Taking Stock: Who's Up, Who's Down

This is the second in a series of post-game reports throughout the season that will evaluate players, positions, units, coaches, and any other thing that is worthy of scrutiny. No, it’s not your typical player X did well, so his stock is up. We will touch on some of those, but we want to provide a closer look at some of the less obvious and explain why the subject received a certain grade. Check back each week for the latest report. You might be surprised.

Stock Up

Cedric Benson — After last week’s performance against North Texas where Benson busted out for 181 yards on 15 carries or a gaudy 12.1 yards per carry, the senior running back ran against the Hogs as if he had something to prove — to those who questioned whether his baseball-free off-season would make a difference, to those who questioned whether he could surpass the 27 yards rushing he had last year against the Pigs, to those who questioned his numbers in the season opener against weak competition, and for that matter, to the author of this column last week for failing to recognize his performance in the "Stock Up" category. Benson did all of that with authority. Against a much stiffer defense, the now-official Heisman Trophy candidate (front "runner" after two weeks) still averaged a very impressive 6.5 yards a carry en route to 188 yards on 29 carries. These weren’t just runs through gaping holes. No, in fact, these were runs with serious yardage after contact. This was tough, downhill running defined. Benson also scored one touchdown rushing and caught the winning TD that put the Horns on top for good.

Jonathan Scott and Kasey Studdard — While Benson should certainly get credit for his top-flight rushing performance and all the offensive linemen should collectively take a bow, Scott and Studdard were stalwarts up front and recognized as such by the coaching staff as Texas ran numerous plays for big yardage behind the big tackle and guard. Case in point — with 6:45 left in the second quarter, Texas led 9-7 and was looking at a second and 9 from its own 37-yard line. From the shotgun formation and with Benson as the lone back offset to the left, Texas quarterback Vince Young handed Benson the ball as he headed right. As Scott and Studdard, in dominating fashion, pushed their men off the line of scrimmage and to the right, Benson cut back across the grain to the huge hole on the left. Several other key blocks down the field and 60 yards later, Texas was knocking on the Arkansas door for a second touchdown and a 16-7 lead. This is just one example of many throughout the night were Scott and Studdard controlled the opponent and opened large holes for Benson.

Punt Coverage Unit — With the lone exception of the first Texas punt of the game where Arkansas returned the punt for 16 yards, the punt coverage unit the rest of the night was smothering. Smothering to the tune of limiting five returns for 24 yards, or less than 5 yards a return. On several occasions Longhorn punter Richmond McGee outkicked his coverage and the Arkansas return man had wide-open space to roam. The Horns' coverage unit responded each and every time. In the fourth quarter alone the unit stepped up big including two returns that resulted in negative yardage for the Hogs. When field position could have easily been flipped, the coverage unit didn’t let it happen.

Stock Down

Defensive Front Seven — Defensive pressure is key on the quarterback, especially one who sets up and sits in the pocket. But when a quarterback like Arkansas’ Matt Jones scrambles not only on an ad-lib basis but also by design, pressure becomes less important and containment becomes critical. The front seven did neither well. Yes, they effectively slowed the run up the middle. Yes, they played a bend-but-don’t-break style of defense that allowed a lot of yardage yet limited the number of points. And yes, in crunch time they forced several critical turnovers that eventually preserved the victory for Texas. But in between those bright spots were a lot of bad angles, missed tackles, poor tackling form, and just flat-out blown assignments. No matter the situation — designed rollout, bootleg, or improvisation — whenever Jones got outside the hash marks it almost always resulted in a good chunk of yardage. Containment was atrocious. What’s equally disturbing is the fact that in the first two weeks of the season, the Texas defense has had as many sacks as a dead man. Hopefully this will be resolved in the next two contests or Jason White will have a field day picking apart the Texas secondary come Oct. 9.

Clock Management — With just over two minutes to play and clinging to a precarious two-point lead, the Longhorns sat in the shadow of their goalposts on the 11-yard line. On second and 6, Benson took the handoff and scrambled to the right sideline. Instead of going up field and taking the hit inbounds, he was pushed out of bounds at the 28. Yes, it was a 17-yard gain and a first down, but the clock stopped. Benson’s out-of-bounds misstep was topped just a minute later when Young, on third and 6 from the 31, ran the ball again toward the right sideline. That sideline was a magnet for bad clock management. Instead of hitting the turf inbounds–taking a knee, sliding or anything to get down–Young was forced out of bounds with 58 seconds remaining. If he stays inbounds and hits the ground, the clock rolls and Arkansas gets the ball with around 20 seconds instead of almost a minute, and more importantly has a fewer number of plays to get down field and set up for a potential game-winning field goal. This could have been a killer and has to be corrected.

Pre-Game Coin Toss Preparation — The story goes–Arkansas won the toss, deferred, and inexplicably, Derrick Johnson said the Horns wanted to kick. No one but Johnson knows why he said that. Maybe a mental lapse, maybe a Texas cheerleader winked at him on the way out, or maybe he drank some Arkansas water. Regardless of the reason the Texas coaches need to drill it into his head for future games, "Ball, defer, wind…ball, defer, wind." And tell those cheerleaders to stop winking.

ESPN Sideline Reporter Erin Andrews — Let’s just say she wasn’t the sharpest during her sideline reports. While referring to the Hogs as the Arizona Razorbacks was funny from a Burnt Orange perspective, her report to start the second half on what happened on the opening coin toss was abysmal. Not only did she repeat how Texas "messed up" the coin toss twice, she started to say how Texas "screwed" up in between the "messed ups." TIVO doesn’t lie. This great television technology is supposed to be good for rewinding and seeing a replay or in this case, hearing what someone said. Unfortunately, no matter how many times you replayed it, it never made any sense. Or in other words, Andrews messed up.

Kyle Dalton is an Austin-based freelance journalist. He has been a contributor to the Austin American-Statesman, San Antonio Express-News, Avid Golfer Magazine, and several other golf magazines and Web publications. He also authored "Burned Orange: Tom Penders and 10 Years at the University of Texas." His "Turning Point" and "Taking Stock" columns appear after each game during football season on InsideTexas.com.

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