The Cougars want to run, but can they?

In its opening game loss to Rice Sept. 1, Houston ran the ball 21 times and gained a miserable seven yards on the ground. The Cougars aired it out 47 times, completing 22 passes for 192 yards. That's a whoppin' 199 yards in total offense for U of H vs. the Owls. Houston coach <B>Dana Dimel</B> has since emphasized the team's intention to focus on getting more production out of the running game against Texas.

The UT D through two games has been solid, but not spectacular, against the run, giving up almost 3.7 yards per carry. Last season against the Cougs in Austin, the Texas run-stop unit limited Houston to 13 yards on 32 carries, including eight sacks for minus-59 yards. Rice did much the same to U of H in the opener, limiting quick RB Joffrey Reynolds to 29 yards on 14 carries and sacking junior QB Kelly Robertson six times. Robertson threw for two TDs and one INT in the game. The Owls' defensive success is also at least partially attributable to offensive time of possession, which the Owls dominated 35:30 to 24:30. The Horns will look to do the same.

Mack Brown has said repeatedly this week, though, that he expects the Cougars to try to be more balanced offensively by establishing the run, not only to control the clock but to set up off-schedule plays. The word out of Houston bolsters the Texas head coach's claim. "We want to go into this game and be more balanced with what we are doing," Dimel said earlier this week. "We have to establish a run game and pass the football well. Efficiency will be really important for us in this game. The pass /run ratio in this game will be very close to 50/50."

Brown said the Longhorn D is preparing for "quick stuff," including screens, draws, fakes off reverses and a lot of play action to set up the deep ball (some on the wheel route to a running back streaking out of the backfield). Brown also said he expects to see more two-back sets from Houston because of the pass protection problems it faced in the Rice loss.

The Cougars, of course, run a more wide open offense than either of the first two teams on the Texas schedule (but very similar to the next two -- Texas Tech and Oklahoma), and Brown said Thursday that U of H will show more offensive sets and has better receivers than either NMSU or UNC. Those pass catchers include WRs Brian Robinson (6 catches for 43 yards vs. Rice), Orlando Iglesias (4 for 49) and Keykowa Bell (1 for 12) and TE Grover Thompson (3 for 21). Bell, who Brown called a "really talented player," burned the Texas D a couple of times last September, hauling in five balls for 86 yards (with a long of 40), but the Cougars couldn't manage any points off those big plays. To ensure that the D can repeat that feat this fall, Brown said the Horns must do two things: with the pass rush keep Robertson from establishing a rhythm at QB; and tackle well in the open field when the QB is able to hook up with a wideout.

Notes: It looks unlikely that O.J. McClintock will be return to game action this weekend. The junior DE still has a tape ball on his right hand that prohibits him from using his fingers. "We can't plan on him being a factor this weekend," Brown said. "He'll not be in the normal rotation (at end)." That means Marcus Wilkins will spell Cory Redding and Jermain Anderson will relieve Kalen Thornton. . . . "We're going to continue to force the run some but we're not going to be as stubborn as we were the first two weeks," Brown said this week. "We don't want to get away from the running game at all this year, but I won't force the coaches (to run). We're going to start taking more of what they give us rather than running into a wall." . . . Brown mentioned three guys on the Houston defense to keep an eye on: 6-3, 275-pound RE Lee Ingersoll ("He's a really good pass rusher," the head coach said); CB Jason Parker ("He's a pro-type corner"); and FS Hanik Milligan ("He's a really good free safety"). Milligan is one of the Cougar trash talkers. "I think they made a mistake by naming Simms as the starter," Milligan told the Houston Chronicle. "Applewhite is more poised and smarter. Simms is just running (around) out there. He's got a lot of receivers, so he's just pretty much playing street ball." Simms earlier in the week had praised the Houston defense, particularly its secondary, talking about the size, speed and the athleticism of the Cougar DBs. My guess is the Texas QB plans to let his play on the field speak for itself. . . . Ervis Hill and Victor Ike will be in deep return on the first kickoff to Texas. . . . "They have been a very opportunistic team this season," Houston coach Dimel said of Texas. "Meaning when other teams make mistakes, they take advantage of those situations and put points on the board. That is the sign of a good football team." "As we go into the ball game, our strategies need to be - to eliminate the unforced errors and thus eliminate the opportunities that they have to score off of our mistakes." The Cougars turned the ball over once and had four penalties for 40 yards vs. the Owls. As Dimel pointed out, the Horns have turned opponents mistakes into points, scoring directly by INT return, punt block and safety. . . . New starting tailback Ivan Williams attributes his early season success to "being more focused." The Horns' new starting tailback, who has 139 rushing yards on 25 carries (5.6 per carry), said he is simply "playing the game instead of being uptight." He also used the word "relaxed" in describing his attitude this fall. "It's like high school," Williams said. "I'm having fun playing the game."

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