Mizzou game notes and analysis: offense

Notes and analysis on the Horns' offensive performance in their 35-16 win over Missouri:

On its 19-play, 78-yard, game-opening offensive possession, Texas used just about every formation in the playbook, lining up in three-, four- and five-wide sets, I formation-double tight end sets and offset I formation-two-wide sets. Greg Davis also mixed things up on a play-by-play basis, throwing in a fake reverse deep ball, a fast sweep handoff to Tony Jeffery, a shovel pass, a designed QB draw and a fake field goal on a fourth-and-one from the nine to go along with a steady diet of Cedric Benson runs and Chris Simms short shots to the wideouts. Benson had seven carries for just 19 yards, including two carries for minus-three yards from inside the 10, on the drive. On a day when just about everything he threw hit the intended target, Simms threw one of his only bad passes on a third-and-goal from the two on the drive. The junior QB, who connected on 24 of his 30 attempts, tried to hit Roy Williams on a jump ball in the left side of the end zone, but his pass came in low and was knocked to the turf by Mizzou CB Antoine Duncan. Dusty Mangum subsequently missed the 19-yard field goal and the Horns remained at zero on the scoreboard despite the near-10-minute drive.

Bo Scaife, after getting just one ball in last week's Colorado game, led the Horns in both receptions and receiving yards vs. the Tigers. The sophomore tight end caught five balls for 73 yards. UT's offensive coaches and players often say that defenses must "pick their poison" when playing the Horns because of the multitude of offensive weapons in the Orange and White, and Scaife's performance vs. Mizzou is a testament to that. The TE became the fourth different pass-catcher to lead the team in receiving yards through eight games, joining Williams, B.J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas with that honor. Roy finished with five catches for 34 yards, while B.J. totaled 23 yards on four catches. Sloan didn't scratch the stat sheet in Columbia after consecutive big games against Oklahoma State and Colorado. For the season, the Horns' receiving leaders list looks like this: Williams, 42 receptions for 441 yards; Johnson, 32 for 368; Scaife, 22 for 278; Thomas, 17 for 244. Pick your passing game poison indeed. Simms and Major Applewhite have completed passes to 16 different receivers.

With his 157-yard performance, Benson became the first Longhorn freshman to post three consecutive 100-yard games. Among his 31 carries, Benson had runs of 20 (a career best), 12, 12 and 11 yards against Missouri. Through just eight of 11 games, and including only three starts, the true freshman's season total of 574 yards already ranks sixth on the Longhorns' all-time freshman list. And Ricky Williams' record total of 990 remains in reasonable reach. Benson needs to average 139 yards per game over the season's closing three-game stretch of Baylor, Kansas and A&M to pass the Heisman winner's '95, freshman-season total. In his three starts, Benson has averaged 129 yards per game. His run for the record may be eased by the quality of the defenses lining up opposite the Horns over the next couple of weeks. Both the Bears' and Jayhawks' Ds have been weak against the run in '01. Baylor ranks 10th in the Big 12, surrendering 194 yards per game on the ground while Kansas is dead last in the league, giving up 229 rushing yards per game. The Ags are sixth in the conference in run D, surrendering 118 yards per game.

Against the Tigers, Benson didn't quite have the same receiving success he had last week vs. Colorado. The freshman RB caught four balls but totaled just four yards on those four catches. After taking two shovel passes 59 yards against the Buffs, Benson lost a yard on two shovel passes against Mizzou. He also flared out of the backfield for another no-gainer, and hauled in a dump pass from Simms for five yards.

Although, the shovel pass didn't work to Benson, back-up tailback Brett Robin, in the game on a third-and-21 situation with the Horns up by just 12 with just under five minutes to play, took one 39 yards to the house to seal the win for Texas. Robin also went for 24 yards on a drive extending catch-and-run on the Horns' opening possession of the second half. Texas faced a third-and-11 from its own 26 and Simms, forced to scramble out of the pocket, dumped the ball underneath to Robin who motored for the first. Robin finished with three catches for 72 yards, just one yard shy of Scaife's team-high receiving total. Robin is the team's fifth-leading receiver on the season in both catches and yards with 12 grabs for 168 yards. An aside: Robin said the scoreboard watching of the other games around the country actually motivated the Horns rather than distracted them, reinforcing the idea that as long as Texas take care of business, things will fall into place.

Simms had his best day running the football since the '99 season. The QB scrambled four times for 18 yards, ran a by-design QB draw for 13 yards (on a great play call by Davis), and converted three QB sneaks, two into first downs and one into a TD (his fifth rushing touchdown of the season). The only negative yardage play came in the third quarter on a fumbled reverse attempt. The play called for Simms to fake to Benson into the line and hand off to Williams streaking from right to left on the end around, but Benson's elbow knocked the ball out of Simms' hands and after recovering the fumble, the QB simply ran for the sidelines to avoid the sack. As he neared the Missouri sideline, Simms let up a bit, allowing Tiger safety Kevin Johnson to drill him from behind just before the boundary for a nine-yard loss. Simms went down hard, injuring the ring finger on his left throwing hand. Simms left the field -- for what turned out to be a delay of game call against the Horns -- but returned after quick work by the trainers. The junior QB totaled 27 yards on his nine official carries. The QB's decisions to run largely seemed on the money, but he must do a better job of one, not letting up when heading to the sideline and two, learning the art of the slide. The Simms slide may be better described as a tumble to the turf. The Tiger D took advantage by putting some pretty good licks on him as he fell rather than slid.

The highlight reel play of the game came after a Simms sneak set the Horns up with a first-and-goal at the eight early in the fourth quarter. The junior QB rolled left, and rolled left, and continued to roll left before spotting Williams crossing from right to left, closely trailed Missouri FS Clarence Jones along the back line of the end zone. Simms, on the run, rifled the ball accurately to Roy, who made a fingertip grab on the back half of the football. "The ball was humming," Williams said. "It hurt when it hit my hand." The sophomore wideout hung on, though, and the Horns had a 28-10 lead. Simms rolled to his left on two of his other three TD tosses, hitting Johnson at the left pylon for a five-yard TD to tie the game at seven midway through the second quarter and then finding Brock Edwards crossing from right to left at the goalline in the second quarter for a three-yard score to give Texas a 14-7 advantage. Aside from the great pass-and-catch combo on the Williams TD, Simms' best efforts may have been his bullets to Scaife deep down the middle. The QB, off a play fake to Benson, fired to the tight end for a 27-yard gain, setting up the next-play TD pass to Johnson by extending the Horns' second quarter, game-tying drive on a third-and-two from the Tiger 32. Simms also threaded one to Scaife for 28 yards on UT's next offensive possession, putting the ball into the tight end's hands despite close coverage by LB Sean Doyle, FS Jones and CB Duncan. Texas scored three plays later to take the lead for good.

Texas dominated time of possession 39:22 to 20:38.

Starting RG Antwan Kirk-Hughes did not respond to treatment after injuring an ankle in practice Thursday and did not play vs. the Tigers. He traveled with the team but did not suit out, instead walking the sidelines wearing a large boot on his right ankle/foot. His status for this weekend's Baylor game is unknown. Swing guard Derrick Dockery started in place of Kirk-Hughes at right guard while Tillman Holloway got the starting call at left guard. Despite the lack of OL depth -- the five starters each played the entire game -- the line looked to get stronger as the game went along. Benson gained 50 of his 157 yards in the fourth quarter and broke his longest run of the season, a 20-yarder, in the final period.

Along with stuffing the Horns' two shovel pass attempts to Benson, Missouri sniffed out a fourth quarter reverse to Williams, stopping him nine yards behind the line of scrimmage. On the next play, though, Texas used a "trick" -- the Simms-to-Robin shovel pass -- to toast the Tigers. Both Johnson and Jeffery had moderate success on the fast sweep, gaining five and four yards, respectively. The Horns tried to hit Williams deep off a fake reverse to B.J. on their opening drive, but Simms couldn't connect with Roy. Missouri, though, was flagged for pass interference on the play, essentially making it a 15-yard gainer.

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