Can Texas Rebound From OSU Loss?
by Trevor Whenham - 09/12/2006
Texas got spanked so badly by Ohio State on Saturday night that they won't be able to sit down for a week. By game time I had come to the conclusion that Ohio State was going to win, but I certainly had no idea that it was going to be the kind of one-sided domination that it ended up being. If you hadn't seen the game, the box score would tell you it was closer than the score would indicate - total yards were 348-326 for Ohio State and Texas won the time of possession battle with 30:26. Despite that, Ohio State looked in control for much of the game, and the outcome wasn't in doubt by the time the half time show started.
Before the game many were saying that the loser still had a shot at being the national champions. That belief wasn't unprecedented. In fact, it happened the last two times No. 1 met No. 2 in the regular season. Florida State lost to Notre Dame in 1993 then went on to win it all; and Florida lost to the Seminoles in 1993 en route to their hardware. Texas could still win it all, provided that a lot of teams behind them lose and they win out. After their performance on Saturday, however, the first question we have to ask is, are the Longhorns good enough to win the rest of their games?
It seems unfair to put this much on one player -- never mind the fact that he is a redshirt freshman -- but the fate of the Longhorns rests squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Colt McCoy. Just like Vince Young put the team on his back and carried them past USC, McCoy will have to step up if the Longhorns are to get back into the title picture.
That's not to say that McCoy is to blame for the loss. If his passes that were dropped -- and there were several -- turned into completions, then the game may have had a different result. There were just clear indications that McCoy is young and inexperienced. His interception by LB James Laurinaitis (best fact - his dad is Road Warrior Animal from the WWF) was terrible. For whatever reason McCoy didn't see the linebacker, then he threw the ball right into his hands. That's the kind of play a young quarterback makes under the kind of pressure McCoy was facing. Or rather, that's how rookies play under less pressure, because a freshman has almost never faced that kind of pressure in his second career start.
Colt McCoy is going to make it, and he is going to be a good quarterback. I knew it for sure during his touchdown drive in the second quarter. He got completely crushed by defensive end Jay Richardson, getting a head shot that drew a flag and could have decapitated him. Not only did he jump right up, but he pumped his arms and fired up the crowd. That shows his heart, and his athletic skills are obvious, so all it will take is time. A year or two from now, McCoy will seize a game like that and take it over. Just like Troy Smith did against the Horns. The difference is that Smith is a fifth year senior that only came into his own at the end of last season, while McCoy is barely old enough to shave. McCoy didn't look anything like Vince Young, but neither did Vince Young until he had significant playing time under his belt.
Besides McCoy, Longhorns fans have to be concerned about the secondary. The suspension of cornerback Tarell Brown for stupidity is well documented and has now ended, but I don't believe that having Brown in position solves all the problems. Ted Ginn Jr. was the feared receiver and he had five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown, but Anthony Gonzalez torched the secondary for eight catches, 142 yards and a score. A seasoned DB would have helped, but it's only one bandage on what appears to be a pretty big wound. The Buckeyes have an amazing receiving corps, but a lesser lineup could have fared very well against that scheme as well.
There were positives to be found for Texas. The running game looked very good. Jamaal Charles is expected to be a huge presence for the team and he didn't disappoint, carrying 16 times for 70 yards. The pleasant sight, however, was the 94 yards and 9.5 yards per carry that Selvin Young produced. He's been hurt more than almost any other player in college, but the fifth year back was a highly touted recruit and he showed why on Saturday. He put up two plays of more than 20 yards. The bad part is that those were the only two 20 yard plays the team had all game. That's not acceptable for a team that had scored more than 40 in 12 straight games.
Another bright spot was the run defense. It was partly by Ohio State's choice, but the Buckeyes hardly had a running game. They only ran for 79 net yards, and Smith was held to a loss of 13 yards on his attempts to break free. The run defense will obviously be crucial when they head to Dallas to meet Oklahoma.
Texas has a reasonably friendly schedule. Oklahoma and Nebraska are fairly significant hurdles, but the rest of the road is fairly smooth, giving lots of time for McCoy to figure things out. Before the Oklahoma game they face Rice, Iowa State and Sam Houston State - certainly not a murderer's row. They have lots of time to fix everything that was exposed in this game.
So, can Texas win the national championship? Yes, but I'm sure not betting on it. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see them drop another game this year, and I think that there are too many other good teams for them to get a berth in the national title game. A BCS berth is very possible, however. More importantly, I wouldn't want to be a team that has the Longhorns on their schedule for next year. They will only get better, so Longhorn fans don't need to kill themselves just yet.