Around 4:00 mountain time yesterday afternoon, an ominous, dark storm rolled over the Rockies and into Provo, Utah. This storm ended up delaying the kickoff for the matchup between the BYU Cougars and Texas Longhorns for almost two hours as rain, lightning and heavy thunderstorms pounded the area. In an interesting turn, the storm itself was a metaphor for the violent dominance of the BYU running game and, correspondingly, the utter failure of the Longhorns to do anything to stop it.
BYU quarterback Taysom Hill — who in the previous week limped along to a poor performance against the Virginia Cavaliers on the road — shredded the Texas defense for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Hill wasn’t the only one to have his way on the ground, as running backs Jamaal Williams and Paul Lasike combined for another 269 yards of rushing, helping the trio to gain a total of 550 yards, a BYU school record.
The 40-21 final score was somewhat deceiving given the total dominance which BYU enjoyed, but representative of just how poorly the Texas offense played on the other side of the field. While David Ash was far from poor, throwing for 251 yards and two touchdowns, only Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley stood out among the Texas offensive unit as complimentary players. There were some moments of brilliance for the Longhorns both in the first half, and early second, but as we’ve seen previously — prior to and with Major Applewhite at the helm of the offense — Texas went away from what seemed to be working.
Sure, the injury to emerging sophomore star Daje Johnson in the early going was a hitch in the Texas gameplan (which obviously was heavily centered around Johnson’s production) but at the same time, shouldn’t have been a crutch or excuse for the Longhorns given the talent level that exists throughout the two-deep at each of the skill positions. Wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Shipley showed their ability to create space and make plays in the early going, but were oddly enough barely utilized in the second half. Malcolm Brown and John Gray each had a few nice carries in the first half and showed some pop and a willingness to do the same throughout, but wasn’t given the ball or an opportunity to do so.
In short, the failure of the Texas offense to keep the Longhorns in the game in support of a defensive unit that was horrible — to put it mildly — could be attributed to the inconsistent and shaky play-calling of Offensive Coordinator Major Applewhite, who, prior to now, was one of the many untouchables on the Texas coaching staff whose sheen is starting to fade. Applewhite also bizarrely called a few designed quarterback runs for David Ash in the 4th quarter, one that knocked him out of the game, with what has been reported to be a concussion (this has yet to be corroborated).
If Applewhite had a rough night, Manny Diaz had a nightmare. The Texas defense looked totally overmatched by simple play-calling from BYU Offensive Coordinator Robert Anae. The BYU scheme was centered on zone read runs by Hill and a simplistic running game for the running backs. The occasional mixed in pass in almost each instance turned into a major gain when intended to only be a complimentary play to keep the ball moving.
Texas’ complete lack of gap control in the second level — primarily among the linebackers who proved that the talk about improvement from 2012’s ineptitude was largely hot air — allowed BYU to churn yardage without much exertion, leaving them the fresher team as the game wore on in the altitude. The linebackers weren’t the only unit to blame, however, as the defensive line did nothing all night to get any pressure in the backfield or create push to shake things up.
When a loss like this happens for a team like Texas who was hyped through the roof in the off-season, people look for a direction to point fingers. Manny Diaz is the easy target. His defense looked confused, uninspired and body language late in the game suggests they gave up. There is no greater indictment of a coach than their unit giving up.
Major Applewhite’s bizarre decisions and inconsistent play calling is raising some eyebrows among the collective Texas fan base and media for the first time during his coaching tenure on the Forty Acres.
But at the end of the day, the buck stops with Mack Brown. It is Brown’s responsibility to make sure adjustments are made both on the fly and during the halftime break to prevent a leak from becoming a flood. There are a few games on the Texas schedule in 2013 which some predicted could be a loss given the right circumstances.
One of these games was not BYU.
How Texas bounces back next week against an opponent which will be more than happy to apply the boot while they are down, the Ole Miss Rebels, will say plenty about the future of the coaching staff at Texas. If the Longhorns show some heart, there may be another day to look forward to.
Another loss of this type, however, could create some scapegoats just below Mack Brown’s profile.
It, also, is something we’ve seen before.
History tends to repeat itself.