Tech game notes and analysis: offense

Notes and analysis on the Horns' offensive performance in their 42-7 win over Texas Tech:

How 'bout this: the Horns have now passed the ball on their opening play of both the game and of the second half for the second consecutive week! After the North Carolina game I wrote about Greg Davis' half-opening play-calling tendencies over the previous 14 games (see UNC game notes and analysis: offense), which he has now completely shattered over the last two weeks. Against Houston, Chris Simms had his opening-play pass attempt swatted at the line of scrimmage, but he fired complete to Roy Williams for 12 yards to open the second half of that game. Against Tech, Simms play-actioned to tailback Ivan Williams before rolling left and hitting Roy for four yards on the Horns' first offensive play of the game, and tried to hit Roy deep after a pump fake on the first play after the break (the Raider D was flagged for holding Williams on the play). After the 10-yard mark-off, the Texas QB called Roy's number again but for a one-yard loss. Regardless, the UT offensive coordinator seems to have made an effort to mix things up a bit, at least compared to the previously conservative first-play approach. We'll have to wait and see, though, if a new tendency (throwing exclusively to Roy) has emerged.

On its opening possession, the Texas offense drove 80 yards in 11 plays to take an early 7-zip lead. The Horns worked out of a three-wide, one-back, one-TE set on the first six plays, throwing to Roy four times for 44 yards and running Ivan twice for eight yards, to move the ball to the Tech 28. On the first down play from the 28, Texas switched to an offset I look and remained in that formation for the final five plays of the drive. Roy gained five yards on a quick hitter to set up second-and-five from the 23 before Ivan covered the final 23 yards with consecutive runs of 10, five, six and two yards. All three TEs -- Brock Edwards, Bo Scaife and Mike Jones -- saw action on that first series. Jones, the best blocker of the bunch, helped clear the path for Ivan's final three runs. On Ivan's eight-yard run out of a three-wide set earlier in the drive, Kyle Shanahan, Tony Jeffery and true freshman Brian Carter replaced the starting wideout trio of Roy, B.J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas. Also on the Horns' first drive, Roy, surely sick of hearing about his multitude of early season drops, left himself prone to a big hit over the middle by going high and fully extending himself to reach a Simms too tall effort. Well, too tall for most receivers. Williams hauled it in for a 23-yard gain despite the footsteps he must have been hearing from the DBs intent on laying him out.

After the Ivan and Roy show on the first drive (they combined for all 80 of UT's offense on the possession), Davis mixed things up a bit on the second drive but with similar results. Out of a three-wide set on the first play of the drive, Simms rifled a ball to B.J. on the left side for 15 yards and, on the next play, found him again on a quick hitter to the left side that gained eight yards. Ivan followed that up with a beautiful 30-yard run on a counter play out of a three-wide set. With the entire offense moving to the right, Ivan took the handoff and briefly headed right before cutting back to the left and running to lots of daylight. Cedric Benson saw his first action of the game on the next play, running for seven yards out of the offset I. Simms also got Scaife involved on the series, hitting the tight end for a five-yard gain on a third-and-two play from the 13. Ivan returned and barreled to the one on the next play out of the offset I, setting up the O with a second-and-goal at the one. Davis sent in his short-yardage unit -- double TEs, plus Ivan, Matt Trissel and Chad Stevens in the backfield -- but the big tailback's jump didn't get him into the end zone. On the third down play, from the same formation, Simms sneaked it in to cap the nine-play, 74-yard drive. After some early season struggles in the short yardage offense near the goalline, Davis has added a few wrinkles -- the fake to the tailback followed by a toss to the tight end that we saw last week against Houston and the sneak which worked twice this week against the Red Raiders -- which have improved its effectiveness. Might we eventually see a handoff or a pass to one of the fullbacks out of the set? Well, that may be asking a bit much. The UT fullbacks have yet to log a single carry so far this season (although Trissel has a couple of catches).

On their third offensive series of the game, the Horns showed their first four-receiver set of the game with Edwards joining the three receivers split wide. Roy snagged his sixth reception of the day on the play. For the third straight game, Davis called the wide receiver handoff, this time to Jeffery, who gained nine yards on the play. Last week against Houston, Jeffery went for 17 on a similar play and Roy picked up 25 on the play against UNC. Speaking of Roy, his first TD of the season came on the play after Jeffery's gainer when he blew by SS Kevin Curtis (who futility tried to grab Roy's jersey to keep him from breaking free) on a post and turned on the jets to slip the Raiders' safety help and stride into the end zone for the 40-yard catch-and-run score. The success of that play can be partially attributed to the success of the Simms-to-Roy quick hitters earlier in the game, which surely affected the Tech secondary's coverage mentality. Curtis, one of Tech's most disruptive defenders, had a solid game (nine tackles including one TFL), but he did not dominate which he is capable of doing. Like in the North Carolina game, credit should go to Davis and his scheme for limiting the effectiveness of a defensive difference-maker.

Up 21-7 mid-way through the second quarter, the Texas offense had the opportunity to effectively put the Raiders on ice with its fourth offensive possession. The Longhorn D stopped a Tech fourth down attempt, giving the offense the ball with a short field, but the Horns could not capitalize. Don't blame Simms. As he did virtually all night, the Texas QB laid a beauty into the hands of Scaife deep across the middle on first-and-10 from the 47, but the tight end dropped the probable 20-plus-yard gainer. Before Scaife's drop, Simms had completed 10 of 10 passes for 121 yards. Brown said Simms, who finished 21 of 26 for 224 yards, looked "as sharp as I've ever seen him." In his 13 of 15 half, Simms' only incompletion of the half aside from Scaife's drop came on the next series when he threw a ball away. After Scaife's drop, though, the Horns went to a five-wide set on second and third down (with Scaife the fifth wideout on the first play and Ivan the fifth wideout on the second play), but gained just six yards on two Simms-to-Roy completions and punted back to the Raiders. Scaife atoned for the drop later with two big plays on UT's opening drive of the third. The tight end hauled in a 17- and 20-yard pass, the second one on a third-and-11, on the Horns' 80 yard, 10 play scoring drive that extended the lead to 28-7. Sciafe finished with five catches (to tie his career high set last week at Houston) for a new career high 64 yards (surpassing his 59 yards against the Cougars). "I think we can pronounce Bo well," Mack Brown said post-game. "He is blocking well, he is catching the ball and he and Brock give us the ability to get the ball deep to the tight end."

On the 17-yard pass play to Scaife on the opening drive of the second half mentioned above, RT Mike Williams stayed on the DKR grass for a couple of minutes before limping off the field with what looked to be some sort of leg injury. After spending two full series on the bench, Williams returned on the Horns' final possession of the third quarter. While Williams sat out, Derrick Dockery moved to Williams' right tackle spot and Tillman Holloway played LG. Ah, the beauty of depth and of multi-trained and versatile players. Immediately after Williams left the game, Texas drove the remaining 40 yards to the end zone in six plays for the 28-7 lead. Over the entire drive, Ivan rushed for 38 yards and the TD on six carries. Scaife accounted for 37 yards and Roy had a reception that lost a yard. The sophomore receiver also dropped a pass after a Simms pump fake sprung him loose down the left sideline. Roy did not have another catch on the day and finished with 10 grabs for 98 yards.

After the Derrick Johnson stripped the Tech return man on the kickoff at 28-7, the Texas offense took over at the Red Raider 12 and quickly punched it into the end zone for a 35-7 score. After that three-play drive capped by a Simms TD sneak (his second of the day), the Texas offense went into ball control mode, working out of the off-set I or the two-TE, single-back set on almost every play. The Horns continued to pass the ball, though, until late in the game. Matter of fact, Simms stayed in the game until the about the five-minute mark before Major Applewhite pitched a little relief. Actually, Major handed off to third-team tailback Victor Ike twice who scored from one yard out on his second attempt to push the score to the final of 42-7. Sneezy Beltran got three carries on the Horns' final possession. Third-teamer Chance Mock again did not get a single snap. He's only taken one on the season, and that came in the North Carolina game at Chance's request so he could honor his best friend Cole Pittman. The coaches have made it clear that they will go with Simms until late, even in blowouts, to get him as much work as possible. Remember, the Tech game was the 11th start of Simms' UT career. Some QBs get that many starts in their redshirt freshman seasons, or by sometime in their sophomore year. Major started his 11th game as the Longhorn signal caller in the season-opener of his sophomore season. In other words, in terms of experience, Simms is still far from a grizzled veteran. He's getting closer, but it seems obvious that the coaches want him to get as many game reps as possible.

The Horns dominated time of possession after the break (18 minutes to 12) and beat the Tech defense down by pounding it with Ivan (15 second half rushed for 82 yards). "Ivan gained so many yards after contact," Brown said. "In the second half, we were able to beat them down." The head coach said the Horns' running game is the best it's been since the days of Ricky Williams, particularly because Ivan, like Ricky, is able to power opposing Ds in the final two quarters.

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