Culpepper's Commentary: Texas-OU

Let's get right to it. The Longhorns will lose another game or two this season <U>unless</U> Vince Young is given a chance to break free of the sitting duck, drop-back passing we saw against Oklahoma and allowed to make plays on the run with a run-pass option attack.

Let me explain my point this way: Missouri was embarrassed and upset by Troy State a month ago because coach Gary Pinkel was convinced it was necessary to turn his quarterback Brad Smith into a drop-back passer. Now mind you, the Tiger defense had lots to do with the shocking loss, but Brad Smith looked like Vince Young against Oklahoma: a lost ball in the tall weeds. Since that game, Pinkel let Smith go and put him on the run. Mizzou has won three straight (although I'm picking the Horns to end that streak with a 27-14 Texas win at DKR this weekend).

Texas must develop a sprint out look with Young where he can move right or left, looking downfield at one or two receivers. If the receivers are covered, run it! Sounds simple, but we saw it just once vs. the Sooners Saturday. The one time the Longhorns did use it, Young moved to his right with Cedric Benson in front and the Oklahoma contain was so soft, Young ran for an easy first down. It's partly mathematics: with an opponent playing two-deep zone, only seven defenders are left to jam the front. Young sprints away from at least four of them, which leaves everything in front of him for easy decisions.

Instead, it was largely zone read after zone read after zone read Saturday, with drop-back passes thrown in occasionally, which, given OU's defensive strategy, didn't allow either Vince or Cedric to have the type of games they were capable of having.

After the game, everybody had to believe Adrian Peterson was the best running back on the field with his 32 rushes for 225 yards, but look at the ways he got the football:

1. Fullback lead play from the I.

2. Counter play.

3. Misdirection pitch after a quick fake to the fullback.

4. Pitch sweep.

On his very first carry, the Horns were minus a cornerback to the tight end side, so when Peterson cleared the Texas defensive end he had clear sailing for 40-plus yards.

He looked unstoppable, but I submit this to you: given the same opportunities, Cedric Benson would have done equally as well. You give Benson the pitch sweep with blockers in front like he ran at Midland Lee High School and the Oklahoma defense would have been stretched out, giving the Texas senior similar cut-back lanes.

Texas did use a nice draw to Benson twice, once in the first half and once in the second, and he broke it into the Sooner secondary. The Longhorns had plenty of second- and third-and-long yardage downs to try this well blocked and conceived play. But we will never know if that play would have worked several more times. The old theory "run it until they stop it" apparently doesn't exist for Greg Davis when Texas plays Oklahoma, although it certainly exists on the opposite sideline (see the misdirection pitch right to Peterson).

There were some positives.

I'm not sure any Longhorn linebacker ever played a better football game than Derrick Johnson did Saturday. He did things Tommy Nobis could never do. For sure the redhead from San Antonio could match Johnson for impact tackles, but in terms of making plays all over the field, Nobis simply didn't have the speed that D.J. brings. Almost every time Oklahoma got in position to put Texas away, No. 11 flashed into the picture to wreck a play.

On one classic maneuver, Johnson came inside a blocker and chased down quarterback Jason White from behind, slugging the ball out for a crucial Texas turnover. His interception at the lip of the Longhorn goalline by Johnson was a tribute to the defensive staff at Texas for the tip, hustle and never-give-up attitude. In fact, as the Longhorn team and coaching staff filed down to the north end zone for "The Eyes of Texas," Orangebloods chanted "Defense, Defense" as a salute to the efforts of that Texas unit.

And, perhaps crucial to the Horns' success offensively over the final six games, Limas Sweed grew up Saturday in the Cotton Bowl. The redshirt freshman wideout made a brilliant move to bat away a poorly thrown long ball that was a sure interception and made a clutch, leaping fade pass catch along the Oklahoma sideline late in the game.

Finally, these two teams were dead equal for most of this game. I didn't see a talent gap.

No doubt this is the best-coached Texas team in the last four years. The Horns have no reason to hold their heads in shame because they lost to Oklahoma.

So, consider this season, with new defensive coaches and a new, improved attitude, as a step in building a national championship team. Mack Brown faced his personal demon as a Texas coach and had his team ready to play against the Sooners. He has developed toughness in the Texas running game.

But Brown and his staff must also recognize that Vince Young's talent is on the move, not standing still and looking downfield. VY at quarterback couldn't beat Oklahoma as a drop-back passer. Vince Young running QB sweeps, rollout passes, bootlegs and simple options could have beaten Oklahoma.

Will the Texas staff now adjust, as it did last year post-OU, and allow Vince Young to be a decisive factor down the stretch? I believe if they are able to put the burr under his saddle and get him on the corner, combined with Benson's attacks up the middle, a revitalized Texas defense, and marvelously-coached special teams units, the Longhorns could win the next six games as well as a bowl game.

It's up to you, Texas staff.

Pat Culpepper played for The University from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary will appear regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.


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