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The Whys of Texas: TCU’s the reason why officials removed OU’s Marquise Brown vs. UT

Little-known rule interpretation in week 3 was the reason why officials took the Sooners' speedster off the field with 9 seconds left

Posted October 10th, 2018

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As Texas fans were busy celebrating Cameron Dicker’s 40-yard field goal Saturday, Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown slipped into the south end zone and laid down before the ensuing kickoff.

Most Texas fans in the Cotton Bowl’s north end zone were too busy going crazy to notice. Gus Johnson didn’t really call attention to it on Fox, either. But officials noticed.

The fastest Sooner not named Kyler Murray was told he had to leave the field for a non-football move. No, Brown was not ejected. Turns out, NCAA game officials are no longer allowing players to lay down and “hide” in the end zone — or anywhere else on the field, for that matter.

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OU coaches can thank TCU for ruining all the fun.

In 2014, the Horned Frogs hid a player on a kickoff against OU, but the lateral and big return got wiped out by a penalty. TCU tried it again this season against Ohio State. After that game on Sept. 15, the NCAA secretary-rules editor Steve Shaw distributed an interpretation to all game officials, according to a Big 12 spokeswoman.

Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise Brown (5) breaks free from Texas defensive back Davante Davis (18) during an NCAA college football game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Going forward, any player laying down on the field or in the end zone must be treated as an injured player and removed from the game for one play.

In this case, Brown’s only mistake was going to the ground too fast. Had he gone down when toe met leather, the Sooners would’ve been OK. Of course, that negates the whole premise of the trick play.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Dicker boomed a touchback and OU took over at its own 25-yard line. The Sooners couldn’t get much going on its final two plays, and the Horns won 48-45. Still, what’s the harm in a little special teams chicanery?

On to this week’s mailbag…

I’m confused, how does Texas get a penalty on the very first play from scrimmage?  What has to take place for that to happen and do you think it’s a coaching error or player error?

— David via email

OK, good. I’m not the only person who finds this just mind-boggling. Saturday wasn’t the first time Texas has been flagged for a delay when the offense is coming onto the field. What’s up with that? It sounds corny, but it’s the result of not being attentive to clock management, specifically the play clock after the ball is marked ready for play.

“Well, they changed the rule, and now the play clock starts before we even get off the sideline,” UT senior tight end Andrew Beck said. “Sometimes, we kind of take our time getting out there and getting lined up because we’re used to the whistle not being blown.

“I didn’t even look at the play clock on that first play,” he added. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, we’re good.’ Usually, every now and then I’ll peek and yell at Sam (Ehlinger). He’s got enough stuff on his plate that I try to help him out a little bit. I didn’t even think to look. They blew the whistle, and I thought, ‘Did we call timeout already?’ It worked out for us.”

Texas wide receiver Collin Johnson (9) pulls the ball in for a first down against Oklahoma Sooners cornerback Parnell Motley (11) in the first quarter NCAA college football game at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas Texas on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

With a little less than a minute to go, UT in field goal range and OU down to one timeout, the Horns ran a quick out to Collin Johnson that was incomplete. Obviously a first down seals OU’s fate, but my friend and I at the game were apoplectic at the idea that Texas would risk stopping the clock and giving the ball back to the Sooners, who hadn’t exactly needed a lot of time to score 21 points in the quarter.

I might have missed it but did anyone in the post-game interview question Herman’s choice that enabled OU to have a chance at a miracle win?

— Sam via email

I see your point there. Texas had first-and-10 from the Oklahoma 32-yard line with the clock winding down. Ehlinger’s pass to Johnson was incomplete. Then, Ehlinger rushed for eight yards, and OU called timeout with 58 seconds left. On third-and-2, Ehlinger ran for one yard, essentially setting up Dicker’s field goal.

That particular first-down pass play? Well, if it works, Herman looks like a genius. If not, I’m getting questionable emails. Frankly, I didn’t have a problem with it. Texas should have been going for the kill there, not playing for the field goal. The 18-yard pass to Devin Duvernay earlier in that drive was big, as was the seven-yarder to Beck. Those are winning, aggressive plays, not meek, hold-on-for-dear-life decisions. Good for Herman, Ehlinger and the Horns. It paid off.

The only thing I questioned on that drive was the defensive pass interference call on OU’s Tre Norwood. He hammered Johnson, who was in the air and trying to make a big catch. They were running straight toward me based on where I was standing. Honestly, I wouldn’t have thrown that flag.

If there are only seconds left in a half and you are receiving a kickoff, why not run it out even if it is 9 yards deep in the end zone? Doesn’t matter if you are tackled on the 10-yard line, and there is a chance of a runback for a touchdown. 

— Brian via email

I believe this is referring to OU’s decision to just catch the ball for a touchback with nine seconds left. That’s probably a coach’s decision. Think about it. OU gets 25 free yards with no time off the clock. If I’m the coach and my kick returners can’t get it to the 25-yard line, I’d be taking touchbacks all day long. To an offensive coach, he probably prefers to set up a Hail Mary-type of play rather than take the team’s chances on special teams.

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was fired after Saturday’s loss to Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

After 35 years of attending Longhorns’ games, I never remember the opposing defensive coordinator getting fired mid-season?  Has it happened before? In Herman we Trust (but verify)

— Corky via email

I can understand why OU coach Lincoln Riley made the decision Sunday night to fire defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. Texas just hung 48 points on its biggest rival. Somebody’s head usually rolls in that situation. Stoops had been a convenient excuse for the team’s defensive failures for a few years now.

Has that happened before? In 2013, then-Texas coach Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after a dreadful night in Provo, Utah, against BYU. The Horns gave up a school-record 550 total yards. Ouch. Man, what a dreary night that was.

In 2015, UT coach Charlie Strong demoted offensive coordinator Shawn Watson after the debacle at Notre Dame in the season opener. To his credit, Watson finished out the season coaching the quarterbacks, but receivers coach Jay Norvell became the offensive play-caller. So yes, that’s happened before.

Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) celebrates after running into the end zone for a touchdown against Oklahoma Sooners in the 3rd quarter during an NCAA college football game at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas Texas on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Are we stuck with running this type of offense? It’s so slow to develop. Would love to see our back lined up in the I-formation.  

Mark in Boise, Idaho, via email

Well, this offense did just hang 48 points on Oklahoma. This offense just scored on seven of its first eight possessions, not counting the throwaway possession just before halftime. Is this offense full of home runs? No. Texas has only three offensive plays of 40 yards or more this season. The longest offensive play of the season was a 47-yard reception by Johnson.

Texas ranks sixth in the Big 12 with 414 yards per game. It also ranks sixth with 32 points per game. To be fair, Herman has been consistent on this topic from day one. “We’re going to win with defense,” he’s said probably a dozen times to reporters. I do think it’s a physical offense; one that mirrors its defense.

Then again, fans complained about Greg Davis’ offense all the way up to the Rose Bowl in 2006, too.

Texas wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey (84) throws a touchdown pass against Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Oct. 6, 2018. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Juniors Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey pass the eye test as possible NFL draftees. Any word on how the NFL views them? Should I worry they could leave early?

— Glenn via email

As I sit here today in early October, wailing away at this keyboard, I’m going to say yes on Johnson and maybe on Humphrey. Yes, as in, you should worry Johnson could leave UT early. Here’s a player that’s been waiting to have a breakout season. It’s possible both could become 1,000-yard receivers this year. Texas hasn’t had many 1,000-yard receivers in school history, but Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley both did it in 2008.

Who knows what will happen anymore. Every underclassman that left UT last season was told by the NFL draft committee to return to school. None of them did. So I think you have to wait and see how the rest of this season plays out before worrying about 2019.

Let’s end today with Breckyn Hager, the self-proclaimed prophet. He didn’t want to talk with reporters on Tuesday but still found time to cut a promo for Texas’ social media account. It made me laugh. Enjoy.

Have a question for the Whys of Texas? Contact Brian Davis at bdavis@statesman.com.

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