Hello football fans! I O U a couple of posts. Let’s start with last weekend’s journey to the Land of the Dip Cup before we discuss the Mountaineers heading into Austin in their covered wagons, muskets at the ready.
After a molasses-like start, Texas finally got things moving on both sides of the ball. Tech is not that great this year; they have some of the same challenges Texas faces. Only worse. And they are not nearly so well-coached as Texas. Nothing against Lubbock’s Favorite Son (I don’t mean that as an insult, really), but he isn’t Charlie Strong.
First, some corrections: Tech fielded backup QB, Pat Mahomes, instead of Davis Webb. Well, at least until Quandre Diggs removed Mahomes from the game with an aggressive and very legal hit. Then we enjoyed the football stylings of Vincent Testaverde, the backup to the backup. Second correction has to do with the spread. That wasn’t so much an error, as the spread was a moving target all week. One site had Tech winning by 24.5 points (they may have taken too many nerve pills). Ultimately, Texas was favored by about 3.5 points. I hope you bet on the “over,” and can now take your family to Hawaii for Christmas.
The first quarter and a half was a painful experience. Like watching your beloved child play his or her first Peewee game. Or tee ball. No one knows what’s happening, there’s a lot of screaming, and someone will wet their pants. Tyrone Swoopes, bless his heart, managed to force himself to fumble in the red zone, producing a defensive touchdown for the Red Raiders. Merry Christmas; enjoy it while you can. That was perhaps the low point? Do you agree? It remains true that how goes Swoopes, so goes the offense. For the entire first quarter he looked rattled, had a hard time finding a rhythm, and as a result there was very little offensive success. Things did ultimately turn around, which is completely to their credit. It wasn’t luck, or poor officiating. This isn’t the first example, but rather a continuum of the team showing they are not giving up. Things don’t always work out, but they do keep trying. That’s a good thing.
This was Texas’s first 100-yard rushing game this year. I’ll let that sink in for a minute. Malcolm Brown racked up 116 yards. John Harris had a career game as well, with five receptions for 165 yards. Well-known spirit animal, Johnathan Gray, had 16 carries for 76 yards. Shipley got a TD, to make us forget he fumbled on another TD drive. (We forgive you.) Folks talk about the “Tech Discount,” since the Red Raiders are basement-dwelling this season. Even with that, Texas did a great job of staying focused on the task at hand. They deserve all the credit.
The Texas defense held Tech to only seven offensive points. The other six came off the wackadoodle fumble, with a blown PAT. Texas walked away with a solid 34-13 victory. With that win, Texas is within shouting distance of a bowl appearance. The road, however, will not be easy.
Next up: West Virginia Mountaineers.
The ‘Eers, as they inexplicably call themselves, are coming off a heartbreaking loss to TCU. They blew a sizable lead and managed to give the game away in the waning seconds on a field goal. West Virginia outplayed TCU–they were at home, and the Frogs looked flat (insert roadkill joke here). WVU wasn’t able to hold on, and what would have been a thrilling upset was instead a loss. WVU has two conference losses, but come in ranked #24. Texas hasn’t even seen the bottom of the Top 25 all season. WVU is probably breathing a sigh of relief to face an unranked team.
A little too much bravado? We shall see.
Surely Coach Bedford and his staff have been poring over the game tapes from WVU vs. TCU. The Mountaineers turned the ball over an astonishing FIVE TIMES, and only managed 121 yards of total offense in the second half. TCU also figured out how to put a lid on powerhouse receiver Kevin White, who is #1 in the Big 12. He was limited to three catches for 28 yards. TCU cracked the Kevin White code, and put it out there for the world to see. Texas defense: take note. Otherwise, he will eat your lunch and score all the points. He’s legitimately dangerous, so a significant amount of defensive resources should be devoted to shutting him down, early and often.
On defense, West Virginia loses the size contest against the Texas offense. Their line is smaller, with linebackers averaging 218 pounds. But! They are quick and nimble, meaning they can seal gaps and cut off running lanes. With the size advantage, Texas can manhandle the smaller defensive line and open up the run game anyway. WVU has a better pass defense than rush defense. The ‘Horns have to be on top of it from the first snap. Put the ball in the hands of any of the rushing threats: Brown, Grey, Johnson. Swoopes must be prepared and ready to go immediately. A slow start will be likely impossible to overcome.
Likewise, the Texas defense has to have a hero-level game. Otherwise, Texas risks WVU lighting up the scoreboard like a pinball machine and putting up basketball numbers. Clint Trickett is not a dual-threat QB. He is very seasoned, and mobile but not fast. He’s on the small side too, at 185 pounds, so he’s not large enough to endure repeated big hits. The WVU O-Line will give up sacks, too, so Texas should certainly do that! Trickett loves to throw to his favorite target, Kevin White. White needs a lot of company, because he’s the threat. Give up other short-yardage receptions to the rest of the receiving corps to avoid White busting out for a huge play. Or ten. Bottom line: the Texas D must play a lights-out game, and keep Trickett + White off the field as much as possible. When they’re on the field, White must look like he’s wearing a burnt orange coat.
There are so many ALMOST! moments this season. Texas ALMOST beat UCLA! They ALMOST beat OU. They almost scored at least one point against Kansas State! Just kidding. That was a bloodbath. So close and yet so far…the team feels poised, always, on the edge of doing some great stuff. This continues to be OK. For now. Texas is two games away from bowl eligibility. This game is winnable, against a ranked opponent, if the team comes out firing on all cylinders, on both sides of the ball. The other two remaining games, on the road against Okie State and at home against a meteoric TCU, are not sure things. But a win against WVU would be one step closer, and would also feel pretty darned good.
If you’re in the Austin metroplex, there is no excuse for not attending the game! Wear orange and get thyself to the stadium. Texas hasn’t sold out a game yet this season. Game time is 3:30 p.m. Eastern, on FOX Sports 1. But don’t watch on TV if you can go! Take your eyeballs into the wide open spaces and see the game in person. WVU is favored by a sliver—only three points. You got this, Texas.
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