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

This is the sixth 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

Vince Young, the wide receiver — At last we now know how the Longhorn passing game can improve–throw the ball to Vince Young. But wait, some may say, he’s the quarterback. Exactly. Young, as everyone under the Burnt Orange sun knows, is an incredibly gifted athlete and can fly down the field as he did Saturday on one of the most impressive 23-yard scampers you’ll ever see. What we also found out on Saturday against Mizzou is the guy can catch even while a defender conducts a pass interference clinic when covering him.

Ramonce Taylor, the quarterback — Okay, let’s be perfectly honest, his pass to Young wasn’t a thing of beauty. But when you heard his explanation after the game on how he just wanted to get the ball there and let Young go up and grab it, it made perfect sense. When you have talent at receiver that’s all you want to do on that type of play, get it there and let the receiver do the work. Sounds like someone with some quarterback wherewithal.

Aaron Harris and Derrick Johnson — This is the second consecutive week Harris has made the "Stock Up" category and with good reason. He led the defensive unit with a stellar 14 tackles including eight solo and one for a loss. Johnson continued on his blazing path to the Butkus Award with another dominant performance that included 12 tackles, nine solo and three for losses. Johnson, for his efforts, was awarded Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season. The two linebackers have clearly established that they are the foundation of the defensive unit and a nightmare for opposing offenses.

Brian Robison — This hasn’t been the greatest of seasons for the undersized sophomore defensive end. He has been noticeably absent on containment on more than one occasion and like the rest of the defensive front has been unable to apply any pressure on the opposing quarterback. He averages around four tackles including one or two for loss per contest. Saturday against Missouri Robison got a little comeuppance. Not only did he record five tackles including a couple for losses, but he revealed his 40-inch vertical leap and cat-like reflexes when he made an impressive interception that he promptly returned a whole six feet to put Texas on the board 7-0 in the first quarter. That leaping mid-air grab and almost instantaneous TD provided a much-needed spark for the Horns.

Stock Down

Pass Offense — My, oh my. Just think back to last week and how it was more than troubling to find Cedric Benson’s name atop the list for leading receivers. It couldn’t get any worse, right? Wrong! Two names and two statistics indicate just how bad the passing game has become. Oh sure, Vince Young is involved in leading one of the statistics, just not the right one. Young — 48 yards receiving. Freshman running back Ramonce Taylor — 48 yards passing. These are, by far, the most bizarre and distressing stats of the year.

Cedric Benson — If the position of running back only consisted of its namesake–running–Benson would get the Heisman hands down. He runs as hard or harder than any back in the nation. His yards after contact are ridiculous. Unfortunately, in the last three games, it’s what happens to him during those yards after contact that has landed him in "Stock Down" this week. He seems to have forgotten the most important facet of being a running back–holding on to the ball. Against Baylor, Oklahoma and Missouri, Benson has put the ball on the turf seven times, losing three of them. Against the Tigers he put up almost half of his unenviable three-game total coughing it up three times, losing one. You can hope this is just an aberration as coming into the season Benson had fumbled 10 times in 786 attempts or once every 78.6 carries. But seven in three games is a disturbing number. If there’s a statistic that will scare NFL GMs and coaches, this is it. Just ask the former Red River nightmare Quentin Griffin who has lost his starting running back position in Denver due to fumble-itis.

Penalties — If there has been one consistent this year, it’s this–Texas has finished each game with more penalties than its opponent. Okay, that’s not totally true. In the Red River Shootout the Horns and Sooners tied with five each but Texas edged out Oklahoma with 11 more steps backward. Against Missouri the Horns were penalized seven times for 51 yards. The numbers, however, don’t tell the whole story. Case and point–early in the third quarter with Texas leading 21-14, Cedric Benson sprinted 61 yards down the right sideline for an apparent touchdown. Stop. Hold everything. At least that’s what Will Allen did. Allen got called for holding a Missouri defender and the touchdown was called back. In hindsight this penalty turned out to be huge, as the play would have put the Horns up by 14 early in the third quarter and more importantly, given them some offensive momentum. Instead, the Longhorn offense looked totally inept for most of the quarter and never got anything going until the final drive. If that penalty never happens, Benson still may have scored on the play and the Longhorn offense has a solid quarter.

The defense got in on the act as well. In one of the crazier penalties you’ll see called all year, the Longhorns used 12 men on one play in the second quarter. No, this wasn’t one of those 12 men in the huddle variety that results in a five-yard mark off. This was 12 actual players on the field participating in the play. In addition to the obvious embarrassment of not knowing the personnel on the field, it proved costly as Texas had stopped Missouri quarterback Brad Smith for a 6-yard loss on third down, albeit with one extra defender. If the customary 11 players had been on the field, Missouri would have had to punt. Instead, Texas gets 15 yards marked off and Missouri gets an automatic first down. Seven plays later Missouri scores and the Texas lead is cut in half 14-7. Both penalties provided huge swings of momentum in favor of the Tigers.


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