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

This is the third 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

Texas Running Backs — Cedric Benson outdid himself yet again. After 181 yards rushing against North Texas and 188 yards versus the Hogs, the senior finished with 189 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown against Rice. That’s 186 yards per game in three games and the best ever three-game start for a running back in Texas history. Not bad, huh? For anyone who didn’t have Benson as a legitimate candidate for the Heisman (maybe those under a rock for the first month of the season), he should be the hands-down frontrunner at this point. While Benson was phenomenal, Will Matthews, who is known for leading the way for Benson on many of his carries, had a solid game of his own toting the ball. Matthews, who spelled Benson throughout the game, carried the ball seven times for a career-high 50 yards or just over seven yards a carry. Considering he had carried it only seven times in the previous two games, Matthews performed well including several runs where he initiated contact and dished out some punishment to those who dared to try tackling him.

Derrick Johnson — DJ has enough material in just three games for a human highlight reel. That’s pretty heady stuff considering he doesn’t get the opportunity to make long runs or haul in spectacular catches. When he’s not making your everyday ho-hum tackles (where he leads the team), he’s hitting his victims so hard it can be heard up in the press box if not outside DKR. On Saturday evening against Rice he added something new to his repertoire. Let’s just say it was something that did the "Above the Rim" crowd proud. With Rice facing a third and 8 from the Texas 44, Rice quarterback Greg Henderson dropped back to pass and set to throw from the 50. Rice running back Joe Moore came around from the right side of the line and set up to block Johnson. Unfortunately for Moore, Johnson had a five-yard running start, which was more than enough for him to leap over Moore who attempted to block Johnson down low. Moore whiffed. Johnson started liftoff at the Texas 47 and eventually landed at the Rice 48. That’s five yards through the air. In flight Johnson took Henderson’s pass right off the front of his helmet. No, this wasn’t a low throw by Henderson. Johnson was that high, around 8 feet off the ground. The ball caromed some 30 feet into the air and backwards. Three-and-out for Rice and nice poster material for Johnson.

David Thomas — Thomas has looked good all season. He’s actually looked good his entire career. We’ve just seen limited glimpses of it, i.e. Texas A&M last year. This year he has not only figured into the game plan along with fellow tight end Bo Scaife, but Thomas has become Young’s go-to guy. The numbers indicate that, especially against the Owls as he finished the night with 90 yards on four catches including two touchdowns. Thomas, however, deserves a special mention for his catch and touchdown run with just more than 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Not only did he maintain his balance after making a nifty move to take advantage of the clock-cleaning block to the outside by Tony Jeffery, he did something you don’t often see from a wide receiver or tight end. He initiated contact. Instead of going out of bounds at the 10-yard line with two Rice defenders fast approaching, Thomas confronted the two would-be tacklers, making one completely miss and go out of bounds and knocking the other into the end zone right alongside him as he scored. How refreshing!

Vince Young to Tight Ends Connection — With David Thomas serving as Vince Young’s main target this season, Bo Scaife has become Young’s first alternate. Young has found a comfort level and rhythm with both tight ends completing 13 passes for 270 yards and an impressive four touchdowns in the first three contests. Against Rice, Young found Thomas and Scaife for 121 yards and three touchdowns including a couple of nice touch passes over the middle to each end and a rollout pass to a flashing Thomas, who took it 49 yards for an impressive catch and score. Finally, Longhorn fans can no longer complain about not getting the tight ends involved. Now, if they could just do something with those receivers.

Stock Down

Derrick Johnson - While his performance was the what-we’ve-come-to-expect outstanding, Johnson could have been even better. Ironically, Johnson gets a "Stock Down" rating this week for the same reason he gets a "Stock Up" rating. He’s too intent on making the big hit rather than making the tackle. All too often you see Johnson come in, make the incredible hit and not wrap up the ball carrier. Most of the time the recipient of a Johnson blast hits the turf, the result of the shear force he unleashes. The overpowering hits may make SportsCenter, but they don’t ever take precedent over good form.

Vince Young and the Wide Receiving Corps — Inexperience kills. Injuries hurt. Vince Young’s touch with the deep ball or lack thereof at least early in the season doesn’t help matters. Against Rice, it was all of the above. With regulars Limas Sweed, Eric Enard and Brian Carter all sitting out, Young had to rely on freshman Nate Jones and senior Tony Jeffery. Jeffery accounted for three catches and 36 yards while Jones had one reception for 3 yards. Hardly impressive. In a game where Young should have been able to find success with his receivers on the deep ball against an inexperienced secondary, he did not.

Dusty Mangum — Missed a 37-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter. That’s his second miss in as many games. In this college football season of so many missed extra points, which Mangum has not done, a missed field goal might be given a little leeway. But Mangum has to make those inside 40 because some time this year his right foot might be the difference between a win and a loss.

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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