Texas Longhorns: D.J. Monroe

Film review: Five lessons for 2013 

December, 3, 2012
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At the end of a game Texas really wasn’t expected to steal, Mack Brown couldn’t have said it better than this: “We put ourselves in position to win.”

Kansas State won 42-24 by dominating the second half. Yet, at the end of three quarters, this ballgame wasn’t over.

In this loss, like two others before it, Texas had more than a fair shot at escaping with a victory. Here are five reasons the Longhorns came close, and what those lessons mean for 2013.

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Five thoughts: KSU 42, Texas 24 

December, 2, 2012
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Here are five thoughts following Texas’ 42-24 loss to No. 6 Kansas State.

What does 8-4 mean?
Texas went 5-7 in 2010, Then 8-5 in 2011 with a win over Cal in the Holiday Bowl. Texas finishes the 2012 regular season at 8-4 with a bowl game upcoming.


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Texas 10: Week 13 power rankings 

November, 26, 2012
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Each week, HornsNation will rank Texas' top 10 performers of the season up to this point:

1. DE Alex Okafor: The ankle injury Okafor suffered against TCU served as a necessary reminder that he’s the most irreplaceable cog of this Texas defense, both in performance and leadership.

[+] EnlargeMike Davis
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesTexas wideout Mike Davis has 51 catches and 891 yards receiving this season, plus seven touchdown grabs.
2. S Kenny Vaccaro: Had a strong senior night, leading Texas with 10 tackles and playing all over the field. No Longhorns defender gets asked to do more in a game than Vaccaro on a weekly basis.

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Five thoughts: Loss is on the offense 

November, 23, 2012
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Following Texas' 20-13 loss to TCU, here are five things that stood out:

There have been some variables in every bad showing this season for the Texas Longhorns. There have been arguments to be made about mistakes on both sides of the ball, even in the win over Kansas. For all of the balking at a defense that came into the season with most of the hype, then spent the course of the season not living up to expectations, I am taking them out of the lion’s share of the conversations about this loss against TCU.

TCU, on the first drive of the game, went 94 yards in 14 plays and used up more than seven minutes of the clock. Manny Diaz talked about why TCU had so much success on the first drive of the game, saying, “They did change their mentality. They went from a team that was predominately an empty team to a predominately two-back team. We didn’t adjust to that as well and as fast as we needed to.”

With that said, the Texas defense dealt with four turnovers and sudden-change defense and in the end only gave up a total of 20 points. At the University of Texas, the Longhorns should win every single game if the defense holds the opponent to 20 points.

This loss is on the offense, and there is really no other way to look at it.

Ash or McCoy?

As much as nobody wanted to have this conversation, it is where the Texas Longhorns are in regard to the quarterback. David Ash had a really rough night. He finished 10-of-21 for 104 yards and two interceptions. He had two rushing yards and a lost fumble that nobody can figure out how it happened.

The Texas staff decided to send Case McCoy in with 1:34 left in the first half. My first thought was, “Doesn't he have to start the second half, too?” Bryan Harsin did say, “David was struggling there. He needed to calm down. Then go out in the second half and regroup and we get ourselves back in the mix. We were moving the ball but just turning it over.”

Who knows what is going to happen at quarterback for the Kansas State game?

I don’t care how good you are or think you might be in 2013 and 2014 -- if Texas does not finish the 2012 season with one quarterback, forget about it. If they are planning to spend the offseason, spring football and the fall deciding on a quarterback again, then everyone had better settle in for a big dose of mediocrity.

You win with one quarterback, period. That is one place where you listen to history.

Turnovers

Look, I get it. Turnovers are the key to sports of many kinds. Head coach Mack Brown referenced the turnovers in summing up the loss to TCU, “We can sit here and talk about it all night. Four turnovers to one means you’re going to get beat.”

Is it just about the turnovers or is it a bigger problem? Are the turnovers a symptom of bigger issues within the team and coaching staff?

I asked Jaxon Shipley if everything can be chalked up to turnovers and he said, “I don’t think it can be just chalked up to turnovers, but I think that’s a really big thing.”

In its simplest form, turnovers are the reason that games are, more often than not, won or lost. Can turnovers be the result of passive play-calling or is it the result of poor play?

In this case against TCU, it really is that simple. Ash, a guy who has made huge strides over the last year, had his worst game of the season on Thanksgiving night against TCU.

Ash has to throw the ball with authority. He has to stop throwing to a man and throw to a spot or a route. His interception on the first drive of the game was a touchdown if he throws Mike Davis open as opposed to throwing to him. Ash had plenty of room to lead him and nothing but green field in front of Davis.

Ash will have brighter days, but this will be a head-scratcher on his resume from 2012.

Kansas State next

Kansas State was the top-ranked team in the country before they lost to Baylor in Waco. Even if Texas had won against TCU and played a great game, the Wildcats were going to be a huge test for Texas.

Kansas State has been to Texas what Texas was to Nebraska during the Cornhuskers' Big 12 days. Mack Brown is 2-6 against Bill Snyder and has lost his last four against Kansas State.

Now Texas goes on the road to play a top-10 team with something to prove. Texas will travel to Mahnattan, Kan., with questions at the one position where you don’t want to have questions going on the road.

There is a big different between finishing the regular season 9-3 and 8-4. The former gives you opportunity to still win 10 games, a mark that has become a benchmark for success in the Texas program. There is some debate as to whether that is a healthy benchmark for a football program.

All the rest…

  • I am ready to issue an all-points bulletin on running back Malcolm Brown. They said he was ready to go and healthy. While I’m at it, how about real carries for Daje Johnson and maybe one, just one carry, for D.J. Monroe on senior night?

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Here is a look at five storylines that could determine the outcome of Texas' game vs. Iowa State:

1. Alarm Bells
The initial thought and executed plan when the first 11 a.m. kick time appeared on Texas’ schedule was to have the staff start with text messages to players between 6 and 6:30 a.m. on the Monday prior to the game and continue right on through Saturday. The theory was the players would get the message and have their internal clocks set by Saturday.

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas managed to turn back the clock on a weekend when almost everybody -- c’mon, get with the times or just the right time, Arizona -- did the same.

The Longhorns made some tackles, sprinkled in some deep balls, hit the open holes, connected on a 40-plus yard field goal and were there for the crucial stops. And they won. It was like old times.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
AP Photo/Reed HoffmannIf Mack Brown and the Longhorns win out, there is a strong chance they could play in a BCS bowl.
Now because of that win, the Longhorns can start to look forward. Oh, not too much. Surely the coaching staff and the players are emboldened enough to look past Iowa State.

Although it was just last week wide receiver Mike Davis sent belly-gripping chortles through most Texas observers when he said the team could still go to a BCS bowl. Now that laughter has subsided into a mere elbow-to-side jabs and small grins.

That’s not to say a BCS bowl couldn’t happen for Texas. It could. It’s just that at this point, it doesn’t appear as if repeating Texas’s bowl pattern history -- Texas has stair-stepped from Holiday, to a BCS bowl, to the BCS national title game twice before in Mack Brown’s tenure -- is all that plausible.

Still, it is a possible and as such will enter the discussion. Here then are many of the other possibilities that face this Texas team as it moves through the final three games and into the bowl season:

BCS: The chances are skinnier than D.J. Monroe. But, again, there is a chance.

The first chance for Texas hinges on Oklahoma collapsing. Texas then has to beat Kansas State and move into the No. 2 spot in the Big 12. Given that the Sooners’ two losses are to top five BCS teams and they have beaten everyone else soundly, except UTEP, that is not likely to happen.

But Texas can still get to a BCS even if OU wins out.

Kansas State controls its won destiny. But with Collin Klein possibly injured and the upcoming schedule holding two road games on it, things could spin out of control for the Wildcats. TCU and Baylor have the potential to pull off upsets at home.


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Texas, riding a nine-game losing streak to top AP 25 teams, is headed to No. 20 Texas Tech this Saturday. Here is a look at five storylines that could determine the outcome of the game:

1. Speed Thrills
Marquise Goodwin clearly wants the ball -- earlier and more often.

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Film review: Trying on a 'Diamond' 

October, 29, 2012
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The following is a modest proposal for a Texas run game that still hasn’t figured out how to take over games.

Learn from your recent foe, Kansas, and try doing as the Jayhawks do. It’s time to see what the Diamond formation can achieve for this Longhorn offense.

Call it what you want -- the Fox Sports crew referred to it as the “triangle” or inverted wishbone formation -- but you must concede it’s effective. The versatile three-back pistol set helped KU moved the ball and open up holes against Texas.

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Five storylines for Texas as it plays Baylor Saturday night at DKR.

1. Watch out for Williams
Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams has proven to be the most explosive player at his position in FBS. Williams has eight receptions that have gained 40 or more yards. Seven of those eight 40-plus yard gains were on balls throw at least 20 yards in the air, meaning Williams uses speed to beat a defender off the line. That also means that the defense needs help with a safety over the top. And this is where Texas could have issues.

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Texas Awards Tracker: Week 7

October, 16, 2012
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Each week, HornsNation will update how Texas players mentioned on preseason award watch lists fared in their most recent game. Here is what transpired in the game against Oklahoma:

CB Quandre Diggs, So.: Paul Hornung Award, CFPA Special Teams
Diggs scooped up a blocked extra point and ran it back for two points. He had two tackles.

DE Alex Okafor, Sr.: Hendricks, Walter Camp, Lombardi, Chuck Bednarik Award, CFPA Defensive Award
Okafor had three tackles and one tackle for loss.

DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Jr.: Hendricks, Lombardi, Chuck Bednarik Award, CFPA Defensive Award
Jeffcoat tore his pectoral muscle and had to leave the game after 40 plays. He is out for the season.

RB Malcolm Brown, So.: Maxwell, Preseason All-Big 12 Team, Preseason All-Big 12 Team
Brown was out with a sprained ankle.

S Kenny Vaccaro, Sr.
Vaccaro had nine tackles.

OL Mason Walters, Jr.: Outland, Lombardi
Walters and the offensive line struggled in run-blocking as Texas only had 74 yards rushing and two first-half first downs.

LB Jordan Hicks, Jr.: Lombardi
Hicks was injured and did not play.

CB Carrington Byndom, Jr.: CFPA Defensive Award
Byndom had an interception returned for a touchdown and 10 tackles.

WR D.J. Monroe, Sr.: CFPA Special Teams
Monroe had one kickoff return for 17 yards.

TE D.J. Grant, Sr.: CFPA Offensive Awards
Grant had two catches for 18 yards.

WR Mike Davis, Jr.: Biletnikoff
Davis had five ctaches for 89 yards including a 44-yard touchdown.
Each week we take a look at three of the burning questions that face Texas as it prepares for the next opponent. This week the No. 15 Longhorns take on No. 13 Oklahoma in Dallas:

1. Can Texas pressure OU into mistakes?
The Longhorns should be able to do just that. Texas has averaged 3.7 sacks per game in the last three games and the production out of ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat has been tremendous. The pair teamed up for a touchdown against WVU and Okafor blocked a field goal. Oklahoma does not have a veteran offensive line and has not faced a pass rush like Texas’ yet.

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Texas Awards Tracker: Week 6

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
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Each week HornsNation will update how Texas players mentioned on preseason award watch lists fared in their most recent game. Here is what transpired in the game against West Virginia:

CB Quandre Diggs, So.: Paul Hornung Award, CFPA Special Teams
Diggs had three tackles and two pass breakups.

DE Alex Okafor, Sr.: Hendricks, Walter camp, Lombardi, Chuck Bednarik Award, CFPA Defensive Award
Okafor had two sacks, forced two fumbles, blocked a field goal and had three quarterback hurries.

DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Jr.: Hendricks, Lombardi, Chuck Bednarik Award, CFPA Defensive Award
Jeffcoat had four tackles, a tackle for loss, half a sack, recovered a fumble for a touchdown and had a quarterback hurry.

RB Malcolm Brown, So.: Maxwell, Preseason All-Big 12 Team, Preseason All-Big 12 Team
Brown was out with a sprained ankle.

S Kenny Vaccaro, Sr.
Vaccaro had 11 tackles and one tackle for loss.

OL Mason Walters, Jr.: Outland, Lombardi
Walters and the offensive line struggled in the run blocking but did help the team produce 38 points on offense.

LB Jordan Hicks, Jr.: Lombardi
Hicks was injured and did not play.

CB Carrington Byndom, Jr.: CFPA Defensive Award
Byndom had four tackles and blocked a punt.

WR D.J. Monroe, Sr.: CFPA Special Teams
Monroe had a 10-yard kickoff return.

TE D.J. Grant, Sr.: CFPA Offensive Awards
Grant had two catches for 30 yards.

WR Mike Davis, Jr.: Biletnikoff
Davis had three catches for 20 yards.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas coach Mack Brown had a simple and straightforward answer about the ills that have hit the Texas kick coverage team.

"The returners have been better than our tacklers."

Well, there you go. See how easy it was to clear all that up.

Couple that answer with a new-found commitment to the always inspiring squib kick and maybe everything will be fine at Texas. But still there is the lingering thought that things should be better than fine when it comes to Texas kick coverage team.

This after all was a celebrated group after the first two weeks of the season. They had dubbed themselves the Wild Bunch. Dalton Santos' legend was growing with every screaming trip he made down the field. Kicker Nick Rose's cannon leg was being canonized. Brown was talking about how he wants his special teams to be the best in the country. And the coach told the media of how Texas had dedicated more time to special teams in the preseason and were now seeing the fruits of its labor.

Then Ole Miss went and returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown.

It was humid. The players were tired. They should have been subbed more.

Those excuses, offered by those in burnt orange, seemed plausible. Maybe indeed it was an aberration.

Or maybe not. Oklahoma State was forced into three touchbacks. But on its three kick returns it averaged 32 yards. Another kick, a squib, went out of bounds and allowed OSU to start on the 35. (There was some controversy over a missed call on the play. It appeared to hit an OSU player before going out of bounds.)

Against West Virginia, Texas allowed kick returns of 44 and 67 yards before it decided it did not have the athletes or the lane discipline to kick it deep to the Mountaineers. So from that point forward Texas went with squib kicks.

Even then Stedman Bailey picked up a ball at the eight, wove through tacklers and made it to the 24.

Texas is 53rd nationally in kick coverage, allowing 20.37 yards. And for all the talk about Rose’s leg he only has 11 touchbacks in 40 attempts.

The counter to all this is that Texas does have very good returners itself. The Longhorns are 17th with an average of 26.47 pre return and have had a 100-yard score by D.J. Monroe.

This week’s opponent, Oklahoma, is 31st with a 24.63 average. That’s better than Ole Miss (72) and West Virginia (61).
AUSTIN, Texas -- D.J. Monroe has been stopped one time this year.

And that was by his own team. The senior hybrid back didn’t get the ball against West Virginia -- and for the first time in five games, he did not get into the end zone.

"The way he was going to get the ball was going to be some throws and some things like that, also in the wild opportunities as well," Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said after the Longhorns' loss to West Virginia. "But they presented some things defensively that didn’t look good. So we didn’t get to do some situations in the red zone where he has been accustomed to get the football on the hashes that we wanted to get. Just the way things fell, that’s how it turned out tonight.

[+] EnlargeD.J Monroe
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesTexas' D.J. Monroe is a dynamic kick returner and will also get opportunities on offense.
"He understands that this is what he has to do in these other formations, and he will have more opportunities as the year goes on."

Yeah, like this week.

That’s because Monroe provides Texas with an opportunistic and experienced game-breaker. The senior is just one week removed from a 100-yard touchdown return -- the third kickoff return for a touchdown in his career, a Texas record. Monroe has rolled up 1,300 yards on 50 kick returns and his 26.3 average ranks third on the Texas career charts. He also is tied for second on the active FBS players’ list with three career kickoff TD returns. One more moves him into first.

Whether Oklahoma presents that opportunity remains to be seen. The Sooners did give up a 100-yard return to Fozzy Whittaker last season. But Oklahoma is No. 37 nationally this season, allowing only 19.44 yards and getting touchbacks on almost half its 29 kickoffs.

But here is the thing -- and Oklahoma, given its past history against Monroe and his 60-yard TD run in 2010, should know this as well as anyone -- Monroe is not just a kick returner. He has averaged 7.3 yards per carry in 2012. This after averaging 6.8 in 2011.

"He gets the ball in his hands and he makes things happen," said Texas quarterback David Ash. "He provides a spark."

(Read full post)

Storylines for the Longhorns as they face West Virginia on Saturday:

1. Brown Out
Texas will be without Malcolm Brown, its leading rusher against what could be the most explosive offensive team it plays all season. But if ever there were a spot where Texas could afford and injury it is at running back. And if ever there were a time it would be now. West Virginia is terrible on defense. Couple that with the fact that freshman Johnathan Gray has started to find his way and you have what is the best possible scenario for Texas.

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