Texas Football: Grading the Longhorns' Game vs Missouri
The No. 16 Texas Longhorns were upended by the Missouri Tigers Saturday, putting the Longhorns back in the loss column and forcing them back to the drawing board offensively.
Missouri kept Texas out of the endzone for the first time since 2004 when Oklahoma blanked the Longhorns in the Red River Rivalry.
With Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron already facing injury troubles coming into the game, Fozzy Whittaker suffered a knee injury in the first quarter, placing even more stress on Texas' running back depth.
Texas mustered just 247 yards of offense, a far cry from what it was able to manage against Kansas and Texas Tech.
The report card is in, and the grades are reflective of a struggle.
The Longhorns were forced to take another step back in their development at quarterback while their running back position became laden with the injury bug.
David Ash was back to his inconsistent self as the running game suffered without Fozzy Whittaker, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. Ash may have been the most affected by it as he completed just 13-of-29 attempts for 158 yards and an interception and often missed wide open receivers down field.
Decision-making again was sketchy at best, but for an offense that really revolves around the production of the running game, Ash just did not look prepared to throw Texas's way back into the game.
Case McCoy entered in the third quarter, but he did not fare much better, finishing 3-of-7 for only 13 yards.
Texas was poised to be more balanced against a better-than-advertised Missouri defense. For the first time since its loss to Oklahoma State, Texas finished with more passing yards and rushing yards.
Let's be real. The Longhorns simply are not prepared to lean on a passing game without the luxury of their running game. And against one of the Big 12's worst pass defenses, one would have to expect much more.
There are two sides of the coin here. On one face, the Texas running game has been an explosive product in its past two games, racking up 880 yards via a healthy relationship between Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown, Fozzy Whittaker and a dominating offensive line.
The other side of the coin reared its face against Missouri. No Bergeron, no Brown, no Whittaker and no dominance in trenches left Texas with just 76 yards on the ground on 29 carries. For a team that averaged close to 250 yards coming into the game, the Longhorns rushed for less than 100 yards for the first time this season.
Jeremy Hills had his moments against Texas Tech late in the game, but against the Tigers, he was forced into first-string action and recorded just 35 yards on 11 carries. D.J. Monroe, who typically serves as a decoy on speed sweeps, received more touches than usual, picking up 30 yards on seven attempts.
Mack Brown played down the injuries at running back, and the truth of the matter is that someone still has to step up when those in front of him fall down.
The Longhorns are a running team that uses the ground game to set up the pass. Plain and simple, Texas did none of the former to create for the latter.
The receivers are subject to the same fate as the quarterbacks and running backs.
Without much rhythm to get the offense going, the receivers really struggled without a solid passing option behind the line.
Outside of Marquise Goodwin, who caught 3 passes for 57 yards, which included a 45-yard bomb at the beginning of the game, there simply was not much to behold in the passing game.
It is unfortunate to give a failing grade when the signal callers completed just 16-of-36 passes. But the glaring issue here is that without Jaxon Shipley and without the luxury of Texas' top three running backs, there is not much offense to show.
Between the wide receivers and tight ends, they caught 12 passes for 143 yards. Compared to the 4 receptions for 140 yards last weekend, it goes to show how much reliance there is on the running game to set up the pass.
When Texas is forced to drop back and look downfield, there is not much there.
All things considered, the combination of Fozzy Whittaker, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron has made the offensive line look much better than maybe it really is.
Against Kansas and Texas Tech, the big boys dominated the line of scrimmage and controlled the game.
But against Missouri, the Longhorns' offensive line did little of that as the Tigers' strong defensive front wreaked havoc in Texas' backfield.
There simply were not enough standout individual plays that created success for a Texas offense that really struggled without four of its top playmakers.
An offensive line should be able to create for whoever is in the game. To be short, the line did not create.
Rather far from what the offense was able to do, the Texas defense did a great job throughout the game, holding a good Missouri offense in check.
It started with the defensive line and its ability to control Henry Josey, who would leave the game with a knee injury, and James Franklin.
Before Josey left the game, he had compiled just 19 yards on 11 carries while Franklin managed just 33 yards on the ground.
Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat put in another great outing, their third in a row. Anchored in the trenches, the two combined to record 18 tackles, 3 for loss and 2 sacks.
On the interior, though the stat sheet will do little to give them justice, Ashton Dorsey and Kheeston Randall did a good job of plugging the middle of the line.
Finally, the big boys up front are getting results, but it leaves much to be had when the offense cannot back it up.
Apart from Emmanuel Acho, who had a man's performance on Saturday, the Texas linebackers did little to separate themselves as a dominant group on the defensive side.
Acho recorded 12 tackles, 4 for loss, a forced fumble and two pass break-ups as he continues to be a rock at linebacker.
Senior Keenan Robinson suffered a thumb injury and did not return as Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond split time as Robinson's replacement.
The good news is that Edmond was solid despite not showing up in the stats. The bad news is that Hicks, who many expect to breakout in the next year, was a non-factor.
Were it not for the play of the senior Acho, the linebackers would have been a huge blemish for the Texas defense.
In the secondary, it was business as usual. Relatively clean and solid play, but a couple of big giveaways provided a little tarnish.
Coming into the game, Missouri was averaging 255 yards passing and Texas was allowing 251 yards passing. The Longhorns' defensive backfield held up its end of the bargain as the Tigers mustered just 186 yards through the air, though one critical 40-yard T.J. Moe catch that set up Missouri's first touchdown can be seen as game-changing.
In the run game, poor tackling led to a Kendial Lawrence 35-yard touchdown scamper.
Take away both plays and we could be looking at a much different result. Unfortunately by now, those plays cannot be retracted.
Kenny Vaccaro, Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom all played at a level that would normally win a football game, but the big plays given up and a lack of offensive rhythm and production sealed Texas' fate.
In a game where the offense needed a serious injection from somewhere else, the Longhorns got nothing except a blocked punt leading to a safety, not nearly enough to overcome the deficit.
All things considered, the entire special teams performance was pretty much a wash. Still, there is always something special, no pun intended, to be expected from this unit and aside from Fozzy Whittaker, hardly anything or anyone has emerged as a legitimate threat.
Coaching and Game Plan
Defensively, the Longhorns implemented a game plan that would allow them to win this football game maybe seven out of 10 times.
Although Kendial Lawrence rushed for over 100 yards, Texas kept Missouri's main playmakers in check. Henry Josey managed just 19 yards on 11 carries before his injury, and James Franklin had a pedestrian outing.
Against an offense that was averaging 500 yards per game, the Longhorns did themselves a favor defensively by holding the Tigers to 338 yards.
On offense, despite the loss of their four top playmakers, Texas still needed to get something going, and in short, it did not.
The Longhorns could not establish themselves in the ground game, leaving their passing attack as the only means of production. We all know how that went.
Same story here.
When the Longhorns absolutely needed a pick-me-up from anyone that would have it, nobody showed up.
Sure, one can argue that the loss of Texas' four playmakers puts its offense in a serious drought, but that is when someone has to step up.
The defense did everything it was asked of, but without any sort of backup from the offense of special teams, basically it was all for naught.