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November 13, 2011

Good, Bad &Ugly: Post-game from Columbia, Mo.

Let's break up this post-game into the good, the bad and the ugly.

THE GOOD …

***Emmanuel Acho
played a heroic game for the Longhorns after moving to middle linebacker for an injured Keenan Robinson (right thumb) on Missouri's first drive. Acho came up with a huge strip of Missouri's L'Damian Washington on MU's first possession. The ball was recovered at the Texas 12 by LB Jordan Hicks.

***Acho finished with a team-leading 12 tackles, including four behind the line of scrimmage, the forced fumble, two pass breakups and a QB hurry.


"Acho was outstanding," Diaz said. "He played a position he practiced maybe three snaps the whole week. When Keenan Robinson went down, we pushed him over to Mike (middle linebacker) and went nickel and put Jordan Hicks at the Will (weakside linebacker).

"We were really planning on playing a lot of three-linebacker stuff this week for the run game. So Acho and Hicks I thought played their tails off at positions they really didn't have an opportunity to practice at during the course of the week.

"Acho had the game you want your seniors to have. Relentless."

***Kenny Vaccaro was everywhere and should have been credited with the play of the game that might have helped turn the momentum when he rocked Mizzou's De'Vion Moore with a clean hit for a 3-yard loss on third-and-3 midway through the second quarter.

Instead, it was flagged for a personal foul for contact above the shoulders. Replays showed Vaccaro's helmet went into Moore's right shoulder. The next play, Mizzou's Kendial Lawrence ran 35 yards for a touchdown, and a 14-3 MU lead.

"It was really deflating," said Mack Brown, who gave the officials an earful on the sideline after the flag. "I can't comment on officiating, so I guess I can't say anything."

"It happens so fast," Manny Diaz said. "I don't envy the jobs the officials have to do. It is so fast, and players' safety is at the premium.

"I wouldn't want to have to make the call. But there's players' safety, and then there's just playing defense. You have to tell us what differently to do on that play, because if you go low, the kid is going to have a torn ACL.

"It's a very difficult play, and it's part of the game. You hate for it to be such a key swing in the game, but it was."

***Vaccaro, who finished with six tackles, including a TFL, said he made a routine, form tackle.

"I was just playing hard and physical and making an every-day tackle like I always do," Vaccaro said. "It's hard on those refs making those decisions, so I don't blame them. I guess the refs thought my helmet hit his."

***Manny Diaz praised Vaccaro's play in the game.

"He played great. Was active. Physical," Diaz said of Vaccaro. "That's what you want that third-down stop to be like. A big play that gets our sideline all juiced up. And we wobbled for a second and gave up a big play, which we can't do, and that's on us."

***Freshman LB Steve Edmond came up with a huge play on third-and-goal from the 1, stopping RB Henry Josey for a loss of 1 yard and forcing a 19-yard FG after Mizzou blocked Justin Tucker's punt and took over at Texas' 1.

"He's a great middle linebacker," Vaccaro said of Edmond. "I can't wait to play with him next year. He fills some holes."

***Outside of a 40-yard pass from Franklin to T.J. Moe (in which Adrian Phillips left Moe and bit on an underneath route, leaving Christian Scott with over-the-top coverage) that set up Mizzou's first TD, and the long run by Lawrence for a TD, the Texas defense was stellar.

"I wouldn't say the best team won," Vaccaro said. "I thought physically we were the more dominant team, but that's how it ended up, and we don't get to play them again.

"They really only had two big plays in the game, a long pass and a long run. But you have to eliminate big plays in games because they lead to touchdowns.

"We wanted to send them off with a loss. They were chanting SEC. We fought hard. We played our guts out."

Added Manny Diaz, "We fought. We battled. But we didn't play well enough to win. And we didn't make the plays to spark the game back the other way."


***David Ash got off to a decent start in the passing game on Texas' first possession. Ash had a 14-yard completion on third-and-8 to D.J. Grant for a first down and again with a 45-yard completion to Marquise Goodwin on third-and-8 from the UT 41.

***Those passes set up a 27-yard field goal by Justin Tucker and a 3-0 lead for the Longhorns with 8:32 left in the first quarter.

***Ash converted third-and-4 from the Texas 48 with a 6-yard pass to Marquise Goodwin on UT's second possession, but the drive stalled when a screen pass to Jeremy Hills on third-and-7 from the Mizzou 43 was completely snuffed out by MU LB Luke Lambert, who was all over the UT screen game all day.

***Jackson Jeffcoat had a big day with 10 tackles, including a sack in which Jeffcoat chased James Franklin down from the opposite side of the field, setting up third-and-10.

***Alex Okafor then helped force a three-and-out on the next play by pressuring Franklin into bad pass with a three-man rush, forcing a punt.

***Okafor also turned in a big day with 8 tackles, including a sack on third-and-12 from the Missouri 49 for a loss of 7 yards that forced a punt. Okafor had another TFL as well.

***Chris Whaley also had a sack of Franklin for a 5-yard loss on third-and-8 from the Texas 33 in the third quarter that forced a punt.

***Blake Gideon and Christian Scott had pass breakups that were near interceptions.

***D.J. Monroe was the only Texas RB to average more than 4 yards per carry (7 rushes for 30 yards, 4.3 ypc).


THE BAD …

***With Texas leading 3-0, Ash had Marquise Goodwin open by a couple steps on a deep pass
on first-and-10 from the MU 46 and overthrew him.

***On third-and-6 from the Texas 39 on UT's third possession of the game (early in the second quarter), Ash threw deep and incomplete to Mike Davis when he had D.J. Grant wide open in one on one coverage 10 yards in front of him.

"There's a few times I forced deep balls when I shouldn't have, and I should have taken underneath stuff," Ash said. "And then there are times when you just try to find your best one-on-one matchup."

***Texas went into a 19 mph wind in the second and fourth quarters. Ash was 5-of-10 passing for 70 yards in the first quarter, with the wind. He was 2-of-4 passing for 20 yards with an INT in the second quarter, against the wind.

In the third quarter, Ash was 0-of-1 passing before being relieved by Case McCoy, who was 3-of-7 passing for 13 yards, with the wind. Ash replaced McCoy in the fourth quarter, when he went 6 of 15 for 68 yards into the wind.

"We had some shots," Mack Brown said. "The wind was huge. We overthrew one to Marquise in the first quarter. If you noticed just about all the scoring was with the wind. Very little was scored into the wind except for the blocked punt. So when we didn't score but three in the first and then didn't score in the third, we knew we were in trouble."

"Playing with the wind is a challenge. I overthrew the ball once with the wind and underthrew a couple against the wind. Something to learn from," Ash said.

***After Texas' first drive of the game that reached the Missouri 10, the Longhorns never crossed the Tigers' 35 the rest of the game.

***Texas didn't have a three-and-out in the first quarter but had three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter. Ash hit Miles Onyegbule for a 20-yard reception to UT's 47 for UT's only first-down of the second quarter, but then threw an interception on the next play with 5 seconds left.

***Texas opened the third quarter with a three-and-out, prompting coaches to replace Ash with Case McCoy. But McCoy went three-and-out on his first two drives. On his third drive, the only first down achieved was on a 4-yard run by Jeremy Hills in the Wild formation on third-and-3.

But after having first down at the MU 35, McCoy completed a screen pass to Hills that was snuffed once again by Mizzou LB Luke Lambert, leading to a 53-yard field goal attempt by Justin Tucker that was wide left. That was it for McCoy.

"Missouri did a great job on defense," Bryan Harsin said. "They were moving their coverage around and giving us different looks. It was a matter of us taking our one-on-one matchups and finding those. They were there, we just have to find them and take advantage of them."

***On bringing in Case McCoy in the third quarter, Harsin said, "I wanted to change it up and try to find a spark. Case had practiced well, and we're trying to develop two quarterbacks. And then things didn't get going, so try to go back and see if we can't get something going on the offensive side."

***I asked Harsin about where the QB position goes from here after combining to go 16 of 36 passing for 171 yards with 1 INT and zero TDs while taking two sacks (both by Ash for minus-18 yards).

"It's consistency," Harsin said. "That's the number one thing. When we're completing passes one time and come back with the same play and the same look, we have to be able to do that two times in a row.

"We have to be consistent. We have to see what they are doing defensively and take advantage of that when it's there. We have answers for different looks, so it comes down to guys making decisions and being consistent. That's the key right now."

***RB Jeremy Hills was solid at times but in replacing injured starters Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Fozzy Whittaker, Hills ran 11 times for 35 yards (3.2 ypc). The lack of success in the running game was primarily because Mizzou's defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage.

"They have a really good defense," said senior left guard David Snow. "They're a senior team. But there's a lot of things we could have done a lot better."

When asked to evaluate how the offensive line did Saturday, Snow said, "I don't evaluate myself or the other players around me until Sunday."

Added TE Blaine Irby, who caught two passes for 18 yards, "We weren't able to move the ball at all. Up front, they beat us down. We had a chance to make some plays and didn't. Our defense played their guts out. They played lights out in the second half. They kept giving us chances, but we couldn't capitalize."


THE UGLY …

***Fozzy Whittaker's right knee hyperextended and probably suffered a bunch of damage on his fourth carry of the game.
He was helped off the field and promptly taken in the locker room. Whittaker said on Twitter after the game he won't know exactly what happened to his knee until Sunday. But it was a huge blow to the offense and to the team emotionally.

"Fozzy is one of our team leaders," Blaine Irby said. "He's our guy. So when he went down, it definitely hurt us throughout the game. But when one guy goes down, the next guy has to step up and really showcase his skills.

"But I went up to Fozzy after the game and told him I love him and that whatever happens, I'm praying it's nothing serious. But he's going to take it and come back 100 percent."

Added David Ash, "Losing Fozzy is huge. I wanted to play for him when he went out. He's such a big part of what we do. Everyone loves and respects him. He brings so much to the team. I really hope he's OK. I hope people just lift him up in prayer and pray he'll get better."

Kenny Vaccaro said after Whittaker's injury, "He was telling the team to keep our heads up and to keep fighting. We know we took a big loss there. I probably look up to him the most on the team, and I'm going to be pulling for him."


***Missouri RB Henry Josey also left the game in the third quarter with a left knee injury and appears to be out for the rest of the season with a ruptured tendon, according to the Kansas City Star. Will Muschamp had complained about the turf at Mizzou two years ago. That turf will not be missed by the Big 12.

***Mack Brown ran across the field to share a few words with Josey before Josey was carted from the field.

"I told Henry Josey he's had a great year and he's a great player and I hoped he got well fast," Brown said. "After watching Fozzy come over, I knew how he felt, and when they brought the cart out, I knew the young man wasn't going back in. This is a game about kids."

***Harsin said Whittaker's knee injury wasn't the reason Texas was inept offensively.

"Any time you lose any one of your two deep on offense, it makes it very difficult in what we want to do," Harsin said. "Obviously, Fozzy being an emotional leader for us, that's tough. It's hard deal, but our guys fought back. That was not the reason we lost. We needed to just go out there and execute."

***Ash took the blame for never making Missouri respect the passing game.

"It was somewhat frustrating, but the reason we couldn't run the ball was because they were loading up the box, and we should have been able to capitalize on some passes," Ash said. "And that's where it falls on me. So the reason we couldn't run the ball was probably more my fault than anyone's. So I'm just going to work on it and keep getting better."

***Ash said he expected a heavier load in the passing game this week, but added, "I don't think I rose to the occasion like I wanted to."

***Blaine Irby summed up the offense's problems this way: "As a whole unit, we just weren't making the right decisions on the plays we had the opportunity to make. We just weren't capitalizing. That goes for tight ends, receivers, offensive line, running backs and quarterbacks. We got our butts kicked. Missouri played well. They were real physical up front.

"We had our opportunities and just couldn't capitalize."

***Ash said Mack Brown told the team after the game, "He told us he's disappointed in the way we played, but he was proud of our effort. He said we're a lot better football team than that. He said we played hard but didn't play well at all. He said our standards are way higher than that and that we have to keep working."

***Mack Brown said he was told by the team trainers before the game that RBs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron did not warm up well enough to play.

"They were running during the game to see if they could play, and the trainers didn't think they should, and we're not going to put one out there if he's not ready to play," Mack said.

"We thought Fozzy would be a big part of the game plan. Then, we thought we'd have Malcolm and Joe for maybe 10 to 15 plays each. So we thought we could spread it around and give Jeremy (Hills) some if we needed to. Obviously, everything had to change, and it didn't work very well."

Mack added, "It's a game about injuries and a game about numbers, and we just said injuries can't be an excuse. So even though they piled up more today than I've ever seen at one position, we still have to do our best to win the game."

***Major Applewhite had said Wednesday Malcolm Brown was practicing and looking good. Mack Brown didn't say if there was a setback between Wednesday and game day with the turf toe.

Mack summed up Saturday's game like this:

"Mistakes in the kicking game and our inability to move the ball on offense is what cost us the game," Mack said.

"I'm really disappointed offensively," he added.


MY TAKE: This was the third-lowest point total on offense of the Mack Brown Era, behind Texas' 12-0 loss to OU in 2004 and UT's 14-3 loss to OU in 2001.

It was the first time UT was held without a TD since that OU game in 2004.

The quarterbacks just aren't where the coaches had hoped they were. Missouri's defense was ready for everything Texas threw at them in the run game - even sniffing out Harsin's Statue of Liberty play in the second half. Mizzou LB Luke Lambert also owned UT's screen passing game.

Missouri's defense had to be beaten through the air, where everyone else has beaten them. Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Baylor had combined to put up more than 1,700 yards combined against the Tigers in MU's three games leading up to Texas.

But both Ash and McCoy missed receivers, and the offensive line couldn't control the line of scrimmage beyond the first quarter. The blocked punt was a doozy but only led to 3 Missouri points.

Texas needed something good to happen on offense, and it just didn't happen. DeSean Hales and Darius White had drops. And the loss of the team's top three RBs undoubtedly affected the confidence of the QBs and the rest of the team considering those three were the ones doing most of the heavy lifting in UT averaging 370.3 yards per game on the ground the last three games.

The Texas defense was incredible outside of the 40-yard pass from James Franklin to T.J. Moe and the 35-yard TD run by Kendial Lawrence after the horrible call on Kenny Vaccaro's third-down stop.

But that's sort of the same story from the Oklahoma State game with the two big plays given up for scores. The margin of error is so thin with this team that any mistake gets magnified.

K-State's defense next week is better against the run that Missouri, so the Texas passing game had better take root soon, or this could be a tough three game stretch to finish the year.


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