Is this the week Texas opens up the O?

Chris Simms</B> said Monday that the constant media and fan inquiries about the Horns' conservative offense over the first couple of games is already getting a bit tiresome. The Texas QB said some fellow students are even offering consolation. "It's OK, Chris," Simms related of the typical conversation. "Things are going to get better."

At this point, Simms shook his head and laughed, pointing out that the Horns have won each of the first two games by very comfortable margins.

"Do we want to go out and put up big numbers," Simms asked rhetorically. "Yes! But as an offense we're very confident right now. We've won two games by 30-plus points and we did what we had to do on offense. We could've thrown for 350 yards but that wasn't going to make us a better football team. . . . We're going to get better each week."

Simms said the difference between this year's team and last year's team, one that may not yet be evident, is that this year's team is working to be able to "come out and dominate and do what we want to do in all phases of the offense."

After Tuesday's practice, amid the furor surrounding the Houston bleacher issue, offensive coordinator Greg Davis, echoing some of the same sentiments as Simms, talked about the mini-furor his conservative play calling has caused.

"The thing we've tried to teach the team this year is that it is a team game," Davis said. "Certain things we do, we do trying to look at the big picture." The coordinator recounted what both he and Mack Brown have deemed the mistake of forsaking the run early last season while putting up gaudy passing numbers. "We feel like this year we have the opportunity to emphasize running the ball," Davis said. "But it's not like we've thrown it just 10 times a game. We're averaging 35-plus throws a game, although we're not throwing it like we typically throw it."

"The No. 1 factor that determines wins and losses is turnovers," Davis continued. "We've turned the ball over once and that was on a QB scramble." The offensive coordinator praised the overall decision-making of Simms, saying the Horns have so far gotten "really good QB play" out of the junior from New Jersey. Davis said he would prefer that Simms err on the side of safety, "checking down" to underneath receivers rather than forcing plays that could result in turnovers. The philosophy, according to Davis, is "reserve the right to kick," whether that be a field goal or a punt.

Davis, like Simms, said the Horns could've gone to a spread offensive set against either of the first two opponents and literally passed them out of the stadium. "In five-wides, no-huddle we've moved the ball down field but we're better off not doing that on every snap in the big picture of Texas football," the coordinator said. "We've forced the run the first two weeks without a doubt. We ran the football in situations where we typically wouldn't. But we're looking at the season, not at the (victory margin). As we get deeper into the season, we'll be more like we have been in the past, more vertical. . . . But when you have receivers like we have, people play off of them. We've just gotta be patient."

Might the vertical passing game appear this week vs. the Cougars? Simms seems to think so, saying Monday that U of H's man-to-man defense may finally give the Texas O an opportunity to get some passes downfield. A couple of other factors have come into play since Simms spoke those words earlier this week: the Houston school yanked 4,150 Longhorn fans from the stadium, and some of UH's defenders ran their mouths about Simms' ability.

How does either of those things affect the Horns' offensive potential Saturday? Well, first of all, if possible, Texas will show absolutely no mercy on the Cougars Saturday. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Longhorn starters, even with a huge UT lead, on the field till the final gun, wingin' it for the end zone on every play, given Houston's unjustifiable actions this week. Second, Houston DE Adrian Lee and safety Hanik Milligan, yesterday's U of H smack talkers, have leapt across the line separating confidence from blathering arrogance, and the Horns are almost certain to attempt to force a few other words from their mouths, particularly "mercy." Of which, none should be forthcoming. Davis said Tuesday that "there comes a time to be more aggressive," and frankly, I can't think of a better time than this weekend to do just that.

Notes from my conversation with Davis: "If they stay true to form, they'll mix it up," Davis said when I asked him whether Simms' belief that the Horns will see more man coverage this week than in the first two games. "They'll press and play off. They'll pick their spots and we're going to have to pick our spots." The coordinator called Houston a "very aggressive" defense that will put eight men around the line of scrimmage on most every play. The Cougs will slant and show several fronts, including a 46 (bear) scheme that, according to Davis, is "very difficult to run on." Houston will try to outnumber the Horns at the line. U of H's standard defensive alignment includes five defensive backs (much like UT had planned to do before the injury to rover Lee Jackson), a set that allows for a lot of flexibility in adjusting to different offensive formations. Davis said the Cougars will "probably blitz a little more than most folks" and, as Simms suggested, they will "play a lot of man," although they will also mix in some zone. . . . Davis said, "Ivan (Williams) has been the most productive back so he gets the start." The coordinator added that Williams and Cedric Benson have "moved out" in the tailback battle, so it'll be interesting to see when, relatively speaking, Victor Ike and Benson get in the game Saturday. . . . Mack Brown recently said that Derrick Dockery probably wouldn't be used at tackle. Davis said it's still possible that Dockery could see some snaps outside, but Robbie Doane's performance so far at left tackle has lessened the need for Dockery to play on the outside. "We started with the idea that we would have a three-man rotation (at tackle) but we're not thinking that anymore," Davis said. The OC said Lionel Garr and Alfio Randall continue to improve, but I wouldn't expect to see either of those guys in during the early stages of a game any time soon. . . . I asked Davis if the coaches are at all concerned that Chance Mock has seen virtually no playing time over the season's first two weeks. "There's no question that we would like to get Chance more playing time, but it's hard to get two guys ready to play so it's really hard to get three ready to play," he said. "Hopefully as the season goes on we'll have more opportunity to do that." . . . Davis said the off week gave the coaches a chance to fine tune a few things with the receivers, things he called "technical stuff," like body language before the break in their routes, their steps, etc.

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