BEVO BEAT

TCU 24, Texas 7: Offensive ineptitude a major concern as Longhorns’ future grows uncertain

Posted November 5th, 2017

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FORT WORTH — Two things were undeniable after eighth-ranked TCU cruised to an easy 24-7 victory over Texas at Amon G. Carter Stadium on Saturday night.

The Longhorns have a terrific defense. It was the eighth consecutive game this unit has played winning football.

“It always hurts to lose, it always hurts to know you’re trying your best and things aren’t going your way,” safety DeShon Elliott said. “But you can’t let that get to you.”

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With an unshakable confidence, Elliott added, “Eventually, we believe in each other and we’re going to do the things we know we can do.”

But now it’s clear the offensive numbers generated in last week’s win over Baylor proved nothing. It was fool’s gold, a total aberration that gave everyone a false sense that this offense might be, could be, possibly improving. It’s not. This defense is getting better while the offense is getting worse.

“There’s a lot of things we’ve got to do better in order to give our guys a chance,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. He’s now 0-4 against ranked teams this season.

Texas coach Tom Herman waits for the school song after the loss to TCU at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth on Saturday November 4, 2017. Jay Janner/American-Statesman

The Horned Frogs (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) surely do have the Big 12’s best defense, as evidenced by their place atop various statistical columns. They buried UT quarterback Shane Buechele seven times and held the Longhorns to nine rushing yards, which tied for the fourth-lowest total in UT history.

No, this night was all about Texas (4-5, 3-3) and its offensive ineptitude. Making a bowl game, finishing the year with a winning record, getting back to a level of respectability, it’s all in jeopardy now.

“They showed everything that we’ve seen before,” said Buechele, whose lone highlight was a 33-yard touchdown pass to Collin Johnson. “We just had to get the ball out quick, get it to the guys that were open and take what they give us.”

Outside of Johnson’s score, Texas never got inside TCU’s 20-yard line. The Horns got to the 30-yard line, and then Josh Rowland missed a 47-yard field goal. He’s now 7 for 14 this season.

Another penetration to TCU’s 38 ended with a turnover on downs. Texas was 1 of 4 on fourth down and now stands 7 for 21 in that department this season. That’s textbook losing football.

It’s easy to blame the offensive line, and there’s merit to that gripe. Three players — left tackle Tristan Nickelson, center Terrell Cuney and right tackle Derek Kerstetter — were supposed to be backups or redshirting this season. Unforeseen circumstances have pushed them into starting roles. Had things gone Herman’s way from the get-go, they likely wouldn’t have ever seen the field.

Coaches are trying to hustle All-American tackle Connor Williams (knee injury) back into the lineup. He might return for the final two games. But at this point, that might not be enough.

“We start there. We’ve got to get better,” Herman said of the offensive line. “Surprisingly, I think we have. I know it doesn’t feel that way tonight, but I think we’re steady improving in that area.”

So what happened against TCU? How did Ben Banogu get two sacks and a slew of friends get five more? Why did offensive coordinator Tim Beck have to pull tight end Cade Brewer and running back Chris Warren III in as backfield blockers?

The Texas offense gathers during a timeout in the second half against TCU at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth on Saturday November 4, 2017. Jay Janner/American-Statesman

“We weren’t really expecting to see this many twist plays,” guard Patrick Vahe said. “That was something we were working on all week. We just saw a bunch of twists, a bunch of movement up front, something that we had to react to.”

With a porous offensive line, the Horns had no running threat whatsoever. Freshman Danny Young got the starting nod and finished with 31 yards on 12 carries. His best moment wasn’t a running play at all, though. Young got loose down the sideline on a wheel route for a 37-yard catch.

But Buechele’s sacks added up to minus-23 yards rushing. Warren had one carry for three yards. Receiver Jerrod Heard came in for one play and got stuffed for a 2-yard loss. Heard’s running package hasn’t fooled anyone all season.

Heard served as Buechele’s backup only because freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger had a late-week setback in the concussion protocol. Herman said Ehlinger had an inner ear issue and was not cleared by team doctors. Ehlinger was reduced to a supportive bystander.

At least everybody in the receiving room can feel good. Eleven Longhorns in all caught a pass. Lil’Jordan Humphrey had six catches for a team-high 109 yards.

Humphrey and Johnson went up and got the ball early when the Horns needed it. Herman said the Frogs changed their defensive look as the night progressed, which someone negated a just-throw-it-and-go-get-it strategy.

“We can’t just chunk it deep all day,” Johnson said. “In my eyes, I feel like I’ll make the play when the opportunity presents itself. I fully trust the coaches and what they’re doing. I just gotta wait for my number to be called and be the best I can be on each and every play.”

Solemn UT fans sit in the stands as the Longhorns play TCU at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth on Saturday November 4, 2017. Jay Janner/American-Statesman

The struggling offense takes all the oxygen away from the defense, which steadied itself after a rocky start. Holton Hill and Brandon Jones both had personal foul penalties on TCU’s opening drive. Thirty free yards helped the Frogs take a 7-0 lead. Cole Hunt’s 22-yard catch set up another score.

But overall, TCU went three-and-out eight times on 15 possessions. Quarterback Kenny Hill completed just 18 of 26 passes for 146 yards.

Don’t be fooled by the Horned Frogs’ rushing totals padded in garbage time. Darius Anderson had a 31-yard touchdown run with 4:23 left in the fourth quarter, long after the outcome was decided. That run helped TCU finish with 177 rushing yards.

Texas still has a viable path to at least a .500 finish, and that’s still realistic with this defense. But if this offense can’t chip in, all bets are off.

“Our motto, keep swinging,” senior cornerback Antwuan Davis said. “We know the offense is dynamic. We know the defense is dynamic. Once we put that full game together, we know what we can be.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

The post TCU 24, Texas 7: Offensive ineptitude a major concern as Longhorns’ future grows uncertain appeared first on Hook ‘Em.

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