Bad News Horns
By Joe O'Connell,
6:11PM, Tue. Nov. 13, 2007
Did the Texas Longhorns play their best, most-complete game against Texas Tech? Without question. It’s been a strange season for the Horns. Lots and lots of close matchups that were expected to be Texas blowouts. A wretched running game that Jamaal Charles has somehow dusted off and made shiny new. A string of season-ending injuries that will have a whole lot of seniors on the sidelines when the regular season ends the day after Thanksgiving in College Station. So the Horns are 9-2 with one contest to go that likely will peg them as a 10-win team for seven years running. The offense is one of the most productive in Horn history. Why do they still trouble me?
First off, I predicted weeks ago that the Red Raiders were Texas’ biggest risk of a loss in the home stretch. Face it: The Horns have not been covering the pass well. Who wouldn’t be itchy as they go against Mike Leach, the coach who does not believe in the run? But for once this season a win can be fully attributed to good coaching. The Texas gameplan was simple. Long drives that eat up the clock and keep Tech QB Graham Harrell off the field. Lots of delayed handoffs to Jamaal Charles — note that Colt McCoy would hold the ball for just a beat before giving it up — to allow time for a hole to develop. And the gamble.
Yes, I said gamble. The Mack Brown transformation over his years at Texas has been remarkable. Vince Young taught him to relax. Bob Stoops taught him to go crazy. I’m not talking as crazy as Leach, who whined about bad coaching in a game where his team was clearly outplayed. Or even Crazy Mike Gundy, who has a real screw loose. I’m talking crazy risk-taking like Stoops, the Texas nemesis who has taught Brown that going for it on fourth down is not only OK, it’s required in a tough contest. Texas went for it on fourth down repeatedly Saturday and kept their drives alive. Brown even pulled out a fake field goal that resulted in a Jordan Shipley touchdown.
Sure, Harrell passed at will for 466 total yards and racked up 23 fourth-quarter points. But Texas had 24. Charles rambled for 174 yards despite being out a good chunk of the game with an injury. OK, he fumbled twice, but this time he recovered both of them. McCoy passed for a respectable 268 yards and rushed for more yards that the entire Tech team, though that’s not too much of a feat — the Raiders amassed a whopping 10 yards on the ground.
Tech plain couldn’t compete with the injury-depleted Horns. Add Tony Hills to the pile of war casualties. Can the Aggies take the wounded teasips next week? I doubt it. That the Red Raiders have always been a Leach’s slight-of-hand magic trick. Plenty of aerial excitement to pull in the fans, but little defense or ground game to sustain it. Texas exposed the fakers for what they are Saturday. The curtain was pulled back the moment Brian Orakpo blindsided Harrell and sent the quarterback reeling. Just like this unpredictable bunch or Bad News Horns have been doing to their own fans all season.