I’d have to go back and chart the game film but it was very apparent that Rice felt like its offense could attack the Longhorns up the middle, and that’s exactly what they did.
A hefty portion of Rice’s 228 yards on the ground – on 58 attempts – came up the middle.
“We got to take it personally,” UT defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway said. “When they run at us, it's a statement saying we can't defend it and that's pride getting tucked. They are pointing at us and we got to stop that.”
For the record, I asked Ridgeway after the game if he was 100 percent healthy and he said he was. He was having some back issues at the beginning of fall camp, which is why he missed some time and has subsequently been placed on the second team.
You have to give a lot of credit to the elusiveness of Rice QB Driphus Jackson. There were a handful of times where the Longhorns appeared to have him stopped in the backfield for a loss but he somehow managed to elude UT’s grasp.
“When we watched the film, we had last year's tape, the guy is pretty nifty, coach said it himself,” Duke Thomas said. “He can really make plays extend and make plays in the back end. So we just had to corral and make sure we get the guy down.”
Except, that proved to be far too difficult at times.
“Well, it allowed them to run the football and we missed so many tackles,” Charlie Strong said. “I told Vance [Bedford] during the game, I said, I guarantee you, I said we have 20 missed tackles or more. And sacks, God almighty, what did we miss, about 10 sacks? And that's where you get your negative yardage from. And then we just we had to do a better job and just get off the field and third down.”
Poona Ford made a really nice play on a short third down in the third quarter, which forced a punt. But plays like that were made way less often than Brick Haley would like.
This leads me to my next point…
LONGHORNS GOOD ENOUGH TO PLAY NICKEL?
Ask yourself the question and really think about it for a bit.
Texas isn’t getting much push at all up front from its interior defensive linemen. Rice gashed the Horns up the middle all night.
So why not give those guys another body up front close to the line of scrimmage to help alleviate some of that pressure? It makes some sense.
Thomas says being successful out of this package all depends on reading your keys.
“It's basically reading our keys, and the 3-3-5 has always been a part of our defense,” he said. “But to answer your question, it's about reading your keys and reading the pass. The o-line will tell you what's going on anyway, so you just got to be able to corral the quarterback and make plays.”
HOW TEXAS MIGHT BE MORE SUCCESSFUL NOT PLAYING NICKEL
Get Edwin Freeman on the field a lot more.
Not only has he proven more than capable of shooting gaps and disrupting things at the line of scrimmage, but his time as a safety in high school should make him capable of handling the intermediate routes in the passing game.
Freeman had an underrated performance against the Irish but he put everybody on notice with his effort against Rice.
His best play came when he shot a gap, caught a Rice ball carrier in the backfield and caused a fumble, which UT recovered.
The coaches actually slotted him next to Malik Jefferson in the third quarter, and Rice didn’t get much going.
He needs to see the field a lot more.