Kansas game notes and analysis: offense

Notes and analysis on the Horns' offensive performance in their 59-0 win over Kansas:

How 'bout this for a first play of the game: a roll out pass to the fullback. That's a totally new one for Greg Davis, who called just that play on the Horns' first play from scrimmage against Kansas. Chris Simms, rolling left after a fake right to Cedric Benson, hit Trissel in the left flat for an easy seven yards. Up the middle runs by Benson or quick hitters to Roy Williams had been the opener of choice over the last few weeks, but the UT offensive coordinator pulled one out of the hat Saturday. Not that it was some type of inspired, unbelievable play call after burning the midnight oil all week in preparation, but Davis' call did provide a change of pace, something that the OC seems to be doing a far better job of over the last five weeks.

Two plays later, Davis called for an end around to Roy Williams. Last season, Williams scored twice on the play, covering 75 yards in the process. This season, the sophomore has had far less success, gaining just 20 yards on four attempts after losing 15 yards on his play-three carry against the Jayhawks. Two KU defenders sniffed out the play Saturday, forcing the Horns into a second-and-25 situation on their opening drive. UT's trick play attempts met with little success vs. the visitors from Kansas. Aside from the big Williams loss, Tony Jeffery also got caught behind the line for a one-yard loss on a fast sweep handoff. The Horns didn't have any luck on the fake tricks either. In the second quarter, Simms faked a fast sweep handoff to B.J. Johnson streaking down the line of scrimmage, instead handing off to Benson who went up the middle for no gain. Despite the lack of success Saturday, don't look for Davis to abandon the "gadgets." He has said that he wants the O to run several every game, and it has in the five contests since Oklahoma. Perhaps over the final two (or three) games, against quality competition, the coordinator will throw even more twists into the gameplan. One that seems to be set up quite nicely from the continued use of the end around and the quick handoff is a downfield pass after the handoff on one of those plays. A reverse to another receiver is also a possibility.

The Texas coaches consider the shovel pass equivalent to a draw, so it probably shouldn't be included in the analysis of the Horns' "gadget" plays. It does make the list, however, of 60-plus yards plays, of which UT had three on the day vs. Kansas. After a Kansas sack of Simms, Texas faced a second-and-18 at its own 40 late in the first quarter and for the second play in a row, the Jayhawk defenders converged on Simms. But this time it was by design, allowing the QB to flip the ball forward to the waiting Benson, who turned and motored upfield. LT Robbie Doane provided the downfield blocking on the left and, after Benson pointed out the player he needed blocked (FS Jamarei Bryant), Roy Williams cleared right, and the true freshman back sped through the gap and to the end zone to put the Horns up 21-0. Earlier in the game, Benson broke a 61-yard run off right tackle and then up the right sideline but couldn't separate from the trailing Bryant to make it all the way to the goalline, getting dragged down at the three. Either Bryant is simply a speedster, or Benson learned a breakaway lesson on the play, because on the shovel pass for six, the freshman seemed to find that higher gear that he lacked on the first long run. He showed that sustained acceleration again early in the third quarter on a 26-yard scamper that set up a Dusty Mangum field goal.

With his 213-yard rushing performance, Benson extended his consecutive 100-yard rushing game streak to five (also extending his freshman record) and moved from fifth to third on the UT freshman single season chart with 895 yards, behind only Ricky Williams (990) and Earl Campbell (928). Not bad company to keep. And with just 96 yards vs. the Ags in College Station on the day after Thanksgiving, he'll be in a class by himself. Benson needs 105 yards to break the 1,000-yard barrier, a potentially amazing accomplishment considering he could do it with minimal carries through the season's first five games. As I wrote last week, getting the remaining yardage at A&M could be tough, but history may be on Benson's side: "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." A similar performance by Benson would not only earn him the record, it would also almost certainly guarantee a UT season record of 10-1. A&M can not beat the Horns without taking away the Texas running game (a la OU). Through 11 games, the Aggies are giving up 115 yards per game, but they allowed Oklahoma 157 ground yards Saturday in the Sooners 31-10 win.

Benson ran for two TDs against the Jayhawks -- a three-yard plunge for the game's opening score and an 11-yarder to put the Horns up 30-0 late in the second quarter -- pushing his season rushing TD total to nine, another UT freshman record. He passed Butch Hadnot's, Ricky Williams' and Graylon Wyatt's previous record high total of eight. Benson had runs of 61, nine, 11, seven, eight, 26, seven and 31 yards among his 28 carries. The freshman also caught two balls for 68 total yards in the game, moving him up to the fifth spot on the team in receiving yards, behind Roy Williams, Johnson, Sloan Thomas and Bo Scaife, with 180 for the season.

It's amazing the effect a potent running game can have on a passing game. Since the Oklahoma loss, Simms is an outstanding 90 of 141 (63.8-percent) for 1,253 yards (250.6 per game) with 16 TD tosses and just two INTs (and one of those was a deflection off of UT receiver Thomas). Simms' numbers BB (Before Benson starting): 99 of 171 (57.9-percent) for 1,082 yards (216.4 per game) with six TD tosses and six INTs. Against the Jayhawks, the junior QB completed 16 of 24 for 284 yards and two TDs, including a 68-yard pump-and-throw hitch-and-go to Roy Williams and the 60-yard shovel pass to Benson. Of his eight incompletions, one could be considered a drop (by Scaife on a down the middle strike), while another could have gone back the other way. If you remember the athletic pick UNC's Julius Peppers made on an OU QB Nate Hybl down-the-line-of-scrimmage pass in those teams' opener, you know what Simms did on the Horns' fourth play of the game. The QB threw left after a short drop almost directly into the chest of KU LB Algie Atkinson. Luckily, Atkinson is no Peppers or he may have given the Jayhawks an early lead. Aside from that one play, it's tough to find any bad plays from the QB. With his KU game performance, Simms is now 189 of 312 (60.6-percent) for 2,335 yards with 22 TDs and eight INTs on the season. That works out to a QB efficiency rating of 141.58, second in the Big 12 behind Colorado's Bobby Pesavento (who has played about a third of the snaps that Simms has played) and No. 23 with a bullet nationally. With a strong finish in College Station, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Simms will finish in the top 10 of the Heisman voting.

One of Simms' prettiest passes of the day came on the Roy Williams 68-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the first quarter. On the play, Williams ran a hitch-and-go route and Simms froze the safety with a quick pump fake to a short route to Williams. After Williams streaked by CB Andrew Davison, Simms rifled the ball 20 yards downfield, getting the pass to Williams before safety Jake Letourneau arrived. When the 6-2, 200-pound Letourneau did get to Williams, he literally bounced off the Horns' 6-5, 210-pound wideout. Williams then out-raced Davison the remaining 40 or so yards to the end zone. The sophomore wideout caught six balls on the day for 109 yards, increasing his team-leading season total to 54 catches for 697 yards. Scaife had three catches for 49 yards, Thomas totaled three grabs for 45 yards and Johnson had two catches for 31 yards.

The pass-catch combo of freshmen Chance Mock and Brian Carter accounted for its first TD hook-up (and the first TD for each player individually). Mock, on his first collegiate pass attempt, fired a quick hitter to Carter in the right flat and Carter made a great open field move to juke the KU defender and work his way into the end zone for the 21-yard fourth quarter score. Two observations: one, it's great to see Mock finally use his arm rather than his feet to make a play and two, thankfully the UT coaches allowed Mock (and Major Applewhite before him) to throw the ball while in the game for mop-up duty.

Applewhite got a seldom-seen opportunity (this year) when he entered the game in the third quarter. Aside from the fact that he came in during the third rather than the final period, he also got a chance to work behind the No. 1 OL. At the time, that consisted of LT Doane, LG Derrick Dockery, C Jason Glynn, RG Matt Anderson and RT Mike Williams. LG Beau Baker left the game late in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return. Baker started the game in place of the injured Tillman Holloway, who did not suit out. With Baker out, Antwan Kirk-Hughes, the Horns' regular starting RG who had missed the last two weeks with a sprained ankle, tried to play, but he left the field after only a couple of snaps and did not return. Starting tailback Benson also shared the backfield with Major on his first series and accounted for 51 of the 78 yards on the seven-play scoring drive. Applewhite completed his only pass attempt, a 26-yarder to Thomas, and scored the TD with a one-yard sneak. Things got a bit tougher on Applewhite's next series. The coaches subbed for most of the starters, inserting not-ready-for-quality-PTers Alfio Randall at LT, Cory Bradford at LG, Trey Bates at RG and Lionel Garr at RT, plus Brett Robin at tailback and Will Matthews at fullback. Major, trying to force the ball to Jeffery on a deep middle pass, threw an interception on the third play of the drive.

Interestingly, Robin seems to have moved into the No. 2 "rushing" tailback spot ahead of Victor Ike and Ivan Williams. The third down specialist took over for Benson late in the third quarter and carried the ball five times for 26 yards before Ike, Ivan and Sneezy Beltran, in that order, worked in the fourth. Ike showed great quickness on a 30-yard burst up the middle that set up his own one-yard TD run on the next play to give the Horns a 52-0 lead.

Overall, the patchwork OL did a good job against the undermanned Jayhawks, but the guys in blue did sack Simms twice, and they almost got him several other times. The Texas coaches continue to throw out a claim that, based on their game tape breakdowns, Mike Williams has not been beaten for a sack this season, and that may be true, but at least once Saturday, Williams' man almost nailed Simms, chasing the QB out of the pocket. Forced to run, Simms turned the near-sack into a 19-yard gain.

For the second straight game, the O seldom used its five-wide set. Texas opened in the offset I and split time in that formation and in three-wides, with a few plays of four- and five-wide occasionally thrown in.

It's hard not to feel bad for Kansas. The Horns obviously had a huge talent advantage over the Jayhawks in the match-up between the UT O and the KU D, and to make matters worse, Kansas lost two of its three top defenders to injury during the game. Leading tackler MLB Marcus Rogers left the game at the end of the first quarter with an ankle sprain and preseason all-Big 12 DT Nate Dwyer played just two series because of a hip flexor injury. That left SAM 'backer Atkinson as the Jayhawks' last line of defense. He registered both of KU's sacks and also notched a TFL. With Rogers and Dwyer, the Kansas D may have held the Horns to under 50 points.

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