McCoy threw two picks in the win
They were ugly, they were inconsistent and they made a lot of mistakes, but in the end they got it done. The No. 4 Texas Longhorns won't win any style points for their 21-13 win over Arkansas State, but a win's a win and Texas walked out of Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium with a win Saturday night. Unfortunately, they also walked out with a lot of questions.
That's all that really needs to be said. For all the stats that can be brought up, game film that can be broken down and explanations that can be given, nothing better sums up the situation than that.
Texas only beat Arkansas State, 21-13.
“We didn't finish things like we normally do,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown. “We let them stay in the game. Either you can say we didn't play well or you can say they played well, they stayed.”
But why? Why in the world did Arkansas State stay with Texas? Quarterback Colt McCoy said it was a matter of focus.
“We weren't as focused as we should have been,” said McCoy. “We give all the credit to Arkansas State. They came in a played tough. They expected to come in here and hang tight and hang with us and win and they had a chance.”
It could be seen as a bit of a fluke. Texas was favored by 39 points heading into the game and only won by eight, being outgained 397-340. With such superior talent, clearly it was because Texas was playing better, but simply making mental mistakes because it was the opener.
Turns out, it was the exact opposite.
The Arkansas State Indians were, on the whole, playing much better than the Longhorns. ASU was moving the ball on Texas and consistently disrupting the rhythm of the Longhorn O. It was mental mistakes and unnecessary, unforced errors that doomed the Indians.
Seven false starts, two missed field goals, a fumbled snap on fourth and one and dropped footballs galore. Arkansas State was done in by mental mistake after mental mistake. Indian quarterback Corey Leonard was playing out of his gourd against Texas, slipping out of the pocket to make some big runs and throwing for 259 yards on the Longhorn secondary. After the game, Leonard said the mood in the locker room after the game was anything but happy.
“Everybody was mad and that is a good thing,” said Leonard. “Playing the No. 4 team in the nation people will say 'oh it was close, you should be happy,' but we really wanted it. When there mistakes you made and things you missed it makes you want to do it a little bit harder and do things better.”
Texas also lost one of the key players on its defense in the game. Defensive end Brian Orakpo had to be helped off the field after his legs were taken out from under him in the second quarter. Orakpo was taken to the locker room and returned later in the game, but on crutches with his right leg elevated. His status for the future is still unknown.
The game certainly started out promising for Texas. With the new kick-off rules in place, Arkansas State began the game by kicking off from the 30 and Texas wide receiver Quan Cosby caught the ball at exactly the five yard line. It would have been in the endzone last season, but Cosby instead took this kick for a 38-yard return to put Texas in position for an early score.
And Texas got that early score on a 35-yard touchdown toss to Limas Sweed. Sweed was listed as “probable” for the game after injuring his wrist during August camp, but he looked healthy in game, catching 5 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown.
“I can do everything I wanted do, as far as the pass game and the run game,” Sweed told Inside Texas.
It looked as if it would be a standard season-opening rout, but the Indians had a different idea. They marched right down the field on eight plays and kicked a field goal to make it 7-3.
No problem if Texas is rolling, but Texas stopped rolling. With 3rd and 3 from the ASU 33, Arkansas State's Stanley Wakwe blasted through the line and dragged Jamaal Charles down for a five-yard loss. The Horns set up like they were going for it, but McCoy booted a pooch punt to the six yard line and the Indians took over.
Then the Arkansas State mistakes started. ASU couldn't get out of its own endzone and a pair of false starts didn't help matters. After a punt, Cosby brought the ball back 30 yards to the ASU 16. On the next play, fullback Antwan Cobb caught a pass in the flat and took it in for the TD. 14-3 Texas...and that's how it stayed.
The Indians couldn't score for the rest of the first half because each time they got a drive going they shot themselves in the foot with a penalty and when they did make it into the redzone, the result was a missed field goal. ASU got into the Texas redzone six times in the ball game and only scored twice.
Texas, on the other hand, just plain couldn't move the ball. McCoy started the game 9-for-9 passing, but then went 2-for-9 with two picks in his next nine throws.
The Horns went into the locker room with a 14-3 lead and knowing that they needed to pick it up. At the start of the third, it seemed like they would. The Indians received but gave the ball back on a three-and-out. Texas marched down the field and had first and goal from the four.
I think this deserves to be repeated: First and goal...from the four. Texas ran the ball four straight times and was stuffed on all four.
“We have always scored from the four,” said Brown. “That was disappointing.”
Texas did get the ball back after a punt and this time marched down the field, scoring on a tough Jamaal Charles run from the 10, making it 21-3 Texas. With another quarter to play, clearly now the floodgates would open.
But it was not to be. That would be the last score for the Longhorns in the game. Arkansas State put up another field goal with 9:29 to go and then, after being stuck on its own seven yard line because of another McCoy pooch punt, drove the entire field and scored a TD on a Reggie Arnold run.
It was 21-13 with only a minute to go, meaning it was time for the onside kick. Astoundingly, Arkansas State got the recovery, but the play was called back on an illegal kick-off formation and the second attempt was unsuccessful, giving Texas the win. It was an ugly win, but it was a win.
After the game, Brown said there is a big positive he can pull from the game.
“I thought this was the best thing ever for our team. It brought us down to Earth and showed us things we need to improve,” said Brown.
I say again: Arkansas State.
[Luke Price contributed to this story.]