November 14, 2010

The grades are in - Oklahoma State report card

Grading scale

A - All-American level
B - All-Conference level
C - Average
D - Below average
F - Complete failure

Quarterback -It's hard to give a starting quarterback much of a passing grade when the offense can't get into the end zone until a 33-3 deficit exists and the attention span of the other team has moved on to the post-game aftermath. Garrett Gilbert played his guts out in this game, he was sometimes efficient (19 of 32 for 202 yards) and if there was a play to be made on that side of the ball, it was made by one of the few guys on the Texas offense that absolutely looked committed to selling out his body for the good of the team.

There really were some good things to take from this game from Gilbert, who once again led the team in rushing until late in the fourth quarter and showed more outward leadership than we witnessed earlier in the season. Still, this is a bottom line business and Gilbert currently registers as the leader of one of the worst offenses in college football and he didn't make enough plays for this team to remain competitive through the second quarter.

In terms of effort, I'd give the kid an A. In terms of on-field effectiveness for four quarters, the grade isn't quite as high.

Grade: D

Running backs -Blah, again. With sophomore Tre' Newton out with a concussion and Fozzy Whittaker dinged up and knocked out mid-game after 17 yards on six carries, the guy who was forced to carry the heavy majority of the workload was junior Cody Johnson. The big man from Waller rushed for 68 yards and a second-half touchdown on 16 carries, with most of his overall effectiveness occurring in the second half.

With the coaches essentially refusing to play D.J. Monroe, Johnson was forced to do everything for the Longhorns at the position and he's just not suited for consistent every-down play. Bottom line, against a pretty average defense to say the very least, the Texas running backs combined for 114 yards of total offense and a single explosive play (Johnson's 20-yard run on the last play of the second quarter - a virtual throwaway play).

The production at this position is the worst in the Big 12 right now and among the worst in the nation, and those details didn't change much on Saturday.

Grade: D

Wide receivers -Two guys made plays on this night - James Kirkendoll and Mike Davis. Those two players their guts out in this game and left it all out on the field. In the process, they combined for nine receptions for 141 yards.

The rest of position was a major disappointment. With Marquise Goodwin out due a death in his family, a big game was needed from senior John Chiles and he caught two passes for 19 yards and allowed Andrew McGee to outfight him for position on a third down pass that should have been a completion or an incompletion, but not an interception. Malcolm Williams got open once down the field, but his route angles and ability to adjust to the ball in the air really make it tough for him to consistently make plays down the field. He finished with two receptions for 18 yards.

Overall, the position accounted for 14 receptions for 180 yards, zero touchdowns and only two explosive plays in the passing game - one of which game on a deflection.

Grade: D

Tight ends- The Longhorns rotated in the foursome of Barrett Matthews, Greg Smith, Chris Whaley and Dominique Jones at the position, but none really made a difference in the passing game or running game, despite a heavy dose of snaps. Outside of a six-yard reception from Matthews on the last play of the game, you'd hardly know that the Longhorns played almost the entire game on offense with a tight end on the field.

Grade: F

Offensive line -The Longhorns rolled out an offensive line on Saturday that included (from left to right) Paden Kelley (making his first career start), Trey Hopkins (second career start), David Snow, Mason Walters (ninth career start) and Britt Mitchell (10th career start). Surprisingly, this group held together pretty well for the most part, especially in pass protection. Yes, the group had some rough patches, but they didn't lose this game because the offensive line couldn't hold up its end of the bargain.

Kelley was kind of throw into the fire at left tackle this week with the concussion to Kyle Hix and the worst thing you can say about his performance is that he kind of reminded of you of the three-year starter Hix. He had two false starts, protected well off the edge and didn't make a huge impact in the running game. That's not a bad starting point for a kid that has a lot of football in front of him. Hopkins continues to show flashes as well. Both kids just need to live in the weight room this off-season. Ditto with Walters.

Overall, you can live with what this group gave the team on Saturday.

Grade: C

Offensive game plan -What else is there to say that hasn't already been said? The offense is just impotent at the moment and it wasn't going to change in one night, even against an inviting defense. The question is whether it's incompetent. In this age of high-flying offenses that almost seem to score points on accident, the 2010 Longhorns have turned offensive football into a fight against the clock… as in… will the clock please run out so that we don't have to watch this any longer. With the depth of this team currently being stretched to places the coaches would have likely never projected, there's just no place to go for a side of the ball that has been idea-less for a while. The entire idea of the Texas offenses needs to ripped apart in 12 days and rebuilt because the gears are grinding and ripping apart with two games to go. Whatever this is this season, it needs to be burned as soon as possible.

Grade: G

Defensive line -Incredibly disappointing. In order for the Longhorns to win this game, the Texas front four was going to need to turn in a butt-kicking, dominant performance and they didn't come close to producing that kind of effort. Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden was sacked twice, but for the most part his line controlled the line of scrimmage and gave him everything he needed in the way of pass protection.

Texas' best defensive lineman (Sam Acho) turned in four tackles, a tackles for loss and a fumble recovery, but his impact on the game was pretty insignificant. Same with Kheeston Randall (two tackles). Same with pretty much everyone.

The bottom line is that Oklahoma State won the battle up-front in a big way, which allowed them to do pretty much whatever they want offensively to the tune of 7.1 yards per play.

Grade: D

Linebackers -Again, incredibly disappointing. The Longhorns needed Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho to be All-Big 12 players and they weren't. Although they combined for 19 tackles, neither was an impact player and since those were pretty much the only two linebackers that played, there's not a lot of big-time positives to speak of.

Grade: D

Secondary - This is the one that proved to be the true dagger in the heart. The Longhorns challenged starting cornerbacks Aaron Williams and Curtis Brown to man up with Oklahoma State superstar Justin Blackman. Over the years, they have both been asked to lock down some incredible talents and they've won the overwhelming majority of their battles, but on this night Blackman was better. When Oklahoma State's best player beat Texas' best player in the game-altering play, it pretty much ended the contest. It was over.

The entire Texas secondary was picked apart from start to finish, so none of the tackle stats really matter. Yes, Kenny Vaccaro had a nice individual effort with nine tackles, a pick and two pass break-ups and freshman Carrington Byndom held up strong when Brown went out with an injury, but this was a night when the supposed best position on the team was torched for 409 passing yards and they are probably lucky it wasn't 500. It was the most helpless I remember seeing a Texas secondary since the 2006 Ohio State game when Troy Smith could have thrown to Anthony Gonzales and Ted Ginn Jr. on every play if Jim Tressell had wanted to.

It just wasn't good.

Grade: F

Defensive game plan -Will Muschamp didn't do anything this week that he hasn't done numerous times in the past. He challenged his defensive backs to man-up in coverage and shut down opposing passing games, while calling up a pass rush without a lot of blitzes and a lot of trust in the front four. When both of those groups failed to deliver the goods, it made for a pretty long night. It's really not rocket science. Yeah, the Longhorns did a nice job against the run for three quarters and they did some nice things in flashes, but when the game was still in doubt in the first half, they melted apart with alarming ease. Frankly, it was the kind of night where almost everyone was thankful that the Longhorns found a way to get out of dodge with only 33 points dropped on them. The Longhorns just didn't have many answers on this night once the first wheel came off.

Grade: F

Special teams - The opening kickoff? Sheesh. How in the world could the coaches come out and get super cute on special teams on the opening kickoff after all of the ridiculousness on that side of the ball last week? It just kind of symbolized what's going on with the special teams right now. The punt return game is in park, but celebrating the ability to field the punts without disaster. The kickoff return group has turned into a revolving door of a guessing game in the hopes that someone can catch lightening in a bottle.

Of course, Justin Tucker was nails when called upon on his only field goal attempt and solid in his punting duties. The coverage units were solid. There just weren't any plays being made.

Grade: D

Overall -I'm just going to go ahead and say it - this team needs to be shot out of its misery. There's going to be a lot of talk about the importance of a bowl game and I get that, but football at Texas isn't fun right now. It's not fun for the players, the coaches or the fans. There was a feeling at the beginning of the season that the best football this team would play would occur in the home stretch, but they are regressing in every area and there aren't enough fingers to plug all of the holes. 2010 is broke and cannot be repaired in 11 days. If they find a way to get to 6-6, they'll almost begin preparations almost immediately after finals and this team needs a big break. Everyone. Mack needs some time to figure out where to take this thing and who to take with him. Normally, I'd be the first one to stress the importance of those 15 bowl workouts, but not this year and not with this team. Look, Travis loved Old Yeller, but sometimes what has to be done, has to be done. 2010 cannot end soon enough.

Grade: F

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