Game Observations

Welcome to the party, Fozzy... (TSP)

Another curious fake, a linebacker standing above the rest, stats that don't line up, a new starting running back (should be, anyway) and more. Inside Texas' Ross Lucksinger gives his observations from the Longhorns' win over UTEP.

42-13. Hard to complain about a game with a score like that, right?

But while the score certainly appears great, a look at the stats tells another story. The Miners out-gained the Horns in total yardage, put up 145 yards on the ground, had 14 more minutes of possession and held Texas to 122 yards rushing (this is a team that gave up 263 rushing yards to Buffalo).

But even with all of those ugly statistics, the Horns still came away with a blowout win. It's a duality that's been present in both of Texas' games this season. Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith threw for 253 yards against the Longhorns and had his share of success against UT's young safeties, yet FAU only managed 10 points.

There are problems between the end zones that could end up biting the Longhorns down the line, but for now Texas has been keeping the point totals comfortably down.

On to the observations...

Game Observations

-There are a number of reasons for the split between total points given up and total yards given up, but one is the nature of the mistakes on defense. Both Florida Atlantic and UTEP managed several big plays because of breakdowns in the secondary, but it's much tougher for a young safety to get beat deep because of a mental mistake when there's no deep to get beaten in. Closer to the goal line, the performance of the front seven becomes even more important as there's less room for the offense to work with. Texas' linebackers and defensive line have stepped up in the red zone and kept opponents out of the endzone and even the defensive backs, with a shorter field to work with, have made some plays.

Of course, UTEP's one touchdown still came on a secondary breakdown in the red zone. But after the game, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp blamed himself.

"That was a poor third down call on my part on the score," said Muschamp.

But naturally, that's on the players, too. Even if you call a safety blitz in the wrong spot, the player has still got to get there. Freshman safety Blake Gideon came in on a blitz but got hung up at the line and UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe managed to throw the ball into the gap vacated by Gideon. That gap should have been filled by redshirt freshman safety Earl Thomas, who ended up getting beat on the play.

It wasn't the best defensive call (sending a safety blitz one play after a zero blitz gives the defense an opportunity to adjust), but it still put the players in a position to stop the Miners if the play is properly executed. Such is the nature of having young defensive backs, but it's early in the season and they've still got an opportunity to learn and improve.

-Roddrick Muckelroy is Texas' best linebacker and it doesn't look close. I even made this note before his 26-yard TD return off a fumble forced by Sam Acho. Muckelroy ended the game with a team-leading 14 tackles and looked like he was everywhere.

Rashad Bobino has experience and ability to read the play. Sergio Kindle has incredible raw athleticism. Jared Norton can deliver crushing blows. But Muckelroy looks like the total package and has been playing much more consistently than any of the other linebackers ever since he first set foot on the field for Texas.

-The Sun Bowl had some of the best in-stadium music I've heard at a game. Metallica's Enter Sandman, Sweet Child O' Mine by Guns N' Roses and more great tracks. Big ups to whomever was running stadium presentation. In general the game was well presented. The fireworks were timed well, the stadium -- though old -- was taken care of and UTEP came out to one of the more interesting entrances in college football. One of the stadium gates in the stands is converted to look like the opening to a mine shaft. Since the stadium itself is built into the mountain, it looks like the players are literally coming out of the mountain when they enter, led by head coach Mike Price wielding a large pickax. It's also a treat for the fans to have the team enter through the crowd. All-in-all a well put together event.

-In the opener, Vondrell McGee was Texas' starting running back. Against UTEP, Chris Ogbonnaya came out onto the field first. Against Arkansas, Texas needs to start its third different running back in three games. Foswhitt Whittaker, getting onto the field for the first time as a Longhorn, was far and away Texas' most effective runner Saturday night. Whittaker ran for 72 yards on 12 carries (6.0 ypc average) and showed a degree of explosiveness. McGee is a solid, consistent runner, but Texas needs to give Whittaker an opportunity to show what he can do. I'm not certain yet he's the explosive running threat Texas is looking for because we only got a taste of him on Saturday, but he's got a chance to be very dangerous.

-Eddie Jones needs to play more. A lot more. It seemed every time Jones came into the game he was in the middle of the action. He snuffed out a reverse, followed the ball well and delivered some big hits.

-I guess throwing a million flat-footed wide receiver screens can pay off because the defense will bite down hard if you ever fake it. I know if I was a defensive back and I saw Colt McCoy turn to his left or his right I would come barreling down on the receiver who is standing still, waiting for the ball. With 13 and a half minutes to go in the game, that receiver was Brandon Collins, but the ball didn't go to Collins. McCoy faked the screen and hit Jordan Shipley running down the sideline for an astoundingly wide open 15-yard touchdown. As we discussed last week, fakes that you've been setting up for are wasted if used on an opponent like UTEP or Florida Atlantic, but still, it was a perfectly executed play that fooled everybody in the building.

-Texas has apparently found somebody that can run the clock out in the fourth quarter and that somebody is Cody Johnson. Along with serving as Texas' goal line running back, the 255-pound Johnson has gotten the ball in the fourth quarter of both the win over Florida Atlantic and the win over UTEP. Primarily it's been because he's the backup tailback who works with the 'Storm' offense (assuming that's what Texas is still calling the John Chiles-led unit), but he's shown that if the Longhorns have the lead on a tough opponent this season, they should just give the ball to the big man.

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