One week is in the books, and by the look of the Longhorns on the sidelines at Reliant Stadium last weekend, they couldn’t be more relieved. Unless they were the oklahoma sooners or the LSU Tigers. Texas wins handily, 34-17, but it’s not without some work to be done heading in to week two. For college football fans everywhere, it was a fun five days of college football to open up the season.
Everyone says that a team improves the most from week one to week two, and ‘Horns fans across the nation who have lambasted the team since Saturday want to see some changes. Let’s be clear, nothing was awful, and Rice was a much improved team from their 2-10 season a year ago. But, the coaches need to get the guys back in front of the tape and fix some issues before an emotionally-charged Wyoming team comes to town.
Here are some quick thoughts on the ‘Horns in week one:
QB Garrett Gilbert looked solid – no mistakes, no sacks, a few missed throws, and some lasers that NFL scouts would get excited about. He finished 14-of-23 for 172 yards, with no TDs and no INTs.
The running game isn’t quite we expected after the pre-season hype. Maybe offensive coordinator Greg Davis needs to reset expectations for Longhorn nation. Starting RB Cody Johnson (15 rushes, 59 yards) looked good early, but apparently sprained an ankle on the second play of the game. Tre Newton (18 carries, 61 yards, 3 TDs) was the most productive in the red zone, and Fozzy Whittaker (9 carries, 51 yards) had the most “excitement” potential.
The offensive line blocked better for the run than they have in the past, but there are improvements to be made on blocking the back side of a running play. They didn’t give up any sacks. Continue to block downhill, boys, and finish those blocks downfield.
The secondary looked solid, but gave up some poor plays for TDs at the end of the half and the game. CB Chykie Brown looked as lost as Michael Oher staring at balloons in “The Blind Side.” Plus, they should have had two more “pick-sixes.” On a positive note, safety/nickel back Kenny Vaccaro looked ridiculous and was all over the field.
The defensive line was spectacular – they controlled the line of scrimmage and made key plays to pressure Rice’s QB all game – whether sacks or poor throws. Someone still needs to step up to fill the DT spot next to Kheeston Randall.
The player of the game was definitely LB Keenan Robinson, who tallied six total tackles, an INT, and a fumble recovery returned for a TD – good enough to be co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.
Alright, enough about last week, let’s focus on head coach Dave Christensen’s Wyoming Cowboys and week two.
Texas Longhorns v. Wyoming Cowboys
6:00 p.m. CT (FSN, Comcast Sports)
Texas 52, Wyoming 17
Wyoming’s Keys To The Game:
Wyoming head coach, formerly of Missouri Tigers offensive coordinator fame, enters his second year in Laramie, and while his Cowboys gave Texas a run for their money for one half of football in 2009, he’ll want to bring his work-in-progress, high-powered spread offense to DKR-Memorial Stadium with an upset on his mind. Let’s face it, he’s had enough of a bashing from the ‘Horns during his days in Columbia.
To lead his spread attack, Christensen has entrusted sophomore QB Austyn Carta-Samuels (a.k.a. ACS), who saw some time in last year’s contest replacing their starter, going 7-for-12 for 68 yards. Against a sub-par Southern Utah team in week one, ACS was 26-for-32 for 319 yards, with three TDs and one INT. He’s a solid QB in that he has decent speed, a good arm, and makes good decisions – but, against a stout Texas defensive line, ACS could struggle to find time to get the ball to receivers. Expect to see him roll out to avoid pressure, and complete short passes to keep the offense on the field and producing positive yards in minimal increments.
Their top receiver is the returning David Leonard, who has the size to create plays for himself downfield – he’ll be the focus for ACS in the passing game. Wyoming typically runs an offensive scheme with four wide outs, but none of the other WRs pose a major threat – they’ll do what their asked, but nothing spectacular. The running game is even more anonymous, and given they only ran for 36 yards on 25 carries last week against a D-II team, Christensen won’t work on the team’s running game against the ‘Horns. Rather, those backs will be used for pass protection, or slip screens out of the backfield to keep the Texas linebackers honest.
On defense, they struggle – even though they have some talent on the field. They gave up 24 first downs to Southern Utah last week, including 191 yards rushing and 193 yards passing. The Cowboys defense kept their team in the game just enough to win, 28-20. The expectation is that they’ll focus on stopping Texas’ running game – like everyone else, they know Texas is keying its offense early in the season on rushing yards – and force Gilbert to throw the ball downfield and convert first downs and points.
If the Texas defense performs up-to-snuff, the Cowboys are going to have a hard time in Austin – especially in front of a home-opener crowd that has 70,000 more screaming fans than War Memorial Stadium can hold in Laramie. Rumor has it they’ve been pumping crowd noise in to their practices this week – but, perhaps that shouldn’t be their focus.
Texas’ Keys To The Game:
Keep it simple, but grow the offense. In week one, the ‘Horns looked solid. Nothing spectacular, but they went out and did their business. Head coach Mack Brown chastised the team in his post-game news conference saying they didn’t seem excited. With the youth on this team, it was probably nerves, but it’s the regular season and time to get jacked up. Not in the “get you arrested” kind of way, either.
With week two, Will Muschamp’s defense will see their first Big 12-like offense, and the secondary will be put to the test. Tackling in the open field to prevent yards after the catch will be key, and coverage schemes will be criticized from both sidelines – most importantly for Texas, keep the opposing man in front of you. Time of possession will be key for the Cowboys – they’ll want Gilbert and the Texas offense on the sidelines as much as possible to stay in the game – so the ‘Horns defense needs to force turnovers or push hard for three-and-outs. This week, Vaccaro might very well take a Wyoming receiver’s helmet home with him, if S Christian Scott doesn’t first.
On offense, the ‘Horns need to keep working on the running game – Newton is expected to get the start – and the offensive line needs to finish their blocks to spring the quicker and faster backs, including Whittaker. But, expect to see offensive coordinator Greg Davis open up the playbook with Gilbert this week, and WR Malcolm Williams to have another solid day…the spark was lit last week. If the offense can get on the field consistently and is balanced and successful the ‘Horns should be able to eclipse 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing on the day.
All-in-all, the ‘Horns can’t look past Wyoming at the Texas Tech game…it’ll get here soon enough. Go out and handle business, have fun, continue to create chemistry on both offense and defense, and make some plays on special teams!