Another Saturday, another final drive to victory. The Texas Longhorns scrambled out of Lawrence, Kansas, with a 21-17 win over the Kansas Jayhawks. With this sixth win, the Horns will be playing a bowl game in December.
Say what you want about the Longhorn football team. They may be 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 clawed its way to a 6-2 record. As badly as the Oklahoma hangover could have gone, the Horns continue to look forward.
This team has clawed its way to a 6-2 record. As badly as the Oklahoma hangover could have gone, Brown worked his magic, and the Horns continue to look forward rather than clinging to the past.
After the game, Brown reminisced about 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," he said. "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 a Rose Bowl bid this year, but these wins should give Longhorn Nation some hope. That said, once you look past this team's big heart and grit, you see a Longhorn coaching staff incapable of correcting the mistakes that are so obvious to even the most uneducated fan.
Defense problems persist
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 seven games combined.
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-9. That penalty gave Kansas new life on their final scoring drive.
Something is wrong with the defensive coordinator's game plan when your players are bigger, faster and more athletic — and you know your opponent is going to run right at you for the whole game — and your team still can't make a stop.
Something is wrong with the defensive coordinator's game plan when your players are bigger, faster and more athletic — and they still can't make a stop.
Plus, there's still that pesky tackling problem. It doesn't stem from a bad game plan; it's 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 simply not happening, and there's little hope this problem will get fixed anytime soon.
The quarterback controversy is back
Two awful interceptions and a couple of near misses will get a quarterback pulled from a game. Just ask David Ash. The much-improved kid 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.
When they got the ball back, McCoy started to throw a bit. He missed badly on his first two passes, but, after shaking off the rust from his passing arm, he tossed five straight completions — the last one to D.J. Grant for the game-winning touchdown.
The team looked different with McCoy at the helm. They were more energized, like they knew they could win. McCoy may not be the strongest, fastest or most athletic quarterback, but he has something the team rallies around.
With the game on the line, McCoy’s 18-yard pass to Jaxon Shipley on fourth-and-6 was a thing of beauty. McCoy followed that with a gorgeous 39-yard toss to Mike Davis, hitting him in stride along the sideline and putting Texas in position to win.
The team looked different with McCoy at the helm. They were more energized, like they knew they could win.
Texas won this game on sheer determination and a powerful running game led by Johnathan Gray, who started his first game and took off for a career high 111 yards on 18 carries.
It’s clear co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Major Applewhite sees what the fans do: 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.
This Texas Longhorn football team has the building blocks for greatness. The real question is whether the coaching staff knows how to put those blocks together.
"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," Brown said. "That is when you get better, believe it or not. We have a win, and we have their attention next week. That's about as good as it gets."
Next up, Iowa State comes to Austin. Perhaps Case McCoy will get his first start.