Football

Texas' five best — and worst — plays of the season, so far

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Posted October 18th, 2016

This season has already featured incredible highs and unbelievable lows for Texas.

The Longhorns (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) upset 10th-ranked Notre Dame in their season opener and shot to No. 11 in the Associated Press poll, the highest the program had been ranked since 2012. And then, just a few weeks later, the Longhorns fell out of the Top 25 completely.

Here’s a look at the top five best plays and the worst plays so far in Texas’ topsy-turvy start.

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TEXAS’ FIVE BEST PLAYS — SO FAR …

(or, the Highs of Texas)

 

UT quarterback Tyrone Swoopes rushes in the second overtime against Notre Dame at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Sunday September 4, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
UT quarterback Tyrone Swoopes rushes in the second overtime against Notre Dame at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Sunday September 4, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

1. 18-Wheeler lunges for the win

Sept. 4: Notre Dame

First-year offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert said he didn’t watch any film from the 2015 season. He wanted to judge all the players with his own two eyes in practice. It’s probably safe to assume Charlie Strong stressed to him the importance of the Longhorns’ 18-Wheeler package.

In the season opener against Notre Dame, the coaching staff rotated senior Tyrone Swoopes and freshman Shane Buechele to near perfection. In double overtime, Buechele was in on first and second down. Then came Swoopes, a hard-charging 250-pound ball-carrier. On third-and-1 from Notre Dame’s 16-yard line, Swoopes rumbled 10 yards. Two plays later, he went for it all, lunging for the end zone and the winning points in a 50-47 thriller.

It was easily the biggest moment of Swoopes’ career. A full house of 102,315 fans at Royal-Memorial Stadium went berserk.

 

2. D’Onta Foreman breaks loose in Stillwater

Oct. 1: At Oklahoma State

Every time Foreman steps on the field, he’s trying to prove a point. The junior is trying to show those coaches who wouldn’t recruit him they made a mistake. He’s trying to prove to defensive coordinators he cannot be stopped.

Foreman had some strong runs in September. He flashed breakaway burst on a 47-yard touchdown run at Cal. He scored with unbelievable ease on a 22-yard run late against Oklahoma. But one long run against Oklahoma State had it all, though.

On first-and-10 from OSU’s 38, Foreman got loose through the left side and bolted for the end zone. That 62-yard touchdown romp will be shown to plenty of NFL scouts this offseason. He felt an abdominal strain while galloping toward the goal line, but hasn’t missed a game since.

 

Texas wide receiver Devin Duvernay (2) runs for a touchdown against Iowa State in the third quarter at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)
Texas wide receiver Devin Duvernay (2) runs for a touchdown against Iowa State in the third quarter at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

3. Devin Duvernay blazes through DKR

Oct. 15: Iowa State

Devin Duvernay was one of four recruits originally headed to Baylor this summer until the program collapsed under a sexual assault scandal. Coach Art Briles was dismissed, as was the athletic director and school president.

Duvernay, his brother Donovan, Patrick Hudson and J.P. Urquidez all wound up signing with Texas — a once-in-a-generation recruiting coup for the Longhorns. Devin Duvernay was the most game-ready athlete of those four and the Horns put him to work at receiver. He’s adjusted just fine.

Against OU, Duvernay glided past his defender and caught a 63-yard touchdown pass. Frankly, it looked too easy. The following game, he blew past an Iowa State cornerback and made a 75-yard touchdown grab, the longest play from scrimmage so far this season. He earned him Big 12 newcomer of the week honors. It’s easy to see why Baylor wanted him; Duvernay is a future star.

 

Texas Longhorns #11 Jacorey Warrick scores touchdown against Cal Golden Bears during the first half of a NCAA college football game, Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas Longhorns #11 Jacorey Warrick scores touchdown against Cal Golden Bears during the first half of a NCAA college football game, Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

4. Shane Buechele cocks, fires for Warrick

Sept. 17: At Cal

Being just a freshman, Buechele has plenty of time to create a bunch of signature moments. But there was one throw against California that, if studied on its own, proved Texas may have found the right quarterback.

Buechele was hammered early against the Golden Bears and had to leave the field for a chest exam. He suffered a minor rib injury, but returned to the field after a couple of series. Texas led by three when the Horns took over at their own 20-yard line. Buechele hit Collin Johnson on two plays, and Foreman pushed the ball to the Cal 41.

On first-and-10, Buechele cocked and fired a ball deep for Jacorey Warrick. Now, it did not appear that Warrick was open when the ball left Buechele’s hand. But Warrick accelerated, and the ball was in a spot where only he could reach it. It was an amazing throw by an 18-year-old as the Horns went up by 10.

 

Texas wide receiver Armanti Foreman catches a first quarter touchdown defended by Notre Dame cornerback Cole Luke at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Sunday September 4, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas wide receiver Armanti Foreman catches a first quarter touchdown defended by Notre Dame cornerback Cole Luke at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Sunday September 4, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

5. Armanti Foreman’s best was Texas’ first

Sept. 4: Notre Dame

The depth among UT’s receiving corps has been one of the best storylines of the year so far. Seven players have or soon will have more than 200 yards receiving. Six different receivers have caught touchdowns. It’s a competitive room. If someone is dropping passes, he can be easily benched for someone else.

As things stand at the moment, though, Armanti Foreman’s 19-yard touchdown against Notre Dame could be the early leader for catch of the season. He somehow made the correct body lean and still got a toe down in the northwest corner of Royal-Memorial Stadium. It was the first score of the season for the Longhorns.

In 12 games last season, Texas had 1,751 passing yards and only nine passing touchdowns. Through six games this year under Gilbert, the Horns have 1,566 yards and 13 touchdowns.

 

… AND TEXAS’ FIVE WORST PLAYS — SO FAR

(or, the Sighs of Texas)

Cal Golden Bears running back Vic Enwere celebrates touchdown agains the Longhorns during the first half of a NCAA college football game, Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Cal Golden Bears running back Vic Enwere celebrates touchdown agains the Longhorns during the first half of a NCAA college football game, Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

1. Vic Enwere’s fumble — that wasn’t

Sept. 17: At Cal

There’s a reason why Pac-12 football has its own hashtag — #Pac12AfterDark. Crazy things happen in West Coast night games. Watching Texas cornerbacks attempt to guard Bears receiver Chad Hanson was comical. He finished with 12 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Hanson’s play was a huge reason why Texas lost 50-43. But one specific play late summed up how the season has gone thus far.

On third-and-1 at the Cal 45, Vic Enwere broke through UT’s defense and raced 54 yards practically untouched. It should have been an easy score, but Enwere dropped the ball before crossing the goal line.

UT’s Dylan Haines picked up the loose ball, but officials had already blown the play dead, thinking Enwere had scored. Replay officials were the ones who determined Enwere didn’t cross the goal line.

Texas needed a break and arguably should have gotten the ball at the 20 trailing by seven. Instead, Cal got it back by rule and ran out the clock.

 

STILLWATER, OK - OCTOBER 1 : Wide receiver James Washington #28 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys celebrates a touchdown against the Texas Longhorns October 1, 2016 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
STILLWATER, OK – OCTOBER 1 : Wide receiver James Washington #28 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys celebrates a touchdown against the Texas Longhorns October 1, 2016 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

2. James Washington makes it look easy

Oct. 1: At Oklahoma State

After an off week, the Texas coaching staff knew it needed to show defensive improvement in the Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford was well under fire after his unit allowed 47 and 50 points in two of the first three games. Strong stuck with Bedford, but said he would personally get more involved on that side of the ball.

The Cowboys took an early 7-0 lead when Justice Hill ran through some missed tackles for a 30-yard score. Texas then went three-and-out on its first drive and gave the ball back to OSU at its own 32.

On third-and-9 from OSU’s 46, Mason Rudolph hit James Washington on a simple crossing route designed to get first-down yardage. But multiple missed tackles allowed Washington to score. It was laughable and embarrassing for the Texas defense.

After the game, Strong said he did call some plays. He demoted Bedford the following day.

 

OU wide receiver Dede Westbrook (11) torches the Texas defense for a touchdown in the second half at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas Saturday October 8, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
OU wide receiver Dede Westbrook (11) torches the Texas defense for a touchdown in the second half at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas Saturday October 8, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

3. Dede Westbrook slices through the Cotton Bowl

Oct. 8: Oklahoma

It’s difficult to tell which one of Dede Westbrook’s three touchdown catches against Texas was the best, or worst, depending on your view. The OU standout had 10 catches for 232 yards on a sunny day in the Cotton Bowl.

Westbrook just ran by Davante Davis for a 71-yard touchdown catch in the first half. Early in the third quarter, he shook Holton Hill with a double move and went 42 yards for a score. But his third touchdown catch may have been the most important, as it gave OU a 35-27 lead and some serious momentum.

On second-and-8 from the Texas 47, Westbrook ran a slant between Hill and Naashon Hughes, who was covering a tight end in the slot. Westbrook blew past Haines into the open field. Edwin Freeman took a good pursuit angle, but couldn’t bring Westbrook down.

It was a frustrating play on a frustrating day in Dallas.

 

Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong celebrates after turnover against Cal Golden Bears during the first half of a NCAA college football game, Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong celebrates after a turnover against Cal during the first half of a NCAA college football game, Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

4. Trailing late, Strong … punts?

Sept. 17: At Cal

One of the most baffling coaching decisions this season happened late in the fourth quarter against California.

With two timeouts left, Texas trailed by seven and took over at its own 21-yard line with 3:34 remaining. The Golden Bears had struggled against the run all night long. So on first down, Buechele threw a pass to Heard for a 1-yard loss. Then on second down, Buechele kept it for a 2-yard gain. On third down, he got sacked, bringing up fourth-and-10.

The play-calling alone was curious, but Strong chose to punt rather than go for it. The coach later said he thought the defense could get a stop. Really? In a game where the defense allowed 507 total yards?

Texas burned its two timeouts, and Enwere got loose on third-and-1 for the 54-yard gain that should have been a touchdown. Asked later if he’d wanted to go for it, Buechele said, “I would have been down for that.”

 

Texas' extra-point attempt is blocked by OSU in the second quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday, October 1, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN STATESMAN
Texas’ extra-point attempt is blocked by OSU in the second quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday, October 1, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN STATESMAN

5. Extra-point block party vs. Oklahoma State

Sept. 17: At Oklahoma State

Do not be fooled by the Texas media guide. Jeff Traylor is listed as the special teams coach, but that’s a title only. Strong himself has said that he’s the special teams coach. However, special teams have been a real adventure ever since he arrived in Austin.

Texas was without suspended guard Kent Perkins against Oklahoma State. But that was no excuse as the Cowboys blocked not one, not two, but three extra points in a 49-31 win.

There was no secret about Oklahoma State’s plan and certainly nothing illegal, either. The Cowboys simply had two defenders come through the same gap, just off snapper Jak Holbrook’s left shoulder.

The poor tackling and blocked extra points left the impression Strong did not have his team ready to play in a critical conference road game.

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

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