Culpepper's Commentary: Texas-Baylor

For the last two weeks, Longhorn fans have been witness to a new era of Texas football. Broken to pieces after the Oklahoma game, the Longhorns have been put back together again, this time in the image of Vince Young.

Saturday night in Waco, with a chill fall wind coming in from West Texas, the Horns executed Baylor with the precision of a team finally coming into its place in college football's pecking order. Mack Brown and staff had their team ready to play and even looked energized in the third quarter. It was no contest.

The reality, of course, is the Texas second units on offense and defense would have been more competition than the Bears mustered in the 56-zip thrashing. So overall, there can be no significant evaluations made after games against grossly undertalented teams like Iowa State and Baylor.

But this we know: Vince Young is a Chris Simms with speed. He is not a finished product and will misfire and make bad decisions at times, but when he is hot, his multi-threat ability takes the Longhorns to a level of offensive explosiveness not seen under Simms. With the redshirt freshman at quarterback, Texas is a dangerous football team that can defeat any opponent left on its schedule.

To limit his playing time -- read: continue the QB rotation -- against a quality opponent, like this week vs. Nebraska, would be unwise, to say the least. Yes, the rotation system worked well against the 'Clones and the Bears, but I think third-teamer Matt Nordgren would have fit in for Texas as well as Chance Mock in those games, and the Longhorns would have still won easily. The same can't be said for the upcoming contest with the top 10 Huskers and their newly invigorated Blackshirt defense.

With Young on the sideline, the Texas offensive line has shown to be less capable of protecting the quarterback and the running game has often slowed to a standstill. Those things simply can not happen against a ball control team like the Huskers.

In last year's Nebraska game, the Cornhuskers held the ball 10 minutes more than the Longhorns (and that was against a much better UT defense than the Horns will put on the field this fall). If that time of possession pattern remains this year, Texas could have the ball approximately three possessions in the first quarter. Does Mock take the field for that third series, with Texas potentially behind on the scoreboard? If so, that means Vince Young, who has quickly become the team's top overall offensive threat, would be on the sidelines in a must-win game for the Horns, leading to the offensive problems described above.

Remember, every possession will be at a premium. Texas did not stop Nebraska last year. Jammal Lord torched the Longhorn D for 234 rushing yards and conducted touchdown drives of 79 and 80 yards. Although Nathan Vasher's goalline interception of Lord eventually preserved the Horns' 27-24 win in Lincoln, Frank Solich, trying to save his job, went with his best QB the whole time against the Longhorns.

To be fair, it was coach Greg Davis' air-it-out offensive scheme that won the Nebraska game a year ago. Simms and Roy Williams were never used in a better fashion. Now comes the first post-OU test for Davis, for Simms' successor at signalcaller, and for the Horns -- a real live contending football team with a solid record, a great football tradition and athletes to match the Longhorns' athletes.

Can the Longhorn defense respond to the battering Nebraska running game?

Since the Arkansas game, the Texas defensive staff has discovered they need physical defensive ends like Tim Crowder and Mike Williams, a no-nonsense middle linebacker like Aaron Harris, and better fundamental play in the secondary -- all good signs.

And after the shutout against Baylor, Derrick Johnson told the press, "We were going to get Coach Reese a shutout," which might indicate the Longhorn defenders are taking personally their share of the Arkansas and Oklahoma embarrassments and are out to prove a point and make a statement for their coaches -- another good sign.

Given all that, I like the new look of the Texas football team and believe the Longhorns can beat Nebraska 24-17, IF Vince Young gets all of the second half snaps. If not, I believe Nebraska should bench its talented quarterback Lord every third possession as well and bring in his backup Mike Stuntz. That'll make things fair, and if they would agree to such a proposition, I'd still pick the Longhorns to win. Otherwise, look out.

Pat Culpepper played for The University from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary will appear regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at

Horns Digest Top Stories