Oklahoma’s otherwise impregnable defense has intermittently exposed its Achilles Heel against mobile QBs who can air it out to gifted receivers (see Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and it took a fake FG to get past Missouri QB Brad Smith last season). Meanwhile, it was the long ball that proved fatal in Kansas State’s two losses in 2002 (against Texas and Colorado).
"Whenever you see that, you know that’s what you want to take advantage of," Johnson said. "If they can’t stop it, you gotta throw it."
Johnson would know. In last year’s gritty 17-14 win at K-State, Texas had just three explosives (runs of 12-plus yards and receptions of at least 16 yards) and all three went to B.J. It was his three receptions that set up all of Texas’ points.
"If you stop the run, which they (KSU) do every week, then you’ve got to make the plays deep to beat them," head coach Mack Brown said. "And we made them last year. If we missed those three plays, they beat us."
Those "three plays" went something like this: the Horns opened the scoring less than a minute into the second quarter when QB Chris Simms connected with Johnson from 39 yards out. Texas opened up a 14-6 lead halfway through the third quarter when Simms found Johnson over the middle for a 53-yard completion to the Wildcat 3-yard line that set up TE David Thomas’ TD grab. Finally, it was Johnson’s 32-yard reception to the KSU 17 that set up Dusty Mangum’s game winning FG.
"It was basically the same play," Johnson said. "It was a Go Route on each of them and I got an opportunity to take advantage with the mismatch that I had. I just made the plays. When you have a chance to make them, I made them."
Even a hobbled Williams warranted the undivided attention of All-American CB Terrance Newman.
"He was getting ready for the (NFL) draft," Williams said, "and maybe he wanted to put it in his (highlight) films that he was covering me."
The assignment put CB James Dunnigan against the relatively overlooked Johnson. When asked if Dunnigan was good enough to cover him, Johnson replied, "Most DBs aren’t."
QB Chance Mock is more than ready to air it out. In fact, listening to Mock, there are only two things can happen when you throw the ball long, and only one of them is bad.
"If you throw it deep and you throw the ball right, it’s either going to be out of bounds or you’re going to catch it," Mock said. "One of those two things are going to happen. So, it’s not dangerous as long as you’re smart. If it’s not there, just drop it to one of your backups."
Perhaps the reason why Mock did not mention the other bad thing -- an interception -- is because he has yet to see one in his collegiate career.
"The way we work going downfield is that there are always two underneath guys," Mock added. "If it’s not there down field, you just drop it to one of these other guys and get the high percentage throw."
Because all three Texas wins this season have been blowouts (and because of Texas‘ tendency to score so quickly against outgunned opponents), Williams' involvement has been somewhat limited. His 23 receptions through four games checks in at a very un-Heisman-like No. 42 in the nation. Yet, that’s all about to change. Games against KSU, OU and revitalized Nebraska should mean that Williams is still running routes late in the fourth quarter.
So, does Texas need to beat K-State with the deep ball in order to beat them?
"Our mentality as receivers is that we’ll beat you deep and we’ll beat you short," Johnson said. "It’s like last Saturday: Roy takes a hitch and then he spins and then facemasks another guy to get into the end zone so that’s what we believe we can do this year. We believe we’re going to try to take advantage of the one on one."
At the same time, it’s best not to devalue the small ball, Brown said.
"I thought, even against Arkansas, we got frustrated with a 4-yard gain," Brown said. "Our fans get that way, and I get that way, and the players get that way. We played good defense last year in the (KSU) game, so we were able to play a different offensive game. We were able to manage the game and not turn the ball over and play field position, and that’s not our style. But it worked in this game."
Bottom line: whatever works in this game, too.
"We just need to win, period," Johnson said.
INJURY UPDATE: RB Selvin Young returned to practice Wednesday after suffering a groin injury at Rice. FS Dakarai Pearson practiced Tuesday and Wednesday. The official injury report from UT trainers will be issued Thursday.
The feeling here is that LDE Bryan Pickryl is going to be in and out of the lineup all season. That’s why backup LDE Mike Williams rapid improvement has been a real positive. (DE was HUGE at Kansas State last season. While many pointed to Cory Redding’s fire-breathing contribution, the argument here is that Kalen Thornton dictated the tone of that nail biter as much as Redding and did an incredible job of run support in containing QB Ell Roberson and RB Darren Sproles).
Meanwhile, FB Ivan Williams could get more snaps the next couple of weeks than originally thought.
"I’m pleased that Ivan’s gotten a lot of work this week so maybe we can get him some playing time this weekend," Brown said. "Mike Williams also had a real good week. He’ll play a lot Saturday, so we’re looking forward to the game."