OSU game notes and analysis: offense

Notes and analysis on the Horns' offensive performance in their 45-17 win over Oklahoma State:

The Longhorn offense totaled 479 yards and 45 points against Oklahoma State, its second-highest yardage and point total of the season (behind only the 534-yard, 53-point performance against Houston). At the end of the first quarter, the game looked like anything but one of the Horns' best efforts. Texas had 66 yards of total offense and zero points as the teams switched ends of the Lewis Stadium field, but 65 of those yards had come on the previous 12 plays, setting the O up with a first-and-10 at the OSU 14 to start the second quarter. In the final three quarters, the Horns rolled for 413 yards and 45 points.

Why 479 and 45 this week but just 225 and three last week? Three things. One, Oklahoma State's defense isn't remotely as talented, as fast or as instinctive as OU's. Aside from MLB Dwayne Levels and possibly SS Chris Massey, the Cowboy D simply doesn't have the caliber players as does the Sooner D. Two, the Horns stuck with a two-dimensional gameplan. Texas ran the ball 52 times, almost 20-percent more than in any other game so far this season. Davis employed the run to set up the pass, rather than the opposite, which has been the case at times in the past. The Horns' second TD of the game, which gave Texas its first lead at 17-10, came on a play action fake up the middle to Cedric Benson that drew in the secondary, allowing TE Brock Edwards to break free behind the defense and open for the 27-yard TD strike from Chris Simms. And Davis did not stray far from the run-centric, play action plan other than late in the first half in a hurry-up situation when the Horns drove 64 yards, almost exclusively in five-wides, to widen their lead to 14 at 24-10. Third, the offensive players executed better than last week. Again, that can partially be attributable to the level of competition, but the OL opened many wide holes for Benson (31 carries for 131 yards, 4.2 per) and Ivan Williams (nine for 70, 7.8 per), Simms predominantly put the ball into the hands of his receivers rather than the hands of the defenders, and the receivers generally caught the passes and made yards after the catch.

Davis credited some of the running game's success to the switch to more two-back sets after the Horns' first two series. "The two-back change at 10-0 allows us to call a play in the huddle and run it," the OC said, whereas in single-back sets, the defensive alignment dictates where the running play goes. Both plays on UT's opening offensive possession -- a Benson four-yard gain followed by a Benson one-yard gain that resulted in a fumble -- came in three-wide, one-TE, single-back sets, as did the three plays (for minus-four yards) on the Horns' second possession. On possession No. 3, Texas worked out of a three-wide set for six straight plays before going to the I or offset I for the next seven plays on the 16-play drive. Benson ran from a single-back set four times for 35 yards (almost nine per carry) on that drive, and from a two-back set six times for 24 yards (four yards per carry). Ivan also carried twice out of a two-back set for five and four yards. For the game, Benson carried 12 times for 61 yards (five yards per carry) out of single-back sets and 19 times for 70 yards (3.7 per) out of two-back sets. Several of the true freshman's two-back set carries came in short yardage situations (three third-and-ones and a third-and-two, all of which he converted), which skew the per carry average down a bit. Benson also busted long ones from both sets, going for 12, 13, eight, 11 and six out of single-back sets and 10, 10, seven and 12 out of two-back sets, so numerically, factoring in the short yardage plays, he had about equal success out of each formation.

With the ball at the 36 with 2:44 to go in the first half, Davis made a surprising decision to go to a five-wide set. The clock didn't dictate a hurry-up offense, but the offensive coordinator said he made the decision to go to the empty-set look because he didn't want to go into halftime without a feel for what OSU would do defensively against that set. At the time, the score stood at 17-10, and the game figured to still be in doubt after the break. The Horns' 64-yard drive and score (in five-wides except for two plays), followed by the muffed kickoff and the ensuing one-play UT scoring drive, though, effectively put the game out of reach of the Cowboys and essentially shelved the need for any second-half five-wide drives.

Benson said that he caused his own fumble early in the game, knocking the ball out of his hands with his knee. After his turnover, the true freshman back returned to the field for the opening play of the Horns' next offensive series, briefly alleviating the fear that the coaches would quickly lose confidence in him (a la Kenny Hayter in the past), but a false start put the O into a first-and-15, and when the first down play netted just three yards, Benson gave way to Brett Robin for the next two plays of the series, reigniting those concerns. They proved to be unfounded. Benson touched the ball 11 times and accounted for 61 of 79 yards on UT's next possession, its first scoring drive of the day, rushing 10 times for 62 yards and catching one pass for minus-one yard. "Right there showed our confidence in him," Davis said. Benson obviously proved worthy of the coaches' faith.

The decision to bring Robin off the bench for Benson on that second series had to do with situation (second- and third-and-long) and thus pass blocking ability, but Robin didn't live up to his reputation as the team's best blocking back on the third-and 12 play from the 18. With a single-back set, Simms dropped back to pass on the play and Robin whiffed his attempt at putting pads on Khreem Smith, allowing the OSU DE to sack Simms for a seven-yard loss, the only sack the Horns would surrender all day, which forced Texas to punt from deep in its own territory.

Simms (18 of 30 for 235 yards, five TDs and one INT) completed passes of 20-plus yards to five different receivers (and passes of 10-plus to seven guys). Talk about spreading the wealth. Both Sloan Thomas and Brock Edwards tied for long ball honors by hauling in 27-yarders, both for TDs, while Robin had a 21-yarder, Bo Scaife a 23-yarder and Kyle Shanahan a 21-yarder. Thomas, though, had a career day, setting personal bests in catches (six) and yards (82). Sloan said post-game that he knew his "time would come," and it came against the Cowboys largely because the OSU D remained preoccupied with the run, he said. With the safeties and linebackers moving in for run support, the slant routes were open most of the day. A Simms-to-Roy slant for eight yards set up the Simms sneak for the Horns' first TD. On the five-wides drive over the final couple of minutes of the first half, Roy (five catches for 43 yards for the game) and Sloan each snagged two slants, with Williams getting the TD again, this time on a five-yarder.

Sloan's TDs came on a 27-yarder and a 23-yarder in the second half. On the 23-yarder, Simms did a quick pump fake to Sloan running what looked to be a hitch. The fake fooled the corner, allowing the sophomore wideout to sprint by (despite the attempted hold by the defender) and into the clear where the Texas QB delivered the TD pass, his fifth of the day. The pump fake ranks right up there with the two-dimensional offensive attack, the increased use of play action and the return of the Roy Williams end around (it went for 19 yards) as the most welcome sight on offense.

After evaluating "two or three" offensive positions in practice last week, Brown announced late in the week that, aside from the elevation of Benson to starting status (at the time the coach said it would be a gametime decision, but Benson said Saturday that, despite not being specifically told he would start, he could tell by his use in Thursday's practice that he had the job), Derrick Dockery would get more time at tackle and Jason Glynn would see some action at center in place of regular starter Matt Anderson. Benson, of course, started, but Dockery did not play any tackle (he started at left guard and, as usual, rotated in and out with Tillman Holloway at the spot) and Glynn didn't see the field until the fourth quarter at center. As the results (52 rushes for 241 yards) suggest, the OL's regular line-up "played really well," according to the head coach, eliminating the need for the shake-up. The coaches did often pair FB Chad Stevens, as well as regular starter Matt Trissel, with Benson in the backfield in I formation sets.

On the great play action fake that freed Edwards for the 27-yard TD, the Horns lined up in a two TE formation with Edwards motioning first right and then back left outside of blocking TE Mike Jones before slipping into the secondary past the defenders charging the line to stop the apparent Benson run.

Simms' threw two of his five TDs while on the move. On the 21-yard scoring toss to Williams after the muffed OSU kickoff just before the half, the junior QB rolled to his left and laid the ball in to Roy at the left pylon. On the 27-yard TD toss to Sloan mid-way through the third quarter, Simms stepped up in the pocket and moving to his right (a tough throw for a lefty), fired the ball to the sophomore wideout in the right side of the end zone before CB Darrent Williams could make a play. Simms also had a couple of bad throws on the day, particularly the third quarter right side attempt for Roy that Massey picked. Early in the game, a pressured Simms threw low but close to DE Smith and Levels also got a hand on a ball but couldn't haul it in. Almost all of Simms' misses on the day sailed high or too far.

How's this for balance: the Horns ran for 241 yards and passed for 238.

Chance Mock again did not play. Despite the Horns' five comfortable wins, Mock has seen only one snap. Major Applewhite, of course, deserves playing time, but the redshirt freshman QB desperately needs snaps, not only in case he is forced to play this year, but to cover the unlikely but possible prospect that he will be the team's starting QB next fall.

Notable quote: Roy Williams: "This game was more important than OU. People thought we were gonna lay down, that our season was over but that's not this team's mentality. We wanted to show people we are still in the hunt."

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