Final Scrimmage Means Horns Now Planning For NMSU

From now on, it’s all about the 2003 season and the August 31 home opener against New Mexico State. Texas put the finishing touches on the preseason with an appreciably intense final scrimmage at DKR Wednesday that saw hardnosed runs from the RBs, a goal line stand from the first-team D, mobility at QB, improved pass protection from the O line plus the best WR that nobody’s heard of -- yet.

It all points to the kind of championship season that Orangebloods expected last year. And the year before. For now, Texas will start working on its New Mexico State game plan on Thursday.

QB Chance Mock bounced back from a stomach virus that sidelined him Tuesday to complete six-of-12 passes for 58 yards. He also added 17 yards on four carries.

"He’s high energy and tough and I thought he responded really well today," head coach Mack Brown said of Mock. "Chance is tough as nails."

RS-freshman Vince Young was 3-of-7 for 73 yards while Matt Nordgren looked solid, completing 2-of-4 for 25 yards.

Phillip Geiggar’s 56-yard kickoff return spotted the first team O in prize real estate to start the game. Mock opened with an 11-yard gain to SE Roy Williams on play action. From the 31, it was all RB Cedric Benson (who looks tougher and faster with each practice session). After toting the rock five yards off right tackle, Benson went the distance, carrying it in from 26 yards on a dive play up the middle.

Benson finished with 36 yards on just four attempts (can you live with 9 ypc?) while backup RB Selvin Young looked faster than ever hitting the corner, contributing 36 yards on nine totes.

Coaches were paying particular attention to LDE in this one. On first and 10 from the 20, LDE Bryan Pickryl teamed up with MLB Garnet Smith to hold FB Albert Hardy to two yards. (Smith returned after missing Tuesday’s practice to register four tackles.) Pickryl came up big on 3rd-and-7, limiting Mr. Excitement (Vince Young) to one yard on a sprint option.

It isn’t too soon to refer to freshman walk-on Eric Enard as "Rudy". The kid from West Orange Stark has done nothing but make improbable grabs all preseason and turned in the longest completion of the night: a 46-yard screen pass from Young over lockdown CB Nathan Vasher.

"Eric is improving every day," Brown said. "We’re looking closely at Eric. We’ve got some really, really hard decisions over the weekend about personnel. We’re deeper than we’ve ever been and we’ve got some guys who can play two or three deep in some spots."

Enard is just as hiccup-quick on the punt team, holding Vasher to one yard on his only return of the night.

"Eric’s one of those guys that we’re looking at for playing time," Brown said. "When you take that Sloan (Thomas), Roy and B. J. (Johnson) won’t be here next year, we’ve got to find some receivers to help us in the spring and some of those guys have to be ready to play this fall."

Selvin Young ran as tough as Benson tonight, and followed Enard’s big reception with a 13-yard burst from the 15. (Everyone, including Brown, thought he got in.) Even so, the first team D was handed an opportunity to show its mettle when faced with first-and-goal from the two. From there, LDE Austin Sendlein threw Selvin for a 5-yard loss and then Geiggar was credited with a PBU as Vince was looking for TE Neale Tweedie in the end zone. After G Lionel Garr was flagged for a false start, WLB Derrick Johnson chased down Vince after a 7-yard gain, setting up Dusty Mangum’s 22-yard FG.

Mock then directed a 12-play drive that led to David Pino’s 41-yard FG. On this possession, the focus was clearly on both play-action pass and the kind of rollout passing attack that was virtually impossible with Texas’ pure drop-back passers up to this point in Brown’s tenure. The highlight was Mock’s 17-yard completion to FB Will Matthews, who rumbled out of the backfield in a way that was reassuringly reminiscent of injured starter Ivan Williams.

"Will Matthews has really improved and we’ve seen some good things out of Albert Hardy," Brown said. "Brock Edwards is playing well. He’s a guy who can play tight end and can play H-back from the two tights and step back in motion and be fullback as well. He gives us a lot of flexibility in the formation. Our fullbacks have a chance to get the ball in their hands more than they have in the last few years."

SS Michael Huff picked off a Young pass intended for WR Brian Carter at the 15-yard line. Huff started 13 games last season, but injuries in both the spring and the first week if the preseason allowed Geiggar to emerge on the first team D.

PK Richmond McGee punted with the first team and averaged 33.5 yards on two boots. He looked stronger during kick offs, knocking one out of the end zone (if he could have done that in the last minutes of the first half against OU last year, Texas probably wins that game). P Taylor Landin averaged 32 yards on two punts after a 24-shank offset a nice 40-yard effort.

Pino later added a 39-yarder, while Mangum was wide right on an attempt from 47.

Landin and Mangum could still start against New Mexico State (over McGee and Pino), but Brown continues to push them by giving understudies every opportunity to unseat them.

"I’m really impressed with the two kickers," Brown said. "We’re pressing them and there’s a lot of competition there. Richmond McGee is kicking the ball really, really well."

OF NOTE:

With his 56-yard kickoff return to start the game, Geiggar has averaged 71 yards per return during the three scrimmages. (Special teams stats are typically padded against third-teamers and walk-ons, but Geiggar has emerged as an unexpected special teams weapon. Expect Geiggar to line up along side Selvin Young as Texas’ top return threats throughout the season.)

The best bone-crunch, teeth-rattling block of the evening (and there were many) belonged to sophomore TE David Thomas. The wood laid on LB Robert Killebrew was heard ‘round the stadium. The collision sent the freshman to the turf and, indicative of the coaches’ directive to "Finish", Thomas blocked Killebrew much to the delight of the couple of thousand on hand.

Freshman DB Aaron Ross has established himself as Vasher’s understudy as a punt returner. The future star should have many happy returns next season.

The first team offense completed three scrimmages without a turnover. "Knock on wood," Brown said.