Applewhite Discusses 'Horn O, Sooner D

While Texas's defense has borne the brunt of the criticism from the last couple Red River Shootouts, it's no secret that the offense hasn't performed up to expectations.

That's something that Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite would like to change this year.

"Looking at these games in the past with turnovers, we have to protect the football, we have to be efficient in the run game, we have to make plays outside in one-on-one situations when they present themselves," Applewhite said. "You have to understand this type of ballgame. It can be an up-and-down game. Teams can hold leads; I've been in them, coached them. You just have to weather the storm at times and the momentum flows up and down quite a bit, so all of those things are important for us."

Weathering the storm — or responding to bad (figuratively) weather — has been a sore point of the Longhorn offense in the Cotton Bowl of late. Not only has the offense struggled with turnovers, it has also failed to score when Texas has needed a strong-spined response.

And, just to add more difficulty to the equation, Applewhite will call plays for the first time in a Red River game with an added disadvantage … the absence of starting quarterback David Ash with symptoms of a head injury. That means that, for the third time in six games this season, Applewhite's offense will trot out with Case McCoy as the starter.

So far, McCoy has been something of a mixed bag. He's been able to avoid the momentum-crushing turnover, but the offense has bogged down at times and hasn't been nearly as explosive as it was with Ash.

"I'm comfortable with Case throwing the football," Applewhite said. "Looking back on the other night [against Iowa State], we wanted to do a little bit more on the run game in the second half. There was some times when we called some things, and didn't have success for whatever reason, whether we're throwing tags outside or whether we're missing people up front. We got away from it a little soon. In terms of winning the game, that was obviously our goal, but we're not going to sit and dwell on it too much. It's time to get ready for the next one."

One player that Longhorn fans would like to see ready is true freshman Tyrone Swoopes. The Texas coaches talked about him possibly having a chance to play against Iowa State, but — despite warming up mid-game — Swoopes stayed on the bench.

"I think he's handling it well," Applewhite said. "He's coming in preparing, taking time on his own to come in and watch tape to make sure he is prepared and ready to go. The one thing you can never be prepared for is your first snap, in terms of the speed and the way things are going to accelerate once that ball is snapped. He has done a great job in practice learning. The speed of the game is something he continues to do a better job each and every day at practice."

But can he handle the speed, and atmosphere of a Red River matchup for his first college football game?

"We'll find out," Applewhite said. "We'll find out."

Texas will have more healed versions of Mike Davis and Daje Johnson for Saturday's game, and offensive tackle Josh Cochran is expected to be back as well. That means that the offense, sans the quarterback position of course, could be as healthy as it has been in several weeks.

They'll need that health against an Oklahoma defense that is built on speed.

"I think even more so this year with them playing with three down linemen and putting four 'backers in the game and allowing more speed to be on the field," Applewhite said. "It shows up a lot more. We get a lot more different looks, a lot more looks with the overhangs that you have with those outside backers.

"Oh they are a great defense. Coach [Bob and Mike] Stoops has never put a bad defense out there, neither of them," Applewhite said. "They do a great job in all of their packages. You've seen them play in three-man fronts most of the time, some four-man fronts. They mixed it up a couple of years ago, and played both quite a bit in the game, you always have to be prepared for that. They do a great job outside in the secondary. Their secondary is very aggressive, but also very sound. And then up front, they do a good job with their defensive line, their ends in terms of creating a pass rush. It's just a typical OU defense, very solid."

But Saturday's game represents anything but a typical OU game. The Sooners are favored by around two touchdowns, and that's a huge difference, even if you're just accounting for the on-field product and not any potential domino effects in the athletics department.

"I think it's all on the line, when you play Oklahoma, every year," Applewhite said. "I don't think these kids or coaches or anybody else feel any differently. It's the Oklahoma game, it's what you come to Texas to play for, same thing on the other side. It's extremely important. It's bragging rights. It's what you get to talk about when you're old and retired."

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