Texas wide receiver Jake Smith (16) greets fans on the sideline before an NCAA college football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

Football

Whys of Texas: Wondering about weather reports, Jake Smith and the Big 12 title game

Posted November 13th, 2019

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All this talk about the weather this week reminded me of Charlie Strong.

In 2014, Texas played in 40-degree weather in Stillwater and had no problems against Oklahoma State. That 28-7 win actually made those Longhorns bowl-eligible. Strong went into the locker room before the game and told his offensive linemen to take off their tights. Leave the hand-warmers behind.

“They thought it was cold, and I told ’em it isn’t cold,” Strong said afterward.

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As far as football is concerned, cold is a state of mind.

As of now, the National Weather Service is predicting temperatures in the high 30s for Saturday in Ames. Winds could be 13 mph.

While we’re on the subject of cold, why do Austin-area schools completely freak out during cold snaps?

On to this week’s mailbag:

Q. Austin ISD is softer than Todd Orlando’s defense.  Having spent the last 22 years in Houston and Austin and now living in Waco, it’s amazing how different the local media is when it comes to weather. Barely a mention of the cold weather in Waco, not the case in the other metros. — Wilcojoe76

I suggested it’s peer pressure. Once one school closes or agrees to a two-hour delay, they all have to do it.

Q. It’s not peer pressure. Local ISD’s are wimps and obviously raising the kids to be as well.  From the administrators’ textbook, it’s the parents fault. — Kevin

What have we come to? I’m going to do this mailbag uphill both ways. IN THE SNOW!

Q. Jake Smith: what’s up? — Bryce

Here’s the back-and-forth between receiver Devin Duvernay and the Statesman’s own Kirk Bohls during Tuesday’s player interview session.

Bohls: “Where’s Jake Smith gone?”

Duvernay: “Where’s he gone? Nowhere.”

Bohls: “Is it a freshman hitting a wall kind of thing?”

Duvernay: “I honestly couldn’t tell you.”

Bohls: “Has he lost any confidence?”

Duvernay: “Not that I know of.”

First off, Duvernay and Smith play the same position, so yes, he would have some idea how Smith is doing. But Duvernay ranks second nationally in receptions per game (8.7) and receptions (78). He’s produced five 100-yard games this season. Frankly, Duvernay is playing so well right now, it’s hard to take him off the field.

That said, you do wonder about Smith’s confidence in recent weeks. He’s had some wild misadventures on punt returns and didn’t catch a pass in two of the last three games.

Herman said he met with every freshman during the team’s bye week to essentially catch up and see how everyone was doing. He said that all meetings went great, not that you would expect him to say otherwise. Next year will be Smith’s time to shine.

Q. To what extent are Texas’s troubles this season, such as they are, explained by poor coaching and/or play-calling vs. other possible explanations (talent level not as high as we might have thought, injuries, bad luck, etc.) — Jay

Well, to be fair, I certainly never thought this was going to be the year Texas made the College Football Playoff. Optimists shoot for the moon, but it’s always appeared to me that 2020 would be UT’s true breakthrough season. Of course, if Texas had beaten LSU, then that timetable would’ve been accelerated. LSU is on a monster run now, of course.

The injuries definitely hurt the secondary, as indicated by the passing numbers. The Horns are expected to get safety Chris Brown back this week, and he will definitely help the cause.

To me, the biggest surprise this season was how Texas looked against Oklahoma. I did not expect that, not in the slightest. Did you see how Kansas State ran straight through OU’s defense? That’s what I expected Texas to do, frankly. Kudos to the Sooners and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch for his stunts and blitzes, for sure.

If Herman can pull things together for three more regular-season wins — something that is very attainable — then the Horns can possibly get another shot at OU and turn the tables. If that happens, then this season looks much, much different.

Q. Brian, in your opinion what does Texas have to do to finish off the season to be deemed an improvement from last year? As a fan who has watched every one of our games, I still don’t see the program taking “the next step” forward yet. — Kunal

There’s no question that Texas needs to have three more wins and get back to the Big 12 championship game for this season to even remotely be considered a success. Anything short of that is a failure. Don’t believe me? That’s exactly what Duvernay said Tuesday. “Anything short of that is kind of a failure,” he said.

As it relates for turning the corner, there’s only one way anyone can determine whether Texas has taken “the next step,” as you say. That’s to win a Big 12 championship. Period. Full stop.

Have a question for the Whys of Texas? Contact Brian Davis at bdavis@statesman.com or via Twitter (@BDavisAAS).

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