September 5, 2008

10 things to look for on Saturday

Winning won't be the issue this week because the Texas Longhorns will almost certainly beat a team in UTEP that was outclassed by a team from Buffalo, New York not named the Bills. Instead, it's time to look at what the Longhorns need to accomplish this week in winning, because as Mack Brown has said, it's not always about winning, but how you win when you are the Longhorns. Here's a look at the top ten things to look for that will make for a successful weekend for Mack Brown's team.

1. Colt McCoy keeps the turnovers under two.

It's unrealistic to think that UT's junior starting quarterback is going to be flawless each week, but when you go on the road it's imperative that your quarterback doesn't do too many things that can give the other team opportunities to change momentum and add points to the scoreboard. McCoy was as efficient as anyone in the nation last week and while he doesn't have to be perfect, he can't cross the line over into Turnover Island.

2. Two Texas running backs out-rush Colt McCoy.

It would be nitpicking to suggest that there was anything wrong with UT's performance on offense last week given the game plan, score and surrounding circumstances, but Texas needs to make sure that they don't overextend McCoy each week in the running game because it will lead to potential injuries and this team can't afford to have him out of the line-up against good teams. Buffalo carved up UTEP last week in the running game and this should be a stat week for Vondrell McGee, Chris Ogbonnaya, Fozzy Whittaker, Cody Johnson and the entire offensive line. At least two of those guys need to step up and outgain the quarterback.

3. A receiver not named Cosby and Shipley catches a touchdown pass before the fourth quarter.

The development of a young receiver group continues this week and the goal in these four non-conference games is to make improvement each week. Redshirt freshman Malcolm Williams did some nice things last week and sophomore James Kirkendoll caught a touchdown pass from John Chiles in the fourth quarter. It sure would be nice to see one of those guys gain the confidence that would come from catching a touchdown pass from McCoy when the game is still a game and not garbage time.

4. Blaine Irby catches four or more passes.

Irby was a breath of fresh air last week, as he caught seven passes and a touchdown in one of the biggest surprise performances of the weekend. Obviously, if he averages seven catches a game, he's going to be a first-team All-American, so let's not be unrealistic here. Let's cut the number in half (3.5) and round up. If Irby catches four or more this week, it'll go a long way to proving he's not going to be a one-game wonder.

5. The line paves the way for 250 yards rushing and they limit UTEP to two or fewer sacks.

See No.2. I could have just written that they need to dominate, but let's give these guys some numbers to shoot for because you know they are reading this. Whether anyone will admit it or not, lineman love having number to chase and I've just given them a gift.

6. The Longhorns get multiple sacks and force multiple turnovers.

Pressure wasn't really a concern last week because the Longhorns did chase Rusty Smith from the game in the third quarter (Brian Orakpo just harassed the guy on every play on his final drive), but the team didn't record a sack. That's ok because Smith has a quick release and the chop blocks took some getting used to. No excuses this week though. Also, the goal every week on this defense is to force multiple turnovers.

7. At least one of those sacks and turnovers come from the linebacker unit.

Calling Jared Norton, Sergio Kindle, Roddrick Muckelroy, Rashad Bobino and Keenan Robinson - be playmakers.

8. The young defensive backs don't miss any tackles that lead ton huge yardage gains after the catch.

Almost half of the yardage of the yardage that FAU had in the passing game last week came via poor tackling in the secondary. This group is looking to make progress this week and missed tackles like the ones we saw last weekend are going to start becoming more and more unacceptable as the weeks go by.

9. If Texas has to punt in this game, punt efficiently.

Keep an eye on walk-on punter John Gold because he could become a strength on this team, although you hope to never have to use him. Keep that hang time long and the average over 42 yards this week. Heck, let's see a ball land inside the 20 if you're going to be punting.

10. At least one return on special teams for more than 40 yards.

We know that the kick-blocking is back in the arsenal, but we haven't seen the explosiveness in the return game yet.

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