Five Quick Thoughts after Texas beat Iowa State Thursday night 17-7 in Ames, Iowa…
Quick thought no. 1: Offensive Line is An Issue
I know I shouldn’t start the “Quick Thoughts” with negativity, but…I actually have two thoughts within this one thought: one, Iowa State is not very good and Texas should be thankful for that and, two, the thought of the Longhorns facing their next few opponents with their current offensive line is frightening. Looking at the Texas rushing numbers – and at the number of times Buechele was either throwing under duress or running for his life and taking huge hits – I get the feeling the offensive line is going to be a gigantic struggle the rest of the way. Yes, Texas beat Iowa State Thursday, but the Cyclones were not anywhere near as good as they were hyped to be in Austin media all week. You’d have thought playing in Ames was like going to Guantanamo Bay, listening to all of the pregame build up. With Connor Williams out for the foreseeable future along with Elijah Rodriguez, the Longhorns are forced to use Derek Kerstetter at tackle, but he is only a freshman. Holding penalties were contagious for the group in the second half, and Texas running backs were being hit consistently either at or behind the line of scrimmage. Rarely do Texas quarterbacks have more than a second or two to throw the ball; against TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas State, etc., this is going to be a problem, a problem which was not as evident Thursday because…Iowa State.
Quick thought no. 2: The Defense
After the way things have gone for Texas over the past, oh, 7-8 years, plenty of folks were skeptical of the Longhorns’ stellar defense displayed in the loss to USC. For at least one week, the Longhorns have quieted that skepticism, shutting down an Iowa State offense that had been incredibly over-hyped prior to the game (except for parts of the second half when the Cyclones decided to play flag football). Texas’ defensive line physically dominated the Cyclones, a fact that was clearly reflected in the final stats. Iowa State averaged just five yards per pass, and had just 10 rushing yard on 15 attempts, for an average of, um, .7 per carry. Not only did the Cyclones struggle on first and second down, but they were also downright miserable on third down, converting 3 of 12 third down attempts, and were 0 of 2 on fourth down.
Quick thought no. 3: The Starting Quarterback is Shane Buechele…Probably
Though the quarterback position is always subject to change on the 40 Acres, it is safe to assume that, for now, Shane Buechele is without question the starter for the Longhorns (yes, I know, it was rough in the second half, but still…). He was on point for Texas early Thursday, in particular in the first half, when he took an absolute beating (which does not bode well for him still being on his feet and throwing passes in November). His touchdown pass to Toneil Carter was an absolute strike just as he was getting blasted by a pass rusher. He also took a huge hit – deemed a late hit instead of targeting – which added 15 yards to that particular scoring drive. He finished the game with 19 completions in 26 attempts for 171 yards. Just the fact that he, in fact, finished the game is something to be thankful for. He also managed an offense that converted 7 of 11 third down attempts in the first half. You can contribute Texas’ offensive struggles to the beleaguered UT offensive line.
Quick thought no. 4: Did Texas Run the Ball On Offense?
Yes, but not as effectively as Herman – or the fans who have been clamoring for more Chris Warren – would’ve hoped. The pass-run percentage was 26 pass attempts and 52 rushing tries, which I suppose qualifies as “sticking with the run.” Individually, though, the Longhorns had no one jump out on the stat sheet, but one thing about the running game is more than a little alarming: Buechele, unquestionably the third-best rushing quarterback on the roster, carried the ball 13 times and seemed extremely eager to tuck and run; with his injury history, I’m not sure that’s the best strategy, especially with the makeshift offensive line minus a couple of its best players. Warren ran 16 times for 44 yards (2.8 per carry, which Herman will likely point out to media at Monday’s presser), but had a nice 11-yard touchdown score to open the game’s scoring. Kyle Porter had some good north-south runs in garbage time at the end and finished with 39 yards on 17 carries.
Quick thought no. 5: Kneel in Appreciation of Michael Dickson
Do punters leave college early for the National Football League? The best thing about Texas punter Michael Dickson is this: he’s just a junior. Seriously, Dickson is a freakin’ beast, if in fact you can be a freakin’ beast as a punter. At one point in the third quarter his shortest punt was just over 50 yards, and he finished the game with 7 boots and an average of 46.9 yards per kick. He is invaluable, especially when you consider the UT injuries on the offensive line, which logically will mean the Longhorns will be punting plenty this season. Disregard his 17-yard shank in the third quarter that was the real reason (along with a Buechele pick) that the Cyclones scored their only touchdown with 2:05 left to play in the third period.
Extra quick thought: Tom Herman is Happy About Instant Replay
Extra-extra quick thought: Joshua Rowland is Forgiven