Football

Culpepper: Need more Texas fight

Pat Culpepper. (Will Gallagher/IT)
Pat Culpepper. (Will Gallagher/IT)

This has to be one of the worst efforts by a University of Texas football team in my lifetime of being attached in some way to the program. That goes all the way back to January of 1959 as a senior in high school when coaches Darrell Royal and Mike Campbell sat in my front living room in Cleburne, Texas talking to me and my parents about how I could fit into their football team and the University.

Before the TCU game at least four football fans asked me what I thought about and how I stood on Coach Charlie Strong. I expressed no doubts about the direction of the Longhorn football program in coach Strong’s hands. I was positive as to what was happening in Austin.

This no contest in Fort Worth was much, much worse than what happened in South Bend. The Texas football team had since won a game, and but for two missed special teams plays – an extra point vs California and a muffed snap on a punt vs Oklahoma State – could have well been 3-1 coming into Amon G. Carter Stadium.

This was to be a key game against TCU. It was a disaster, which rocks the very foundation of Strong’s program. If you think the TCU beating was bad, what could easily happen in Dallas this Saturday could be even worse.

Briefly let’s look at what transpired in Fort Worth. Jerrod Heard had a terrible game and finally had to be replaced by Swoopes who looks to be tired of sitting on the bench and decided to grow up and run over opponents and direct a team with some energy. Heard got his eye on one receiver and if he wasn’t open – no chance, while Swoopes took time to find open receivers.

The Texas defense was ridiculous. TCU receivers had free releases into the secondary and QB Trevone Boykin picked the Longhorn secondary apart. With what amounted to two free safeties, the Longhorn corners/DBs never jammed any receivers. It was a piece of cake for TCU.

What I can’t understand is the lack of fight in the Longhorn defensive line. Against OK State, Desmond Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway played outstanding football. That was not the case on Saturday in Fort Worth! No knocking offensive lineman backwards, no fire, nothing.

Freshman Breckyn Hager came in late in the fourth quarter and made several tackles then sustained a serious injury. Most of the other Longhorn players didn’t play hard enough to be injured and I mean that in the correct way.

The only bright spot I saw was running back D’Onta Foreman who ran with passion. The Longhorns even tried a tight end set and it stretched the Horned Frog defense enough to get some running room.

I thought Heard would be perfect for the zone read play with the double wide spread offense like he ran in high school. Sadly, Texas has not put that in their playbook.

It was said on TV after the game ended that there was a Texas player “tweeting” at halftime – I bet it was a defensive player!

I realize that losing Daje Johnson early to an injury did make a difference for Texas’ chances but it’s the players and their attitude on the field in the first quarter and first half that concerned me while sitting near the lights in section 415 – and I stayed until the last play of the game.

If I was the coach at Texas, I would go with the two-tight end set to stretch the defense at times but always have at least one tight end in the huddle and run the football with Foreman on one side and Alex De La Torre as a blocker on the other side of the spread look QB. Slow the game down. Knock defenders off the ball. Run counter plays, power plays, sweeps, and QB runs behind lead blockers. You give Foreman a lead blocker and the defense will pay the price. Gray could sub for Foreman and add some speed. The 3 wide-out Texas offense is killing their chances. On defense, I would leave Dylan Haines at free safety and get the corners jamming wide-outs. I don’t like flip-flopping the defensive lineman – they had a hard time getting setup against TCU. Peter Jinkens, who made several good tackles during the game, should be in the middle linebacker spot with Malik Jefferson on the outside.

Of course it means nothing unless the Texas team has a fire in their hearts to win. Forget the NFL – what about right now?

This Texas team had respect after the Cal and OSU near misses but this was a disgrace.

You say “but TCU is a great team” maybe, but 37-0 in the first half? Something is wrong with this football team and the Oklahoma Sooners will show no mercy.

It really makes no difference now whether Swoopes or Heard play QB, the Texas football team has to decide whether they want to put up a battle on every snap this next week in Dallas. I mean Ridgeway and Jackson need to quit lagging on blockers and knock offensive lineman backwards, setting a defensive wall. That would be a start.

I will be there in the Texas endzone on row 30 – I never want to watch a Texas team play like they did in Fort Worth last week ever again! If they lose, it has to be a fight for four quarters and not a performance where they seem like they have no heart or desire whatsoever. At this point, this Texas team is leaderless. It is a runaway train headed no where.

This is Strong’s most important week as head coach at Texas. Saturday in Fort Worth, he lost the team. They weren’t ready to battle. Football is our American game at its roots. Texas retreated in the face of an outstanding opponent in TCU. They quit early in the game. Their hearts weren’t in this contest and so it was an embarrassing football game for them and their fans.

​By the way, the Texas game once again hurt any chance of them winning. A high snap to the punter Michael Davidson gave TCU a safety. Nick Rose missed two field goals and the punting was marginal at best.

​Hopefully on the game tapes there were some Longhorns that played well. I salute them, because besides Foreman I didn’t spot very many.

​Here is the deal right now in the 2015 football world; the Longhorns are a laughing stock, Strong is on life support, and the football team and coaching staff are the only ones who can do anything about it.

​My friends treat me like someone in my family died, expecting me to break out in tears. At this stage of my life when people find out that I played at Texas for coach Darrel Royal in the 60’s, they always ask what position I played. Some shake their heads when I say linebacker when todays players are so big and fast. I understand that but one thing that remains deep inside me is that our group followed the Bobby Lackey, Don Allen players of 1957 that took Texas to the Cotton Bowl against Syracuse. They were the first to beat Oklahoma in eight years and it was passed on to our group of; Johnny Treadwell, Perry McWilliams, Ray Poage, and Johnny Genung. We fought our ass off for Texas every game. The ones we lost we never quit. In 1961, TCU knocked us out of a national championship but we fought back at Texas A&M and beat Ole Miss for coach Royal and his staff’s first bowl victory. We passed it down to the 1963 group and they won a National Championship.

​So yes, I had some tears after the blowout by TCU Saturday with no explanation.

​This team now starts at ground zero and must decide whether to fight like Longhorns or to be forgotten.

​If they love Strong, then they need to fight for him.

Hook’Em

Pat

Pat Culpepper played for The University of Texas from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor, and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.