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[2019] Big XII Network Season in Review: Texas Longhorns

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Texas beat expectations, but they beat as few opponents as any other Texas team in school history. There's a lot of upside next year, so as long as they don't meet the same pitfalls that tripped them up in 2019.


Prediction: 4-8 (1-6)

 

Record: 7-6 (3-4)

 

Results

 

at Texas A&M (L 21-32)
Oregon (L 20-40)

TCU (W 31-27)
at Boise State (W 19-10)
Texas Tech (W 20-14)
at Oklahoma State (W 20-14)

vs. Oklahoma (L 16-19)
UAB (W 27-6)
at Iowa State (L 9-20)
West Virginia (L 22-27)

vs. UTEP (W 59-21)
at Baylor (L 16-40)
Cactus Bowl vs. Utah (W 24-6)

 

Offensive MVP: RB Simeon Wells: 307 carries for 1412 yards, 17 TD

 

Defensive MVP: CB Damani Jeffries: 6 INT, 3 TD, 15 tackles

 

Top NFLHC Draftee: WR Roy Davis, #158 to the Philadelphia Eagles

 

Top Freshman Recruit: DT Zion Gaines 6-1 297 Fr Sinton (Sinton TX) 2.0 of 5.0 [2-Gap]

 

Top JuCo Recruit: QB Kyler Tackett 6-2 221 (So) Collin College (Collin County TX) 3.0 of 4.5 [Hybrid]

 

Recruiting Ranking: #63 overall (#9 Big XII)

 

Bowl in Review

 

Texas scored more points on defense than Utah scored on offense, which pretty much summarizes how this game went. It took a mere 91 seconds for Texas to score for the first time. When they did, they had the lead for good--not to mention that they'd already scored more points than Utah would all day. After a big kick return to start the game, Simeon Wells came up with one of his highlight plays for the entire season. He took a pitch to the right, ran into traffic, broke a tackle, reversed field, and got some help with a punishing block from quarterback Dante Fraley to spring free down the left sideline for a 28-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. The scoreboard operator would get a bit of a rest for a while, but Texas would light it up again late in the half. This time Fraley found tight end Steven Maloney in space, and the 6-5 junior did the rest in taking it 20 yards to the house for a 14-0 lead. Utah didn't get on the board until the very end of the half on a 31-yard field goal, but they'd have a chance to cut further into the lead after driving deep into Texas territory. Donald Culver was on his 30th pass of the day, and while he wasn't particularly accurate for the day he also hadn't made a lot of big mistakes. He made one here. He misread the coverage, threw the ball directly at Damani Jeffries, and never had a chance to catch up with the speedy cornerback as he took it all the way back to the house for a 21-3 lead with 11:44 to go. That took the last spark of life out of Utah's offense, as it managed just one more field goal for the rest of the game. Texas erased that with a field goal of their own, and that was it for the scoring. Texas comes away with its largest bowl win in school history, 24-6, and finishes the season with a winning record.

 

The Good

 

Texas didn't win as many games as they're used to winning, but they won the games they needed to win. After starting 0-2, they rallied to win four straight non-guarantee games to essentially assure themselves of a bowl game. Their offense came alive in a 31-27 win over TCU, needing a rally from an early 14-0 deficit to take the win in Austin. Their defense was allowing 33 points per game after that matchup; in their next five games, they averaged just 12.6 points allowed per game. They held Boise State to 10, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State to 14 each, Oklahoma to 19, and UAB to 6. Even though the offense took a dip in that span, they beat everybody on that list except for the Sooners. And even though they lost to Oklahoma, they were tied against a much better team with less than two minutes to go before Louis Dwyer's go-ahead field goal. The UAB win got them to 5-3, and a blowout win over UTEP got them to bowl-eligibility. Simeon Wells had a fantastic freshman season, rushing for 1412 yards (the best non-Sterling Brown total in Texas history) and 17 touchdowns on 4.6 yards per carry with 9 games of 100+ rushing yards as a true freshman. His 108.6 yards per game ranked 4th in the Big XII behind Maurice White, Arturo Pacheco, and Sean Bell--no slouches themselves. They had one of the most successfully aggressive pass defenses in the conference, leading the Big XII with 17 interceptions--6 of which came from redshirt freshman Damani Jeffries. They also allowed just 4.33 yards per carry, the #3 mark in the conference. Despite an extraordinary amount of youth in the secondary, the defense wound up being a top-50 unit for the season. And despite the very real threat of missing a bowl game for the first time in school history, Texas was able to claw its way to win 6--and then win #7 in the bowl game.

 

The Bad 

 

Texas isn't a program that typically dabbles in 7-6 seasons, though. This is their second one ever, and their first 6-6 regular season. The offense consistently struggled, with Dante Fraley never truly becoming a weapon in the offense. He ranked 10th in the Big XII in completion percentage (56.6%), 10th in yards per attempt (6.42), and by the end of the season slipped below Chase Shapiro to finish 10th in passer rating (112.55). The offense pretty much fell onto Simeon Wells's shoulders, and there was only so much a true freshman could do. The national per-game scoring average was 22.7 points this season; Texas beat that mark just 4 times in 13 games (TCU, UAB, UTEP, Utah). The Longhorns suffered two of their four worst margins of defeat in school history in a 40-20 loss to Oregon in week 2 and a 40-16 loss to Baylor in week 15--the second and third times the venerable program had allowed 40 points in a game. They lost rivalry games to Texas A&M and Oklahoma, lost to Iowa State for the first time, and lost once again to West Virginia (who seems to be their kryptonite by now). They beat expectations, but expectations were lower than Texas fans are accustomed to in the first place.

 

Future Fears

 

Strangely, after this season, there's not that much to write here. Their biggest concerns in the short run are losing Roy Davis and four starting offensive linemen. They'll take a somewhat significant step back on the interior line, but big Bobby Drake is a future stud at tackle. Abdoul Causey should be able to move up to the #1 target next year, though it's unclear who'll fill in the vacuum at #2. On defense, they lose William Long at defensive tackle and both starting interior linebackers, but they have more than enough pieces to replace them. The only other real area of concern is at quarterback. Dante Fraley is almost certainly not going to start next year; the battle is between redshirting freshman Lucas Beckwith and incoming sophomore junior college transfer Kyler Tackett. But neither of them is a known quantity, and there's always the risk that they'll struggle to adapt to the offense with Simeon Wells.

 

Reasons for Hope

 

But those concerns are more speculative than anything else. The lack of receiver help is concerning and the offensive line deterioration is worrying in the short-term, but all of that may be outweighed by the upgrades in the backfield. Both quarterbacks competing for the starting job at Texas are promising, and the Longhorns are set at the position for four years unless Beckwith transfers out. Simeon Wells will have a year of experience under his belt, and being thrown into the fire early on should make him a much more formidable back for the next three years. The all-freshman secondary performed rather well once all the defensive backs got their feet under them, and they'll all return next year--and the year after that, and possibly the year after that as well. Jabari Fletcher and Axel Lozano will make for a great outside linebacker tandem, and both are adaptable to both the 4-3 and the 3-4 depending on what Texas runs next year. Texas is extremely difficult to project next year, mostly due to the quarterback change. But I'm personally high on them for 2020, and I think the right decision at quarterback in the right scheme could propel Texas into the top tier of the Big XII next year.

 

Presented by the Big XII Network

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