It was evident from the first series that the Longhorn coaches took the "kid gloves" off Vince's running. You remember in Dallas how Young conveniently glided out of bounds on his first run against the Sooners, just as he did through much of the first half of the season in a marked change from his physical running style as a redshirt freshman? Well, Saturday in the 85-degree heat, Vince Young was again running like he had to win the game. It's truly a shame he coupled that excellent effort with such passing ineffectiveness.
And don't count on Chance Mock leading the Texas offense out of the wilderness. At one time, he was a fierce competitor but after almost a year on the bench behind Young, the senior looks like a shell of the QB that posted outstanding passing numbers over the first half of the '03 season and that led Texas to a come-from-behind win against Texas Tech last fall. The only way for Chance to regain his effectiveness would be for Coach Brown to name him the starter and give him the majority of practice snaps this week, and neither of those situations seems likely unless Young is sidelined due to injury.
Believe me, this is a coaching nightmare. It is much worse than the Major Applewhite-Chris Simms soap opera of several years ago. At least either one of those choices could complete passes.
You be Coach Mack Brown: do you go with Mock, who in the past has shown the ability to throw from the dropback position but has been covered in mothballs (and looked it in his limited playing time), or do you go with Young, whose running skills can confound almost any college team in America but who isn't a consistent passing threat?
If Brown goes with Young, the problem is, would Greg Davis turn Young into a running-passer the whole game? That's what he did vs. Missouri and the Tigers ended up with two interceptions on poorly thrown attempts from the sophomore QB.
As long as the Texas offensive line assaults the defense and Cedric Benson continues to fight for yardage, though, the Longhorns have a chance to score points. But somebody -- Vince Young, Chance Mock, David Thomas, the wide receivers, Will Matthews, or some combination of the above -- has to take pressure off of Benson and become a legitimate offensive threat if the Horns are to reach their 10-win potential.
While the Texas offense is in limbo, the Longhorn defense will make beating UT a difficult undertaking. The 11 defenders on the field, plus subs like Aaron Ross who turned in a brilliant and perhaps game-changing 64-yard interception return against the Tigers, play with a relentlessness that is inspirational. Even when their leader Derrick Johnson went to the sideline with a bruised shoulder in the fourth quarter, backup Robert Killebrew rose to the occasion with a quarterback sack, which ended Missouri's chances of winning.
And it's about time to heap some praise on punter Richmond McGee. At the most dangerous times, with winning and losing possibly in the balance, McGee has hit a rocket and the Texas punt coverage team screamed downfield, whether against Arkansas, Oklahoma or Missouri.
In a way, this team reminds me of Fred Akers' 1977 Longhorns. They ended 11-1 with a knockdown solid defense and an offense led by a quarterback that delivered the ball to Earl Campbell. But there's a lot of work to do before this team can be mentioned in the same breath as that near-national championship squad.
Before the season started, there were three teams on the Longhorn schedule that Carl Reese's D failed to defense in 2003: Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Greg Robinson's D has responded in a positive fashion to the first two. But the biggest challenge may lie ahead in Lubbock. Can the Horns find a way to harass and confuse the wide-line-splits, spread-offense circus of the Texas Tech Red Raiders?
It will be fun to watch, but I think Tech drops the Horns out of any national or conference contention, 28-17.
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.