Pre-Gaming w/Schmidtty: Iowa State Edition

Texas opens their Big 12 Conference play with an away game in Ames, IA this weekend. The Cyclones beat Texas in 2010 for the first time in the school’s history. This one sets up to be a defensive battle as Iowa State has held each opponent this season under 25 points in regulation (Iowa scored 41 against the Cyclones, but 17 of those points came during the three overtimes). The Texas defense has also been stingy giving up only 15 pts/game but that number has been on the rise since holding Rice to three field goals in the opener.

Head Coach (Record): Paul Rhoads (15-13, all at Iowa State)

2010 Record: 5-7 (3-5/4th Big 12 North)

Returning Starters: Offense 6 / Defense 9

Player(s) to Watch for Iowa State: Quarterback Steele Jantz not only has a videogame name, but he can make videogame-like plays. That’s not to say that he is the perfect quarterback, but he can put up the occasional gamebreaker. His coach may have put it best, “He’s made a higher number than we would like of poor decisions. He’s made great decisions and he’s made some spectacular plays. I would say at this point he’s inconsistent. Certainly not unusual for a first-time starter at this level, coming off a successful junior college career.” If you want to know what Iowa State fans think, watch the fan video below.

Key Matchup: Malcolm Brown vs. the Iowa State Linebackers. Brown has essentially become Texas’ most reliable playmaker. He’s been the model of consistency for the Longhorns so far this season, and was a steady force for Texas while the QB situation was in flux. With the threat of a passing game now back in Texas’ arsenal, Brown should see a few more open running lanes than he has in the first three contests. That is of course if he can get by junior linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein of Iowa State. So far this season the two have combined for 55 tackles (four for a loss).

Prediction: Texas WILL come out of Ames with a 4-0 record. The question is, will it be a pretty victory or not? The only reason the score against Iowa got up in the 40′s against Iowa State was because they went to three overtimes. Otherwise Iowa State has kept every opponent under 25 points in regulation. The Cyclones haven’t scored in the first quarter through their first three games, so they are susceptible to a quick start by their opponents. They get tougher as the game goes on though as they have outscored their opponents in the remaining three quarters.

Where to Watch: You can catch the game on FX at 6 PM CT. Gus Johnson, Charles Davis and Tim Brewster will be on the call. On a side note, if you haven’t used the Gus Johnson soundboard yet, you haven’t lived. ONE MAN TO BEAT … DOWN THE SIDELINE … OOOHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Hook ‘Em!

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Longhorns losing depth, Brewster out

It was reported yesterday that backup safety Nolan Brewster will give up football, leaving Texas thin at the safety position. Brewster suffered a severe concussion during the Longhorns’ latest victory against UCLA and cited his history of  post-traumatic migraines and concussions as the cause for his sudden departure. He is the second Longhorn in as many years to drop out of the program due to head injuries. Former Texas running back Tre Newton showed promise until his career was cut short by the same concussion issues.

So what do the Horns do now? Luckily, suspended safety Christian Scott returns to action this week after sitting out three games for off-the-field issues. As long as fellow safeties Blake Gideon and Kenny Vaccaro stay healthy, the production from the position shouldn’t suffer as those two have seen the most time on the field already this season. Once Scott shakes off the rust, he should actually be an upgrade from Brewster. Mack Brown may need to start breaking in some of the young guys soon though because looking ahead to next year there could be a scenario where your entire two-deep at safety from the beginning of this season is all gone (Brewster is gone, Gideon and Scott are seniors, and Vaccaro is draft eligible). Look for guys like Mykkele Thompson and Sheroid Evans to get some PT during mop-up time.

So as the Texas depth chart gets thinner and thinner (remember, the horns are down to only two QBs after Garrett Gilbert announced he was having season-ending shoulder surgery) you may see even more young players on the field – if you can believe it. Pray for all Texas players to come out healthy (and with a W) against Iowa State so that Texas has its full roster against OU.

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Pre-gaming w/Schmidtty: UCLA Edition

A special Pre-gaming with Schmidtty from sunny cloudy and overcast California! The UCLA Bruins started the steep downward spiral of horribleness that was 2010 for the Horns. But the Rose Bowl is like a home away from home for Texas, and revenge is in the air (or is that smog?). If Texas can turn the tables on UCLA, then the program will have come a long way in righting the wrongs of last season. Maybe then I’ll stop referencing 5-7. Can’t wait.

Head Coach (Record): Rick Neuheisel (81-52; 16-23 w/UCLA)

2010 Record: 4-8 (2-7/9th Pac-10)

Returning Starters: 7 Offense / 8 Defense

Player(s) to Watch for UCLA: Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman torched UT last year for 216 rushing yards and two TDs (QB Kevin Prince also ran for 50 yards and a score). Both backs return against a Texas run defense that seemed to improve between weeks 1 and 2 of this season. They each have a per-rush average of 6.5 yards/game or better. Texas will have to stop the pistol offense if they are to better their Rose Bowl record.

Key Matchup: Texas pass-rushers vs. the UCLA quarterbacks. Franklin and Coleman will get their carries, but if whoever starts at quarterback (junior Richard Brehaut or Prince – who suffered a concussion against Houston and is questionable for today’s game) gets off on the Texas defense, then the game might turn just as ugly for the Horns as last year’s contest. Cue the Texas pass rush, which needs to step up after only having one sack last week against BYU. Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat have been all but neutralized in the early going this year, but with a running offense like UCLA they will have plenty of shots to get in the backfield and make some tackles for loss.

Prediction: The Texas defense stepped up big last week against BYU, with a couple second half stops that changed the momentum in that game. They won’t have a home crowd behind them (though there will be a lot of burnt orange in the stands) and with a large freshman class getting their first taste of the Rose Bowl, I have a strong feeling this may be a trap game for Texas. The Horns should win based on talent alone, but will the QB scheme work again like it did last week? My initial feelings are no, and UCLA downs the Horns 17-13 in a defensive struggling offensive affair.

Where to Watch: The game will be on ABC starting at 2:30 PM CT. If you couldn’t make it out to LA, be so loud that the Horns can hear you in Austin. If you are in Pasadena, hit me up and we’ll party when the Horns prove me wrong.

Hook ‘Em!

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UT 17, BYU 16: Who will be Texas’ QB?

I know it has taken me awhile to voice my post-game thoughts on Texas’ one-point victory over BYU. But excuse me if I can barely talk after screaming for a Longhorn comeback. If there is anything that can be said about the 17-16 win, it’s that home-field advantage played a huge role. After the 100,000+ crowd openly booed in the first half to get Garrett Gilbert off the field (And no Mack, everyone actually wasn’t booing you. It was absolutely aimed at Gilbert. It’s hard to justify booing a kid, but for most fans it was just too hard to hold their tongues any longer.) the fourth quarter brought cheers and excited from the burnt orange faithful as the defense needed the extra push to stop the Cougar offense. Not since 2009 have I heard that much noise at DKR. It felt like we were watching meaningful football again.

So the big question after the close win is this. Who will play quarterback for the Horns? The depth chart for UCLA shows Case McCoy and David Ash in an either/or position as the No. 1 and 2 QBs. But what can we truly expect from these two? Looking back at the film of the BYU game, McCoy rarely stood in the pocket to deliver a pass. Almost every completion came as a result of him breaking out of the collapsing pocket to deliver a pass. Yes he completed 7-8 passing, but how long can he survive like that with faster defenses approaching on the horizon. As for Ash, he only knows so many plays before he has to start repeating the same moves over and over again. He may end up being the full-time starter next season, but for now he’s limited.

Unfortunately, it seems like the best option would be for Gilbert to get his head right somehow and become the quarterback we all expected him to be. He has the physical tools (of which McCoy does not) and he has the knowledge and experience (of which Ash does not) to lead a football team. He just has to get through the mental roadblocks that are keeping him from succeeding. The best thing to see on the sidelines against BYU was that Gilbert “didn’t go into the tank” as Co-O Coordinator Bryan Harsin put it. Gilbert put on a headset and became another coach on the field, letting McCoy and Ash know what defensive looks BYU was giving him on the field. He may not start the game against UCLA, but I have no doubt in my mind that we have not seen the last of Gilbert as a starter for UT.

Let’s just hope this merry-go-round ends soon, because when you have three quarterbacks you actually have none. As cliche as it sounds, it applies.

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Final: 17-16, Winning sometimes ain’t pretty

Thanks you recruiting class of 2011. This game would have been a loss if not for big plays made by the freshmen (and a reinvigorated defense). Comeback completed.

Something tells me that every win for the rest of the year is going to be this hard. It will be a while before Texas wins pretty again.

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