Two things to get out of the way, before we begin:
First, fumble or no fumble, we lost. I'm not even going to consider that in this analysis. Yes, it was a part of the game, but as far as history is concerned, it's a Texas touchdown. End of story (but feel free to bitch about it to your heart's content, that's what being a fan is all about).
Second, I owe pretty much all Texas fans an apology. I ran my mouth in the game thread at the end, said something I shouldn't, and looked like a dick (well, more of a dick). For that, I'm sorry, so let's all move along.
Now that all that's over with, why did we lose? Short answer; they scored more points than us. Long answer; well I've broken it down to a few areas where I feel we should have done a better job, or done something different entirely. I know, this is taking a fairly micro view, but what can you do? Let's get at it, in no particular order:
Playing Soft Zone
We allowed a combined 12 of 20 on third and forth down conversions, which just won't ever get it done, and I think Bill Young's philosophy is to blame. One thing that I noticed Saturday (and really, have noticed for 4 years), is that our entire defensive philosophy on 3rd down is to prevent the big play. I get it, really, I do. It's better to play back a few yards, possibly surrender the first down, but prevent them from going over the top hitting the homerun on you. However, I see two significant problems with this philosophy:
First, using a soft secondary leaves the linebackers to cover the middle, so you must have fast linebackers who can cover. If you don't, the middle will be open all day long. All the receiver has to do is make a good cut towards the inside, get a half step on the linebacker, and make the catch for an easy first down. Or, and we saw this happen many, many times Saturday, you can do a screen or backfield pass, and get the linebacker one on one with a receiver or running back. One juke later, and it's a first down. This also won't allow you to blitz, because if you bring a backer the middle empties out, and then it's a game a pitch and catch.
Secondly, with this type of strategy, opposing coaches will more likely than not go for the first down instead of going down field. I know, that's what you want them to do, but to exploit this you need to create an almost legendary amount of turnovers. Last year we gave up 457 yards a game, but had 44 turnover to go with it. That's the only way this defense worked. Average 3 turnovers a game, go 12-1. Average 1 a game, go 2-2. Further, you concede time of possession, but that's another point we'll get to later.
The Mental Effect Of The 3rd Down
Now that we know why we give up third downs, let's look at why that sucks. Everyone knows, from a pop warner player to a pro, giving up 3rd down conversion is a good way to lose: your opponent gets a new set of downs, keeps your defense on the field wearing them down, and gets your opponent closer to scoring. Simple, but I don't care about all those obvious reasons, I care about the mental effect constantly surrendering 3rd downs has on your defense.
After a while it has to, simply has to, begin to demoralize your players. Imagine constantly failing at work, but even worse, having your boss constantly put you in a position to fail. After a while you just stop caring. I'm not saying our players quit, but it has to be hard to keep going when our defense gets the feeling they will convert this anyway. And considering how long our defense is asked to be on the field, fatigue is always a factor for us. So when you add up fatigue and demoralization, it's amazing we only gave up 40 points.
Time Of Possession
See a trend here, every problem I've noticed so far is based off the soft God damn zone. The defense is only partially to blame, with the offense bearing the burnt of the blame. As he has said many times, Mike Gundy doesn't care about time of posession. He doesn't even consider it a stat, but I'm going to have to disagree. We are so amazingly close to becoming Texas Tech from 5 years ago, and what was the strategy to beat Tech? Keep the ball away from them. How do you beat Oklahoma State in 2012? Keep the ball away from them.
Now part of that is our inability to get off the field on 3rd down, but I'd say most of it is the fact we end almost all our drives in about 2 minutes. Most of the time we score some points, and more often than not it's a touchdown, but we send our defense right back out there, and somehow expect them to be fresh at the end of the game. Hell, look at our last drive (last full drive), we got the ball with a little over 4 minutes left, went 60 yards in a minute, then tried to burn clock, ran 3 shit plays and kicked a field goal, giving Texas a little over 2 minutes to score. They did, we lost, game over. We left at least 40 seconds on the field by snapping the ball early going for the touchy, then suddenly slowed down and played for the field goal. Shit that's depressing.
Give Alabama 4 minutes to score and they'll take 3:58 to do it. With Joseph Randle, Jeremy Smith, and even Desmond Roland, we should be able to chew clock. Hell we ran for 275 yards missing two starting lineman, and we lost the time of possession by 13 minutes. I love our high flying offense, but at some point we have to consider trying to burn just a bit of clock.
Piss Poor Tackling
Really, this is the one that pisses me off the most, and there is no excuse for it. You want to know what the difference between Alabama and us, the real difference (on defense at least). They play where they're supposed to, and they tackle well. Seriously, that's it. Sure, they swarm to the ball, but they can make tackles in space. We miss so many god damn tackles it's sickening. We'll get a hand on someone in the backfield, no help comes, and they'll break away for a 10 yard gain instead of a 4 yard loss.
I've noticed also we're terrible about going for the big hit, slamming into the other player, but the usual result is they bounce off and we're on the ground while the receiver or running back keeps going. What ever happened to wrapping up a guy, driving him backwards, and tackling his ass? That would also help us get turnovers. When the first guy has him wrapped up, any other defensive player can come and try to strip the ball. I can't believe that any player on our team doesn't have the ability to tackle well.
For me, the most frustrating part of this loss was that we have replaced Weeden2Blackmon with two different freshman quarterbacks, and we're still rolling up yards and points, but the defense, the supposed strength of this team, is pathetic. For all the talk of depth on that side, we haven't seen it. As Whetsell said earlier, the rest of the season is on the defenses shoulders, to a point. We have to develop a set of plays on offense that can chew some clock. We also have to develop a plan for those situations, I think we all agree that the clock management on the last drive was terrible. I thought preseason we were about a 9 win team, and I still think we can get there, but we're going to have to get it together now, because we haven't hit the hard part of our schedule yet.
Sometime next week I'm going to drop an in depth post detailing the nickel and dime packages we use so much, and try to explain why we love them, and why they suck so much.