Another Saturday, another final drive to victory. The Longhorns scrambled out of Lawrence, Kansas with a 21-17 win over the Jayhawks and with this sixth win, the Horns will be playing in a bowl game in December.
Say what you want about the Texas Longhorn football team, they are many things, but first and foremost, Mack Brown’s kids are entertaining.
With the single exception of a dismal day in Dallas, the Longhorns have managed to stay in every game until the end. The last couple went their way; the West Virginia game was two plays away from victory.
This team has scratched and clawed their way to a 6-2 record and as badly as the Oklahoma hangover could have gone, Brown has worked magic in keeping the Horns' heads looking forward in the present rather than hanging on the past.
After the game, Brown harkened back to another near loss in Kansas eight years ago. "What I thought about was it's so similar to 2004 and the 2004 team ended up in the Rose Bowl. Same end zone, 17 seconds left in 2004 and there were eight seconds left in the same end zone this time. It was Vince Young throwing the ball to Tony Jeffery back then and Case McCoy throwing it to D.J. Grant this time."
The Horns are unlikely to get any Rose Bowl bid this year but the way Texas is winning these close games should give Longhorn Nation some hope.
The heart-attack Horns are back
Make no mistake, this team has more flaws than a raw diamond, the question is, can Brown and his staff turn this team into something valuable. So far, once you get past the big heart and grit Texas clearly shows, the Longhorn coaching staff seems incapable of correcting the mistakes that are so obvious to even the most uneducated fan.
Stopping the run
Once again the Longhorn defense turned an average running back into a Heisman contender. Jayhawk James Sims ran 28 times for 176 yards. Sims had 463 yards in his other four games combined (he served out a three game suspension to open the season).
And it’s not like the Horns needed to sit back defending the pass. Kansas threw the ball only nine times, completing only three. Of course there was a killer pass interference penalty against Quandre Digg on third and nine. That penalty gave Kansas new life on their final scoring drive.
Something is very wrong with the defensive coordinator’s game plan when you have bigger, faster, more athletic players, when you know your opponent is going to run right at you for the whole game — and your team still can’t make a stop.
Tackling is fundamental. This season-long problem doesn’t stem from a bad game plan — the idea that players are out of position — no, this a problem in practice and skills training. Again, it is defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's job to teach his players how to stick a mask in the belly, grab, hold and bring down. It’s not happening and there is little chance this problem will get fixed anytime soon.
The quarterback controversy is back
Two awful interceptions and a couple near misses will get a quarterback pulled from a game — just ask David Ash. The kid who showed so much improvement lost his edge against the Jayhawks. He completed only 50 percent of his throws and more than two of those incompletions could have been picked off.
Case McCoy entered the game in the fourth quarter. On his first series, the Horns powered the ball 84 yards on the ground finishing with a gorgeous 11-yard Marquis Goodwin touchdown. After getting the ball back, McCoy started to throw a bit and after shaking the rust off his throwing arm, missing badly on his first two passes, he tossed 5 straight completions — the last one to D.J. Grant for the game winning touchdown. The team looked different with McCoy at the helm: more energized, like they knew they could win.
McCoy’s 18-yard pass to Jaxon Shipley on 4th and six with the game on the line was a thing of beauty, followed by a gorgeous 39-yard toss to Mike Davis, hitting him in stride along the sideline and putting Texas in position to win the game.
McCoy may not be the most athletic, the strongest, or the fastest quarterback out there, but he sure has something, and the team rallies around it. It’s enough to remind a few older fans of a kid named Applewhite.
Texas won this game on sheer determination and a powerful, overwhelming running game led by Johnathan Gray who started his first game and took off for a career high 111 yards on 18 carries. Gray shows the power and speed to be really special.
It’s clear co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Major Applewhite sees what the fans see; that Gray’s talent lives in some rare air, and despite how good Joe Bergeron is, and as unfortunate as Malcom Brown’s injury has become, now is the time to let Gray learn the college game.
The building blocks of greatness are all there for this Texas Longhorn football team. The real question is whether this coaching staff knows how to put those blocks together.
"I'm excited that we won the game," Brown said stating the obvious, but clearly looking forward.
"It was really, really hard to win this game and it can give this team and this staff so much confidence moving forward to play poorly most of the game and win. That is when you get better, believe it or not. Not the blowouts. You walk out and feel too good about yourself, one like this, we have a win and we have their attention next week and that's about as good as it gets."
Next up: Texas Tech in Lubbock. The Red Raiders will undoubtedly get Mack's attention and likely be heavily favored to win.