TEXAS LONGHORNS STARVING FOR OFFENSE IN THIRD QUARTER

The third quarter has turned into a starvation diet for the Texas Longhorns.

Texas has played 21 games under Charlie Strong, and the Longhorns are 9-12 with the (lack of) execution on offense being the primary culprit in all 12 losses.

Texas is 9-1 when it scores first and 0-11 when opponents score first. The Longhorns are 0-10 when trailing at halftime, and the third quarter, when adjustments made at halftime should be reflected, has turned into a weekly starvation diet for Texas.

In 21 games, the Longhorns have scored an offensive touchdown in the third quarter only three times (14.2 percent). In 13 of those 21 games, Texas has failed to score any offensive points in the third quarter. In those 21 games, UT has mustered only 50 offensive points combined in the third quarter. That's an average of less than a field goal (2.4 points). 

So when a football team needs its offense to be at its best - to start a game and to start the second half, when it has the opportunity for the element of surprise - Texas is at its worst. 

And just when it looked like Texas had formed an identity on offense in victories over Oklahoma and Kansas State - as a power running team with a two-back set out of the shotgun with an offset TE and speed sweep motion -  the Longhorns abandoned it in a 24-0 shutout loss at Iowa State.

"We've shown in recent weeks we can be physical in the run game. We've shown we can be effective on third down and protecting the football," said offensive play-caller Jay Norvell in talking about three things it did well vs OU and K-State (when Texas ran for a combined 5 yards per carry average) but failed miserably in all three areas against Iowa State.

In Ames, the Longhorns averaged 3.71 yards per carry (32 for 119), completed 12 of 22 passes for 85 yards, were 2-of-13 on third down, and QB Jerrod Heard threw an INT on one of the only two plays Texas had across midfield before the final minute of the game. 

But when talking about what happened against Iowa State, Norvell didn't talk about how he inexplicably went away from Texas' power run game and play-action pass down the field.

He cited a lack of maturity and toughness and how he didn't do a good enough job of pounding home to players that they'd be in a hostile environment in Ames against a desperate team.

"We live in a different age where our kids' - their attention gets stolen in every direction," Norvell said. "When I was in college, I didn't have anything except Saturday afternoons. That's all I thought of - all week. And our kids aren't always like that. So we've got to remember that as coaches and take advantage of that and keep pounding that message home.

"I didn't think we blocked very aggressively. I didn't think we ran the ball with our ball carriers very aggressively. I showed our kids where ran out of bounds - twice - before a first down. And then another time, we caught the ball on the perimeter and just fell down.

"So, very, very disappointed. We didn't thrown the ball accurately. We didn't throw on time. We didn't make plays down the field. We all had a hand in it. Coaches, number one. Our players. And we've got to learn from this. We've got to be more mature."

Quarterback Jerrod Heard, who set the school single-game record for total offense with 527 yards (364 passing, 163 rushing) in a 45-44 loss to Cal, appears to be regressing (he was just 6-of-9 passing for 26 yards and an INT and ran 9 times for 13 yards vs Iowa State).

And the coaches have to do a much better job of putting the offense in a position to do what it does best. And right now that's the two-back set out of the shotgun with speed sweep motion. Charlie Strong has to know what works best and hold coaches accountable.

On Monday, Strong was asked if run-game coordinator Jeff Traylor should be calling the plays, since he made a living off the spread-to-run concepts of Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris while winning three state titles at Gilmer High School, including last year's 16-0 campaign in which his team averaged 59.2 ppg.

"It's not the play-calling, it's the execution," Strong said.

With games remaining against Kansas, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Baylor, Norvell and Strong better get on the same page when it comes to the identity of the offense. Because it had one - running a combined 111 times for 560 yards (5 ypc) in victories over OU and K-State - and then went back to looking absolutely lost. 

Much like the answers Strong and Norvell are giving when asked about the offense.

 


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