There's only one statistic Will Muschamp is concerned about.
“Points. That's how we judge games. That's all I'm worried about,” said the Texas defensive coordinator.
Points certainly weren't a problem for the Longhorns Saturday night as Texas rolled the Miners of UTEP, 42-13. But despite the sizable difference in score, UTEP (0-2) actually gained more total yardage than Texas (2-0) in the game, churning up 412 yards of real estate to the Horns' 404.
Of course, senior cornerback Ryan Palmer wasn't concern either and also dismissed the notion that the defense wasn't successful on Saturday, saying, as his coordinator did, that points are what matter.
“A lot of teams go into that spread and you're going to give up yards, but the main thing is you don't want to give up a lot of points. We gave up 10 last week and 13 this week, so I think we're playing good football,” said Palmer.
The UTEP spread passing attack is run by sophomore Trevor Vittatoe, who completed 25 of 46 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown. However, it was the Miner rushing attack that provided the most problems for Texas. The Longhorns were without starting defensive tackle Lamarr Houston on Saturday and DT is one of the thinnest positions, experience-wise, on the Texas roster. Regardless of whether or not Houston's absence had a major affect, it certainly didn't help as the UTEP offensive line opened holes again and again for senior Terrell Jackson, who rushed for a career-high 94 yards on 17 carries.
In total, UTEP rushed for 145 yards compared to the Horns' 122, which is one of the main reasons the Miners led in time of possession by over 14 minutes.
The top rusher for the Longhorns was redshirt freshman Foswhitt Whittaker, who made his Texas debut on Saturday after sitting out of the opener with a knee bruise.
“It was an exciting feeling. I actually told the O-linemen, 'Man, I'm so excited to be out here and play with you all and to help the Longhorns get another win,'” said Whittaker. “I was a great experience.”
The speedy Whittaker was by far the Horns' most effective back, running for 72 yards on twelve carries. The next closest was Vondrell McGee, who put up 18 yards on six totes.
But for all the statistical advantages, mostly on the ground, that UTEP held in the game, Texas outscored the home team by a wide margin primarily because of four touchdowns through the air from Colt McCoy. The junior quarterback was sharp for most of the night, completing 20 of 29 passes for 282 yards. His one rough patch, which in turn became a rough patch for the entire offense, was in the third quarter.
Texas had turned around an early 6-0 UTEP lead and put up four consecutive touchdowns to take a 28-6 lead of its own as the first half was coming to a close. But right before the end of the second quarter, Vittatoe led the Miners on an eight-play, 76-yard drive and nailed a 12-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Tufick Shadrawy to narrow the gap to 28-13 heading into the half.
Needless to say, Muschamp was not pleased.
“I'm disappointed in the ending drive of the first half. That's two weeks in a row that's happened and we've got to show a lot more urgency in those situations,” said Muschamp.
Florida Atlantic also scored on a big pass play right before halftime in the Horns' season-opener a week ago. But it would be of little concern to the Longhorns if they came out guns blazin' in the second half like they did against FAU.
Turns out, that wasn't the case this week.
The Horns entered the third quarter up 28-13 and left the third quarter...up 28-13. The defense had done its part to keep UTEP out of the end zone, but the offense had sputtered. In the third quarter by itself, McCoy was 5-of-12 for 80 yards, no touchdowns and an interception (in endzone, no less). The other three quarters? A scary accurate 15-of-17 for 202 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
“We got behind on ourselves, got into a bunch of third and longs,” said McCoy. “(The Miners) were fired up. They scored going into halftime, they got the fans back into the game and that's tough going into the third quarter. We fought through it, put some points on the board in the fourth quarter and took care of business.”
McCoy's main target on Saturday was senior receiver Quan Cosby, who put in a monster performance, catching eight passes for 154 yards and adding another 90 in return yards, 74 of them on a missed field goal return that set up Texas' third touchdown on the night (Cosby also managed to moved up to fifth on Texas' all-time receptions list and eighth on the all-time receiving yards list thanks to the career night).
Cosby, who is often McCoy's go-to-guy when the pocket breaks down, said he had his opportunities by finding his way into spaces vacated by UTEP blitzers.
“I think it was just a matter of working hard and knowing what to do in certain situations because they blitz a lot and Colt made some great passes,” said Cosby.
Over on the defensive side of the ball, the most valuable player for Texas is as easy a choice as the offensive MVP. Junior linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy posted a career-high 14 tackles, more than doubling the next closest (Texas safeties Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon each had six). Muckelroy also scored the final touchdown of the night on a 26-yard fumble return.
The score occurred when Jackson caught a pass in the flat and was tackled from behind by Texas defensive end Sam Acho. The hit forced a fumble and Muckelroy was there to pick it up. 'Muck' was nearly knocked out of bounds before he scored but managed to deftly tip-toe the sideline and squeeze into the endzone. The junior LB said he made use of some old moves to get the score.
“I used to play running back in high school, so it just took me back to my high school days and once I scooped the ball I saw the end zone and they weren't going to deny me,” said Muckelroy.
And the Horns weren't going to be denied either as they blew out the Miners. But as big of win as it was, there were plenty of mistakes made as UTEP managed to reel off several big plays against the Texas defense, both on the ground and through the air. But Muschamp, for one, isn't concerned.
“We all make mistakes, we certainly made our share tonight, but to give up 13 points, you're doing something good,” said Muchcamp.
Texas hopes to continue doing “something good” this coming Saturday when former Southwest Conference foe Arkansas comes to town. Kick-off at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium is set for 2:30 p.m.