tackles last season. WR Chris Harper went to the Seahawks. In the Wildcats’ run-centric offense, Harper made 58 receptions and racked up 857 yards. In total, three K State players were drafted and six were taken as free agents. Only six important starters returned, and by all accounts this is a rebuilding year. So while this was a win, it was an expected one against an outmatched opponent.
2. Mack Brown is not off the hot seat.
One win doesn’t secure Coach Brown’s job. Exhibit 1: all the “Saban 2014” shirts in attendance at the game. Some enterprising Texas fans even started a website encouraging The University to hire Saban. (Be aware the site quotes an email from a ‘Bama fan that uses potty words and is generally insulting, and will lower your IQ if you read it.) I’m sure you’ve seen the snarky shirts on sale at other, lesser institutions extoling the powers that be to keep Coach Brown, because it’s great for them.
We’ll see about that, suckers. But doesn’t Coach Brown just seem so tired? There’s no spark anymore. The Mack Brown that came storming into Austin on a cloud of recruiting success simply isn’t there any more. We’re all aware of the coaching change—one that should have happened before the season started—but it all flows uphill. The example starts at the top, and the buck stops with Coach Brown. Here’s my open letter to him: “Dear Coach, if you are just not feeling it anymore, it’s OK. We understand. But don’t stick around to the detriment of the team. We will never forget the National Championship, ever. It was glorious. Maybe it’s time to move on. We will always love you, but don’t test us.”
3. Injuries, injuries, injuries.
In my Kansas State post, I referred to the O-line being a walking M*A*S*H unit. Things haven’t improved much, and now the problem spread to the defense. Let’s start with David Ash. Reports are that he sustained a new head injury. On top of the first head injury. This is nothing to mess around with. Ash does not have to sacrifice his brain for us, no matter how much we want a win. Daje Johnson might be back, which would be a huge boost. Same with Mike Davis. On defense, as you probably already know, Jordan Hicks is out for the season with a blown Achilles’ tendon. I think Hicks might be hiding a glass endoskeleton? Someone should check. Then we have Edmonds getting ejected for the first half of the Iowa State game; not great. The ‘Horns are digging into their depth chart already.
There is some good news! And it comes in the form of the defensive backups tapped to fill those gaps. Keep your ojos peeled for #88, DE Cedric Reed, who is consistently turning in great performances. He’s one to watch and could become a leader on defense.
4. Texas’ reluctance to play Tyrone Swoopes.
The ‘Horns are (in)famously trying to preserve Swoopes’ redshirt to give him an additional year of eligibility. But at what cost? I may sound like a broken record at this point, but #FreeSwoopes and #playthefreshman are becoming my mantra. At 6’4” and 245 pounds, Swoopes is a monster. He has the arm to throw the long bomb downfield, and in the open field he is almost impossible to bring down. So, a great arm and running ability. Sounds like a dream, right? But it comes with risks.
First, Swoopes didn’t play as much as expected in spring camp due to an injury. However, the ten snaps he did take were awe-inspiring. The coaching staff would prefer to let him sit this year out and learn by watching, and by taking reps in practice. And, preserve a year of eligibility. This may become a moot point if Ash’s head injury proves to be severe. Case McCoy does fine as a backup QB, coming in to preserve a win. He does not have the surest or strongest arm, and he’s not much of a scrambler. He’s well-loved by teammates and fans alike, but it seems unlikely he can carry a game all the way. Coach Brown is left with a dilemma—one he is paid handsomely to deal with. Does he burn Swoopes’ redshirt? What happens if Ash is only out one game? It’s easy for me to be glib and say to put Swoopes in—there are other considerations to make as well. But ultimately, Coach Brown is in charge of bringing in Ws, whatever it takes.
Think about this: in his high school career, Swoopes rushed for 5,341 yards and 73 touchdowns. That’s swoon-worthy.
5. Texas’ Defense is still made of wet clay.
Last week showed some definitive proof that Coach Robinson is working some magic on the defense. Tackling was better. Defenders were getting to the K State QB with pressure and sacks. They stayed on task and played their positions much better, for the most part. However! See #1 above. This K State team is not the same as last year. Texas has superior skill and experience, and should have performed better. The fact that it became a close game in Q4 tells me the defense still has some room to improve. That’s not a bad thing. Just saying, “We’re done!” would be the death knell of the season, with much tougher opponents coming up on the schedule. Best case scenario is that the Texas D continues to show improvement, week over week. That, I can live with. But it’s still not guaranteed. Coach Robinson better have more tricks up his sleeve. For instance, the corners and safeties gave up the big downfield plays all night. And don’t get me started on Lockett. Yes, he’s very impressive, but Texas couldn’t come up with any way to stop him. And that’s not acceptable.
Let’s not forget: Oklahoma is looming on the horizon. They’re champing at the bit to hand the ‘Horns another humiliating loss. I might have to go hide in Siberia for awhile if that happens. I will definitely need to re-up my nerve pills.
So, ‘Horns fans, don’t let me rain on your parade completely. Let’s be happy about the win. But I’m giving the side-eye to the coaching staff until they convince me this is RILLY RILLY RILL with a decisive W over Iowa State.
Until next time, Hook ‘em!