Get Back to What Was Working on Offense

The Longhorns will look to right their wrongs at home against Kansas at 7 p.m. CT on Nov. 7.

It's painfully obvious the biggest thing holding Texas back from making progress under Charlie Strong - from the day he arrived in Austin - is the offensive side of the ball.

The numbers scream it:

* Saturday's 24-0 loss at Iowa State marks the first time Texas has been shutout in back-to-back seasons since 1961-62.

* Texas is 9-1 when it scores first and 0-11 when the opponent scores first.

* The Longhorns are 0-10 when trailing  at halftime under Strong.

* Texas is utterly inept on offense in the third quarter the past two seasons - failing to score a touchdown in the third quarter in 17 of the 21 games played.  

* The Longhorns have failed to score ANY points in the third quarter in 12 of those 21 games and are averaging just 2.71 points per game in the third quarter the past two seasons.

So, at the two most critical times in a game - at start of the first half and start of the second half - when the Longhorns' offense needs to be at its best, it has been at its worst.

And then offensive play caller Jay Norvell discovers the identity of UT's offense - a perfectly suited power running game - with a strong assist from run-game coordinator Jeff Traylor. It powered the Longhorns' offense in victories over Oklahoma and Kansas State. And then, after some early success against Iowa State, it went away.


The most logical answer to that question is Strong has a West Coast passing game expert as his QB coach (Shawn Watson), who used to be the play caller.

Strong has another passing game expert calling the plays now (Jay Norvell). While the guy who made a living with the spread-to-run concept, winning three state titles at Gilmer in five state title game appearances (Jeff Traylor) is the run-game coordinator.

Texas has been at its best offensively this season in a two-back set out of the shotgun with an offset TE/H-back and speed sweep motion. It became the base of the offense in victories against Oklahoma and Kansas State.

The reason it's so effective for Texas is because it forces the defense to have to be concerned about four different ball carriers immediately after the snap - the two RBs as well as the elusive Heard and the speed sweep (usually Daje Johnson).

"There's a lot of speed you have to account for when the offense is in that set," senior LB Peter Jinkens said Monday when asked why it's hard to defend. "It's a lot for the defense to read  - quickly."

Using that two-back set, the Longhorns physically imposed their will on opponents in a scheme that perfectly suits its personnel. Texas ran 58 times for 313 yards vs OU (5.4 ypc) and 53 times for 247 yards vs K-State (4.7 ypc) while controlling the clock for more than 30 minutes in each game.

But against Iowa State, Texas went away from the two-back set after it had produced more than 4 yards per carry early on. Texas finished the ISU game with 32 carries for 119 yards (3.7 ypc).

When asked if the Cyclones had done something defensively to take away the two-back set, senior left guard Sed Flowers said, "No. I think we could have gotten whatever we wanted."

RB Johnathan Gray said the two-back set "helps our offense, because the defense doesn't know who's going to get the ball."

Asked if there's a lot more that could be done out of that set, Gray said, "There's a lot more that could be done, as long as we execute it."

When asked why he thought offensive play caller Jay Norvell went away from the two-back set, Gray said, "The coaches are calling it, and we've got to figure out how to make two and two work." 

When I asked Strong Monday if he got the offensive game plan he thought he was going to get vs Iowa State, he replied, "No. We lost the game, so we've got to play better."

Play-calling from a remade offensive staff shuffled after Game 1, when Watson and O-line coach Joe Wickline were demoted and replaced by Norvell as play-caller and Traylor as run-game coordinator.

When I asked if Traylor should be given a chance to call plays, considering he lived and breathed the spread-to-run concepts of Chad Morris and Gus Malzahn while at Gilmer, Strong said, "It's not about the play-calling, it's about the execution."

Or maybe it is about the play-calling as well as the execution.

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