On Saturday (11:00 A.M., FX), the #16 Texas Longhorns (6-2, 3- 2) invade Faurot Field to take on the Missouri Tigers (4-5, 2-4) in Big 12 Conference play. Texas is coming in on a two-game win streak, with a 43-0 blanking of Kansas, and a 52-20 win over Texas Tech last week. This is just the Longhorns' third true road game of the season, having won on the road at UCLA and at Iowa State earlier in the season.
Texas comes into Saturday's game at Missouri ranked 11th nationally in rushing offense, with an average of 246.38 yards/ game. The Longhorns also feature one of the top defenses in the nation, as they rank 15th nationally in total defense (310.75 yards/game), 9th in rushing defense (94.88 yards/game) and 11th in pass efficiency defense, with a rating of 108.26.
"Texas is doing an outstanding job of running the football," said Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel. "They're leading the league right now. We're a little bit behind them. There's a little bit of a contrast there, with all of the wide-open offense, and the quarterbacks, and the passing yards that we've had in this league, this year, and kind of traditionally, the last few years……………………………. (Texas) is also a great rushing defense."
Texas ranks seventh in the conference in scoring offense, at 34.4 points/game.
"(Texas) is running the football," said Coach Pinkel. "Their scheme is really, really good. It's outstanding! Their quarterback is very athletic. I'm very, very impressed with him. Their offensive line has gotten a lot better as the season has gone along. That's certainly very, very impressive. Their running backs are very talented."
After struggling a little offensively early in the season, the Longhorns have found their recipe for success by running the football. Their young offensive line is doing a good job in the running game, and freshman QB David Ash 6'3" 222 is running the football, and taking advantage of a powerful running game with play-action passing. Ash has modest passing numbers. He's completing 61.5% of his passes, for a passer efficiency rating of 120.32, and he's thrown 3 TD passes, against 5 interceptions, but is also averaging 11.4 yards/completion, and 7.0 yards/pass attempt.
Texas Head Coach Mack Brown talked about the direction of his team's offense.
"We're really working to be more balanced," said Coach Brown. "We're passing the ball much better in practice………………………………. We're going to have to be more balanced. We'll still be physical. We're still going to run the ball, because that's what we're doing best…………………………….. We've got to improve our passing game……………………………. We'd like to be at least 50-50, or 60-40, run to pass."
The Longhorns' powerful running game is spearheaded by their young, talented offensive line, and by a stable of elite-caliber running backs. In addition to the Longhorns' fifth-year senior fullback, Cody Johnson 5'11" 252, the Longhorns have four quality tailbacks from which to choose. Senior TB Fozzy Whittaker 5'10" 202 , and freshman Joe Bergeron 6'1" 235 are listed as co-starters this week, but the Longhorns' leading rusher this season is freshman Malcolm Brown 6'0" 217. Brown, who missed last week's game with an injury, is averaging 4.8 yards/carry, and 90 yards/game. Bergeron is a big, powerful back who is averaging 6.9 yards/carry. Since taking over the starting job two weeks ago, Bergeron has rushed for 327 yards, and 5 TDs, on 42 carries. He's a load!
"I do think right now that we've got three really effective backs that are helping us move the football and that are helping the offensive line, as well," said Coach Brown.
Whittaker, who is averaging 6 yards/carry, is another speedster. The elusive fifth-year senior, who is the Longhorns' third-leading receiver, has also been lining up at QB in the Wildcat/Fozzcat. Junior speedster D.J. Monroe 5'9" 175 has averaged just 3 carries/game, but he's gaining 7.9 yards/carry, and he's also a receiving threat.
Texas is loaded with elite-speed athletes at the wide-outs, but only two of their receivers have averaged more than 2 receptions/game. Sophomore Mike Davis 6'2" 188 is the Longhorns' deep threat, and has averaged 3.6 receptions/game, and 16.9 yards/reception. Freshman Jaxon Shipley 6'1" 190 has 4.7 receptions/game, and 13.3 yards/reception, but he sat out last week with an injury, and his availability for this week is in question. In his stead, junior WR DeSean Hales 5'11" 175 steps in. Junior Marquise Goodwin 5'9" 177 has elite track speed, and averages 10.1 yards/reception. But, he's had as many rushing attempts as receptions, and averages over 12 yards/carry.
Texas ranks second in the conference in scoring defense, surrendering 21.5 points/game.
"Defensively, they put a lot of pressure on," said Coach Pinkel. "They create a lot of problems and mismatches for you, in terms of who to block, and who not to block. Very, very impressive! I think they're a team that has improved week to week. Statistically, they're leading about three different areas in our league."
Those three different areas include rushing defense, total defense, and pass efficiency defense. Their base defense is a four-three-four, but they have versatile defensive ends and linebackers that allow them quite a bit of flexibility.
Texas is talented, and very deep, on the defensive side of the football. Senior WLB Emmanuel Acho 6'2" 245 leads the Longhorns with 73 total tackles, including 10 TFLs, 2 sacks, and 10 QB pressures. Fifth-year senior MLB Keenan Robinson 6'3" 240 has recorded 62 total tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 forced fumbles, and 7 QB hurries.
Junior Kenny Vaccaro 6'1" 215 and senior Blake Gideon 6'1" 205 are a pair of experienced and very productive safeties. And, sophomore Jackson Jeffcoat 6'5" 250 and junior Alex Okafor 6'4" 260 give the Longhorns a pair of next-level defensive ends. Okafor leads Texas with 5 sacks.
The Texas corners are young, but they have the ability to play on Sundays. Sophomore Carrington Byndom 6'0" 180 has garnered 38 total tackles, and has 11 PBUs, 1 INT, and a forced fumble. Freshman Quandre Diggs 5'10" 200 has 29 total tackles, 2 INTs, 9 PBUs, and 2 forced fumbles. Diggs has also averaged 16 yards/punt return.
These are some of the Longhorns' most productive players this season, but their parade of talent doesn't end here. Because of their depth of talent, they are able to substitute liberally. Most of their skill-position players are very young, but they're also extremely talented, next-level players.
"If you can run the ball, and stop the run, in college football, you've got a chance," said Coach Brown. "This (Missouri game) should be a real physical game, and a real fun game to watch."
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
500.00 [10th]___ Total Offense___ 437.13 [32nd]
244.89 [12th]___Rushing Offense__ 246.38 [11th]
22___________TDs Rushing__________ 22
255.11 [37th]___Passing Offense_ _ 190.75 [91st]
143.82 [34th]__ Passing Efficiency__ 133.94 [60th]
17___________TDs Passing___________ 9
34.89 [25th]____Scoring Offense___ 34.38 [28th]
417.44 [89th]___ Total Defense___ 310.75 [15th]
149.78 [60th]__ Rushing Defense____94.88 [9th]
15________ TDs Allowed Rushing_________ 7
267.67 [103rd]__Passing Defense__ 215.88 [51st]
135.89 [82nd]__ Pass Effic. Defense_ 108.26 [11th]
16________ TDs Allowed Passing_________ 8
26.67 [62nd]____Scoring Defense___ 21.50 [31st]
+0.22 [42nd]__ Turnover Margin____0.00 [60th]
11 / 6_ ______ Fumbles/Lost_______ 12 / 8
7_________ Interceptions Thrown_________ 7
8_________ Interceptions Gained_________ 7
19.34 [104th]__Kickoff Return Avg._ _ 25.48 [13th]
10.33 [37th]___ Punt Return Avg.____9.82 [40th]
38.70 [23rd]___ Net Punting Avg.___ 37.72 [40th]
2.00 [49th]_______Sacks By______1.88 [66th]
1.44 [32nd]____ Sacks Allowed____2.38 [T-85th]
29:24 [67th]___ Avg. Time of Poss.___ 34:43 [2nd]
37.8% [84th]_ __3rd Down Conv.__ 47.9% [22nd]
56.3% [45th]_ __4th Down Conv._ 50.0% [T-57th]