No 'Rush' To Judgment, But How's The Running Game?

With all the off-season emphasis on the running game, and on the heels of a 66-7 home-opening win, how do Texas coaches feel about 168 rushing yards on 33 attempts?

Averaging nearly 5.1 yards per carry is almost (almost) what you expect against the likes of New Mexico State. But RB Cedric Benson’s totals (40 yards on 12 carries, 3.3 average) did little to dispel last year’s anemic figures when his average ypc dipped from 4.7 to 4.2. Bear in mind, also, that Texas had mustered but 61 rushing yards on 20 attempts at the end of three quarters before RS-freshman QB Vince Young matched that total (61 yards on five carries) and dazzled the soggy Royal-Memorial Stadium crowd. (Can you live with a 12.2 ypc average from Mister Young?)

So dominant was Texas’ defense (forcing seven fumbles and recovering two; recording three INT and returning two for TD) and so dominant was its special teams (RB Selvin Young had a 97-yard KO return for TD and a 39-yard punt return for TD; LB Brian Robison blocked a FG attempt), and so explosive was its passing game (Chance Mock's 156 yards on seven completions is just an appetizer), you hate to fault-find with the ground game.

Granted, it was the first game of the season under rain-soaked conditions. Granted, the Aggies stacked the line (early and often) with seven or eight defenders and dared an inexperienced Mock to beat them through the air.

"We had a new quarterback and (NMSU defense) had all of them on the line of scrimmage," head coach Mack Brown said. "They were blitzing every time and it was probably unfair to our offensive linemen. That’s why I was glad where we got to run the ball in the second half where we ran it better."

Texas ran the ball 15 times for 35 yards in the first two quarters (2.3 average) while generating 133 rushing yards on 18 attempts (7.4 average) following intermission. More than one-third of Texas’ rushing totals came from Young’s fourth-quarter fireworks.

"When we started throwing the ball, they couldn’t cover us," added Brown.

But with the remnants of 83,067 rain-soaked fans chanting "Beat OU" in the fourth quarter, you have to wonder if Texas will be able to establish the run against the Oklahomas and Kansas States of the world when it was not dominant against New Mexico State.

"Obviously, there’s still work to do," offensive coordinator Greg Davis said, "and we’ll go back to work on it. We’ll continue to stress it."

If Benson can string together the type of run we saw in the second where he carried for 11 yards around left end, breaking four tackles and picking up 9 yards after contact, the running game will be in much better shape than last year. And his 12 attempts (none in the fourth quarter) will be a season low for the junior.

And don’t be surprised to see the split backfield formation that includes both Benson and lightning quick Selvin Young as early as the September 13 Arkansas game.

"We would like to have come out and established the offense earlier in the first quarter and moved up and down the field," Brown said.

Then again, it was the first quarter of the first game of what will hopefully be a 14-game season.

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