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November 7, 2010

The grades are in - Kansas State report card

Grading scale

A - All-American level
B - All-Conference level
C - Average
D - Below average
F - Complete failure

Quarterback - Momma never said playing quarterback at Texas was going to be easy. As the great Apollo Creed once said, "Some folks have to learn the hard way." It was at the start of the third quarter on Saturday when sophomore Garrett Gilbert started to resemble Creed when the great heavyweight champion stood up in his corner for the second round against Ivan Drago… and when Gilbert threw his fifth interception of the night with 13:11 in the third quarter, I was staring at Mack Brown like Duke was staring at Rocky. "Throw the damn towel!"

The towel never came. For a reason that still doesn't have a proper explanation, Gilbert was left on the field Saturday when he should have been taken off. Everyone knows I signed up to be the Gilbert Fan Club president before the season started, but in the fairness to the team and perhaps in an effort to save the kid from himself, he needed to be lifted. Hell, just make it a series if you're scared of a controversy, but you've got to make it something.

Instead, in trying to protect Gilbert from experiencing something that every quarterback has experienced, including Vince Young and Colt McCoy, they may have opened the kid up to the fan base as a piñata. The kid was having a historically bad night and the coaches couldn't throw the towel. Why? Because Apollo told you not to before the round started? Well, didn't that seem like a pretty stupid decision when he died as a result of it?

The numbers showed that Gilbert completed 32 of 59 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown, while also leading the team with 93 yards rushing, but this performance wasn't about numbers. Yes, Gilbert made some tremendous plays and had some back luck, but he also did not protect the football the way he knows he has to. This will prove to be a decision and performance that is talked about at length for the next 10 months or so.

Grade: F

Running backs -Well, this group probably deserves an incomplete because it's not the fault of the backs that the game spiraled out of control, in part, because the offensive coordinator quit trying to run the football, despite facing one of the most abysmal run defenses in the nation. Well, except when they play the Longhorns.

The good news is that Foswhitt Whittaker averaged seven yards per carry on the night. The bad news is that he had five carries. Even worse news is that the rest of the backs received only 10 carries on the night. Fifteen carries by the backs in a road game? The final numbers read like this: 15 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown, along with four receptions for 11 yards. Oh yeah, D.J. Monroe didn't touch the ball once on offense because all of the creative stuff is apparently saved for Justin Tucker.

The bottom line is that the production from this group wasn't good enough and nobody on this team currently deserved a passing grade, but this grade goes more to the offensive coaches than it does to the backs.

Fifteen carries. Wow.

Grade: F

Wide receivers - There was some good news at this position, as one of the things we're not talking about today is dropped passes, fumbles or offensive pass interference penalties. Ok, there was one terribly confusing pass interference penalty, but that's it. So that's good, right? True freshman Mike Davis isn't 100%, but he was out there gutting out a very nice 11-reception, 109-yard night. That kid deserves an A. Meanwhile, senior James Kirkendoll had six receptions for 72 yards and had a 68-yard touchdown wiped out because of a holding penalty. It was also encouraging that DeSean Hales was given more playing time and responded with five receptions for 41 yards. Overall, there really were some good things to talk about from this group on a night when so much went wrong everywhere else. That being said, more was needed and demanded from John Chiles and Malcolm Williams, who combined five receptions for 38 yards.

Grade: C

Tight ends- Like the wide receivers, I consider it a win if we're not talking about how bad this position is the day after the game. The fact that back-up on Dominique Jones caught a rare touchdown pass nearly provides reason for a three-block parade. Of course, it was the only pass that the position scored all night, which is both good and bad. Let's just give them an incomplete and move on.

Grade: Incomplete

Offensive line -Just because the football gods are enjoying taunting Mack Brown this year, the final remaining senior from the 2007 recruiting class that was expected to lead this group to big things this year was taken from the line-up with an injury. The triple injury killing of Tray Allen, Michael Huey and Kyle Hix was completed on Saturday and it left the line playing with the likes of Paden Kelley at left tackle, Trey Hopkins at left guard and Mason Walters at right guard, which of course makes for a young and inexperienced group.

If we can look past the fact that the Texas line never established the line of scrimmage in the running game, there were some positives to take away from the game, including no discernible drop-off at left tackle once Kelley came into the game. Overall, the pass protection from this make-shift line-up was pretty solid and the only penalty from this group on the night came from senior Britt Mitchell, which means that the kids hung in there fairly well on a night when everything else around them broke down.

Grade: D+

Offensive game plan -An interesting thing occurred on Saturday night on the offensive side of the ball. The Longhorns came out ready to pound and ground in their first series, but after running the ball on seven of their first eight offensive snaps, the Longhorns never found a rhythm against a pretty terrible Wildcat defense. After a failed three-and-out in the second quarter with the team trailing 10-0, Greg Davis called passes on 22 consecutive offensive snaps. Think about that for a second. With his young pupil spinning out of control, Davis kept forcing the issue until things completely crashed down on top of all of them.

The truth is that this team wasn't properly prepared in any way to achieve success, but after the 22-pass barrage was completed, the Longhorns were trailing 31-0, instead of 10-0. I can sit here in nitpick the fact that the special teams coordinators are more creative with Tucker than he's been with Monroe or that it has taken so long for Hales to get a chance to play or that any number of secondary issues, but the bottom line on this one is simple.

Davis' fingerprints were all over one of the worst losses in the modern history of the program and there's no getting away from that.

Grade: G (That was worse than an F, right?)

Defensive line -It would be disingenuous to simply point the finger at the interior players or the defensive line in general and say that they were completely at fault for the train wreck that occurred defensively on this night for the Longhorns, but it wasn't the case. Still, this group owns a big share of the blame. The front four or Sam Acho, Kheeston Randall, Alex Okafor and Eddie Jones needed to dominate the line of scrimmage if the Longhorns were going to win this game, but they simply didn't get off blocks and make a lot of plays. In fact, Okafor's seven tackles were more than the other three combined and Randall didn't even show up on the stat sheet after the game.

When a team runs inside and outside with success, everyone can own some of the responsibility for the collective failure.

Grade: F

Linebackers -The lack of depth and size at this position continues to haunt the defense. Simply put, the Longhorns linebackers are built to defend the spread game and in the face of an offense that is going to test your ability to defend the run all over the field, they aren't holding up. Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho are good players that are sideline-to-sideline playmakers, but both are struggling at the moment, even if their combined 21 tackles might suggest otherwise.

The Longhorns have lacked a true middle linebacking presence in the last month and that proved to be true once again, as the Wildcats pretty much ran the ball at will at various times in that game. While those two are struggling to contain the inside/outside running games, they need more help from starting SAM Dravannti Johnson, whose lack of foot speed/quickness has hurt the team in defending the outside running game.

This group played well at times, but the sum of their work wasn't good, especially when you consider the lack of impact plays. This position is supposed to be one of the strengths of the team, but it hasn't been showing lately. When a team can drop a near 40-spot on you and never have to complete a pass, well, what else needs to be said?

Grade: F

Secondary - In a game where the importance of pass defense proved to be worthless, the Wildcats attacked every level of the Texas defense with the running game with success and when they hit their biggest plays, it was often because the Texas safeties were completely out of position to make a play. Coming into the season, everyone (especially the coaches) believed that the combination of Christian Scott and Blake Gideon would make for one of the best in the conference at worst, but both players are really struggling right now with consistently making the little plays. Forget about the interceptions, forced fumbles or anything like that. Texas needs these two to make tackles that keep 10-yard runs from becoming 50-yard runs and it's not happening, which means that the back end of the Texas defense is simply in bad shape right now. The Texas safeties aren't making plays against the pass and they are giving up too many against the run.

If there's a bright spot, it's that true freshman Carrington Byndom flashed some nice things in reserve duty at the end of the game.

Grade: F

Defensive game plan -You know you're having a bad year when you're top guy (Will Muschamp) gets hoodwinked by Bill Snyder in a pretty massive way. The old man of the Big 12 dialed up a little bit of creative deception this week by surprising the Longhorns with the arrival of their back-up quarterback, which gave them an up-graded run option and the results were somewhat hard to stomach. Muschamp's goal on defense is to make a team one-dimensional so that they play into the hands of the defense. However, on this night the Wildcats dared the Longhorns to make them be anything but a one-dimensional team and they couldn't. Until Kansas State got a little bored and conservative in the second half, they pretty much ran the ball when and where they wanted all night, and Muschamp's team, scheme or game-plan had nothing for them. This was a night where Texas just didn't look very good on that side of the ball from the start.

Grade: F

Special teams - Oh man, at least this group is entertaining. In a sequence of moves that would have made Les Miles feel like a proud father, the Longhorns botched a fake field goal on 4th and short, ran an option play to the kicker on fourth and 10, and then allowed the Wildcats to convert a two-point conversion attempt after blocking at a PAT.

Of course, I haven't even mentioned the 62-yard kickoff return that the Longhorns allowed to open the game. Or zero yards on punt returns. Or no returns or more than 19 yards on kickoff returns.

At least Justin Tucker converted his two PATs and had a couple of punts downed inside the 20-yard line because that's as good as it got.

Grade: F

Overall -Mack Brown made a point to mention after the game that he did not believe that his team waived the white flag after losing by four touchdowns to a mediocre Big 12 North squad. He doesn't think the Longhorns have quit, but the truth of the matter is that they appeared to have done exactly that and he can't or won't see it. We can talk about a lot of plays that went wrong in this game, but the outcome was decided with 14:07 left in the first quarter after the Longhorns allowed the Wildcats to go 100 yards for a score in less than a minute.

That can't happen, but by God it did. The team has evolved into the Glass Joe of college football this year and they went down so quickly on Saturday that the opening minute almost looked like a phantom punch. Even Glass Joe would get up and fight after the first knockdown, but this game was lost almost as soon as the game kicked off. They weren't ready to play and they definitely weren't ready for a street fight… and Kansas State was ready for both.

Everything about this loss was so bad that it almost makes you long for the days when the team was just losing at home by three scores to UCLA. At some point, we all have to realize that we're still in the middle of the free-fall. The answers aren't known. We're not even sure the right problems have been identified.

This is a 4-5 team that stop looking inspired nearly a month ago in Lincoln. Who would have ever thought that it would be the Longhorns who would make that game their entire season? That 39-14 beat-down was so destructive that you have to wonder what long-term damage was really created on this night.

Throw the damn towel.

Grade: F


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