Sidetracked column

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On the Longhorns’ first offensive series last weekend against Oklahoma, they opened with a five wide receiver set and I thought to myself, “OK, Greg Davis is finally going to put Garrett Gilbert’s supposedly rocket-power arm in the spotlight.”

Wrong.

First play of the game was a horizontal pass to the sideline where senior receiver James Kirkendoll caught the ball but was dropped for a loss of 2 yards.

And so went the game.

The Texas-OU game is the biggest, most exhilarating game for both schools every year as it usually charts the rest of season. The first play of the game is probably planned months in advance with great detail. So why did the Longhorns’ opening play look disorganized, last-minute and sloppy?

Greg Davis has coached in the Red River Rivalry for 13 years and should know by now that east-west play calling doesn’t work against OU’s fast defense.

After the game, Davis was asked if he thought his offense is making progress.

“I do, I do,” he said.

And then out of nowhere some OU fan bellowed, “BOOMER” right in the middle of Davis’ sentence, which I thought was appropriate considering Davis was talking about how his offense has “improved.”

“I feel like the guys played extremely hard,” Davis continued after ignoring the Sooner fan. “I felt like we improved from last week and I thought Garrett played really well. Saw some things this week that were really good. Really good.”

I think the fans would disagree considering they’ve pulled out their “Fire Greg Davis” T-shirts that have been in storage since 2006, Colt McCoy’s first year as a starter.

Gilbert is not a dual-threat quarterback, but the guy has got an arm and he should be allowed to use it. I’m sure he’s seen highlights from the Oregon, Alabama and Ohio State games and is envious that those quarterbacks get permission to chunk it.

In high school at Lake Travis, Gilbert became the state of Texas’ all-time leader in passing yards (12,540) and ranks second in state history in passing touchdowns (138), completions (895) and attempts (1,368). Not allowing Gilbert to show off his arm is a detriment to the Texas offense. Not to mention that it’s apparent that sideline passes don’t lead to first downs or touchdowns, which is all head coach Mack Brown cares about.

“We need to score points and we need to win,” he’s said countless times.

There’s an ongoing argument as to who’s to blame for the offense’s repeatedly lousy performances. Some say Gilbert, others say the offensive line and most say Davis. Honestly, it’s the entire unit — coaches and players.

Gilbert is a first-year starter following in the footsteps of the winningest quarterback in college football history. Give the kid a break. He’s doing exactly what his coaches are telling him, which is part of the problem, and hasn’t made many mistakes at all. It’s just easier to blame the quarterback for a lack of production. But in reality, he’s protected by a new offensive line and has the choice of handing the ball off to mediocre running backs or throwing to unproven receivers. Then he’s got Davis in his ear saying throw it sideways. It must be frustrating.

Maybe we should feel sorry for Gilbert. Last weekend, Texas didn’t have as many playmakers as Oklahoma, and the coaching staff didn’t use the playmakers it had. Take sophomore D.J. Monroe. He went 60 yards for a touchdown on a C Sweep misdirection play to put Texas on the scoreboard in the first quarter, but he wasn’t allowed to touch the ball more than three more times during the rest of the game.

Why?

“The way the second half unfolded, we had to throw a great amount of the time,” Davis said. “We just thought Fozzy [Whittaker] and the other guys have much more experience in that situation.”

The coaches say Monroe needs to learn the playbook before he gets more snaps. They say he needs to get better at pass protection. But let me ask you this, if he’s running with the ball, who does he have to block?

“We got guys that can make plays, we just gotta keep finding ways to give them opportunities to make those plays,” Davis said.

Yes, Monroe is that explosive player. Use him instead of opting for a lateral pass to a receiver with slippery hands.

Texas has not been fun to watch on offense this year, and it will be interesting to see what the team conjures up during the bye week as it looks ahead to its trip to Lincoln next weekend.