The Texas Longhorns take the field against Notre Dame at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Sunday September 4, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

BEVO BEAT Football

The Whys of Texas: Is all this hype and No. 11 ranking premature?

Posted September 8th, 2016

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A 50-47 double-overtime win over No. 10 Notre Dame certainly had some exciting moments. Many of you were fired up afterward, but some were plenty skeptical about the Texas defense, apparently.

Let’s get to this week’s mailbag — The Whys of Texas.

I live in Europe. UT Austin alum 84’. So … was Sterlin Gilbert’s offense played fast? Was it Art Briles’ offense from Houston and Baylor? On another note, where did Ryan Autullo go? I liked his coverage of UT sports.

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— Ron via overseas email

When Texas began, I thought my note-taking skills were a tad rusty. But no, it wasn’t me. The Longhorns were moving at a breakneck pace, for sure. Freshman Shane Buechele started the game, and the Horns snapped the ball somewhere between 10-15 seconds per play on their opening possession, as promised. I thought the pace slowed down as the game continued, but it was borderline unbelievable to see it live. It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep that up as the weeks progress.

Ryan Autullo has moved over to the American-Statesman’s courts beat. You can find his fine prose over in the Metro section, or at Statesman.com. Danny Davis has moved over from the high school beat to replace Ryan. Follow him on Twitter at @aasdanny. I promise you’ll enjoy his coverage, too.

This bandwagon is too premature. Too young at QB, too many points allowed.  

— Michael M. Biasello via email

So you’re saying a record crowd of 102,315 fans are hopping on the bandwagon? Some of those had to be riding shotgun already, right? You make valid points, and I, too, want to see this team play with consistency. That was a huge, huge problem last season. Getting ranked 11th in the Associated Press Top 25 feels too high. And I bet if you asked a lot of people inside Moncrief how they feel about it, you’d get the same response. Texas was 20th in the coaches’ poll. If nothing else, those polls indicate that UT is back on the national radar for the first time since 2013.

More of an observation. It’s interesting that we didn’t (need to) resort to any trick plays on Sunday night. A mark of confidence and level of pure football ability perhaps?

— Brian Donohoe via Facebook

You must remember that Charlie Strong is a conservative coach, one not prone to calling for trick plays in the first place. That’s not his style. I think we’ll see some as the season progresses. But to see Texas beat Notre Dame fair and square with no trickery was impressive.

One, what is the latest injury updates? Two, what is being seen from UTEP that Texas needs to account for?

— Rob Jaworski via Facebook

Keep an eye on the offensive line updates. We haven’t heard much about right guard Kent Perkins this week. Backup Alex Anderson finished the game and played solid. Also, it wouldn’t surprise me if safety Dylan Haines is scratched from the lineup against UTEP. He suffered a head injury against the Irish and is going through concussion protocol.

Meanwhile, the news from El Paso isn’t good for Miners fans. Backup quarterback Kavika Johnson is scheduled to start in place of the injured Zack Greenlee. Expect Johnson to hand it off to Aaron Jones A LOT. Jones had a career-high 249 yards in last week’s win over New Mexico State.

UTEP’'s Aaron Jones runs away from New Mexico State’'s Rodney Butler during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in El Paso, Texas. (Victor Calzada/El Paso Times via AP)
UTEP’’s Aaron Jones runs away from New Mexico State’’s Rodney Butler during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in El Paso, Texas. (Victor Calzada/El Paso Times via AP)

Where is the D? What was the thinking to have a linebacker on the field when you have a straight pass coverage formation on the field?. If you’re not rushing the passer, you ought to be covering somebody. “Linebackers” are called that for a reason. They aren’t normally downfield cover guys. Would you get us (the Longhorn faithful) an explanation for that? Those are the types of brain cramps that can wreck a game or even a season.

— Nat Bradford via email

Well, linebackers must patrol the middle of the field in a zone defensive scheme. Playing zone defense is not easy; it requires time and trust. Everybody must know where everybody else is supposed to be. I bet you are referring to the easy passes the Irish made in the second half. There was one play where Malik Jefferson was caught in space and nobody could get to the receiver. Personally, I don’t want to take my linebackers off the field. But yes, working in a zone does take practice. Let’s see if the Horns can make improvements this week.

Thank you Brian Davis for not once mentioning the word “swagger” in Sunday’s game story. I checked multiple Alabama newspapers the day after Nick Saban won another national championship earlier this year, and not once did I see swagger mentioned in an Alabama newspaper. That past UT officials and Brian Davis’ counterparts have been hung up on teaching young men, many still or barely out of their teens, the self-imploding notion of swagger only serves to screw them up in achieving their athletic goals. Not to mention the damning effects of thinking swagger has anything to do with living a self-actualizing kind of life after college.

— Charles Ponzio via email

It never really crossed my mind to say that Texas “had swagger” or “played with swagger” against the Irish. Frankly, this team isn’t anywhere close to earning that label yet. I do see your point. Trust me on this: If the Longhorns really get rolling, the amount of people patting them on the back and filling their heads with wacky ideas will lead to far greater issues than saying they have “swagger.”

Shaun Crawford of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish returns a blocked PAT for 2 points during the fourth quarter against the Texas Longhorns at Royal-Memorial Stadium on September 4, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Shaun Crawford of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish returns a blocked PAT for 2 points during the fourth quarter against the Texas Longhorns at Royal-Memorial Stadium on September 4, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Since you’re a sports writer, is it possible for you to explain what happened when Notre Dame blocked the extra point and ran the ball for a touchdown and only received 2 points, please?  I’m a huge college football fan and have NEVER seen that happen.  Usually, when a player runs the ball for a touchdown, they receive 6 points.  My father played football and he’s never seen that either.

— Paula Jones via email

Great question. I’m sure millions of people had the same thought on Sunday night when Shaun Crawford went the other way after the blocked extra-point attempt. (By the way, did you see how the ball bounced straight up in his lap? It was perfect.) If my understanding of the NCAA rulebook is correct, a blocked extra-point attempt can be returned by the defense for two points only if the ball lands behind the line of scrimmage. If the kick is touched and goes beyond the line of scrimmage, then the play is dead once the ball hits the ground.

Previously in the NFL, once the extra-point attempt is blocked, the play was automatically dead. But the league has since changed that, allowing for defensive returns. In high school, once the kick is blocked, the play is over.

Got a question for The Whys of Texas? Send an email to bdavis@statesman.com or danieldavis@statesman.com. Or, you can send us a comment on Facebook or Twitter.

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