Tag Archives: Red River Rivalry

Texas Found Its Identity, But How Far Will It Take Them?

If you missed it last week, I wrote about how Sam Ehlinger should be the starting quarterback for Texas against Oklahoma and for the rest of the season. That came true on Saturday, but it still wasn’t enough to beat Oklahoma. But anyone who watched the game saw that Ehlinger wasn’t the problem.

Texas has been searching for their identity, especially on offense, for the first six games of the season. They finally had a little glimpse of what it could be against Kansas State, and the Oklahoma game solidified it.

This Texas team will go as far as Sam Ehlinger takes them. He is their identity.

The Longhorns totaled 452 yards of offense against the Sooners, and Ehlinger accounted for 392 of them. Add that to last week’s totals and Ehlinger has combined for a total of 871 yards of offense in the last two games on his own.

The only time Texas could run the ball against Oklahoma, Ehlinger had the ball in his hands. He ran for 106 yards on 22 carries. Chris Warren, Kyle Porter and Toneil Carter combined for 17 yards on 14 carries. That’s not going to take the Longhorns very far.

As a Texas fan, I’ve seen this scenario before. In 2015, Jerrod Heard took Longhorns nation by storm by accounting for the majority of the offensive production. But what happened when he had a couple of games under his belt? The opposing teams knew what to expect and shut him down.

The difference with Ehlinger is he is more capable of throwing the ball than Heard was, but this is still a one-dimensional team. Most of the time when you talk about a team being one-dimensional, it’s because they can only run the ball or only throw it, but can’t do both.

This team is one-dimensional because they only have one player who can do it all. But as we learned on Saturday, it’s not going to be good enough against top teams.

The running game woes boil down to having to use a patchwork offensive line. Only two of the five starters to begin the season are still in their same positions. Due to injuries, players are out for the season and forcing guards to move to tackles and vice versa. You never know what you’re going to get from the offensive line on any given play, much less any given game.

As good as Ehlinger has played these last couple of games, he’s not going to be able to win big games if he’s running for his life constantly. I honestly don’t know how Tom Herman is going to fix the offensive line with the lack of depth and inexperience throughout the group.

The thing that worries me most about Texas’ new found identity is it’s easy for good teams to key on. The thing I’m at peace with is Ehlinger doesn’t shy away from contact and can make things happen with his feet and his arm.

When you’re truly a one-dimensional team, you have to have a dynamic player to bail you out of circumstances. Ehlinger has shown he can be that player, but now he has four games of film on him. It’s going to change, and when it does, it could get ugly. Especially if the defense doesn’t play at a high level like they have been since week two of the season.

Herman’s biggest challenge at this point is adding another dimension to his team’s identity. It’s obviously not going to be in the traditional run game, but I’m not sure an unconventional run game will even work at this point.

Texas fans can’t expect this team to change much for the rest of this year. What you saw on Saturday is their identity. And I’m not sure yet if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Pexels

Texas Found Its Gunslinger, And His Name Is Sam

What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, the week of the OU game, I wrote about the tradition of the Red River Rivalry and virtually avoided writing anything about the actual Texas football team. Texas was 2-2 and coming off of back-to-back terrible losses to California and Oklahoma State. There was no hope for success and the team wasn’t worth talking about, so I chose to avoid it completely.

Fast forward a year and the Longhorns are coming off of yet another dramatic double-overtime game, but this time came out on the winning end against Kansas State. But it’s not only the victory to improve the team’s record to 3-2 that will make the headlines. It’s the fact that Texas has the quarterback they’ve been looking for, and his name is Sam Ehlinger.

I’m not proclaiming Ehlinger to be a hero my any means, but I am proclaiming him to be the starting quarterback over Shane Buechele. He’s clearly earned it.

If you missed it, head coach Tom Herman has been adamant about Buechele not losing his job only because of an injury. And to be fair, Buechele hasn’t been the main reason for the Longhorns’ failures on offense, but Ehlinger is just a better fit.

Notice I said the words “better fit” instead of “better quarterback.” The difference is Herman requires his quarterback to be mobile, based on his past coaching stops and the quarterbacks he’s had success with. Buechele can move, but not very well. What we saw Ehlinger do against Kansas State is exactly what Herman needs to finally get the offense moving in a positive direction and establish an identity.

It’s not the fact that he can scramble out of a sure sack to escape trouble. It’s not even the fact that he can lower his shoulder and completely run over a defensive back. But it’s the fact that Ehlinger is a threat to run the ball, and run the ball well, that will open up holes for this Texas offense.

That’s why Ehlinger has to be the starter going forward. I know he’s going to make mistakes. And quite honestly, I would expect a couple of horrendous games from the true freshman if he is in fact named the starter the rest of the season. But he’s not going to be able to grow unless he’s in those situations.

My final point on the subject is if Ehlinger is not the starter against OU in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, I’ll have some serious questions about what exactly Herman is trying to accomplish here in both the short-term and long-term.

Now, speaking of OU, Texas will have a bigger challenge than they even anticipated when they step foot in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday. No one in their right mind expected Oklahoma to lose at home to Iowa State over the weekend. I felt pretty good about Texas beating Oklahoma, but now I have my doubts because of that result.

Oklahoma simply doesn’t lose two games in a row. In fact, the last time the Sooners lost two games in a row in the regular season (not counting bowl games) was 1999. But in that season, the second loss came to Texas.

History isn’t on Texas’ side now, but the Longhorns clearly have some momentum going for them. Oklahoma is going to be angry, and they are going to play angry. I thought Texas would be able to catch them off guard, but now that’s not the case.

The Longhorns will only win this game if they play the level of defense they did against USC, and if the offensive line holds up well like they did against Kansas State.

And let’s not forget about the gunslinger himself. Ehlinger has lived for this moment. We will see on Saturday if the moment is too big for him. I seriously doubt that will be the case, though.

If the Longhorns lose the game, it would surprise me if it were because Ehlinger played a terrible game. The most likely outcome is the Texas offensive line gets mauled, and never gives Ehlinger a chance to do anything.

I’m still holding out hope that this Texas team may have figured out how to win over the last couple games. But this will be their biggest test so far in the conference season.

Tom Herman has a chance to get his first signature win at Texas. If he chooses to start anyone at quarterback not named Sam, he’ll be making a big mistake.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Wikimedia

It’s OU Week, Nothing Else Matters

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of issues surrounding the Texas football program right now. I could go on and on about the negativity regarding the coaching staff, the players and even the administration. But this week, I’m choosing not to. It’s always acceptable to hate on Oklahoma any given second, but this week is special so that’s where I’m focusing most of my attention.

The Red River Rivalry is a top-five rivalry in all of college football. The game is going to garner a lot of attention, even though both programs enter the matchup with a 2-2 record this year.

There’s always a lot at stake when Texas and Oklahoma meet in the Cotton Bowl, but this year it’s a little different.

Bob Stoops and Charlie Strong are both on the hot seat at their schools as well as their fan bases. Stoops and OU have lost convincingly to Houston and Ohio State, while Strong and Texas have pretty pathetic-looking losses against California and Oklahoma State.

It’s safe to say the coach who loses this game may be looking for a new job by the end of the season.

Enough about the coaches, time to talk about the uniqueness of this game.

If you’ve never been to the Texas-OU game, you need to go once in your life. I’ve been three times and would go every single year if it were a little more convenient for me.

I quickly learned that it’s not only acceptable to eat a corny dog and drink a beer out of a wax paper cup at 8am, it’s the norm. The game is almost always one of the first games to kick off in the morning, so you’ve got to get an early start when you head to the Texas State Fair.

The Cotton Bowl is located right in the heart of the fairgrounds, which makes it one of the most unique venues in all of college football. The grounds are covered in burnt orange shirts and that other red/maroon looking color that no one really likes. And there are also the poor tourists who come to the fair not knowing there’s a big football game going on. They stick out like a sore thumb and I would bet they never come back again.

If you don’t like to get to games early, you have to make it a point to do it for this one. You can start seeing the seats fill up, and the Texas-OU 50-yard line split starts to become clear about 30 minutes before kickoff. The noise level in the 80,000+ seat stadium is completely deafening with a combination of boos and cheers when each team runs out of the tunnel. I can only imagine the mixed emotions that the players have as they run out onto the field. From a fan’s perspective, it’s truly impossible to describe the feeling.

I’ve never had a voice after the game in the three games I attended. It helps that Texas won two out of those three. But even in the one loss, since I hate OU so much I couldn’t help but scream my head off any time Texas did something good, even though the loss was inevitable. Seeing OU fail at even the tiniest level is worthy of cheers when you’re in that environment.

And the best part about it is I wasn’t alone. Of course, toward the end of the game, the losing team’s fans start filing out of the stadium, but the winners always stay. The game always promises to have emotional swings both ways, which is one of the many reasons the game is so special to me.

This particular matchup is going to be interesting. One of the teams are usually relevant on a national level at this point in the season, but not this year. Both teams are capable of winning the Big 12 Conference, but nothing else. It’s all about pride and beating your most hated rival this time.

We’ve seen coaches lose their jobs and keep their jobs depending on the outcome of this one. And as I mentioned earlier, don’t be surprised if this is one of those games.

It’s hard to talk about what’s at stake in this game without going back to coaching, so here I go again.

If the Longhorns lose this game, Strong won’t survive at the end of the year. Mark my words.

If Oklahoma loses the game, Stoops could still save his job by winning out the rest of his games, but he’s going to have to convince a lot of fans and big-money donors that he needs to stick around.

Strong has outcoached Stoops in the two games they’ve played against each other, but they’ve split those two games in the win column. This year’s Longhorns team looks like the worst coached team I’ve seen under Strong, especially on defense and special teams, so it’s hard to have any hope that they can find a way to win the game.

But they also had no business winning last year’s game, which was completely dominated by Texas. Usually when then Longhorns aren’t given a chance to win the game, they come out and put together a pretty good performance.

I’m expecting the same this year, and so is the entire fan base. That’s why there’s so much pressure on Strong and there will be backlash like he’s never felt before if we see a performance like we have the last two games.

This game itself may not mean a whole lot to either team on a national level, but the outcome is going to resonate more with the loser than the winner for the rest of the season and beyond.

Both teams have looked poor just as much as they’ve looked good this season, so it’s impossible to predict the outcome.

That’s why I’m just going to block out the negativity this week and remember that no matter what happens…OU STILL SUCKS!

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

College Football Needs Charlie Strong To Succeed At Texas

The Charlie Strong era at the University of Texas hasn’t gotten off to the start he had hoped for, but the rest of college football should be hoping that he rights the ship soon.

With many of the traditional football powerhouses down in recent years (I’m talking about you Florida, Michigan, USC and Texas), college football just hasn’t been the same. Is it just a coincidence that when those power programs have been down, there has really only been one single dominant conference?

There has been a little more parity in the sport over the past couple of seasons, but I’ll explain why Texas is the team that must get back on track soon.

Texas is the richest and most influential college program in the country. Fans either love them or hate them. There aren’t many people that don’t have an opinion on them. When Texas was good, you had Mack Brown at the helm and he was just as good at politicking as he was at coaching. He created an empire at Texas, which eventually led to the creation of the Longhorn Network. Since Texas lost the 2009 BCS National Championship to Alabama, Texas has been on a downward spiral.

Enter Charlie Strong. Strong made a statement when he was hired in 2014, by releasing multiple players from scholarships and suspending a handful of other players. He wasn’t shy about whom he cut, either. Many of them were starters the previous year.

His actions caused shockwaves throughout the program and through the national media. It was, and still is, clear that Strong will not sacrifice integrity in order to win. The trend continued through the season as we saw other players get released due to violations of team rules. Again, Strong was not afraid of distractions to his team. He was more focused on getting rid of the cancer rather than overlook it.

Texas finished the season 6-7 with an embarrassing bowl game loss to Arkansas. The Longhorns were sitting at 1-4 heading into the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma this season. They didn’t stand a chance.

When the players realized that their coach’s job was on the line, we saw how talented they really are. We saw players play out of respect for their coach, even though many of them lost their friends from the team when they got released. Texas dominated Oklahoma. This says a lot about a coach when there are typically a lot of shady things that go on in many programs.

Texas being in the national championship discussion is not only good for the state, but it’s good for college football as well. Charlie Strong is building his program with a foundation of ethics, which is rare nowadays. In fact, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell even met with Strong about his program last year to get a sense of his five core values that he bases his program on. Love or hate the Longhorns, you have to appreciate what Strong is doing as a college football fan.

Scandals can mar a program. Many coaches will overlook or brush off accusations, especially if they are against their star players. The Joe Paterno saga is a perfect example. Not Strong and not Texas.

If Strong is able to turn the Texas program around and contend for championships again, there needs to be an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary written about it. It is the ultimate story of a relatively unknown coach to the state, being the first African American head coach at the school, not being admired by some big-name donors and still able to make it happen.

On the field, Texas being back to prominence will likely make others rise to the top. We’ve seen Michigan and Florida start trending upward. Once it happens with Texas, we could see a lot more power programs start to rise.

Off the field, there probably wouldn’t be a better story of building a championship team with a bare cupboard. The trickle-down effect could go all the way to the high school ranks because of the respect that the coaches have for Strong.

If Texas cuts ties with Strong too soon, it will send a wrong message to the fans of the program and the sport in general. Strong is more concerned with building a team of character before he can win. Texas fans and boosters will get antsy if their team finishes with another losing record this season, but they have to give him time.

Once Texas starts winning again, so will the rest of college football.

Red River Rivalry on tap for 'Horns

Texas and Oklahoma fans circle this week on the calendar as soon as the football schedule comes out every year. It’s Red River Rivalry week.
Looking simply at records, one would be quick to give the advantage to the Sooners. Oklahoma is No. 11 in the polls and brings a 4-1 record into Saturday’s contest at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, while Texas sits at 2-3 after a 28-7 loss at home to Baylor.
Both teams, in fact, come into the matchup reeling as the Sooners dropped a 37-33 contest on the road against TCU. Oklahoma wasn’t alone in feeling the sting of the upset bug, as 11 teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll fell this past weekend.
Rivalry games rarely follow the script. Emotions are so high on both sidelines and the buildup to the game is so intense, that prejudging the outcome based solely on records is folly. The Red River Rivalry was the site of one of these contests a year ago, as the Longhorns upset the Sooners 36-20 despite Oklahoma entering the weekend at No. 12 in the nation.
Few ‘Horns fans can forget the image of quarterback Case McCoy wearing the Golden Hat – the prize to the victors in the game – atop his head after leading Texas to the win that few expected.
As is the case this year with Tyrone Swoopes, McCoy was thrust into the limelight against the Sooners due to starting quarterback David Ash missing the game after suffering a concussion.
The same fate has struck Texas again in 2014, with Ash suffering a concussion in the opener against North Texas. The junior signal-caller has not seen the field since the opening week and announced his retirement from the sport prior to the Kansas game.
The Longhorns lead the overall series 60-43-5, though part of me has to feel like the players involved in those five ties wanted to continue to play until a winner was decided. How do you have bragging rights for a year if neither team wins? But I digress.
Texas’ win last season broke a three-game losing streak in the series and Oklahoma has owned the series since 1999 under Bob Stoops, posting a 9-6 record against the ‘Horns.
Under Stoops, the Sooners have topped 50 points four times against the Texas defense, including a series-high 65 points in 2003. The Longhorns’ high-water mark for points against Stoops came in 2005 and 2008, when Texas rolled up 45 points in each contest.
The 2005 Texas squad, led by quarterback Vince Young, went on to win the national championship against USC in the Rose Bowl. Ironically, the 2008 team was kept from a BCS bowl bid in a tight race against Oklahoma and Texas Tech, with all three teams finishing 11-1.
The ‘Horns only loss that season came on a last-second touchdown in Lubbock, or Texas could very well have played for the national title then, as well.
The rivalry has had the eyes of the nation upon it of late, as seven of the last eight meetings have come when both teams were ranked. Last year’s Texas team and the 2014 edition have been unranked.
The last time Oklahoma entered the Cotton Bowl unranked was 2005, when Texas was No. 2. Four times since 1999 the Red River Rivalry featured a matchup of top 5 squads, but no matter the rankings, the game is typically memorable – at least for the winning side.
Though a lot of emphasis will be placed on the outcome of this weekend’s game, as it should be, the ‘Horns are not out of the fire even after the Oklahoma game.
Four of Texas’ last seven games are against teams ranked in the top 20, with TCU at No. 9 to end the regular season on Thanksgiving night.
But such is the life of a team working to get back on top in the Big 12.