WHAT. A. GAME. Texas stood in the ring with a contender and went punch for punch. What you saw was almost perfect execution of a defensive game plan. Of course, almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. What you simply cannot plan for sometimes is a great player and Sam Darnold happened and was THE difference in the game. Let’s forget about him for now. Let’s discuss what you saw from true freshman quarterback, Sam Ehlinger. This was a tough one from the start for Tim Beck and his young quarterback. What was thought of as a weakling SC defensive front was found out to be stout. Early on and throughout the game, the Texas offensive linemen (tight end included) took turns getting whipped. Then, an horrific thing happened, star left tackle, Connor Williams, went down with an injury. You thought things were bad up to that point? They got worse and yet, somehow, the offense managed to finish with a monstrous drive to do their part to WIN THE GAME. Only, it was too little too late.
What’s typical after a losing effort are narratives explaining the loss. A couple of them you may have seen, Tim Beck didn’t run the ball enough (especially with Chris Warren) nor was the pass game up to par. Let’s discuss the first of these, shall we?
The Run & Warren
What’s interesting about the game, both teams’ run games were completely shut down. Consider that for a second. Even the fantastic SC rushing attack was held to 71 yards on 37 carries, WOW! What did the Heltons and Darnold have to do to win the game? They had to throw the ball 51 times for 397 yards. Incredible, even Sam’s completion percentage was a festering 55 percent turd, but dude polished that turd and well! Back to Texas and running the ball. On 35 attempts, Texas managed a puny 68 yards, bad! Did you do the math? What does that come out to, 1.9 yards per stinking carry? Yikes! Now, Chris Warren himself carried 4 times for 15 yards, not great either. Now, is it okay to disagree with the whole of a narrative while at the same time agree that Warren deserved more touches? I think so. So, what was the problem?
No focus – Warren was not a focal point in Herman-Beck’s game plan. Consider that all of Warren, Hemphill-Mapps, Heard, Ehlinger, Foreman, and Porter received carries. Early on, things got dicey. With Warren in the game, you wonder just how much it allows the defense to key on the run, how much more one-dimensional he makes the offense, if any. If that’s the case, it reduces the versatility of each set. At this point, you wonder why Warren isn’t more of a focal point. Time will tell.
Whipped – Early on it was evident the SC defensive line was disruptive. The Texas offensive line and auxiliary blockers failed repeatedly, there was no displacement on double-teams and penetration occurred the whole game. This is a big problem and something I’m sure the staff is concerned about. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I’d still like to see more ’10’ personnel. (Important: JY’s Trench Warfare will be posted shortly!)
Scheme – Alluded to above, Herman-Beck chose to attack the SC front with ’11’, ’12’, and ’20’ personnel Zone & Power Read together with ‘jet’ and ‘orbit’ motion. This often helps to constrain the inside run game, to no avail Saturday night.
Negative Plays/Penalties/Etc. – How often did Texas sink into negative yardage via TFL’s, sacks, bad snaps, fumbles, and penalties? This didn’t lend itself to providing more touches for the backs, let alone Warren. You have to count the sacks because when Beck decides to throw on an early down and a sack ensues, you’re probably not running the next down. It adds up! (House cleaning necessary!)
The Pass & Beck
When you can’t run the ball, you’re stuck trying to throw it all over the field. Some of the same issues bled into the passing game, but it was the only bright spot for the unit on the night and Sam showed up HUGE when the team needed him the most, in the clutch.
Ehlinger’s Numbers – 21 of 40 passing for 298 yards is not bad. The bad, the interceptions and fumbles lost were that. Ehlinger turned in a noble effort and showed up HUGE when it was time to win the game. He deserves credit for that. Sam has all the makings of a star, similar to Darnold. Let’s hope he learns from his mistakes and grows into a monster.
Whipped – This was a problem in the passing game too. The Texas offensive line needs major improvement, especially now with Connor Williams out. Are you crying a little? Me too. That said, I think their issues are somewhat fixable. How soon they deliver more consistency will determine quite a bit heading into conference play. These guys need work! (Important: JY’s Trench Warfare will be posted shortly!)
Collin Johnson & Co. – Collin had a huge game, 7 catches for 191 whopping yards! Early on, he faced a corner who was manhandling him, not allowing any free releases. Collin fought dude off countless times, tiring. What matters most, Collin did his best to make Sam right, delivering some memorable catches. Another big time performer, Armanti Foreman, who only caught 5 for 38 yards, but the amazing jump-catch to extend the final drive and the double-toe drag touchdown will be a part of Texas lore forever. Humphrey, Joe, and Hemphill-Mapps also contributed to the cause in meaningful ways. I’ll never forget the scramble-pass from the end zone to Humphrey, ever. That was amazing.
Scheme – This is where some of the haters come out of the woodwork. You saw 3-Level, Slant, Speed-Out, Streak-read, Stick, ‘H-Sail’, Dig, Drag, and Verticals to name some. The pass game is multiple. The only issue I had on the night was, guess what? Pass protection, it was hit or miss out there and Sam was taken down 5 times. This led me to criticize the multiple Verticals calls, mainly because there was little in the way of a quick pass, and with ‘pass-pro’ bad, it led to multiple sacks and hurries.
In closing, does Warren deserve to be more of a focal point in the offense? He probably does. The next question, does his game allow Herman-Beck to accomplish their objectives? One thing was clear Saturday, the Texas run game was going nowhere in a hurry. Either way, you would’ve liked to have seen ‘C-Dub’ get a few more touches. Though I’d say, I can’t really fault the offensive staff. It was an uphill slog for this unit and in the end, they did enough to win the game in regulation. Only, it wasn’t enough and for the young quarterback, I’m certain he’ll carry the memory of that overtime fumble at the goal line forever. That will burn inside you like molten steel, use it to forge your resolve to never let it happen again and, win!