2008 Weekly local football review

Crabtree catching game winner (AP Photo/LM Otero; previous weekly reviews are here)

Texas Tech 39 Texas Longhorns 33

As predicted, the top-ranked Horns (8-1/4-1 Big 12) were not able to run the table through four straight games against top-10 ranked teams.

The loss dropped Texas to fourth in the BCS rankings, behind Alabama, Tech, and Penn State. Florida and Oklahoma are close behind the Horns.

The Horns remain in the hunt for the BCS Championship Game, but by a thread at this point. Alabama will probably lose to either LSU next weekend or to Florida in the SEC Championship Game, and Tech and OU must both play each other as well as Oklahoma State.

However, Penn State has a much easier schedules the rest of the way and is not likely to lose another game. So, the Horns will need help from other teams and probably a victory in the Big 12 Championship Game to attain a BCS Championship Game berth.

Now, to the game. Normally, when the Horns’ defensive unit gives up almost 600 yards, 30 points (the Horns’ offense gave up the other 9) and the game-winning TD pass with one second left, you would be inclined to blame the defeat on them. However, playing Texas Tech (9-0/5-0 Big 12) is anything but normal.

Truth be known, the Horns’ defensive unit played well enough for the Horns to outscore Tech and win the game. However, Texas’ offensive unit was completely flummoxed by Tech’s defense for almost the first three quarters of the game, and that lack of productivity ended up being the difference in the game.

Tech’s defense played a soft zone pass defense with two safeties deep and either five or six defenders playing between 5-7 yards off the line of scrimmage. Then, Tech would run a series of stunts with the three or four defensive lineman who were essentially pass-rushing on every play.

The strategy effectively took away Texas’ mid-range passing game. Moreover, through almost three quarters, Texas inexplicably played into Tech’s hands by failing to force the Red Raiders to defend the running game, which was there for the taking with so many Tech defenders running around in the defensive backfield. As a result, the Horns fell behind 22-3 and 29-13 before closing to within 10 at the end of the third quarter.

After finally forcing Tech to defend the running game toward the end of the third quarter, the Horns moved the ball at will against Tech’s defensive unit in the fourth quarter and almost pulled the game out. However, it’s simply unreasonable to expect a defensive unit to do much better than hold Tech’s explosive offense to 10 points in a half, which is precisely what the Texas defensive unit did in the second half on Saturday night. The Horns’ failure to score double-digit points in the first half cost them this game.

The Horns play resurgent Baylor (3-6/1-4 Big 12) next Saturday in Austin before traveling the following weekend to Lawrence to face a dangerous Kansas (6-3/3-2 Big 12) squad.

Vikings 28 Texans 21

The Texans (3-5) modest three-game winning streak ended with a resounding thud in Minneapolis as the Vikings (4-4) cruised to a 21-7 halftime lead and then easily repelled a late Texan comeback. The Texans are now 12-40 all-time in games played away from Reliant Stadium, 4-24 since the 2005 season, and 4-16 in 2.5 seasons under Head Coach Gary Kubiak.

If it’s not one thing with the Texans, then it’s another. In this game, the Vikings’ DE Jared Allen dominated off the left edge where he ran past rookie LT Duane Brown and veteran LT Ephraim Salaam as if they were statutes. The result was that Texans QB’s were sacked five times and pounded at least another half-dozen times.

Starting QB Matt Schaub was hurt in the first half and didn’t play in the second, and backup QB Sage Rosenfels was running from Allen for much of the second half. Such harassment elevates the risk that the Texans’ inconsistent QB’s would make bonehead errors, which occurred on three occasions — a costly fumble by Schaub and bad interceptions in the red zone by both Schaub and Rosenfels. Former Texans QB David Carr would have felt right at home.

Meanwhile, the Texans defense, although pretty bad in the first half, played reasonably well in the second half. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson still had no problem running for 140 yards on 25 carries (5.1 yards per carry), though.

The Texans return home next Sunday to meet another stout defensive unit in the Ravens (5-3) before going back on the road to meet the Colts (4-4) and the Browns (3-5). Without better QB and defensive play, it’s getting harder by the week for me to see how the Texans are going to win more than five games this season.

Texas Aggies 24 Colorado 17

Despite being out-gained by a considerable margin, the plucky Aggies (4-5/2-3 Big 12) won the turnover battle decisively (A&M freshman safety Trent Hunter had two interceptions in the second half) and put away another Big 12 win that looked unlikely just a few weeks ago.

The Aggies offense is actually rounding into decent shape behind QB Jerrod Johnson. freshmen WR’s Ryan Tannehill and Jeff Fuller, and freshman RB Cyrus Gray. However, the Ags face Oklahoma (8-1/4-1 Big 12) on Saturday and Texas in two of their final three games. They have a winnable game against Baylor in between those two.

Thus, either a 5-7 or 4-8 record is the likely result of Coach Mike Sherman’s first Aggie team. That’s not what the Aggie faithful had in mind when A&M hired Sherman.

Rice 49 UTEP 44

The Owls (6-3/5-1 C-USA) continued their remarkable season with another comeback victory, this time over UTEP (3-5/3-2 C-USA) in El Paso. Rice QB Chase Clement, WR Jarett Dillard and H-Back James Casey are three of the best college football players in the country, but nobody outside of Houston seems to realize it.

The Owls now return home for their final three games of the season against Army (3-6), Marshall (4-4/3-1 C-USA) and Houston (4-4/3-1 C-USA), which are all winnable. How does a 9-3 record for the Owls sound?

Marshall 37 Houston Cougars 23

The Cougars (4-4/3/1) predisposition to start slow and finish fast finally caught up with them last Tuesday evening in Huntington, W.Va. as the Thundering Herd rolled to a 30-3 third quarter lead and cruised to an easy victory.

The loss should come with a footnote, however, With the Coogs closing in on a third quarter TD that would have closed the score to 23-10, the Cougar players had to endure watching their teammate Patrick Edwards be carted off the field with a grisly compound leg fracture resulting from an awful collision with an inexplicably-placed metal cart just outside the end zone at the Marshall Stadium.

The Cougar QB who had thrown the incomplete pass on the play in which Edwards was injurred promptly fumbled a handoff while going in for the TD, Marshall recovered and marched quickly to another TD to make the score 30-3. Game, set, match. At least Edwards has a good chance of winning the personal injury-negligence  lawsuit against Marshall.

The Coogs now return home for their final four games beginning with Tulane (2-6/1/3) a week from Saturday.

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