Longhorns Shutout By K-State 23-0


“You don’t ever want to be shut out,” Charlie Strong said, “you want to get some points.” The 48 points and 524 yards of offense against Iowa State seem like a lifetime ago.

It seems there’s a trend this season. About halfway through the third quarter of most games, there’s talk about shutouts. When was the last time Texas was shutout at home? Shutout at all? By now, Longhorn fans know the answer to both questions: 30-0 against Houston on November 6, 1976 and, after Saturday afternoon, 23-0 against Kansas State on October 25, 2014. Everyone in burnt orange was hoping the 2004 Texas/OU game, a 12-0 loss in Dallas back when Vince Young was still coming into his own, would remain the answer to the latter bit of trivia. Though comparing anyone to Young is a dicey concept, Tyrone Swoopes is in a similar position right now.

After looking more confident in the pocket and smarter with his decisions following the Baylor game, Swoopes looked positively pedestrian in Manhattan, posting a passing line of 13 of 25 for 106 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs. The arm strength is there for Swoopes—there is no doubt about that—but there are concerns about both the accuracy of his downfield passes and his reads on zone defenses. Against Kansas State—a far superior opponent than Iowa State or Kansas—the zone reads on running plays were worrisome as well. There were multiple option plays where Swoopes should have taken the ball off of Brown or Gray’s belly and taken it himself for an easy 10 yards, yet he missed the chance.

“We just didn’t execute,” Swoopes said after the game. “We didn’t execute and it puts you in a really tough position to win.”

From an optimist’s (re: my) point of view, the execution on Saturdays will come with experience from game reps and watching film to correct mistakes. Swoopes has the tools to excel—he doesn’t get enough credit for his arm strength and his sneaky quickness—he just needs to put it all together. After seven starts, and with an inexperienced offensive line in front of him, I don’t think we can expect top-level performances yet. Am I encouraged by Saturday’s game? No, but I’m not throwing in the towel for Swoopes.

About midway through the second quarter, this game was eerily similar to the Baylor game. After holding the Wildcats to only six points on two field goals, including another great goal-line stand by the defensive line, the offense couldn’t capitalize on the play of the defense. As is wont to happen, that dam breaks at a certain point, and it did when K-State marched down the field, capping off the drive with a three-yard TD run by DeMarcus Robinson. That was all Kansas State needed.

As far as the defense goes, the D-line played well considering—and I realize how much of a homer I sound like here—K-State’s offensive line put Cedric Reed in a chokehold on every other play. It was downright silly on some plays, but you work with what you have. One troubling element of the defense was Duke Thomas. Thomas has looked good in the defensive backfield, recording a pair of picks against Kansas and another against Iowa State last week, but a pass interference call followed a few plays later by a crucial blown assignment led to that Robinson TD in the second quarter. He bit badly on a double move by Wildcat WR Tyler Lockett for an easy 29-yard reception to set up the score. Granted, Lockett is an experienced senior and future NFL player, but Thomas has looked better against similar competition.

The Longhorns, now sitting at 2-3 in the Big 12 and 3-5 overall, need to win three out of their remaining four games to be bowl eligible. Next week is a very winnable game in Lubbock against Texas Tech, then home against West Virginia, a tough one in Stillwater against OSU, and finally TCU on Thanksgiving at DKR. It’ll be difficult, but not impossible for Strong’s squad to get it together—though even if they don’t, this is not a wasted season. This is a season to learn, to recruit, to rebuild. Strong has weeded out players who don’t conform to his system and though the on-field product has potentially suffered because of it in the short-term, this is a plus for the future. Texas fans aren’t ever going to cross their fingers for 7-5 and another appearance in the Alamo Bowl. It’s about making the playoff and contending for it all. Sometimes you have to take your lumps.

And those on social media already calling for Strong’s job need to understand a few things about Saturday’s game: Bill Snyder has been coaching at Kansas State for 23 seasons. His Wildcats play in a stadium named after him and his family. Strong has been at Texas for about nine months. Take a deep breath. It will get better.

Photo courtesy UT Athletics.


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