OSU-UT: Horns Digest's Chip Brown's Insights

Horns Digest's Chip Brown offers his insight on the Longhorns as they make the trip to Stillwater for Saturday's showdown with the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Go Pokes and Horns Digest have done an exchange in preparation for Saturday’s Texas at Oklahoma State Big 12 Conference showdown. It is the opener in the league for the Longhorns and a key game to get back in the positive for what should be a topsy turvy conference race.for the Cowboys following a Big 12 opening loss at Baylor.

Robert Allen answered five questions and gave a prediction for the game to Horns Digest, and we have secured answers to our questions about Texas from one of the best big story breaking reporters in the Big 12 region and Texas beat reporter and Longhorn football expert Chip Brown of Horns Digest.

Here’s our questions and Chip Brown’s answers.

1. How close is the Texas offense in appearance to Baylor as Sterlin Gilbert is part of that Art Briles/Stephenville offense family?

The Texas offense is basically the Briles system. Sterlin Gilbert was a GA on offense at Houston under Briles before coaching in the high school ranks in Texas and then joining Dino Babers, a former Baylor assistant coach under Briles, at Eastern Illinois (where Gilbert was OC and QB coach to Jimmy Garrapolo) and Bowling Green. Gilbert was at Tulsa under Philip Montgomery last season. At each stop, the points per game has increased by an average of 12 points in Gilbert's first year running the offense.

After three games - against Notre Dame, UTEP and Cal -  Texas has gone from averaging 26.4 ppg last season to 44.7 ppg.

Just like Baylor's offense, the goal of what has been dubbed the G-Force Offense under Gilbert is to run the ball 60 percent of the time with physical, 240-pound (plus) RBs D'Onta Foreman (6.4 ypc) and Chris Warren III (5.0 ypc).

It seeks to accomplish that by having two receivers capable of getting deep lined up out at the number to spread the defense out (primarily John Burt, Armanti Foreman and former QB Jerrod Heard up to this point).

And then the QB reads the box at the snap. If it starts to fill up with seven or more defenders, QB Shane Buechele (7 TDs, 2 INTs) will pull the ball from the RB and throw a quick pass out wide or deep, depending on the defense's coverage.

2. How has the chemistry been with Shane Buechele being the every down starter and quarterback, Tyrone Swoopes serving as short yardage and score zone quarterback, and Jerrod Heard moving to wide receiver?

I'd say the use of Tyrone Swoopes at QB as a complement to early enrollee freshman starter Shane Buechele has been successful for the most part. Very similar to the way OSU used J.W. Walsh in addition to Mason Rudolph last season.

Swoopes scored both TDs  - on the ground - in OT in the win over Notre Dame. Against Cal, Buechele left the game for three series in the first half after taking a shot to the chest/ribs. And Swoopes led Texas to TDs on two of the three series.

But then, with Texas up 24-14 and looking for more, Swoopes threw a pass high to Collin Johnson that was intercepted with 11:51 left in the second quarter that led to a momentum-changing Cal TD.

After Buechele returned to the game and threw a perfect, 41-yard deep ball TD strike to Jacorey Warrick for a 31-21 lead, Buechele threw an INT on first down with 1:32 left in the half that Cal returned 45 yards to the Texas 24, setting up a Cal TD just before the half that put Cal up 35-33 at intermission.

The offense scored only 10 points in the second half as penalties helped kill four of UT's six second-half possessions. Penalties have been a problem for Texas this season - and really got the Horns in the Cal game.

Jerrod Heard has been a big-time playmaker and impact player on offense since moving from QB to WR and offers a Wildcat QB threat (featured once in the UTEP game for a 5-yard run).

3. How much will the loss of Kent Perkins mean to Texas' offensive line in the game?

Backup RG Alex Anderson was a pleasant surprise in place of Perkins when Perkins had to come out of the Notre Dame game with a knee injury. Backup center Jake McMillon, Ahmard-nosed former DT, could also get the nod. Coaches and teammates have confidence in both. So they do not expect much of a dropoff with Anderson or McMillon  in the game.

4. What is the Cliff Notes version of the defensive situation after the Cal loss and the open week?

While the Horns lead the Big 12 in sacks per game (3.67), the Texas defense has produced just one turnover this season (a recovered fumble) - zero INTs - and is on pace to give up a school record for points per game (34.7). All that after last year's defense set the school record for yards given up in a season. 

What set off the fan base and sent Strong to the microphones a week ago vowing to personally fix the defense were 18 plays of 11 yards or longer given up at Cal. 

Just when it looked like the defense was starting to put some things together with the emergence of pass rushers Breckyn Hager and Malcolm Roach against UTEP (at Strong's request), those two were nowhere to be found for all but the final minutes of the first half vs Cal, when the Texas D gave up 35 points.

With fans calling for the head of DC Vance Bedford, Strong said he had a come-to-you-know-who conversation with his defensive coaches and told them he was going to be involved at every level of the defense - game-planning, personnel and lots of input on play-calling.

"I needed to get involved," Strong said. "And we needed to have those meetings. It's about self-evaluation. I said, 'Check your egos at the door. Some guys are going to get your feelings hurt. But it is what it is, and we've got to get better.'"

Strong was asked if he thought about replacing Vance Bedford as the defensive play caller. "Right now, you're three games in, and I just didn't see how it would help us," Strong said. "If anything, I thought it would hurt us, because now you're going to take one guy away, and you're not going to have enough guys coaching."

Fans are wondering what took Strong so long to get more hands on. But a source told me Strong wanted Bedford "to get his fastball back after last season," because Strong knows Bedford can do the job. But the Cal loss forced Strong's hand.

"It's on me," Strong said. "I've coached defense. I know defense. I know how to stop people. And that's why it's on me also, not just our defensive staff.

"We're going to be get it fixed. I said we're going to get it fixed. And we're going to do that."

An offense coordinated by Sterlin Gilbert that has gone from 26.4 points per game to 44.7 ppg and a Charlie Strong defense? Texas fans have been waiting the past two seasons for that kind of combination. 

When asked Monday if Texas could win a wide-open Big 12, Strong said, "I told our team, 'Why not us?'" That kind of talk will ring hollow, however, if Strong doesn't get that D fixed against an OSU offense averaging 39.2 points per game and 340 yards per game through the air.

5. What is your prediction for the game?

Before the season, I thought this game was a loss for Texas, because I thought Oklahoma State would probably be improved from last year's 10-3 team.

But with OSU struggling, and Texas finding a QB (Buechele) and offense under Gilbert, I'm going to go against my initial hunch and say that Texas some how, some way, shows improvement on defense with Strong's influence, runs the ball effectively with Foreman and Warren, makes a few plays in the passing game and continues this ridiculous streak of eight straight wins in Stillwater. I'll say ... Texas 41 ... Oklahoma State 38.

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