Football

Game Observations

An uncommon way to lose (for Texas, anyway), a triple rush and a West Texas Super Bowl. Inside Texas’ Ross Lucksinger gives his observations from the Horns’ loss to Texas Tech.

It’s been a long time since Texas lost one like this.

There have been painful losses, gut-wrenching losses and frustrating losses, but for the past several years, every time the Horns played a game like this, miraculously, they won. During his tenure at Texas, Mack Brown has 21 second half comebacks and they’re starting to become expected.

Think about it. The Michigan Rose Bowl, the National Championship, Oklahoma State in 2004, Oklahoma State again in 2005, Oklahoma State yet again last season, the story is the same each time. Texas struggles in the first half and falls way behind before the team turns it around in the second half to pull off the seemingly impossible victory.

Over and over the Horns have won those games, which can make Saturday’s loss even more painful for a Texas fan because it had been so long since a multi-touchdown comeback had fallen short. To find a loss like this one, you have to go back to the 2001 Big 12 Championship game, when Texas was down 36-17 before Major Applewhite and the Horns came storming back, only to fall just short, losing 39-37. That loss prevented Texas from going to the National Championship and this one may have done the same.

Texas has lost games in the past, but it’s been seven years since a loss like the one suffered Saturday night. Pray that losses like this remain as infrequent as they have been.

On to the observations…

Game Observations

-It was bound to happen. Texas’ loss was bound to happen in two senses, really. First, there’s the aforementioned string of ridiculous comebacks the Horns have pulled off lately. In most of them a single play going another way would have caused Texas to lose. The Longhorns were bound to lose one of these eventually.

Secondly, it was bound to happen because of the series of difficult games Texas has faced leading up to the top ten match-up with Tech. The Longhorns looked tired and worn out and it showed.

This is why so many pundits picked against Texas, not necessarily because it was the chic pick to have the No. 1 team lose (though that did factor in), but because the situation was ideal for an upset. Did every one of those picking the Red Raiders think that Texas Tech was the better or more talented team? No, but everything was right for them to win.

They’d played an easy schedule, had been able to rest their starters, were getting Texas at home, had been focusing on this game for the entire season and were getting Texas coming off three games against top 11 teams.

This is also why many will pick Oklahoma State to beat the Red Raiders next week. OSU is a hard-nosed team with a chip on its shoulder playing against a Tech team that just won its own personal Super Bowl.

It wasn’t that most thought Tech was better (after all, many of them were the same voters who had Texas in front of Tech going into the game), it was that the situation was right and it played out Saturday.

-Alright, now I believe it.

I said I wouldn’t believe this Texas Tech team is any different than ones I’d seen in the past because of the relative weakness of its schedule. But just playing a weak schedule doesn’t automatically make you a bad team, it just means you haven’t proven whether or not you’re a good one.

Now they’ve proven they’re a good one.

This is not to say that Texas Tech is suddenly some sort of defensive juggernaut, but the Raider D played solid football. The defensive linemen were better than most people know and the defense played with discipline, missing very few tackles.

Texas, however, was most decidedly not disciplined, which was surprising considering that this has been an exceptionally disciplined Longhorn team throughout the year. A great example is the five drops in the first half, from a group of wide receivers that had displayed phenomenal hands leading up to the game. But that’s what fatigue will do to a player.

-Doesn’t it always seem like Texas is starting from the 2 or the 9 or some other ridiculous yard line inside the 10? Along with having great QBs, it seems like the Big 12 has a great set of punters as well and you can now add Justin Tucker to the list. The true freshman had been kicking off for Texas, but he made his debut as Texas’ starting punter and what a debut it was. Tucker’s four punts averaged a whopping 56.8 yards and all four landed inside the opposing 20. That’s a weapon right there.

-I said it before the season, I said it while Texas was on its incredible run and I’ll say it now: As Colt McCoy goes, so go the Horns.

McCoy’s performance was not all his fault (the dropped passes, the interior of the O-line collapsing, etc.), but when he couldn’t set his feet and throw, be it from pressure or his own actions, Texas struggled. When he threw the pick six in the third quarter, it was because of this.

Jordan Shipley made his break and was initially open. His quarterback saw the open window, but McCoy did something he hasn’t done all season.

He hesitated.

Jumpy (very unlike himself) because of how the game had been going, McCoy chopped his feet and didn’t set them properly, and the result was a bad throw that landed in the waiting arms of Tech defender Daniel Charbonnet.

McCoy did have decent numbers overall, throwing for 294 yards and two TDs (also becoming the leading passer in UT history in the process), but his 59 completion percentage is well below his season average of 79 percent.

-I didn’t get trampled this time, thankfully. I learned my lesson.

When Texas lost at Kansas State in 2006, the crowd in Manhattan, Kan. charged the field. I, unfortunately, was standing on the field in front of the student section when this occurred. I turned to see a tidal wave of humanity coming towards me and was carried to the center of the field with it, getting crushed up against K-State kicker Jeff Snodgrass.

Saturday night I was standing in the back of the end zone where Michael Crabtree scored and, thanks to a little too much exuberance from the Tech fans, could have been trampled three times over, but I instead stepped to my left and took refuge in front of the Longhorn Band, which was essentially the only section that wasn’t going to have people pouring out of it.

After they’d managed to clear the fans off the field the first time, Tech lined up for an extra point with one second left. The referee had made a point of yelling into his microphone that “THE GAME IS NOT OVER!” when the fans first ran on, but I thought to myself, “These people are going to storm the field after the extra point, even though no time will go off the clock. This guy needs to explain that. He needs to get on there and…well, guess not, here comes the kick…and there go the fans.”

Again they rushed, again they were ushered off. After the failed kickoff return from Texas, the game was over and the fans were able to rush the field for the final time. That shows you how big this game was for Tech. It’s one thing for a program to be so lowly and to be in the spotlight so rarely that its fans charge the field after a big win, it’s quite another for them to do it three times in the same night.

This was their Super Bowl and they played like it.