Strength (Or, In This Case, Weakness) in Numbers

You have to figure <B>Houston Nutt</B> and his Arkansas Razorbacks are disappointed they&#146;ll play <B>Mack Brown</B> and Texas at home next fall. After the Hogs put it on the Horns 38-28 Saturday in Austin, that makes him 2-for-2 over Mack in Texas, with neither contest close.

Saturday, Nutt’s team dominated the way Texas used to under Darrell Royal–on the ground–while making UT defensive coordinator Carl Reese’s unit look eerily familiar to his predecessor’s horrific groups. Arkansas left Austin with a convincing win and a 265-62 obliteration in the rushing department.

Mack Brown, all off-season, had emphasized the importance of improving his team’s ability to run and stop the run. (He has repeated the same mantra in recent off-seasons, especially regarding the offense.) Yet after two tries in 2003, Texas’ top two tailbacks have strained for 87 yards on 32 rushes, a paltry 2.7 yards per carry. Cedric Benson, who became the first high schooler to make the cover of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, upped his season tally to 67 yards. After romping for 27 steps against Arkansas, he’s also averaging 2.7 per rush. Super-blue Selvin Young has added seven attempts for an eye-popping 20 yards.

To put that in perspective, backup quarterback Vince Young, who never left the sideline Saturday, has almost as many yards (61) as Benson on just five carries. And Matt Jones, Arkansas’ 6-6 and slightly hobbled quarterback made that on one attempt in the fourth quarter. Jones (102 yards rushing) and Cedric Cobbs (115) each gained more yards against Reese’s defense than Texas’ top two tailbacks have combined for this season.

Despite the Hog dominance, Longhorn leaders spoke as if this game was a slugfest they gave away. Per linebacker Derrick Johnson: "I wouldn't say they pushed us around, I'd say they had more breaks than us." Guard Tillman Holloway, a senior: "We knew going in that we were going to attack the perimeter, and I think we did that well." Quarterback Chance Mock scowled: "No way they beat us badly. If anything, they snuck out of here with a win."

No wonder. Their head coach oddly proclaimed, "I think the toughness thing is overused. Every time we lose a game, that’s what’s said. A 56-yard over-the-top pass is not about toughness (referring to Arkansas’ successful 3rd and 30 conversion)." True, but hammering your defense for 265 ground yards and smothering your offense to 62 in the stadium named after Darrell Royal–a founder of the Wishbone–is.

Maybe this squad should just give up on the ground game and throw virtually every down with gamebreakers like Roy Williams and B.J. Johnson. Unfortunately, it’s also a fact Texas under Mack is 40-0 when outrushing the opponent. Combined with the putrid rushing figures below in losses, it’s apparent Texas needs to at least run with some authority:

(2003): 62 (yards)

(2002): 92, 53

(2001): 92, 27

(2000): 54, -7, 13

(1999): -27, 6, 89, 34, and 56.

But there’s plenty of blame to give the defense as well. In the last three defeats, it’s given up 38 points and 438 yards to Arkansas, 42 points and 606 yards to Texas Tech last November, and 35 points and nearly 400 yards to OU last October. Reese’s stop unit has become considerably more porous since its excellent performance in the 2001 season.

Though Brown doesn’t agree, Derrick Johnson finally cut through to part of the problem last Saturday; "On that day, they were tougher than us. That’s a reality check." Thanks for the fresh air Derrick.

Back-to-back plays early in the third quarter between the school near the Hill Country and the hillbillies (kidding, Arkansas fans) captured the whipping and ensured Texas would play catch up on its own turf the rest of the game.

After cutting the lead to just seven right before half, the Horns maintained momentum by forcing a three and out on the Hogs first possession of the second half. Moving the ball to near midfield, Tony Jeffery, running nowhere fast on a "fast sweep" wide receiver handoff, fumbled the ball away under a swarming mass of red and white. RB Cedric Cobbs, who repeated his 2000 Cotton Bowl slashing of the Texas defense to the tune of 115 yards on 20 carries, immediately blew through the line untouched on a 46-yard touchdown to stake Arkansas to a 28-14 lead four minutes into the third quarter.

The Hogs first gained the lead (14-7) with 3:05 left in the first quarter and never allowed the Horns to get any closer. Contrary to Mock’s assessment of Houston Nutt’s squad sneaking out of Austin with a win, the flow of the game and line play dominance insinuated a Razorback romp.

Former Longhorn great Pat Culpepper, who captained under Darrell Royal in the 1960’s, envisioned the outcome after a deceiving rout of outgunned New Mexico State. "Texas doesn't deserve to be in the top ten," Culpepper wrote in the Sept. 11 edition of the Cleburne Times-Review. "There is not a player on the New Mexico team that could crack the two-deep at Texas. All spring and summer the Texas coaches talked about their new toughness and running game potential. Running back Cedric Benson who was a workhorse as a true freshman could hardly make it to the line of scrimmage. At the present time the Longhorns know nothing about their team. The offensive line couldn't move the Aggies of New Mexico with their zone blocking. If Coach Mack Brown thinks his football team is tough enough at this point to play well against Kansas State on October 4 or Oklahoma the next weekend he needs counseling. Texas has excellent receivers and a solid secondary but they are not a good football team ---Yet. I wish Coach Brown would tell it like it is and wake them up. Maybe Arkansas will take care of that on September 13."

Based on some of the comments we’re hearing from Austin, the sleeping continues.

Bert Hancock has owned two college football-related web sites and was designated "Lead Writer" of one of the first independent web sites dedicated strictly to UT sports. At The University of Texas, where he received a Bachelor of Business degree, his area of specialty was in statistics and probabilities. Bert is in his second season of writing for IT and his "Strength In Numbers" column will appear occasionally on InsideTexas.com.


Horns Digest Top Stories