Baylor game notes and analysis: offense

Notes and analysis on the Horns' offensive performance in their 49-10 win over Baylor:

Things simply did not click Saturday for the Texas offense. Sure, the scoreboard showed 49 points, but the Horns gained just over 400 yards, 30-plus yards less than the Bear D had allowed over the first seven games of the season. "We weren't as sharp in this game as in some others," offensive coordinator Greg Davis said post-game, pointing to dropped balls, a couple of pass protection mistakes plus a Chris Simms mistake that led to a sack, and a general ineffectiveness on third down. "We've been on the road for a couple of weeks and next week we'll get home in front of the home fans. I'm just happy to get out of here 8-1."

Early in the game, the left side of the Texas OL struggled to contain the Baylor pass rush. On the Horns' first offensive play, NT Ryan Gillenwater burst through the OL and forced Simms to scramble right, opposite the direction he does his best on-the-run work, and throw incomplete downfield for Roy Williams. Two plays later, on third-and-seven from the 46, DE A.C. Collier chased Simms as he rolled left, forcing another hurried throw and incompletion.

The Baylor student section -- what little there was of it -- chanted "over-rated" after Simms' first quarter interception (on UT's second offensive series). After Cedric Benson picked up six and five yards on consecutive plays to set the Horns up with a first-and-10 at the 20, the Texas QB fired left for a slanting Sloan Thomas. Although the pass was thrown slightly behind him, Thomas got his hands on the ball and looked to have made the catch before Baylor corner Bobby Hart twisted the Texas receiver, the momentum of which sent the ball flying out of Sloan's hands and into the hands of SS Derrick Cash. The over-rated chant wouldn't be heard again as Simms threw a beautiful TD pass to Williams on UT's next series and scored on a sneak shortly thereafter to give the Horns a two-TD lead. He finished 15 of 29 for 271 yards and two TD tosses.

A bit of grumbling could be heard from the Baylor partisans after the officials ruled the Williams 36-yard catch in the back of the end zone a TD (that gave the Horns their early 7-zip lead). Replays, though, showed clearly that Roy's right foot was on terra firma as he gained control of the ball before crossing the back line of the end zone. Later in the half, in almost identical circumstances, Thomas caught a 31-yarder n the back of the end zone. Replays were a bit less conclusive on that one, although Thomas, like Williams, looked to get a foot down before sailing through the back of the end zone. Aside from those two outstanding pass-and-catch combinations, Simms and Williams hooked up on another beauty, this one on the Horns opening drive of the second half. On a third-and-six from the 20, the Texas QB rifled a ball for Williams crossing from left to right. The receiver had to climb the ladder to catch it, but catch it he did, setting up a Benson TD plunge two plays later to extend the Longhorn lead to 35-10.

Early in the second quarter, the Horns had perhaps their worst offensive possession of the year. Up 14-0, Texas faced a first-and-10 at its own 20. A false start, though, pushed the O back to the 15, where Simms, under pressure, misfired for TE Brock Edwards on first down, setting up a second-and-15 from the 15. On the second down play, Simms, again under pressure, was forced to scramble towards the left sideline. The QB looked downfield, but with no receivers open, he inexplicably elected to run out of bounds at the 11 rather than either running up the sideline (the closest defender was five yards up field shadowing one of the UT receivers) or simply throwing the ball away. Simms did wing the ball, but he had already nonchalantly stepped out of bounds four yards behind the line of scrimmage. Before the snap on the third-and 19 play from the 11, Simms called a timeout. When he got to the sideline, he probably wished he hadn't. A visibly angry Mack Brown unleashed a brief but animated verbal barrage on his junior QB during the break in the action. When play resumed, the offense still looked to be in a funk. LT Robbie Doane, as he was several times early in the game, was beaten badly on the play and Collier sacked Simms for a six-yard loss. The offense turned a first-and-10 at the 20 to a fourth-and-25 at the five. After Brian Bradford's punt, the Bears took advantage of the short field to score their only TD of the day.

With his 108-yard performance, Benson extended his consecutive 100-yard rushing game streak to four (a freshman record) and moved into the fifth spot, behind only Ricky Williams (990), Earl Campbell (928), Adrian Walker (814) and Charles Hunter (717), on UT's freshman rushing list with 682 yards. Despite the slightly off-pace performance in Waco, Benson still can reach Williams' record total of 990, it's just going to be a bit tougher than it looked to be going into the Baylor game. To break the mark, he must total 309 yards in the Kansas and A&M games. The Jayhawks are even worse than the Bears in run defense, surrendering an average of 236 rushing yards per game. Saturday, Nebraska back Dahrran Diedrick rushed for 136 yards on 21 carries (almost 6.5 yards per attempt), so Benson has an opportunity against KU to reach the 155 mark and halve the yardage needed to reach Ricky's record. Getting the remaining yardage in College Station could be a bit more difficult. The Ags give up just 110 rushing yards per game. Perhaps history will repeat itself at Kyle Field, though. In Williams' record-setting season of '95, the then true freshman ran for 163 yards on 24 carries vs. the Aggies nationally fifth-ranked defense, leading UT to a 16-6 win.

Among his 26 carries against the Bears, Benson had runs of 10, 13, 13 and 12 yards, but he was also stopped for no gain or minus yards on five runs and for just a one or two yard gain on five others. Given his success last week at Missouri (157 yards), not exactly the performance one would have expected against one of the worst run defenses in the country. Coming in, the Baylor D gave up on average 194 ground yards per game. Benson and his fellow ball carriers fell 64 yards short of that average. Regardless, the true freshman averaged over four yards a carry. Earlier in the week, Brown was asked if he felt any frustration that the Texas running game hasn't been able to break any long runs. "I'd love to have four yard runs every play," the head coach said. "We'd score on every possession. When you can't get any rushing yards, that's when you have problems. I like to have this (four-yard-per-carry) problem."

Benson continues to be a threat catching the ball out of the backfield, taking a shovel pass for 15 yards and a flare out of the backfield for another 12. His four catches for 33 yards pushes his season total to 13 receptions for 112 yards.

After the Bears' second quarter TD cut the Texas lead to 14-7, OC Davis leaned heavily on his true freshman running back. Benson touched the ball on the first six plays of the drive, rushing four times for 15 yards and catching two passes for 13 yards. Unfortunately, the last two Benson touches were a one-yard catch and a run for no gain, setting up a third-and-nine from the Baylor 46. Working out a five-wide set for one of the few times all day (by my count, the only time), the Horns couldn't convert when the Bears got pressure on Simms, who overthrew an open Kyle Shanahan.

For one of the few times all season, an opposing defense chose to play man coverage against the Texas offense. The results -- 15 Simms completions for 271 yards through three quarters -- may discourage Kansas, A&M and the Horns' bowl opponent from trying it again. "I respect Baylor, because they play man-to-man," Roy Williams said. "Real men play man-to-man. But there ain't nobody in America that can play us man-to-man. That's our motto." Williams had his best day of the season, totaling six grabs for 147 yards. Thomas hauled in three balls for 66 yards and B.J. Johnson managed two catches for 25 yards. Johnson also dropped a perfect strike from Simms on a crossing route that would have gone for at least 20. When I call the pass a strike, I mean a strike. B.J. ran off the field shaking his hands much like a catcher after taking a Randy Johnson fastball on the heel of the glove. Through nine games, Williams now has 48 catches for 588 yards. Johnson remains second on the team, now with 34 catches for 393 yards, and Thomas jumped to third on the team in receiving yardage, now with 20 grabs for 310 yards. Bo Scaife, who didn't catch a ball against the Bears, is now fourth with 22 catches for 278 yards. I asked Davis after the game about the lack of production from Scaife, and he said Baylor's man coverage made the wideouts Simms' No. 1 target. Simms tried to hit Scaife twice, once on a dump pass while being pressured that hit at the TE's feet and another time on a deeper route that sailed precariously close to Bear DB Matt Amendola.

For the game, the official stats show that the Texas O ran the ball on 42 plays and passed on 32. Removing sacks, those number change to 39 running plays and 35 passing plays. With the game in hand, the Horns kept the ball almost exclusively on the ground throughout the fourth quarter, though, skewing the numbers in favor of the running game. During the first three quarters, UT ran the ball 27 times and passed it 31 (adjusted for sack numbers). According to the coaches, Baylor's defensive scheme and the Horns' depleted OL led to those pass-heavy numbers.

In the fourth quarter, the coaches emptied the bench. Major QBed three final period series, completing two of three passes for five yards, and Chance Mock took over for the final two offensive plays of the game, handing off twice to Ivan Williams. Mock has yet to throw a pass in a game this season. Interestingly, on Major's final play under center, Mock lined up as a wide receiver. Could Davis have some gadget play up his sleeve for the home stretch that involves Mock? Perhaps.

Sneezy Beltran saw his first action since early in the season, rushing twice for six yards.

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