Horns utilize more of the O vs. Cougs

Against Houston Saturday, the Horns topped the 400 yard mark in total offense for the first time this season. Matter of fact, they jumped past the 500 yard mark as well, totaling 534 yards, the second-highest yardage total over UT's last 22 games.

A couple of factors are in play here, I believe. One, Greg Davis used more of the offensive weapons at his disposal, and two, U of H is not a great defense.

Davis, of course, can't control the quality of an opponent's defense nor can he control the actual offensive execution, but he certainly can control schematically what the Texas offense does, and against the Cougars, the offensive coordinator spread the field some by using the three-wide, single-back, single-TE formation as the O's base set. That formation, used in part to counter Houston's desire to outnumber the run at the line of scrimmage, opened up running lanes for Ivan Williams (and Cedric Benson later in the game) and also set up the Texas pass catchers with some great match-ups.

Some of those match-ups involved TE Bo Scaife (five catches for 59 yards and one TD) and WRs Kyle Shanahan (three for 18, two of those catches came on third down and picked up the first for the Horns) and Tony Jeffery (two catches for 37 yards and one TD and a 17 yard carry on an wide receiver handoff). Those three combined for 10 of the Horns' 22 completions and for 131 yards of total offense. The Cougar corners focused on stopping Roy Williams and B.J. Johnson, leaving safeties, linebackers and, get this, defensive ends to cover UT's other receiving threats. Scaife's 30-yard reception early in the third quarter came against a Houston DE who was forced to drop into coverage.

The emergence of Scaife, Shanahan and Jeffery as viable options in the passing game "gives you more flexibility to not have to force the ball" to Roy or B.J., Davis said Tuesday. "We wish Roy could have 10 catches a game but other teams look at film (and know how good he is). The other guys allow us the flexibility not to have to force him the ball."

The strong running of Ivan Williams (19 carries for 103 yards, 5.4 per rush) also had an effect on the Horns' offensive success, not only forcing Houston to specifically defend against the big back but also allowing the Texas O to control the clock, key to beating any team but more so teams with explosive offenses. UT faces two straight offenses with that capability starting this weekend with Texas Tech. Davis said he'd like to see Ivan get a similar number of carries against the Red Raiders as he got against the Cougars, giving the Horns a similar time of possession, ball control boost.

Notes from Davis on Tuesday: The offensive coordinator acknowledged the effectiveness and production of the offense while in three wides, but he added, "it's hard to minimize the importance of the touchdown before the half in five wides." The Horns ran eight offensive plays on that 60-yard scoring drive, seven of them out of a five wide formation. The one play out of a three wide set resulted in a sack of Chris Simms by a blitzing Houston corner. On the play, it was Simms' job to recognize that the defense had a free man and unload the ball before the corner got to him. He did not. Aside from that play and the second quarter INT pass, the Texas QB had his "best game seeing the field," according to Davis. The coordinator rattled off several times where Simms went to his second or third option, including on the TD pass to Jeffery at the end of the first half and the 92-yard TD toss to B.J. in the first quarter. Davis also said the OL had its best ballgame of the year by allowing just one sack of Simms for a two yard loss, by clearing room for the ground game to average over five yards per carry (after eliminating sack yardage from the computation), and doing it all against a Houston defense that gave the line a lot of different looks. . . . Simms by design moved around more in the Houston game, play faking to a running back and then rolling out several times. The primary targets on the rollouts were Scaife and Shanahan set up in the flat or running crossing routes. . . . Davis said the big gainer to Bo in the third quarter was actually set up by the 92-yard pass to B.J. earlier in the game. Bo's 30 yard reception came on the same play call as B.J.'s TD, with the safety covering the wideout deep instead of the tight end underneath, hence the DE covering Scaife on the play. . . . "I'm pleased with where Cedric is at and I think he'll continue to get better every time he plays," Davis said of Benson. "He didn't run with vision in the first half against Houston so we took him out and told him that. He went back in and ran great. He was trying to run so hard early he ran with blinders on." The coordinator said the true freshman is doing a good job picking up blitzes, and that he and Ivan are the two rotating backs now. "At one time (the rotation) was three backs and a third down back," Davis said. "Now, it's Ivan and Cedric with Victor (Ike) and Brett (Robin) as the third down backs."

Horns Digest Top Stories