Texas' Best Defense? The Defense Rests.
Can Texas get the yards on the ground it needs?
Can Texas get the yards on the ground it needs?
Lead Writer
Posted Oct 28, 2008
Bill Frisbie


Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp unveiled his Texas Tech game plan to his troops just before sun-up Tuesday. But the Longhorns' best defense Saturday against the high-flying Red Raiders may rely more heavily on what offensive coordinator Greg Davis has up his sleeve.

Once again, the Horns will try to keep QB Graham Harrell sidelined with a clock-churning, ball-control scheme. It's certainly a tactic Texas has adopted while posting five straight wins in the series. These days, however, there is some question if Texas' running game is consistent enough to run some clock when it needs to. A rushing offense that showed signs of life against Colorado and Oklahoma managed just 117 yards against Oklahoma State. Most glaring, Texas failed to score during two trips inside the 10-yard line and could not pound the ball when the game was on the line.

As it stands, the Burnt Orange is averaging a serviceable 183.4 rushing ypg (NCAA No. 32).

"I'm still not pleased with where it (running game) is at after eight games," Davis told Inside Texas. "The first thing you think of, in terms of time-of-possession, is a team running the ball and keeping it away."

Texas ranks No. 3 nationally in time of possession, holding the ball 33:22 per game. That's because Texas has found a way to move the chains even with a sputtering ground game. The Horns rank third nationally in third-down efficiency, converting at a rate of 80.7 percent.

"You can keep it away in a couple of different ways," Davis continued. "What you have to do, to keep it away, is make first downs. Obviously, you have to stay on the field. You'd like for the running game to be a part of that. At the same time, a lot of the throws we're making are considered to be runs in our offense."

Most notably, all those hitches and flares to WR Quan Cosby count as a 'run' in Davis' book.

"When we've flipped the ball out to him in a run-pass option," Davis noted, "he's not been stopped for less than four yards this year. He gets on the edge of the DB and knifes forward. It allows us to treat that like a run."

A team bereft of a RB cut in the caliber of a Cedric Benson or a Jamaal Charles, Texas will almost certainly -- and methodically -- move down field with possession receivers like Cosby and hope that Chris Ogbonnaya can regain the form he showed against OU and Colorado.

The only time this season Tech has been taken down to the wire was its October 11 overtime win against Nebraska. Last year, the Horns robbed the Raiders of a series by recovering a pooch kick during the 59-43 verdict. It held Tech to 58 plays in a game that still resembled basketball-on-grass.

Speedy RB Fozzy Whittaker could give Texas a shot in the arm Saturday. The RS-freshman has 92 yards on 16 totes (6.6 ypc), but knee injuries have limited Whittaker to cameo appearances against UTEP and Missouri. He was cleared to play against Oklahoma State, Davis acknowledged, but Ogbonnaya and Vondrell McGee kept him sidelined because of their experience at picking up blitzes.

In fact, Davis attributes much of Texas' shortcomings in the running game to blitz-happy defenses. It was enough for Davis to ask Muschamp this week why he thought opponents continue to bring more blitz packages against Texas than they have typically shown in previous ballgames.

"It allows you to attack every gap in the zone," Muschamp replied. "If it happens to be a run, you've attacked every gap. Also, if you sit in a zone, you have to assume (QB) Colt (McCoy) is going to hit his passes based on the numbers."

Indeed, McCoy is completing right at 82 percent of his passes through eight games. It's enough to keep the likes of Harrell and All-American WR Michael Crabtree sidelined for, say, at least 33 minutes and 22 seconds?

We'll find out on Saturday.


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