Tag Archives: Malcolm Williams

Week 2 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Wyoming Cowboys

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)

Prediction:
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.

Wyoming QB Austyn Carta-Samuels

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.

Texas RB Tre Newton

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!

Hook ‘em!

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Week 1 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Rice Owls

It’s finally time for the start of the 2010 Texas Longhorn football season, and Mack Brown’s team is looking to avenge their disappointing loss in last year’s BCS National Championship. Honestly, it’s time to put it behind us. EyesOfTX will say it, though: if QB Colt McCoy hadn’t gotten hurt in Pasadena, Calif., the ‘Horns would’ve beat Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide going away. That stupid ESPN “College Gameday” commercial would have Brown bragging about his two championship rings getting in the way during Jenga. OK, done with it. For now.

A few quick notes before jumping in to week one. The 2010 off-season held a lot of question marks for this Longhorns team, as several team leaders and experience took their talents to the next level, including QB Colt McCoy (Cleveland), WR Jordan Shipley (Cincinnati), DE Sergio Kindle (Baltimore), LB Rodderick Muckelroy (Cincinnati) and S Earl Thomas (Seattle; watch this video!) to name a few. That left offensive coordinator Greg Davis (EyesOfTX’s favorite coach to hate) and defensive coordinator / future head coach / crazy man Will Muschamp with some big holes to fill. Luckily, Brown’s recruiting prowess year-in and year-out has the ‘Horns filling out the roster nicely this fall. Some of the key positions will be filled with viable young talent that has learned from watching their elders, and they will only improve as the season progresses. Isn’t that cliche and catchy? Thought so. Worked all summer on it.

Key aspects to watch in September and October will be Gilbert’s progression at quarterback (does his name remind anyone else of the movie “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”), the “007” martini-like offensive line changes, filling the gaps in the defensive line – specifically at defensive tackle, and the using our former-star-QB-turned-running-backs-coach to find the ever-elusive running game. Who’s calling former UT great RB Ricky Williams to push grad school classes?

On a serious note, the ‘Horns are stacked with a mix of experienced talent and young hot shots that will make this season interesting – they could go undefeated, or lose up to three games. How’s that for not being decisive? The team opens the season as the #4 team in the nation according to USA Today, with some select powerhouses – Alabama, Ohio State, and Florida – ahead of them in the race to Glendale, Ariz., and the 2011 National Championship. Watch out for #5 Boise State – if they win on the road against #10 Virginia Tech in week one, and beat #24 Oregon State at home late in the season, have no one stopping them from getting on the national championship ballot come December. Hooray for small schools with blue football turf everywhere!

Texas Longhorns v. Rice Owls
2:30 p.m. CT (ESPN & ESPN HD)

Prediction:
Texas 48, Rice 10

Rice’s Keys To The Game:
The Owls and head coach David Bailiff (of Texas State fame) had a tough year in 2009 (Bailiff’s third season), going 2-10. While they run a spread offense – with no notable wide receivers to speak of – if they have any chance of beating Texas on Saturday, it starts with the running game and Michigan transfer and current RB Sam McGuffie. Name sound familiar? Yes, it’s the McGuffie of YouTube fame – the top RB prospect in the country a few short years ago. Haven’t seen him on film? Take 6 minutes, it’s worth it. EyesOfTX will be here when you get back. [Pause] Told you so. Unfortunately, McGuffie won’t get 100 touches in this game, which means Rice is still up a creek without a paddle, but don’t be surprised if McGuffie makes the fans gasp a time or two at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

Rice RB Sam McGuffie

Outside of McGuffie, the Owls don’t even know who their starting quarterback will be. Junior Nick Fanuzzi is the incumbent, a dual-threat QB, but he struggled last year throwing the ball accurately. They could start Miami QB transfer Taylor Cook, a 6’7” 240-pound behemoth with a monster arm but cement for feet. Or, how about true frosh Tyler McHargue, the better of the dual-threat QBs on the roster? It’s like picking lotto numbers out of tumbler – you don’t know what you’re going to get. Surely, Muschamp had fun writing out this week’s defensive schemes.

If the Owls offense is anemic without a running game, then the defense isn’t much better. They were 117th out of 120 teams last year in total defense, and gave up the most points per game – 43 – of any team in the country in 2009. In a 4-2-5 scheme, with four down lineman, two linebackers, and five defensive backs, they’ll play to Texas strength (passing game), but get brutalized by Texas’ punishing ground attack. Like how that was set up?


Texas’ Keys To The Game:
Let’s be clear – Texas can drop way more than 48 points on Rice. But, they won’t. On purpose. Per the commentary the fans have heard all off-season, this game is all about clock control and the to-date-non-existent Texas running game. Stop messing with you, right? Honestly, prepare to be David-ized – “is this real life?” You won’t believe what you see. Rumors have it that Cody Johnson will start at RB for the ‘Horns after dropping virtually no weight, but changing that fat to muscle and becoming a fast as all get-out, extremely conditioned athlete in the off-season. Texas rolls for more than 200 yards rushing on Saturday.

Texas QB Garrett Gilbert

Expect to see “experienced” QB Garrett Gilbert come out firing too, though. Reports have it that he threw only one interception in all of fall ball. Against what is being touted as the best defensive backfield in the country in 2010. Plus, he’s able to make throws that McCoy just couldn’t – I’m referring to downfield, of course. You’ll see more (gasp!) I-formation, with (gasp!) Gilbert under center, and (gasp!) a fullback…er, H-back. Promise. Although the offensive line was juggled around in the off-season, the starters are solid contributors with some experience under their belt. And, they’re finally being asked to fire off the ball in run blocking schemes, so they shouldn’t be a bunch of gigantic pansies blocking for the zone read as in year’s past. They want to go knock someone over. Preferably two.

The wide receiving core is re-tooled as well, but Brown has recruited well at the position, and after 7-on-7 drills this summer it sounds like WR Malcolm Williams found some consistency. He’ll be the scoring threat, with cohorts John Chiles and James Kirkendoll holding down the fort, and the quickness of D.J. Monroe or Marquis Goodwin adding sub-4.4 speed. Expect to see youth get some playing time here – the ‘Horns are deep on talent on the edge.

Defensively, this could be the year that no one forgets. Brown is already saying this could be his best unit ever at Texas. When you had the #1, #3, #4, and #8 defenses in the country in the last few years under Greg Robinson, Gene Chizik, and Will Muschamp, that’s hard to believe. We do know this – the secondary will be lights out…a perfect compliment to the offensive schemes of most Big 12 teams they’ll play. The defensive ends stay the same, with All-American talent and a lot of young studs to add depth. The tackle spot is a question mark, but some guys have stepped up this fall to fill the void. Linebackers will be lethal again this year too, although you’ll see one new name at starter on the weak side – Dravannti Johnson.

Let’s start the season off on the right foot – go get ‘em ‘Horns! Hook ‘em!

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Game Preview: Big 12 Championship – Texas Longhorns v. Nebraska Cornhuskers

December 5, 2009
7:00 p.m. Central
ABC

Texas’ 2009 “fourth season” is about to come to close exactly where the team wanted to be – in the Big 12 Championship game in Arlington on Saturday night. Head coach Mack Brown’s mantra this season has been “one game at a time” and focusing on splitting up the season in to four, three-game chunks to keep the team moving forward and delivering on their goal of reaching the conference and national championships. Check.

Last week, Texas showed some weaknesses – in particular, on the defensive side of the ball – and luckily, the offense and Mr. Heisman-hopeful carried the ‘Horns to a hard-fought victory in College Station. Things need to improve this week in order for the ‘Horns to tackle what might be their second-toughest opponent on paper in the Big 12. Don’t think the team isn’t locked on this game, though – if you saw or heard defensive coordinator Will Muschamp after the A&M game, you know the ‘Horns will have their act together defensively come Saturday night. Offensively, QB Colt McCoy has one last game to make his case for the Heisman Trophy in the two-horse race against Florida QB and the media-generated God-like figure Tim Tebow.

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 38, Nebraska 17

Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3)
At the beginning of the season, Eyes Of TX predicted Nebraska would win the Big 12’s North Division. In hindsight, it was surprising who they were competing with for that title, and how close it really was down the home stretch. At 9-3 on the season, the Cornhuskers started the season inconsistently, but in the last five games, they’ve shown that they deserve their spot in Arlington on Saturday to play for the conference championship.

Don’t let Bo Pelini’s squad fool you – they worked hard and earned this game with Texas. Their three losses – to Virginia Tech, Iowa State, and Texas Tech – were all different in their own right. Visiting the Hokies, they had a chance to win in the closing minutes and fell just short. Playing Iowa State at home, they had one of the most disastrous games a college football fan has ever seen (with eight turnovers), and they still only lost 9-7. Against Tech, well, anything is possible with this Red Raiders team this year, and the Cornhuskers caught them on a good week of football. Net-net, Pelini will not let his defensive-minded team roll over for this game. They will be amped up, ready to play against the odds, and potentially upset the ‘Horns the same way the James Brown-led Texas team did in the inaugural Big 12 Championship game in 1996 (when they were also three TD underdogs).

The mediocre Nebraska offense is based on and led by the running game, and we’ll start there. The Huskers bring two stud running backs to attack the stout Texas run defense in Roy Helu, Jr. and Rex Burkhead. Helu, at a solid 6’2” 215-pounds, is the lead back who is an inside threat with the speed to occasionally break runs to and up the sidelines. He’s tallied more than 1,100 yards rushing on the year, and many of those yards have come after contact, while his 5.4/yards per carry average has led him to 10 TDs on the season. He can also be an outlet for the Nebraska QBs, as he’s also caught passes for more than 149 yards on the season. Generally, however, you can expect to see his touches coming primarily in the I-formation with his feet attacking the Texas defense north-south. The Huskers second running threat is 5’11” 200-pound freshman Burkhead. Burkhead is the speed back, and he’s been successful in the offensive scheme running and catching the ball as a supplement to Helu’s grunt work in the inside. The Cornhusker’s success – both running and throwing the ball – lies directly on these two backs.

If Nebraska is smart, they keep the ball in the hands of the backs, and allow their QBs Zac Lee and Cody Green to supplement their efforts while eliminating mistakes from the playcallers. There has been some back-and-forth at the QB position this season, but Lee’s managed to maintain the starting job, and he is the more adept passing threat. Lee has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,931 yards and 13 TDs, although he’s thrown seven INTs, and has been under the microscope all season. Let’s be honest, his role on Saturday will be to help control the clock, hand the ball of to his stable of backs, make timely throws, and keep the Texas offense off the field. After the A&M game, the positive for the Texas defense is that they can count on Lee always being in the pocket to throw the ball as his running ability is limited – especially after an injury to his ankle/knee last week against Colorado. He’s accounted for less than 100 yards rushing this year, and has no rushing TDs to his credit – in other words, Nebraska let those position players do the work, and they do it well. If the Huskers do decide to run the option, they will use Green, who is more of a dual-threat QB using his feet to move the chains. As alluded to above, Lee is the better passer, as Green has only completed 56 percent of his passes on the season, so Texas can expect to see Green primarily coming in to the game for rushing plays. On Saturday, Nebraska’s passing threat will completely be dependent on the rushing attack, as they are most efficient when they get opposing defenses to bite on play-action.

The wide receivers for Nebraska are solid, but not spectacular – and, they don’t have to be in Pelini’s offensive scheme. Their leading receiver is Niles Paul, who at 6’1” 215-pounds is a sizable target for Lee or Green downfield. He leads the team with 649 yards receiving, while scoring three TDs. The bigger threat, especially in a play-action offense, is the tight end and the Huskers have a good one in 6’4” 240-pound Mike McNeill. While he’s the third leading receiver on the team with 237 yards receiving on the year, he is their red zone threat, with a team-leading four TD catches. There are other playmakers, but those two will be the keys for the Texas secondary. It will be important for the ‘Horns to chip block McNeill at the line of scrimmage on play-action, and the safeties to key on him downfield, to throw off the timing of the legitimate QB-TE tandem.

The Nebraska offensive line doesn’t have any big names to shout about, but they do their job by creating a huge push off the line of scrimmage and creating running lanes for the backs to work their way downfield. Led by center Jacob Hickman, the line will need to create holes for the running game, and give Lee time to throw in the pocket on passing downs, and play-action plays could help slow the Texas pressure. While solid, they do give up 1.5 sacks/game, and expect Muschamp to dial up pressure when Nebraska is forced to throw.

Overall, the Huskers’ offense ranks mid-pack in the NCAA, and is 92nd in total offense with 334 yards per game, good for only 11th-best in the Big 12. They take a further step backward in pass offense, ranking 93rd nationally. But, in scoring offense (72nd) and rushing offense (64th), they show off some of their strengths. While not mind-blowing offense statistics, when their defense is holding opposing offenses to well under their season-averages, the offense just has to be good enough, and they’ve proved they are capable by winning nine games on the year.

The defense is the strength of this 2009 Nebraska team, hands-down, and they are led by Eyes Of TX’s Heisman candidate in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The future NFL first-rounder (and potential top pick) is the kind of all-around tackle that controls the line of scrimmage, scares the daylights out of QBs and RBs, and is legitimately a one-man show on the defensive side of the ball. Check out this stat line (and remember he’s doing all of this at nearly 300 pounds): 70 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 10 passes deflected, 17 quarterback pressures, a fumble recovery and an interception. Whoa. The Texas offensive line should be worried about just Suh, but because of his abilities, the rest of the defensive line benefits as well. Suh’s sidekick on the line is Jared Crick, who has contributed 65 tackles and leads the team with nine sacks. Between Suh and Crick, this will be the toughest inside match-up for the ‘Horns offense this season outside of oklahoma. The defensive ends aren’t anything to shake a stick at either, although they provide more run support than pass rush, tallying six sacks and 16 tackles for a loss this season. It will take a legitimate group effort from the ‘Horns offensive line to keep the Nebraska front four at bay.

The linebackers, like the secondary, are dependent on the front four being productive and disrupting opposing offenses. When the offensive line isn’t getting to the second level, the linebackers are great at cleaning up and taking advantage of the gaps to get in to the backfield to create momentum-killing tackles for a loss. They also have the ability to cover sideline-to-sideline, although Texas’ speed should prove overwhelming over four quarters. The secondary is more than capable of making McCoy make more than one read in the pocket. In particular, safety Matt O’Hanlon has the ability to watch the QBs eyes and make big plays down the field to get the Nebraska offense off the sidelines. Overall, the Huskers secondary has snagged 16 INTs on the year, and O’Hanlon has five. Pelini also likes to use his corners and safeties to bring additional pressure, and it’s fair to say, McCoy and the Texas running back corps will see some looks they haven’t seen all season long. Picking up the blitz and blocking downfield will be paramount to helping the Texas offense break some plays open.

The Nebraska specials have the benefit of Alex Henery, a kicker with a leg developed by some branch of the military for all intents and purposes. He is 16-of-20 on field goals this season while not missing any extra points, and as a punter, he averages 42.3 yards per kick. The way Texas has played on special teams, Henery’s leg could pose field position problems all day long. The Huskers kick coverage is mediocre on both punts and kick-offs, so there is some potential for Texas to take advantage, especially if Jordan Shipley and Marquise Goodwin can hit some holes.

#3 Texas Longhorns (12-0)
For the ‘Horns, it’s time to go out and take what is rightfully theirs. They’ve fought through adversity all year long – sickness, injuries, lapses in the offense and defense – and they are still in a position to go undefeated and play in the national championship game in January. The focus needs to be Nebraska this week – no looking ahead – because Pelini’s team will be ready to spring the upset and earn a BCS trip they feel they deserve.

On offense, the key is the offensive line. Nebraska’s defensive line will give the ‘Horns trouble all game long, and the smallest lapse or hesitation will give the Huskers the opportunity to capitalize. If the offensive line can drive off the ball, and Greg Davis can keep the defense guessing (in other words, throwing downfield and giving up on the bubble screen already), then Texas has a shot both running and throwing the ball. While all Texas fans want McCoy to stay healthy and avoid big hits, his production in the running game was critical in last week’s win and could prove valuable again this week if the Nebraska defense over-pursues in pass rush or the defensive ends crash down on the zone read. With the emergence of WR Malcolm Williams in addition to Shipley, the Huskers will have to commit to eyeing them. That opens the door for James Kirkendoll and TE Dan Buckner to get their opportunities. Nebraska will look to control the clock and keep McCoy and the offense on the sidelines, so when they get their chance, they’ll have to make the most of it.

The defense needs to come in with a chip on their shoulder, and they will if Muschamp has anything to say about it. They were absolutely embarrassed in College Station, although the Aggies top-10 offense is nothing to ignore when looking at the stats. Missed tackles and coverage assignments were prevalent last week, and in order for the ‘Horns to stifle the Nebraska offense, things need to get fixed…fast. The good thing is, those starters know it – and they’re a proud bunch who wants to go back out and prove that they just as stout as Pelini’s squad. The play of the defensive line will be key in stopping the run, and the secondary will need to play up in run support, while not being fooled with play-action passes. If the line can keep the linebackers clean, expect Rod Muckelroy and Keenan Robinson to have big stat days. Keep your heads, and make sure tackles. Gang tackle, as they say, especially against Helu, who is a big back that keeps his legs churning through the interior of the line.

This is Texas’ game to lose. If they game plan correctly, the offense can have a hey-day in Arlington on Saturday. If the offensive line doesn’t play up to snuff – and Suh and Crick will make plays – it will be a long day for McCoy and the pass-happy Texas offense. The special teams has had three horrible weeks in a row, and they need to figure out how to tackle all over again to be effective. Get it fixed. This is the shot the ‘Horns have wanted for 365 days. No asterisks. Make it happen, and Texas fans will be enjoying the sun in Pasadena in January.

Pre-game Resources
2009 Texas Longhorns Roster
2009 Nebraska Cornhuskers Roster
University Co-op Gameday Newsletter / Pod casts

Hook ‘em!

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Filed under Big 12, Cornhuskers, Longhorns, NCAA Football

Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Kansas Jayhawks

November 21, 2009
7:00 p.m. Central
ABC (regional)

It has been a week of distractions for both these teams heading in to their late-season match-up, although the situation for Kansas coach Mark Mangino is much more dire. This week, several players – both current and former – have come forward and said Mangino is verbally abusive and had inappropriate physical contact during practices. To that end, Kansas’ athletic director has launched an investigation in to the accusations, and it remains to be seen whether Mangino will remain the Jayhawks coach after the season, only two years removed from being named the AP’s coach of the year.

For Texas, the distraction was different, as kick returner D.J. Monroe – only 20 years old – was arrested for a DWI last Saturday night after the Baylor game. Monroe has been suspended indefinitely by head coach Mack Brown, and might not play again until the bowl game, assuming his legal issues are resolved by that time.

For both teams, the key this week will be focus and preparation, and Texas seems to have the clear advantage in those two categories, if you disregard pure talent and this season’s success – which you can’t. Texas is three games away from playing for the national title, and they need to maintain their composure, play to their level, and help QB Colt McCoy get his 43rd win as the starter – an NCAA record for the winningest QB in history.

Let’s take a look at the details.

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 55, Kansas 17

Kansas Jayhawks (5-5)
Kansas had big expectations this year, despite the loss of two offensive lineman and their stout linebacker core to graduation. With the return of QB Todd Reesing, as well as WRs Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier, they had the offensive firepower to compete in the Big 12’s North division. Unfortunately, after a 5-0 start taking them as high as #15 in the rankings, they fell apart, and have lost five straight games in conference play. Now, they’re scratching to simply become bowl eligible.

This will be a homecoming game for senior QB Todd Reesing, who played his high school football right down the road at Lake Travis High School outside Austin. That high school coach should be proud, as he’s produced some big name QB recruits in recent years with Reesing, Gilbert (Texas), and potential Texas recruit Michael Brewer. Reesing has been the heart and soul of the Jayhawks during his tenure as a starter, but this year he has been nagged by injuries and tension with Mangino, who has pulled him during games in favor of his back-up. Reesing’s numbers are still stellar – 2,862 yards passing, 18 TDs, and only eight INTs with a 62 percent completion rate – but he hasn’t looked as comfortable or efficient as year’s past. There are rumors Reesing is still recovering from a nagging injury, and his lack of mobility is a liability, so a trip back home could prove disappointing in his last year in Lawrence.

The wide receiving corps for Kansas is as good as Texas will see all year. Starters Briscoe and Meier (the former QB turned WR) are both legit NFL draftees come April, and they are Reesing’s top targets in the passing game. Briscoe leads the team in receiving, with 994 yards, and TDs with seven. His 6’3” 202-pound frame makes him a big target downfield, and he is Kansas’ deep threat. Meier, on the other hand, is the big possession receiver at 6’3” 221-pounds, and has accounted for 885 yards and six TDs on a team-leading 83 catches. Both players have big play ability, will be the focal point of the KU passing game on Saturday, and will challenge the young but stout Texas defensive backs.

The Jayhawks running game is similar to Texas’ in that they have two backs who are complete opposites. The starter, Jake Sharp, is 5’10” 195-pounds and quick, with good hands out of the backfield (185 yards receiving and three TDs), accounting for 398 yards and three TDs on the ground this season. His complement is freshman Toben Opurum, a 6’2” 235-pound beast who moves the pile similar to Texas’ RB Cody Johnson. Opurum leads the running attack with 543 yards rushing on the season. Both backs offer different looks for opposing defenses, and given field to work with, they can be dangerous weapons to complement the KU passing game.

The Jayhawks’ offensive woes live in the line, where they start two freshman. Potentially the reason for Reesing’s on-going injuries is the inability to keep him upright, as the o-line has given up 24 sacks on the year. But, if the offensive line can open some holes for the running game, and give Reesing time to throw in the pocket – particularly if Kansas picks up on the weakness they saw in Texas’ defense of the bubble screen last week in Waco – then they have a chance to be very productive on the day. Against Texas’ front seven, though, it seems like a long-shot on Senior Day in Austin.

The defense is solid, but not outstanding, and their defensive line headlines that side of the ball. Overall, the defense gives up 351 yards of offense, 241 yards through the air, and an average of 24.9 points per game. They’ve also given up 32 opposing TDs this season, good for ninth-best in the Big 12. The defensive line’s success comes from the ends, namely Jake Laptad and Maxwell Onyegbule. While the defense s a whole has combined for a respectable 26 sacks on the season, Laptad and Onyegbule have accounted for 11.5 of them – so, that is where McCoy will see pressure on Saturday. As noted above, the weakness in the KU defense is the secondary – despite future NFL safety Darrell Stuckey – and they have only hawked seven INTs on the year. While the secondary steps up in the red zone, the defensive line has given up 18 rushing TDs on the season. Expect the secondary to get torched by McCoy and his receiving core on Saturday.

Finally, the special teams for the Jayhawks are mediocre at best. Their kicker, Jacob Brandstetter has a big leg, but has only made 10-of-15 field goals on the year. Their return game is horrid (6.1 yards per punt, and 20 yards per kickoff), and they give up big chunks of yards to opposing kick returners (11.4 yards per punt, and 22 yards per kickoff). Expect some big plays from the Texas return game, even without Monroe.

#3 Texas Longhorns (10-0)
The game plan for Texas needs to be balanced, both offensively and defensively this week. On defense, the ‘Horns need to put pressure on Reesing and make him scramble or make quick decisions. The secondary will have to keep both Briscoe and Meier in front of them and hold their coverage as long as possible to give the defensive line time to get to Reesing. By the same token, the safeties – Blake Gideon and Earl Thomas – will have to keep an eye on the backfield, as Sharp and Opurum both have the potential to make some big plays running or catching screen passes. If the defense plays up to their potential, they could tack up another non-offensive TD – something the Texas fans have come to expect this season. Another solid game from LB/DE Sergio Kindle also wouldn’t hurt his chances to win this year’s Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker, as he was named one of five finalists for the award on Friday (along with the Big 12’s Sean Weatherspoon).

On offense, the ‘Horns should continue to hone their running game as they wind down the season, and last week’s production from Johnson and the return of RB Tre Newton, produced a balanced attack in Waco. Expect Johnson to get the start again, and to once again try to lead a balanced Longhorns attack. Of course, McCoy and Shipley will be keys to the offensive game plan, and both will want to go out on a high note in their last game in DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Expect to see John Chiles or Malcolm Williams join Shipley on kickoff returns this week, with the suspension of Monroe. With the Jayhawks porous kick coverage, anything is possible, including some quick fireworks to change the atmosphere inside the stadium.

Something to keep an eye out for: could this be the week the ‘Horns don the new Nike Pro Combat uniforms? If not, fans will seem them at least once before season’s end. While they sound cool in theory, there are some things in college football you just don’t mess with – one of those is the Longhorns’ classic uniforms. Let’s leave the weekly uni-watch to the folks in Oregon.

Another big win and another step closer to Pasadena are easily possible if the ‘Horns stay focused and keep taking one game at a time. This is the time in the season when any team can lose its edge by looking too far ahead, but this team and the senior leadership seem to have the ‘Horns headed in the right direction. Besides, who doesn’t love Pasadena in January?

Pre-game Resources
2009 Texas Longhorns Roster
2009 Kansas Jayhawks Roster
University Co-op Gameday Newsletter / Pod casts

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Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Central Florida Knights

November 7, 2009
11:00 a.m. Central
FSN / Comcast Sports Net

If you keep an eye on Mack Brown’s words of wisdom throughout the year, you know the ‘Horns have already completed two seasons in 2009. Brown has a knack for breaking a 12-game season down in to three segments to help keep the team focused on short-term goals, building momentum until it crescendos in a post-season bowl game. To-date, the Longhorns are undefeated in two of their four-game stretches (to be 8-0), with the previous four games – Colorado, oklahoma, Missouri, and Oklahoma State – being their toughest stretch this season.

It’s true that the reminder of Texas’ schedule doesn’t pose much of threat – even the Big 12 Championship game, should they get that far – but, those can be the most dangerous games of all for a team that thrives on big games year-in and year-out.

This week, the ‘Horns face a fiery Central Florida team who almost knocked off Texas in Orlando in 2007 behind future NFL running back Kevin Smith. While this Knights team poses less of a threat, they shouldn’t be overlooked in Austin this weekend. As Eyes Of TX favorite UT guru Trey McLean says, “a game on the schedule is a game on schedule,” and the team still has to show up to play. There are no “gimme” games, and some of top teams in the BCS have already flirted with season-ending disasters this season. Brown and the ‘Horns need to maintain their focus, use Saturday to gain some “style points” with the BCS voters, and stay healthy.

Let’s get to the game preview for Texas v. Central Florida.

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 56, Central Florida 10

Central Florida Knights (5-3)
Head coach George O’Leary brings his Knights to Austin for the first time on Saturday, and while his team is 5-3 and vying for position in the middle of Conference USA, they have had some gutsy performances – most recently on Sunday night when they came back from more than 10 points down to Marshall to win at the wire, 21-20.

The strength of the Knights team is not the offense, and in fact, they rank poorly in all offensive categories, other than being from a city with a lot of humidity. They rank 98th in total offense (336 yards/game), including 47th in pass efficiency, in the 70-range for passing (215 yards/game), and in the 80-range for rushing (120 yards/game) and scoring offense (24.1 points/game). Those are signs of 11 players struggling to find their rhythm against Conference USA opponents. Unfortunately, this weekend’s game is not against a Conference USA team.

The offense is led, however, by quarterback Brett Hodges and running back Brynn Harvey. Hodges is solid, but not great – throwing for 10 TDs and seven INTs while hitting 57 percent of his passes – and he is capable of moving the team down the field methodically when necessary. Ask Marshall. Harvey is the workhorse in the backfield, and standing at 6’1” 215-pounds, he is capable of moving the pile through the middle the field to get his yards, and he averages 84 yards per game, and has seven TDs on the season. The problem this week will be the near-invisible Knights offensive line – while the UCF fans might point to turnovers or lack of total yardage to lead to points, the truth is that the offensive line probably won’t make the ‘Horns defense break a sweat and that will cause Hodges to make mistakes that will take the Knights out of the game by halftime if not sooner.

The surprise out of Orlando is the UCF defense, which has played inspired football all season and given the offense ample opportunities to stay in games, and/or win them in the end. Where their offense is incompetent on the national scene, their defense ranks in the top 10 in both rush defense (87 yards/game) and sacks (27) – those are impressive stats, although against inferior teams from Conference USA. While Eyes Of TX is certain the Knights rush defense statistics will only improve after playing Texas’ “we’ll-kind-of-try-to-run-until-we-give-up-and-pass-all-over-you” attack, UCF’s sack total does pose some concern for Texas’ offensive line and coach Mac McWhorter.

The defense is led by defensive end Bruce Miller, who has totaled nine sacks on the year and as an undersized lineman, plays more like a linebacker at 6’2” 253-pounds. His colleague up front is NFL-sized Torrell Troup, with two sacks and 26 tackles on the year, will take up all space between the hash marks Shaun Rogers-style with his 6’3” 314-pound frame. If Texas has any chance running the ball on Saturday, it won’t be up the middle the field. The opportunity for Texas on Saturday, assuming they can calm the pass rush from UCF’s defensive line and linebackers, will be to take advantage of the secondary with the plethora of bigger, stronger, faster wide outs roaming the burnt orange side of the DKR-Memorial Stadium sidelines. The Knight’s linebackers, while solid in run support, are ripe for taking advantage of in coverage, and the secondary is giving up 243 yards passing per game (90th nationally). How do they solve their coverage woes? They play Texas and Houston back-to-back weeks. Ouch.

On special teams, it’s a mixed bag. The kicking game for the Knights is an absolute debacle for a Division I school, as UCF’s field goal kicker is only 9-for-16, and their punter averages 36 yards per punt. Where it gets interesting is UCF’s ability to cover those short punts – allowing only 3.4 yards per return – as well as kick-offs, allowing 16.3 yards per return. In addition, they are capable of big plays in the kick return game, averaging 25.4 yards per kickoff with a TD on the season, and 12.5 yards per punt. Expect to see the Knights trying to cause some trouble for Texas on specials, and to keep that field goal kicker on the bench when it comes to red-zone situations. Let’s face it, UCF will need TDs – not FGs – to stay in this one.

#2 Texas Longhorns (8-0)
Simple. The ‘Horns need to play the game, and play it to the level they’re capable of – especially as the #2 team in the land. There are already doubters amongst the BCS voters, and if Alabama wins this weekend they get big momentum, so don’t give those ballot-casters another reason to question why Texas should be in Pasadena, Calif., on Thursday, January 7 at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time. Got it?

Texas will likely do what they’ve done all year – keep QB Colt McCoy upright in the pocket, and picking apart the opposing defense with 3-8 yard dink-and-dunk passes. The difference in the passing game this week might be the Texas wide outs ability to break something on Eyes Of TX’s favorite play to hate, the bubble screen. Expect to WR Jordan Shipley to have a career day, especially if he’s matched up on the linebackers, and let’s continue to see the emergence of WR Malcolm Williams who had a nice game in Stillwater last week. The running game should be…well, honestly…non-existent on Saturday for two reasons: 1) Texas doesn’t have a running back or a running game consistent enough to be a threat outside of Cody Johnson rumbling, stumbling, bumbling from the 1-yard line; and, 2) UCF’s rush defense is no joke.

On defense, the ‘Horns front seven must be salivating for Saturday’s match-up. UCF’s Hodges, whose jersey was pretty dirty after the Marshall game, will be sore until 2010 after this game, as there is no way the Knights offensive line can stop Texas’ self-proclaimed “Goon Squad.” With constant pressure on Hodges, and what is expected to be an early deficit, the running game will disappear and the UCF offense will become one dimensional. Oh, why hello Earl Thomas, Blake Gideon, and Curtis Brown – how may we help you? After an epic week against the ‘Pokes, expect a near-repeat performance (it’s scary to think that’s even possible) from the Texas secondary…they are on fire, showing confidence, and have no fear. It will be a self-serve night for the ‘Horns, and Aaron Williams should be back after being injured last week.

Expect some fireworks on special teams – Texas has the athletes to make something big happen…kick or punt return, block? Eyes Of TX expects one of each – who’s up for it this week? Shipley, Marquise Goodwin, D.J. Monroe?

Pre-game Resources
2009 Texas Longhorns Roster
2009 Central Florida Knights Roster
University Co-op Gameday Newsletter / Pod casts

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Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Missouri Tigers

October 24, 2009
7:00 p.m. Central
ABC (regional)

Last week wasn’t pretty. But, a win in Dallas in a win in Dallas. Of the ‘Horns tough three week stretch, they’ve started off on the right foot. There are still some changes that need to happen on offense, but as expected, the defenses dominated at the Cotton Bowl. In Eyes Of TX’s opinion, ou made a horrible decision in bringing back QB Sam Bradford from injury to play in this game – and, when he went down on second series of the game, you could feel the life being sucked out of the sooners sideline.

With the ou game behind Mack Brown and the ‘Horns, they face two match-ups this week and next against Missouri and Oklahoma State, respectively, away from the safety of DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Let’s check out the game this week, with rebuilding M-I-Z…Z-O-U.

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 30, Missouri 17

Missouri TigersMissouri Tigers (4-2)
It’s homecoming in Columbia, Missouri, this weekend and that means that the playmakers from last year’s Tigers team might be back. On the sideline. This Missouri team is re-building, and despite the loss of several starters from last year’s team, have a nice complement of players that have replaced them this season. That starts at the quarterback position with Blaine Gabbert, a 6’5” 240-pound gunslinger. The strong-armed quarterback is also mobile in the pocket, although not necessarily a running threat. He’s thrown for 1,620 yards, 12 TDs, and five INTs this season, but is only completing 57 percent of his passes. All five of his INTs have come in the last two games – losses to Nebraska and Oklahoma State – and he also sprained his ankle in the Nebraska game and that has limited his mobility since. At wide receiver, Gabbert has a solid group, including Wes Kemp, Jared Perry, and Danario Alexander. Alexander is the biggest threat, at 6’5” 215 pounds, and he has 66 catches for 627 yards and five TDs on the season, and Perry is the deep threat with the ability to get behind defenses. All told, the wide receivers will need to have a solid day to ease the pressure on the Missouri running game, although with the Texas front seven and secondary, it might be difficult for Gabbert to have the time to find open receivers down field.

The running game goes through Derrick Washington, although he is only averaging 4.2 yards per carry, and an average of 16 carries per game. He’s only scored three TDs on the season, and Missouri ranks 91st in rushing in the country. That means the Texas secondary needs to have their eyes on the man in front of them as Gabbert will likely be winging the ball all over the field. If the offensive line is having trouble with the Texas front seven — and they did against Nebraska — then they could try to defer to quick screen passes and hot routes to try and slow down the Texas rush. With the Texas linebacking core playing lights out, though, it won’t help their offensive efforts.

On defense, Missouri has been less-than-impressive. Against good competition, they’ve given up points, including 33 to Oklahoma State last week and the disaster against Nebraska in the final minutes of the game as well. The defense is led by stud linebacker Sean Witherspoon, who will surely be playing on Sunday’s next year. He leads the team with 50 tackles on the season, and he is the emotional leader – their play will largely be based on his success or failure on Saturday. The defensive line is solid, but nothing that poses a huge threat against the ‘Horns offense. They can hold their own, but don’t put much pressure on the quarterback. In fact, the defense as a whole only blitzes on 24 percent of their defensive plays, and most of the team’s sacks come from the linebacking core, and not the d-line. The secondary is suspect, as they give up an average of 210 yards per game, and they only have two INTs on the season – that seems like a big opportunity for Texas.

This might be on the best special teams groups that Texas will play this season. Their punter, Jake Henry, averages 42 yards per punt, and they give up very little (under a yard) on punt returns. Their kick-off coverage isn’t quite as good, giving up an average of 24 yards per return. Their field goal kicker, Grant Ressel, is lights out, hitting 12-of-13 field goal attempts, and all of his extra points. If they don’t make any mistakes on Saturday, it could be even-Steven in the special teams match-up this week.

Texas Longhorns#2 Texas Longhorns (6-0)
Texas needs to get it together on offense. Fans have been waiting all season to see the Texas offense explode, like last year, but week-in and week-out, the ‘Horns have failed to produce. This week, you’ll see some changes in the wide receiving core. Freshman Marquise Goodwin, who stole the show in Dallas, will get the start, as will Malcolm Williams who has apparently finally earned some playing time. With John Chiles being ineffective, and James Kirkendoll’s stupid head-butt in the ou game, Eyes Of TX feels good about the change, as it will put more speed on the field for Colt – let’s just hope the consistency is there with some new faces on the field. In addition, Jordan Shipley will move back over to the flanker position, where he was so successful last year. With Missouri’s linebackers not being great covering wide receivers in space over the middle of the field, Shipley could have a big day. The running game picked up last week, and Fozzy Whittaker looked healthy and quick, and he’s earned the starting job this week as well. Keep it up!

On defense, just keep doing what you’re doing. Will Muschamp’s troops have looked sharp, and they’re getting strong play up and down the depth chart. There is no doubt that Texas has one of the best defenses in the country. The secondary needs to focus on keeping Missouri’s wide receivers in front of them and making sure tackles against the larger Tigers’ wide outs, while the linebackers need to cover the running backs on screens and hot routes while using strategic opportunities to put pressure on Gabbert in passing situations.

All in all, Texas should win this game. No doubt Missouri will be jacked up for this game with homecoming this weekend, but if the ‘Horns keep their heads, play their game, and manage the clock, they should escape Columbia with a victory.

Pre-game Resources
2009 Texas Longhorns Roster
2009 Missouri Tigers Roster
University Co-op Gameday Newsletter / Pod casts

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Filed under Big 12, Longhorns, NCAA Football, Tigers