#1 … Play with a fed-up focus
The Longhorns have to be sick and tired of failing to finish off games only lose in unfathomable fashion each of the past two weeks.
So the team needs to play with a fed-up focus on Saturday in Fort Worth. The Longhorns are a nearly three-TD underdog. They should be insulted and excited (for the opportunity) all at the same time.
Think back to the Texas-OU game in 2013, when the Sooners were double-digit favorites and thought they were going to be the pall bearers in the funeral of Mack Brown and the Longhorns.
Texas was 3-2 at that point in the season after being blown out by BYU on the road, firing defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, and then giving up a lead (of 9 points … 23-14) at home in a 44-23 loss to Ole Miss.
UT this season is 1-3 after being blown out on the road by Notre Dame, changing offensive play-calling from Shawn Watson to Jay Norvell, and giving up leads at home to Cal (10 pts … 24-14 2Q) and Oklahoma State (3 pts … 20-17 2Q and 27-24 3Q) before losing both games.
What did Texas do at the State Fair of Texas in 2013?
Came out and ran right at OU – for 255 yards in a 36-20 win that wasn’t even that close (UT was up 20-3 in the 2Q).
On Saturday in Fort Worth, this Texas team, a punch line nationally needs to play like its p*ssed off and sick and tired of being sick and tired.
#2 … Run right at TCU – between the tackles
The Longhorns have run the ball effectively this season with a lead blocker, so bring on the power running game in addition to its staple play – the zone read.
TCU’s defense is down six starters and has a converted safety playing at linebacker (No. 32 Travin Howard, who weighs 190).
The Horned Frogs always seem to have speed on defense, so don’t play to TCU’s strength by trying to run outside all the time.
This is a game Texas needs to get in the two-back set out of the shotgun with Johnathan Gray and Chris Warren and run zone read with one serving as the other’s lead blocker.
And I’d still like to see Daje Johnson in that two-back set, running some zone read with Jerrod Heard. Could be lethal.
But also mix in some counters and isolation plays in a heavy dose of power running.
Ironic that last year against TCU, I called for Texas to line up in four – and five-wides to thin out the box and have Tyrone Swoopes run a bunch of QB power, counter and draw.
Instead, Texas tried to run unsuccessfully (without a lead blocker), ended up in third-and-long all night and Swoopes turned it over five times (4 INTs, fumble) in a 48-10 shellacking.
I’m convinced Swoopes suffered a confidence loss in last year’s TCU game that I think resurfaced in the Arkansas and Notre Dame games.
This season, TCU has virtually no experience up the middle of its D with the exception of FS Derrick Kindred (No. 26), who is the vocal leader of that group.
So go right at the 190-pound LB and pound away inside.
#3 … Wrap up and get those Frogs on the ground
The Longhorns have to have a great tackling game. Forget shoulder tackles or trying to strip the ball instead of wrapping up.
Reach out, with both arms, grab a Frog and hug him to the ground as violently as possible.
TCU’s read-option offense is lethal because of the elusiveness of QB Trevone Boykin and RB Aaron Green.
Green is averaging 5.9 ypc with 6 rushing TDs. Boykin is averaging 4.1 ypc. But that’s deceiving, because in college they take sack yardage out of a QB’s run total.
Texas needs to build on last week’s defensive effort, when UT went from giving up an average of 241 yards rushing per game to holding Oklahoma State to 103 yards rushing on 46 carries (2.2 ypc).
Holding TCU to 100 yards rushing will be more of a challenge this week with the combination of Green and Boykin.
No one has held TCU under 200 yards rushing yet this season. (Minnesota came the closest at 203 yards.)
Holding opponents under 100 yards rushing needs to be the goal every week – no matter the opponent. But against TCU, holding the Frogs under 200 yards rushing (closer to 150) might be necessary for an upset bid.
#4 … Limit TCU star WR Josh Doctson … (and give Holton Hill the first crack)
Texas certainly wasn’t able to contain the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Doctson last year, when he had 7 catches for 115 yards and a TD in the Horned Frogs’ 48-10 Thanksgiving rout of the Horns.
And no one has been able to contain him so far this season:
* 8 catches for 74 yds, 1 TD in a 23-17 win at Minnesota
* 4 catches for 81 yds vs Stephen F. Austin (he barely played in a 70-7 rout)
* 5 catches for 171 yds, 2 TDs in a 56-37 win over SMU
* 18 catches for 267 yds, 3 TDs in a 55-52 escape from Lubbock over Tech
Doctson’s performance against Tech broke the school record for receiving yards in a game previously held by Jimmy Young (226 yards vs Wyoming in 2008).
It’s receivers like Doctson, who is able to high-point the ball against smaller corners (like Quandre Diggs last year), that inspired the Texas staff to recruit big corners like Holton Hill (6-foot-3) and DaVante Davis (6-foot-2).
So turn Hill loose on Doctson and see what happens. Hill made enough plays against Oklahoma State (pick-6, forced fumble somehow recovered by OSU and a pass breakup) to earn the right.
I’d put Hill in man coverage against Doctson with a safety over the top to start the game and see how it goes. If it’s working, consider having Hill man up against Doctson no matter where the TCU star lines up.
Anything to keep keep Boykin and Doctson from getting into a rhythm this week is a MUST.
#5 … Everyone has to make a play
If there was ever a game in which players shouldn’t be looking to other teammates to make a play – instead of themselves - it’s this one.
To win this one, against the No. 4 team in the country, get Texas some respectability and give Charlie Strong a signature victory, everyone in burnt orange has to be looking to make a game-changing play.
So even if Jerrod Heard breaks a long run for a TD (which I think can happen this week with him over last week’s stomach bug and TCU’s defense not feeling healthy) …
… Or Daje Johnson returns a punt for a TD (I have a funny feeling about that this week from the former TCU commit) …
… Or DT Hassan Ridgeway and NT Poona Ford come out on fire and clog up the running game (like they did last week) …
… Everyone else on offense, defense and special teams has to stay laser-focused on making a game-changing play themselves – while carrying out their assignments.
No one can be thinking someone else will step up.
Everyone has to take it upon themselves.
It’s going to take that kind of effort for these Longhorns to finally learn how to finish and pull off the upset in Fort Worth on Saturday.