Through five games, the 2008 Longhorns are displaying what could be described as a methodical intensity. Whatever it is, it was sorely missing during last year's roller coaster campaign.
"It's an approach we have this year and it's the leadership we have now," said DE Brian Orakpo. "Guys are taking it game-by-game. We could have easily fallen into the 'OU trap' and worried about what's going to go down in Dallas next weekend. We took care of business. We came here with a game plan and executed to perfection."
The plan will increasingly call for Chris Ogbonnaya if Saturday's outcome is an indication. The senior accounted for 187 total yards, including 71 rushing on nine carries, and left his mark on the school record book.
"We've known what Chris could do," Texas coach Mack Brown said, "and that's why we felt like we didn't need to look at him a lot in the non-conference schedule. We'd seen him for four years."
It's just that fans had never seen him like this. Ogbonnaya's 116 receiving yards (on six catches) are the second-most in a game by a Texas RB and the most since Eric Metcalf racked-up 120 air-mailed yards against Rice 23 years ago. His 65-yard TD reception on Texas' opening drive was a career-best and set the tone early. His 51-yard run in the third quarter wrestled the momentum back to the Texas sideline following Colorado's first TD drive. All told, Ogbonnaya set single-game career highs for carries and yards; his 111 receiving yards in the first half are the most in program history by a Texas RB.
Not bad for a third-down back. In fact, Ogbonnaya is often the brunt of good-natured ribbing from speedier teammates.
"A lot of the guys are still making fun of me," Ogbonnaya said. "As long as we win, I really don't care about numbers. As a senior, you don't know how many (wins) you have left. To have the opportunity to come in here and win was big for us."
Ogbonnaya overshadowed another solid outing from QB Colt McCoy. Despite two INTs, the junior was 23-of-30 passing for 262 yards and two TDs. He also netted 39 yards on 11 carries. McCoy now moves into fourth-place on Texas' all-time passing list (7,153), moving ahead of Chris Simms.
The 236 points Texas has scored through its first five outings is the most since 1915. Conversely, Folsom Field might as well have been Folsom Prison for a CU running game confined to just 49 yards on 28 carries. Uber-recruit Darrell Scott was knocked out the game (ankle) after gaining four yards on two totes.
"We wanted to hold the edges as best we could," said Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. "We did a good job of maintaining our gap control. We made them play north-to-south. When the play bounces out, we made tackles in the open field. We got sloppy there late but, for the most part, we did pretty good."
Texas' defensive front is crushing the pocket like an empty can of Coors. The group accounted for three sacks, eight PBUs, five TFLs and two fumble recoveries. Texas surrendered 217 yards through the air but hunkered down in holding CU to 7-of-17 on third-down conversions.
"We got after it," said Orakpo. "Guys were all over the ball. They were throwing the ball real fast, but we put our hands up and deflected a lot of balls. They were moving the pocket and we were doing the best we could to stay outside. The defensive line played a tremendous game."
The Horns opened on their own 31 after the defense forced a three-and-out on CU's opening series. McCoy continues to pad his resume; his scrambling flip of the ball to Ogbonnaya led to a disputed 65-yard scoring jaunt down the left sideline. (Colorado coaches insisted the play was an illegal forward pass). It'll go down in the record books as the second longest TD pass of McCoy's career.
"He was my last check-down," McCoy said. "They were blitzing a lot."
The three-play drive spotted Texas a 7-0 lead with just 1:43 eclipsed from the opening frame.
CU's Josh Smith fielded the kickoff deep in his end zone, leisurely strolled to the goal line and appeared to have broken the plain just as he was tackled. The play was reviewed, and stood as called, after officials ruled a touchback, The Buffs reached the Texas 19 on the heels of Scotty McKnight's 38-yard option-pass, but Aric Goodman's 36-yard FG attempt sailed wide right.
The McCoy-to-Ogbonnaya highlight reel resumed on Texas' next series. McCoy overcame a seven-yard sack with his 23-yard shovel pass pass to the senior RB. Operating with empty set at the CU 32, McCoy's left sideline rollout to Jordan Shipley was good for 16 yards. The two hooked-up again on the next snap: this time McCoy scrambled right as Shipley adjusted his route. The result was another of those patented leaping grabs where Shipley manages to get one foot down in the back of the end zone. That made it a 14-0 ballgame at the end of the 10-play, 80-yard march.
Christian Scott was whistled for a late hit following a 29-yard KO return, putting the Buffs in prime real estate at their own 45. But linebackers Sergio Kindle and Jared Norton tag-teamed QB Cody Hawkins for an eight-yard loss, dooming the CU series.
McCoy suffered just his second INT of the season when LCB Cha'pelle Brown stepped in front of his ball intended for Quan Cosby and raced 57 yards down the right sideline.
"I made a good read and put myself in the right place at the right time," said Brown, following his first career pick. "There was nothing but green in front of me, but Texas is fast. One guy had the angle on me and closed quick."
The 'one guy' was Ogbonnaya, corralling the Buff at the Texas 16. An offensive holding penalty just before WLB Roddrick Muckelroy's PBU, forced a 43-yard FG attempt. Again, the Buffaloes came away empty after Goodman's kick hit the left upright.
Colorado reached the Texas 39 on its next series, courtesy of a a 26-yard shovel pass to TB Demetrius Sumler. Norton wasn't fooled on a 2nd-and-12 throwback pass to the TE, breaking up the Hawkins attempt. Texas' relentless pass rush forced Hawkins to throw his third-down ball out of the back of the end zone, setting up yet a 44-yard FG try.
"Every opportunity we go on the field," defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said, "is an opportunity for greatness."
When Goodman missed his third straight FG attempt, the student section greeted the hero of CU's upset over West Virginia with a steady chorus of boos and tossed T-shirts. Following a Longhorn punt, Roy Miller swatted away Hawkins' pass on 3rd-and-five from the CU 20 (More yellow shirts from the stands).
Texas' offense needed a shot in the arm. The unit totaled 184 yards in the opening frame but netted just 16 yards through most of the second quarter. Once again, the lift came from Ogbonnaya. He got things started with a 16 yard catch-and-run to the Texas 48. McCoy's seven-yard dart to Ogbonnaya set up 2nd-and-three at the 23. Then, on 2nd-and-four from the 13, Ogbonnaya careened around left end and, breaking two tackles, hit pay dirt following the grittiest run of his career. Now, it was raining yellow shirts following the eight-play, 66-yard drive to make it a 21-0 contest with 64 ticks left until intermission.
"We keep seeing things in practice that Chris is doing in the running game," offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. "We needed a little spark and he came up huge. He ran the ball well and he caught the ball well. He made runs after the catch."
Texas converted three third-downs on its opening series of the second half, but a seven-yard sack, followed by a six-yard loss on a dump-off to Ogbonnaya, forced a John Gold punt. Yet, the series kept CU's defense on the field for six minutes and flipped the field after the home team took over on its own 18. A blitzing Norton blew up the second play of the Colorado drive, forcing a fumble that DT Roy Miller recovered at the Colorado 18. McCoy connected with WR Dan Buckner for 10 yards before Johnson burrowed across from the two to extend the lead to 28-0, following a four-play drive.
Josh Smith's 46-yard KO return from four yards deep put the Buffs in prime real estate. But DE Brian Orakpo was credited with his team's fourth PBU of the night to thwart the Buffalo threat.
Brown collected his second INT on the tip-drill theft off the hands of TE Peter Ullman. Scrimmaging from the Texas 27, the Buffs moved the sticks on 4th-and-10 with Smith's 17-yard reception. Colorado cracked the scoreboard with FB Jake Behren's seven-yard TD grab with 3:58 remaining in the third quarter.
Texas quickly answered with a four-play, 71-yard drive. The highlight was Ogbonnaya's 51-yard burst around right end to the Colorado 20. McCoy scrambled for 16 before Johnson carried the ball, and at least four CU defenders, into the promised land. It was a 35-7 runaway with little more than two minutes remaining in the quarter. RCB Ryan Palmer's 14-yard sack on the frame's last play prompted a steady exodus from the Colorado student section.
Hunter Lawrence was true from 46 yards for the night's first -- and only -- FG. That made it 38-7 at the 10:35 mark as both starting QBs were done for the night.
Texas coaches said this week that the nation's fifth-ranked team could use some mettle-testing adversity. That should come next week at the Cotton Bowl. Texas' dink-and-dunk passing game was coolly efficient against Colorado's bend-don't-break, two-deep zone; the Horns will likely have to try to stretch the field against a faster, fiercer Sooner defense. But the question of the day is simply this: does Texas have the running game to hang with OU?
RS-freshman Cody Johnson earned his first start at RB (27 yards on 11 carries, including two TDs) while RS-freshman Fozzy Whittaker missed his fourth game this season (knee). All told, Texas ran for 169 yards, but Ogbonnaya had a hand -- and feet -- in most of it. Can Ogbonnaya give Texas' ground game the punch it has lacked?
"We're going to have a great offensive game plan," was Ogbonnaya's diplomatic response. "The coaches do a great job of giving us the opportunity to execute the game plan, and it's on us to do it. We're going to practice hard this week, and we'll see what happens on Saturday."