What Can Brown (and Bergeron) Do For You?

By now, we've all heard the Texas talking point that the Longhorns want to be two-deep at every position. But at running back in 2011, that wasn't truly enough.

At running back, the Longhorns started off with incumbent Fozzy Whittaker, but it soon became apparent that the Horns had strength in two freshmen, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. As Brown and Bergeron emerged, the Longhorns fired off to an excellent start. And when they both went down with injuries, the Texas running game stuttered and the Longhorns spasmed to the finish.

Just how big was their impact? First, we're going to take a look at the eight games when either Brown or Bergeron were healthy.

TEAM Team Rushing Brown and Bergeron Rushing Result
Rice 48 carries, 229 yards, 4.8 yards per carry 22-112-5.1 W

BYU 43-166-3.9 14-68-4.9 W
UCLA 50-284-5.7 27-146-5.4 W
Iowa State 40-145-3.6 19-91-4.8 W
Oklahoma 45-36-0.8 20-51-2.6 L
Oklahoma State 49-231-4.7 19-135-7.1 L
Kansas 72-441-6.1 41-255-6.2 W
Texas Tech 54-439-8.1 29-191-6.6 W
TOTALS 401-1,971-4.9 191-1,049-5.5 6-2
AVERAGES 50.1-246.4-4.9 23.9-131.1-5.5 .75 (win %)

And now, for the five games following Bergeron's injury, when Texas didn't have access to either back fully healthy:

TEAM Team Rushing Brown and Bergeron Rushing Result
Missouri 76-29-2.6 N/A (didn't play) L

Kansas State 42-191-4.5, 20-73-3.7 L
Texas A&M 37-86-2.3 17-39-2.3 W
Baylor 45-201-4.5 N/A L
California 35-109-3.1 16-44-2.8 W
TOTALS 188-663-3.5 53-156-2.9 2-3
AVERAGES 37.6-132.6-3.5 10.6-31.2-2.9* .400 (win %)

* Since the point is to show how much the players not being healthy had an effect on the team, the average is taken from all five games, despite the fact that Brown or Bergeron only played in three of those five. In those three games, they combined to average 17.7 carries per contest, for 52 yards per game. But them combining for zero carries for zero yards against Missouri and Baylor is relevant to the lack of running games in those contests.

First off, it's important to note the obvious: that Texas is much better with Brown and Bergeron playing, and playing healthy. The Longhorns were 8-3 when either Brown or Bergeron received a carry, and 0-2 in the two games they missed. The three losses came to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, three teams that won double-digit games a year ago, and that combined to win 32 contests between them.

Then there are the averages. Texas, as a team, averaged 114 more yards per game when at least one of the two backs were healthy. The Longhorns also averaged 4.9 yards per carry, as opposed to the 3.5 they did when both backs were injured. And Texas averaged 34 points per game over the first eight contests … and just 18 per game afterward.

There is also a quality of competition argument to be made here. Texas faced six defenses ranked in the top-50 nationally against the run. And four of those came in the final five games: Texas A&M, Missouri, Kansas State and California. At the same time, just two of the top-50 run defenses appeared on the early slate (BYU, Oklahoma).

But it's also worth noting that BYU was the second-best run defense that Texas faced (to Texas A&M), and Malcolm Brown averaged 4.9 yards per carry against the Cougars, and that was before the Longhorns truly hit their stride as a running team.

And then there's this: the Longhorns' top running game post-injury was the Baylor game where Texas rushed for 201 yards at 4.5 yards per pop. But Baylor was one of the worst run defenses Texas played, and yet the Longhorns still fell short of their average performance (246.4 yards, 4.9 yards per carry) when Brown or Bergeron were healthy. In fact, the Baylor performance, had it happened in the first period, would have ranked as the sixth-best yards-per-carry performance.

Obviously, it also hurt Texas that Whittaker went down in the Missouri game, leaving Texas without any of its top three running backs healthy. But Whittaker began to hit his stride when Brown emerged as the primary running back. And while having Whittaker would have helped overall, he is another variable to the equation, and a link that doesn't necessarily have to be made.

Of course, all of this is stat-speak for what we all know to be true: that Texas was a better team in 2011 when it had its best running backs ready to roll. Hopefully in 2012, that's the case all-year-round.

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