Week 1 Preview: Texas vs. New Mexico State

Coaches are back. Players are back. Bevo is back. But is Texas football back?

Saturday kicks off the 16th season of Longhorn football under head coach Mack Brown, and the question on most every fan’s mind is ‘are we back?’ For years under Brown a 10-win season was commonplace. It was a given. It was the expectation. However, expectations have changed somewhat over the past three years as Texas has had to … <gulp> … rebuild. A tough pill to swallow for most fans, but a necessity that every team, even the most storied programs, goes through (see USC, Michigan). With 19 starters returning and a third-year quarterback in David Ash at the helm, expectations are that the rebuilding process for the Longhorns is over.

When asked if he wants the Texas fans to set their expectations as high as they are right now Brown said, “Yes. Expectations are always here and I want them to yell, have fun, and be loud.

“We have a better chance than we have had the last two years to be really good, and everything is in place now and we have to do it but we need the fans help and they will do a great job with that.”

Fans will certainly have plenty of reasons to cheer as football is finally back. Plus, beating the Aggies (albeit the New Mexico State version) is always welcome.

Opponent: New Mexico State Aggies (0-0)

When: Saturday, Aug. 31 // 7 PM CT

Where: Austin, TX (Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium)

Series: Texas leads 4-0-0

Last Meeting: Texas 66, NMSU 7 (Aug. 31, 2003; Austin)

Player to watch (New Mexico State): Senior safety Davis Cazares (#31) led the Aggies and the WAC in tackles last year with 116. His 9.7 tackles per game were tops in the WAC and ranked him 27th nationally. New Mexico State may not always stop the Longhorns, but when they do it’ll probably be Cazares.

Reasons to cheer: Star defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and linebacker Jordan Hicks are both healthy after sustaining season-ending injuries last year. They return to a defense that lost only two starters to the draft and improved from the start of the year. Since halftime of the Kansas game (final 22 quarters of the season), the Longhorns allowed just 121 points. In the 22 previous quarters, opponents scored 242 points.

Reasons to panic: Texas is 10-9 in home games since 2010. Not an encouraging stat. Plus, Brown said on Wednesday that wide receivers Jaxon Shipley and Marcus Johnson were limited some in practice this week and are questionable for Saturday. And defensive tackle Ashton Dosey has decided to transfer. Depth at those two positions could be a concern.

Stat that will make you look like a genius at the tailgate:  Last year, Texas State rushed for 446 yards on 40 carries blowing out New Mexico State 66-28 in the process. If Texas State can rush for that many yards on the Aggies, just imagine what the running back combo of Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron will do.

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Longhorns stay put in latest rankings after bye

Without a game this past weekend, the Longhorns didn’t expect to move much in the rankings as they stood pat at No. 12 in the AP Poll. A couple of teams lost, Oklahoma and Clemson, and moved behind Texas while Kansas State and Florida jumped ahead with wins against conference opponents. The biggest jumps forward and backward were results of the same game as Kansas State (No. 15 to No. 7) and the Sooners (from No. 6 to No. 16) essentially just swapped spots in the rankings. Michigan, UCLA and Arizona all fell out of the top 25 with losses.

AP Top 25
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Alabama (59) 4-0 1499
2 Oregon 4-0 1414
3 LSU (1) 4-0 1346
4 Florida State 4-0 1340
5 Georgia 4-0 1245
6 South Carolina 4-0 1147
7 Kansas State 4-0 1067
8 Stanford 3-0 1055
9 West Virginia 3-0 1045
10 Notre Dame 4-0 1003
11 Florida 4-0 864
12 Texas 3-0 856
13 USC 3-1 801
14 Ohio State 4-0 633
15 TCU 3-0 616
16 Oklahoma 2-1 611
17 Clemson 3-1 588
18 Oregon State 2-0 451
19 Louisville 4-0 414
20 Michigan State 3-1 348
21 Mississippi State 4-0 246
22 Nebraska 3-1 179
23 Rutgers 4-0 128
24 Boise State 2-1 114
25 Baylor 3-0 92

The Longhorns also didn’t budge in the USA Today Coaches Poll as they hung tight at No. 10.

USA Today Poll
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Alabama (57) 4-0 1473
2 Oregon 4-0 1371
3 LSU (1) 4-0 1361
4 Florida State (1) 4-0 1306
5 Georgia 4-0 1224
6 South Carolina 4-0 1149
7 West Virginia 3-0 1137
8 Kansas State 4-0 1000
9 Stanford 3-0 949
10 Texas 3-0 924
11 Notre Dame 4-0 836
12 Florida 4-0 817
13 USC 3-1 813
14 TCU 3-0 705
15 Oklahoma 2-1 699
16 Clemson 3-1 560
17 Louisville 4-0 493
18 Michigan State 3-1 404
19 Mississippi State 4-0 349
20 Nebraska 3-1 327
21 Oregon State 2-0 220
22 Oklahoma State 2-1 154
23 Wisconsin 3-1 102
24 Baylor 3-0 101
25 Rutgers 4-0 98
25 Virginia Tech 3-1 98
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Bye Week Blues? What to Watch this Weekend

A bye couldn’t have come at a better time for the Longhorns as injured LB Jordan Hicks and RB Joe Bergeron need time to heal with the start of Big 12 play coming up. Of course it couldn’t come at a worse time for Longhorns fans as they have to endure a weekend of no UT football. What is a college football fan to do? Fret not, because there is a slate of great Top 25 games going on this weekend. A quick preview of the best:

No. 18 Michigan at No. 11 Notre Dame

Notre Dame is off to its first 3-0 start since 2002 and is coming off a big win against another ranked Big 10 opponent in Michigan State. Michigan’s only loss was in the season opener to probably the best team in the country, Alabama. Big Blue QB Denard Robinson has carried the ball 40 times in three games but with Notre Dame’s Mantei Te’o patrolling the middle of the field, Robinson may be better served pitching the ball more times than not. Regardless, Michigan will likely have a hard time finding the end zone against a team that is only giving up 10 points per game.

Where to Watch: NBC @7:30 PM

No. 10 Clemson at No. 4 Florida State

Florida State has given up a grand total of three points all season. Yes, you heard that right. Three. As in one point per game. Granted that was against the likes of Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest, but still impressive nonetheless. They will get their first taste of a real offense this Saturday against junior QB Tajh Boyd and his dynamic, playmaking WR Sammy Watkins. Clemson is averaging 39.7 points per game so something is going to have to give.

Where to Watch: ABC @8 PM

No. 15 Kansas State at No. 6 Oklahoma

The best Big 12 matchup of the week will be in Norman with the Wildcats trying to avenge last year’s 41-point stomping at the hands of the Sooners. It’ll be mostly the same cast of characters from a year ago with KSU’s Collin Klein facing off against OU’s Landry Jones. Both are seniors and both don’t want to see their seasons end after the first conference game. OU is proficient through the air while K-State lives by the run. It will be interesting to see which prevails.

Where to Watch: FOX @7:50 PM

Maryland at No. 8 West Virginia

If you are looking for an early game to watch, I propose you check out the Longhorn’s next home opponent, West Virginia. Senior QB Geno Smith is getting more and more hype as the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. ESPN’s Heisman Watch currently has him in the top spot right above a pair of running backs in De’Anthony Thomas of Oregon and Johnathan Franklin of UCLA. In two games, Smith has thrown for 734 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions. Couple that with an 88% completion percentage and you have one of the most efficient and dangerous quarterbacks in the country. Longhorn players shouldn’t overlook next week’s opponent Oklahoma State, but that doesn’t mean Longhorn fans can’t.

Where to Watch: FX @12 Noon

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Post New-Mexico Review

There really aren’t any real positives you can take from the Lobos game due to the lack of talent on the opposing team. However, there were some interesting things I saw in the game film that are worthy of mentioning:

Offense:

Ash & Offensive Line fail to recognize Pre-Snap Motion by defender 7 yards away from the ball and the upcoming blitz.

In this play, Ash has already decided before the snap to throw the pass to the receiver running the GO route who is being covered by 2 defenders. At the same time, the slot receiver beat his man and is wide open for a big gain.

This was an NFL level throw by Ash and an even better play by the NM DB to break the pass up.

Again, Ash and the OL fail to recognize the blitz with the defender 4 yards away from the LOS.

This was one of the really bad throws Ash had during the first half in which he missed a completely wide open receiver.

Again, Ash has decided before the snap who he is going to throw to. The defender realizes this and almost makes an interception on the play.

Brian Harsin was pretty pissed after the Texas TD by Mike Davis.

Brian Harsin was extremely frustrated by the poor first half by the Texas Offense.

Defense:

In this play, instead of exploding through the C gap to make a tackle for a loss (green arrow), Hicks hesitates and takes the D gap which allows the QB to gain some positive yards. Cobbs (green circle), does a fantastic job in covering the NM player assigned to him (blue circle) to ensure that he is ready to make a play if the QB tosses the ball.

Again, Cobbs (green circle) does a fantastic job in sticking to his run zone assignment and watches the NM back (blue circle). However, Edmonds takes the wrong gap and this results in positive yards for NM.

Edmonds takes on the lead blocker and forces the play the to the sidelines. Instead of his sticking to his assigned run zone and watching the NM back, Cobbs takes bait and heads into the center of action (red arrow) and this results in a huge gain for NM.

 

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Post Game Thoughts

Offense:

  • Espinosa remains the weakest link in this group. There were several instances where he was absolutely destroyed by the Wyoming tackle Purcell or got very little of push as a lead blocker on off tackle runs. The Offensive line also got away with a few false starts and holds. However, this will not be a hindrance during league play as Big 12 officials generally give a lot of leeway as opposed to other conferences. On the flipside, Walters and Hawkins both played great and gave ample time for Ash and created huge hole on any off-tackle runs where a majority of our rushing yards came from.
  • Joe Bergeron needs to run with more patience and vision. He had a tendency to go straight into the pile last year and that is still a trend that he carried on during the first game. However, when used in the second half, he practically ran over the Wyoming defenders as they were gassed by then. Texas must use him in this manner and let Malcolm Brown, who played phenomenally, have the majority of the first half carries.
  • The greatest beneficiary to Wylie’s offseason program has to be DJ Monroe. The guy was an absolute monster with his limited touches.

    Ash sends a shout-out to God.

  • The bullet TD Ash through to Jax shows the progress that has been made during the offseason, but Ash still needs a lot of work. Although the game plan was limited to mostly screen passes to build his confidence, this is the time where coaches need to take advantage of a weaker opponent and test Ash’s ability to complete intermediate routes and timing routes which will be needed when we play better opponents during league play. The receivers had to adjust to some of his throws which resulted in shorter gains than what would have occurred in a more accurate throw. Although he is more poised in the pocket, he needs to adjust his internal clock on when the pocket is going to collapse. I feel like he is still using last year as a time frame reference, and he bails from the pocket before it is necessary. Finally and of most importance, he needs to trust that his receivers will run their routes properly and throw the ball to the spot where the receiver should be as opposed to waiting for the receiver to get open.
  • Nick Jordan isn’t ready to kick FGs.

Defense:

  • The secondary had a terrible game yesterday. This is supposed to be the team’s greatest strength. They started to believe all the pre-season hype and then played extremely poorly yesterday. Let’s start with the confusion on who is covering the underneath routes versus what’s on top. There were several instances where the Texas safeties left their assigned zone and came up to try and make a play underneath and this left the defense vulnerable in the back. Wyoming’s first touchdown came as a result of this broken communication.
  • Although Kenny Vaccaro made a great interception, he was lucky that the ball was under-thrown. The Wyoming receiver is the furthest guy down the field and a properly thrown ball easily results in another Wyoming touchdown. Another thing that bother me about the secondary was the lack of press coverage, which will be extremely important when we play the likes of OU, OSU, Baylor, and WVU all of which have several timing based routes as part of their normal game plan.
  • The Texas defense definitely needs to play with more discipline. Players where constantly over-pursuing and this is a result of the players picking an A Gap or B Gap pre-snap before allowing the hole to develop. The player most guilty of this was Steve Edmond, who looked lost several time throughout the night and was consistently taking bad angles. Jordan Hicks was guilty of this well, but played better as the game progressed. The defense in general had some very sloppy tackling and poor form that definitely needs to be corrected in the coming weeks before our game against OSU. The soft spots in zone coverage at the edges were being exploited by Wyoming throughout the game and were part of the problem when it came to the sloppy tackling by the Texas defense as defenders had to recover from their pre-snap misalignment.

    Cobbs with the break down in coverage. Green is where he was supposed to go; Red is where he went.

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