Texas Longhorns: The Most Laughable Report Card Ever
Longhorns: Grading on the curve
There's an episode of The Sorpanos in Season 5 entitled (ironically so) "All Happy Families." Sopranos fans will remember the fifth season as the one where Tony and Carmela spent a majority of the season separated, so in turn, they also fought a lot. In "All Happy Families," during one argument, Carmela harshly and correctly pointed out to Tony that he doesn't really have any friends -- just a bunch of "flunkies" who tell him how great he is and who laugh at his stupid jokes because they're afraid of him.
That said, I don't know if the Austin American Statesman is necessarily "afraid" of Mack Brown (the de facto "Don" of Austin if there ever were one), but if they are trying to audition for the role of "flunky" then their Longhorn report card for the 34-12 beatdown at the hands of then 1-2 UCLA is an incredibly solid effort.
Ironically, you'd think UT put forth a similarly solid effort if you read the grades dished out by someone whose name is omitted from the piece online, as if someone would claim this bit of burnt orange propaganda. (NOTE: As of submission time for this post, in an effort to ensure proper "credit," I had placed two calls to the Statesman to find out specifically who graded this performance and had not received a return call.)
Looking strictly at the letter grades for each Longhorn unit, you would think that UT had won the game. A quick rundown of the letter grades:
Rice University Owls Football vs. Prairie View A&M University Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 22, 2:30pm
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. UCF Knights Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 29, 11:00am
Rice University Owls Football vs. Florida Atlantic University Owls Football
TicketsSat., Nov. 5, 2:30pm
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. Tulane University Football
TicketsSat., Nov. 12, 11:00am
RUNNING BACKS: C
OFFENSIVE LINE: B
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
In short, according to Bevo McSlapnuts (and until I find out who cobbled together this debacle of a report card, that will be the name of the person), this was the most heroic effort a team has ever put forth while getting their asses handed to them at home by a team that was a 16-point underdog.
(By the way, if you're all looking for a visual of what Bevo McSlapnuts looks like, just know that I'm rolling with Baghdad Bob, Iraqi Information Minister, dressed in a Vince Young jersey.)
Fortunately, for fans of comedy (and every other Division 1-A football program), the Statesman also includes comments to support their generous marks for the Longhorns. Let's take a look at some of the highlights, shall we?
The good: Garrett Gilbert had career highs for completions, attempts and passing yards. The bad: The Longhorns again had problems finishing drives, and he missed an open James Kirkendoll for a touchdown. The ugly: three turnovers, including one interception on a bad throw.
So basically, the "good" is that Garrett Gilbert threw the ball a lot. Like a SHITLOAD. No mention of the fact that most of the attempts (and completions and yards) came after the first-half turnovers put the Longhorns in a 30-minute passing situation in the second half. Also, no mention of the two fourth-down passes that were completed to receivers short of the first-down marker. The one touchdown the offense scored came with five minutes to go in the game and the Horns down 27-6.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B
For the first time all season, the line didn't commit any of those drive-killing holding penalties. Gilbert had fairly good pass protection; his interception was a bad read, not a case of having to rush the pass. But the running game again failed to take off.
Season average: B
I'm not sure what's funnier, the "B" grade for this game or the "B" grade for the season. The Longhorn offensive line is a circus. I've gotten B's before. Lots of them. I know how having a "B" feels. The Longhorn coaches are not heading into the film room with a "B" feeling.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
The Longhorns had an A+ first half but a C second half, hence a final B. UCLA mustered only 77 total yards in the first half but opened things up big-time over the final two quarters, when it appeared that Texas was losing the battles on the line. Sam Acho stood out, with a forced fumble, a sack and a fumble recovery. Jackson Jeffcoat got a sack as well. But it was a relatively quiet day for both Kheeston Randall and Eddie Jones.
Season average: A
Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson had strong games again for Texas, tying for second-most tackles Saturday. They each had seven, and Acho also had a sack, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery. Through four games, they have been Texas' most consistent linebackers. But a third solid backer needs to emerge from the ranks of Jared Norton, Dustin Earnest and Dravannti Johnson.
Season average: A
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A
Aaron Williams -- one of the heroes of last year's win over Oklahoma -- is rounding into form just in time. He had his best game of the year, with a sack, two forced fumbles and three tackles for loss. Kenny Vaccaro led the team in tackles. UCLA managed only 27 passing yards.
Season average: A-
Apparently, the 15 missed tackles (for an additional 92 yards worth of "empty" yards) by the Longhorns and the 18 missed defensive assignments were entirely the fault of the defensive line (and their paltry "B" grade) because the linebackers and defensive backs apparently produced at a world-class level.
And can someone explain the math on how a grade of "B" fails to move the overall season grade off of an "A," especially only four games in? Is it possible there is a letter that comes before "A" that we're not aware of, and that the Longhorn defensive line has been performing at the mystical level of this phantom letter? Weird.
KICKER/SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
Justin Tucker hit both field goal attempts, and is 7 of 9 for the year. And he and John Gold both booted 60-yard punts, including a career-high 62 yarder from Gold. But the return game struggled with two fumbles, including a costly ill-advised return attempt inside the 5-yard line from Curtis Brown. The Bruins turned that into a short touchdown.
Season average: B+
Sorry but fielding and fumbling a punt inside your own five-yard line to completely hand momentum over to an underdog that had virtually none up to that point, especially in a game with a limited number of possessions due to the run-heavy game plan of UCLA, puts the ceiling on your special teams grade at a B-, at best.
So we've pointed out just how ridiculous these grades from Professor McSlapnuts are. But we haven't pointed out the 800-pound gorilla in the room. There is no "COACHING" category for these grades. None. Apparently, Mack Brown and his staff are taking the 2010 season as a "Pass/Fail" class, because nowhere does anyone point out the following:
-- The Longhorns were woefully unprepared for an anemic UCLA offense that ran a zone read with Kevin Prince -- yes, KEVIN PRINCE. Even worse, UCLA ran the exact same offense the week before against Houston and Texas played like they'd never seen it before (even though they've seen it in practice every day for the last six years).
-- UCLA beat the Longhorns with 27 yards passing. They threw the ball EIGHT times. They won by 22 points.
-- UCLA managed to keep their offense on the field for 8:19 in the fourth quarter before punting. They held the ball for 12 plays and moved it a total of 34 yards. How does that even happen?? Well, it helps when Texas doesn't know how to properly execute getting 11 men on the field on 4th and 3.
-- After finally scoring a touchdown to make the score 27-12, Mack Brown inexplicably went for a two-point conversion, which in accordance with everything else Longhorn-related on Saturday, they failed to convert.
A simple extra-point kick right there gets the Longhorns to down 14, and while still improbable keeps the two-point conversion out of play in the event they mount a comeback.
I've heard explanations about Mack Brown conceding the game at that point, but that doesn't explain why he tried an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. Not to mention that at a school like Texas, where national championships are the goal, you keep executing a game plan to win until there is no longer any mathematical chance for victory. I realize Mack Brown doesn't find himself down 15 points very often, but is it too much to ask for him to be able to execute addition and subtraction?
Are any of these points mentioned in this report card? No. Further is Mack Brown's NAME even mentioned in the report card? Not once. Grades get handed out and the highest-paid employee of the university escapes from the worst performance by his team at home in God knows how long completely unscathed.
Don't we all wish we could be graded on the Statesman Curve? If the Statesman were a television critic, we might still have Cop Rock. If the Statesman were a music critic, Scritti Pollitti may have become a two- or even three-hit wonder. Hell, if I married the Statesman, I might still be married.
To bring it back to Carmela Soprano parlance, Mack Brown spent all afternoon Saturday cracking stupid jokes and all of his flunkies at the Statesman were chuckling away, perhaps nervous knowing that if they didn't they might get asked for a sitdown at the 6th Street equivalent of Satriale's.
In actuality, the biggest joke in the room were the ones nervously laughing.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.