A&M game notes and analysis: offense

Notes and analysis on the Horns' offensive performance in their 21-7 win over A&M:

The fact that the coaches didn't abandon the run tells me that they thankfully learned at least one lesson in the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 6. In a similar game, despite the fact that Cedric Benson had six yards on 11 carries at the break, and even more impressively, despite the fact that he had just 12 yards on 14 carries through three quarters (more in a moment on the fact that he only got three third quarter attempts), Greg Davis leaned heavily on Benson in the fourth, handing him the ball 13 times in the quarter. The true freshman responded on his very first carry of the game's final period, picking up five yards over the right side of the line. Benson followed that up with what may have been the most important offensive play of the game, a 24-yard burst again over the right side and to the sideline. The big gainer came off a fake fast sweep (wide receiver handoff) to Tony Jeffery and essentially set up the Horns' first fourth quarter score (on UT's next possession). Benson totaled 67 yards in the fourth quarter, with TD runs of five and 11 yards.

As I mentioned above, Benson's day didn't start out quite so well. Here's a rundown of the results of his first 14 carries: no gain, no gain, gain of two, loss of two, loss of four, loss of one, gain of three, no gain, gain of two, gain of four, gain of two, no gain, gain of five and gain of one. Those last three represent the mere three times the frosh touched the ball on the Horns' 16 third quarter plays. The offensive coaches seemed to be slipping away from the run in favor of the pass a la the OU game, but for whatever reason -- be it simply a realization that they had virtually abandoned the run in the third quarter or be it pressure from the head coach -- Benson ran the ball on 13 of UT's 18 fourth quarter snaps, averaging over five yards per carry.

The Big 12 Championship Game statistics will count as regular season stats, so despite falling just short of both the 1,000-yard mark and Ricky Williams' UT freshman rushing record at Kyle Field, Benson will get a second chance at those totals this weekend in Texas Stadium. Remember that Ricky's record total of 990 in '95 came during a 12-game regular season, so in terms of games played, the two will be on equal footing. Benson, though, will have far more carries than Ricky did. Williams got his 990 on 166 carries (6 yards per). Benson already has 210 carries for his 974 yards (4.6 per).

Benson badly missed a blocking assignment late in the third quarter, allowing an Aggie defender an almost unmolested blindside shot at Chris Simms. Before Benson's man got to Simms, though, LB Jarrod Penright smashed into him from the other edge, registering the Ags' second (and last) sack of the Texas QB on the day.

The longest completion of the day for Simms was a 21-yarder to TE Bo Scaife. The junior QB completed 16 of 33 attempts for 138 yards. The 17 incompletions included one drop (by B.J. Johnson), one near-INTs (by LB Amon Simon, who had a whole lotta green and little Orange and White in between him and the end zone on the attempt for Roy Williams), two throw-aways, three batted or tipped balls and at least four balls out of arm's reach of either receiver or defender. Broken down another way, five of Simms' misses were intended for Williams, two for Sloan Thomas, two for Scaife and one each for Johnson and Benson. Simms took several downfield shots on the day but completed just the 21-yarder to Scaife. The QB tried to connect with Williams in the end zone on the first play of what turned out to be the game-winning, 35-yard TD drive mid-way through the fourth quarter. Aggie corner Sean Weston blanketed Williams and the Simms pass came in high and slightly behind the UT receiver, who tried to no avail for the leaping, one-handed grab. Simms other deep attempt for Roy came in the third, with the Horns heading into the stiff southerly wind. Williams had at most a small step on Davis and the ball looked to get caught up in the wind, creating a jump ball that neither player could control.

Simms scrambled an unusually high five times, gaining 19 yards, but he may have missed an opportunity for his biggest gainer. Facing a third-and-10 from the UT 49 mid-way through the third quarter, Simms dropped back and, after several seconds, scrambled towards the line of scrimmage where, despite the fact that there wasn't an Aggie defender in his path for about 20 yards, he threw incomplete for Thomas.

Davis didn't pull out many of the Horns' trick plays, but the O did fake the fast sweep (WR handoff to Jeffery) twice, including on Benson's 24-yard run early in the fourth quarter. Also, Texas used the shovel pass at a crucial time for a first down. Facing a third-and-eight with about four minutes to go in the first half, Simms hit Brett Robin on a shovel that picked up 12 yards. If the Horns had had to punt from inside the 10 into a 20 mph wind, the Ags probably would have gotten the ball inside the Texas 40, possibly putting a score on the board before the end of the first half.

Roy Williams caught eight balls for 56 yards, pushing his season total to 62 catches for 753 yards. Williams had the ball stripped mid-way through the second quarter after an 11-yard catch as he fought for extra yardage. The ball ricocheted off of an A&M defender and went out of bounds, allowing the Horns to retain possession. The sophomore wideout's longest catch came on a 15-yarder to the left sideline on the play after the shovel pass described above, pushing the Texas offense farther from the shadow of its own goalline and ensuring that the Aggies wouldn't get the ball back with good field position and a chance to score before the end of the half. Scaife totaled three catches for 40 yards, giving him 28 catches for 367 yards on the season.

Antwan Kirk-Hughes started and played at right guard (along with Derrick Dockery) until mid-way through the second quarter. Kirk-Hughes rolled his right ankle and left the game. After having the ankle re-taped, he returned and rotated with Dockery at right guard for most of the rest of the game. Tillman Holloway and Dockery rotated throughout at left guard.

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