The Good, The Bad, and The Really Ugly

Hey there! How have you been? Basking in the afterglow of an out-of-the-gate win? Me, too. The gin glow has just about worn off and it’s time to look back at the game that was, and look forward at the game that will be. Join me.

So, what was good about the game? How much time do you have! Coach Strong started his tenure at Texas, well…STRONG. (Couldn’t resist.) The thing that struck me most about the game was the obvious joy the Texas players felt. They were pumped up. They were happy to be on the field. No lollygagging. There was enthusiasm, and that’s an ingredient that’s been lacking for awhile. Coach Strong seems to run a legit meritocracy. You play well, you earn a spot. No time for divas. Coach Strong isn’t having it.

How about the defense? Holy smokes. It was the one consistent bright spot last year (post-Diaz), but Coach Bedford is nothing short of a miracle worker. Work ‘em hard, feed ‘em water. Seems like an effective formula? The defense is leaner, meaner, bigger, faster, and better, ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Remember last year’s tackling?

catfight

That’s not happening this year. I’m sure the guys still love kittens, but they’re not playing like kittens. They tackle. They’re mean. They’re hungry. Of course they are, after all their bagels were confiscated. The defense played as a cohesive unit with a purpose. They were absolutely impressive, and should continue to improve.

Now: on to the bad. Maybe it’s more accurate to say “slightly not good?” Considering it was on the Longhorn Network, maybe that’s all the bad we need? No, let’s branch out. The offense has benefitted from new leadership and clear direction. David Ash was looking a little rusty but definitely had his head in the game. What was bad? Well, he’s not playing against BYU. After sustaining multiple hits, he’s displaying concussion symptoms. Again. It started with BYU last year, and here it is, washing up on the shore once more. Look, Ash doesn’t owe us his brain. I’m predicting he won’t be back at all, but Coach Strong is gracious enough to let him exit on his own terms. I think we need to prepare ourselves for the Tyrone Swoopes era. We can do it. I’ll hold your hand.

What is the job of the offense? It has several. I’m sure I’ll miss something, but I will hit the highlights. First, score points. That’s obvious. To score points, however, the offense must execute and run plays and function as a cohesive unit. The line has to create holes for those stud running backs. The receivers have to cut and slash and run the proper route and get open for a pass. But above all, the line needs to protect the quarterback. In my opinion, that was lacking during the North Texas game. The offense still scored, but the cost was pretty high.

That brings us to the really ugly. Not only is Ash out for this game, but the team also lost veteran center Dom Espinosa. He went out of the game with a suspected high ankle sprain, but after examination, he broke his ankle and is out for the season. The backup center is a freshman, Jake Raulerson, who came in during the 3rd quarter and things went a bit downhill.

Desmond Harris and Kennedy Estelle, two offensive veterans, are suspended this week for team rules violations. Coach Strong isn’t having it. Either you want to play and you follow the rules, or you don’t want to play. Then you don’t play. Folks, we have to decide if we are a school whose athletes break rules and laws without consequence, or Texas, where athletes have integrity, respect, and an education. #sorrynotsorry

Coach Wickline had his work cut out for him this week. We will see how the offense adjusts. Considering the awful, flailing failure from last year’s BYU game, I’m facing this one with a mixture of hope and dread. You know, the usual.

What can we expect on Saturday? I predict we will see a defense that is much improved over last year. Remember the kittens? Scratch that, we have stampeding bulls. They will have their work cut out for them, but Coach Bedford seems focused. Job 1 is containing Taysom Hill, the cornfed Cougar QB with a bionic leg. Last year he ran over, through, and around the Texas defense at will. You may recall the sound of a flushing toilet during the game…that was Manny Diaz’s career going down the tubes. This year is a different story. Frankly, considering the blows dealt to the Texas offense, it will be the defense’s game to win. If the vastly improved defense can close off Hill’s running game, he will be forced to pass. He’s pretty good at throwing passes…to the other team. I’d love to see a few more pick-sixes for Demarco Cobbs, or anyone else who wants to get in on the fun.

When BYU played Connecticut (wait, they have a football team?), their defense pressured Hill and was able to sack him once. Texas should be able to do that. And, Texas D:

dream bigger

There’s no doubt Texas is tired of hearing about the dumpster fire that was last year’s game against BYU. Malcolm Brown and well-known spirit animal Johnathan Gray should carry the bulk of the burden on offense. Swoopes is undoubtedly full of raw talent, but he needs more snaps. I expect the offense to keep it simple, rely on the veterans, and allow the two human bulldozers to get downfield early and often.

This is a home game! So that should work to the ‘Horns’ advantage. Game time is 7:30 p.m. Eastern, broadcast on Fox Sports 1. That means more than 12.5 people can view it on the teevee machine! Texas is the slight favorite, predicted to win by 3.5 points. All y’all lucky enough to be in town, get your behind in a seat! Cheer until you can’t talk.

See you after the game! Hook ‘em Horns!

Follow me on Twitter: @TXgridirongirl

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