October 10, 2009

Texas turns up flat in the run game with OU looming

Texas coaches talked all week about finding an identity in the running game. Then, against a Colorado defense that had given up 305 yards rushing to Toledo and 220 yards on the ground to one player - West Virginia's Noel Devine - Texas runs 25 times for 46 yards (1.8 ypc).

The Longhorns had six of their 25 runs Saturday (nearly 25 percent) go for zero or negative yards. This came against the nation's 111th-ranked run defense. Colorado was giving up an average of 201.5 yards per game on the ground before Saturday.

"Maybe I tried to out-stubborn them," Mack Brown said. "They were not going to let us run the ball, and they were going to use a lot of movement and twists up front. I just wanted to run it some. And I think it will help us next week (against Oklahoma).

"We don't want to get in a game and put so much pressure on Colt that he has to throw every play. We'd like to have some runs. And if you go into a game like this that you're probably going to win and throw it every time and come out happy and not work on anything for next week then you're in a tougher spot."


The six runs of zero or negative yards Saturday come on the heels of seven zero or negative yard runs against UTEP and eight zero or negative yard carries against Texas Tech.

So in the last three games, Texas has had 21 running plays - excluding sacks - that went nowhere or backward.

"We did a great job stopping their running game," Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said.


Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said, "It was something we talked about and worked on. My mood is not very good. I'm disappointed in the way we ran the football."

Brown added, "I was hard-headed. We're trying to get better in the running game, and it's just work. We've got to keep looking at it to see what we need to do."

Colt McCoy said, "They were doing some twists and things inside that were a little different. But the passing game was there. We were pretty efficient at it. We completed a lot of balls. We just need to get more consistent with our run and pass."


With Vondrell McGee leaving the game with a left shoulder injury and Tre' Newton leaving the game with a mild concussion, the team's top two running backs may be limited in practice this week and thus limited or out of next Saturday's game against Oklahoma.

Brown said, "I thought Fozzy (Whittaker) was great (on the 12-yard touchdown run), and I thought Cody (Johnson) did some good things tonight. We may have to use both of those guys next week. Fozzy is just so fast, and he did a really nice job bouncing his run back to the other side and scoring."

When I asked if D.J. Monroe was still part of the running game, Brown said he might be if McGee and Newton are limited or out. He said Monroe's carries have been cut back because "you can't get reps for five running backs. You just can't."


Center Chris Hall said the offensive line has to get better in the running game.

"We've got to execute better, and I'm thankful we have another week of practice to help us do that," Hall said. "I know I can definitely play a lot better. We want to get better in the run game, and our coaches will help us do that."

Oklahoma came into Saturday's game against Baylor as the nation's No. 6 rushing defense, giving up 65.5 yards per game on the ground. The Sooners gave up only 6 rushing yards to Baylor in a 33-7 victory in Norman.

"Oklahoma always has great players," Hall said. "They always have a great defense. So we'll have a challenge next week."

Here's a breakdown of UT's six zero or negative yardage carries:

1. Colt McCoy rush up the middle for minus-3 yards on second-and-7 midway through first quarter. (Drive ends in 32-yard FG)

2. Vondrell McGee rush over right guard for no gain on first-and-5 from the CU 41 late in the first quarter (Drive ends in a blocked FG attempt from the CU 13).

3. McGee rushes for loss of 1 yard on third-and-2 from the UT36 midway through the second quarter. (Drive ends in a punt that nets 28 yards.)

4. McCoy rushes for no gain over right end from the UT32 on second-and-6 early in the third. (Drive ends in a 25-yard punt by Justin Tucker.)

5. Cody Johnson rushes over right tackle for no gain from the UT35 on third-and-2 with 11 minutes left in the third. (Drive ends in a 45-yard punt.)

6. John Chiles rushes up the middle for no gain from the CU47 on first-and-10. (Drive ends in a 5-yard punt by Tucker.)

Honorable mention: Texas had a shovel pass from McCoy to McGee go for minus-2 yards in the first quarter.

MY TAKE: Mack Brown and Greg Davis better have some stuff they've been hiding for Oklahoma. They trot this vanilla running game out in the Cotton Bowl next Saturday, and they'll be 5-1 leaving the State Fair.

They have to get Colt McCoy back involved with the running game, especially with Vondrell McGee and Tre' Newton possibly limited or out. Maybe they've been trying to save McCoy, and they'll turn him loose against OU.

Make no mistake, Texas is a pass-first offense. And the most success to be had against OU is still throwing the ball down the middle of the defense (see UT's game plan last year, and Miami's this year). But the Longhorns have to be somewhat two-dimensional against the Sooners.

The other thing that falls on Davis. He had the element of surprise against the Sooners last year with the four-wide flex offense that OU hadn't seen in six years. Now, OU has seen it. Davis will need something else this season to spring on the Sooners.

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