Texas Offense Should Show Its 'Id' To Sooners

Got some ID? The Texas offense does. It didn't this time last year. The fact that the Longhorns have a clearly defined offensive identity may be the best thing they have going for them as they take on No. 2 Oklahoma Saturday.

Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis is not about to divulge how his league-leading offense will attack the Sooner defense, but it's no secret how Texas wants to move the ball. Truth be told, you wouldn't need much more than two hands to count the number of plays Texas has run all season. Although the Horns have taken snaps from multiple formations, Davis has shown little variance in his playcalling. Whatever wrinkles Davis has in store for the Sooners, he wisely didn't talk about it during his weekly press conference Tuesday.

"There are certain things that you work on that are earmarked for certain ball games," was all Davis would reveal.

OU Coach Bob Stoops has been equally discrete.

"I'm sure they've got quite a bit saved up," Stoops said. "But don't worry. We've got quite a bit saved up, too, on both sides of the ball."

This year, one of the most applicable Darrell Royal-isms for Texas in the Red River Shootout has to do with dancing with the one who brung ya. And what has brought Texas to the heights of the NCAA's third most prolific offense (528.5 ypg) has been its nation's best ground game (353.5 ypg). Until last year's OU game, it was as if Texas had left its rushing offense somewhere back in the 20th Century. The Horns did manage 171 yards rushing in last season's debacle, with QB Vince Young coming off the bench to run for 127 yards on 15 carries.

Young, of course, was still rotating every third series behind former starting QB Chance Mock heading into the 2003 tilt. But with both QBs bringing such contrasting styles to the playing field, Texas was a squad that didn't quite know what it wanted to do offensively. The 65-13 disaster is largely remembered as a total defensive meltdown, but a bi-polar offensive scheme (not to mention six turnovers) was also responsible for the most lopsided score in the series' 98-year history. Just before last year's OU game, head coach Mack Brown was asked if he had any sense of his team's identity. He thought about it a few moments before replying, "I honestly don't know."

"We were not totally committed at this point last year to the gun-and-run, to the (zone) reads, and the counter reads," Davis said during his press meeting Tuesday. "After that ballgame, we did. We made a total commitment to that style and have been pretty productive since."

Texas has since gone 10-1 with Young behind center. He enters Saturday's affair more confident and poised than ever before, Davis added. Not to mention experienced.

"You can't put a price tag on the number of snaps that he's had since that ball game," Davis said

Texas is running many of the same plays these days as it did during Ricky Williams' Heisman run but from different formations. The Horns operated predominantly out of a two-back, two WR set in 1998 (going with four wides in long yardage situations) while, this season, Davis has relied heavily on the shotgun and with a single-back on slightly more than half of its 295 total plays through four games. Texas has kept it on the ground for 201 snaps, averaging 7.2 yards per carry.

RB Cedric Benson, who was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week for his work against Baylor, is the nation's leading rusher with 186.5 ypg.

"I feel like we're running the ball better than any season since 1998 and perhaps even better than the 1998 season," Davis said. "Our offensive line is playing well together and Cedric is a big part of that along with the tight ends. But he's running very physically and with great vision."

Many have compared Texas' zone read offense to the devastating wishbone attack that former Longhorn assistant Emory Ballard engineered in 1968. By the time the rest of the college football world figured out how to slow the triple-option attack, Texas had reeled off 30 wins on the way to two national championships.

"We have to try to mix it up (Saturday) and we have to try to get the ball to the perimeter some," Davis said. "With our zone read, the ball does get out there some."

Added Davis, "We're not a team that does a ton of audibles at this point because more things in the read schemes take care of those things for us. When we were playing from under the center with less than mobile quarterbacks they did a ton of stuff at the line."

The Horns and Sooners tee it up for the 99th time, 11 a.m. at the Cotton Bowl in an ABC national telecast.

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