Holiday Bowl notes and analysis: offense

Notes and analysis on the Horns' offensive performance in their 47-43 win over Washington in the Holiday Bowl:

Cedric Benson, who worked out with the Horns during their week of practice in San Diego but did not participate in contact drills, did not play in the Holiday Bowl. Victor Ike got the start at tailback, but Ivan Williams, after rumbling for 15 yards on his first carry of the game on a short-yardage carry midway through the second quarter, took over for Ike and ran well over the game's final two-and-half quarters. Up to the point that Ivan took over for Ike, the senior starter had three nice runs (for nine, six and five yards) but far more short- or no-gainers, managing just 21 yards on 10 carries. After Ike carried for no gain out of an off-set I set on a second-and-one, Ivan came in as the deep back in the Horns short yardage set (with Matt Trissel and Chad Stevens also in the backfield behind a two-TE set) and broke free for the big gainer. The big-back sophomore finished the game with 14 rushes for 59 yards (4.2 per carry), including two TD runs in the fourth quarter, the second of the two being the three-yard game clincher. Williams also took a shovel pass 18 yards as Texas fought to get back in the game in the third quarter. Along with Major Applewhite and the receiving corps, Williams' comeback performance is one of the stories of the game offensively. Ivan fell out of favor with the coaches after his tentative attempts against the Sooners back in October, and with Benson's emergence at the starting spot the following week in Stillwater, his role diminished to nothing but mop-up work. Against the Huskies, Ike provided more evidence that he simply is not capable of being an every-down tailback in the UT offense, while Ivan seems to have set himself up for the No. 2 tailback job heading into spring. Starter Benson is expected to be ready for full participation in spring.

Despite the different QBs under center, the '00 Holiday Bowl and '01 version had several similarities for Texas. Last season, the Ducks jumped out to a 14-zip lead before Chris Simms rallied the Horns to a first half 21-14 lead. This year, the Huskies scored the game's first 13 points before Applewhite led Texas to two straight TDs and 14-13 lead. Last season, Oregon tied the game in the third quarter and grabbed the lead in the fourth quarter before the Horns battled back. This year, Washington pulled away in the third quarter only to have Texas put together a fourth quarter run. Last season, Simms threw four INTs (one of them on a first half Hail Mary that had no bearing on the game) that led to 14 UO points. This year, Applewhite threw three INTs that led to 13 UW points. The difference between the two games? Largely the ability by the UT receiving corps to hold onto to the ball in the clutch this year after failing to do so in '00. If Roy and B.J. haul in any of the three perfect strikes Simms threw last December, Friday night's MVP-, team-rallying-performance by Major may have been the second in a row in the San Diego bowl by a Texas QB. And perhaps some Orangebloods' treatment of Simms would be a bit more charitable than what they showed on and since Dec. 1 in Dallas. After the Holiday Bowl, Major looked ahead to next season when Simms should return to the starting role. "Without a doubt, Texas can win 'em all with Chris," Applewhite said. "He just needs to relax and play his game. He's a better thrower than I am, and I'd tell the fans to be 100-percent supportive of him like they were with me."

Applewhite, asked what he told the Texas receivers during the game's pivotal fourth quarter, said, "I kept telling Roy, B.J. and Bo, that's why we recruited you guys." They responded. Williams totaled a school-record 11 catches for 134 yards and a TD, Johnson collected six catches for a whoppin' 157 yards and Scaife caught seven for 84 yards. "This game was big-time redemption for (Roy and B.J.)," Major added. "Those two guys stepped up and played a heckuva ballgame." Roy's signature catch of the game, and the one that I believe signaled that the want-to and can-do factors for Williams in this one far outdistanced those of last year's game, came with the score at 36-26 with just over 10 minutes to play. On the first play of the drive following a Husky punt, Major threw a deep jump ball down the middle that a leaping Williams plucked away from defending corner Roc Alexander to set the Horns up at the Washington 16. Texas scored four plays later to cut the Husky lead to 36-33. That want-to, can-do catch turned out to be Roy's last of the game. By then, the time had come for Johnson to exorcise his San Diego demons and he did just that on the Horns' game winning drive. The sophomore wideout accounted for 57 of the drive's 80 total yards, 25 on a second-and-10 slant with a minute-and-a-half to play that moved UT into Washington territory and 32 two plays later on a deep throw to the left hash that he wrapped tight before falling to the Qualcomm grass at the five. Ivan Williams bulled his way into the end zone for the TD two plays later. Earlier in the game, B.J. also held on for a 25-yard gain deep across the middle despite being leveled by Husky FS Wondame Davis just after the ball arrived. On the Horns' go-ahead TD drive in the second quarter, Roy also made another impressive want-to play, catching a quick hitter short of the marker on a third-and-nine but fighting his way to the first, setting up his own 25-yard TD reception on the next play (see next paragraph for more on the play). "Texas has a great receiver group and Major put it in places where they could make plays," Husky coach Rick Neuheisel said. And in this Holiday Bowl, unlike the last one, they made those plays.

Major's best-executed pass of the night came late in the second quarter with the Horns trailing 13-7. On first-and-10 from the Washington 25, UT's senior QB dropped back three steps, all the while looking to the right side, pumped in that direction and then turned left and lofted a perfect ball to the outside shoulder of Roy Williams at the left pylon for the go-ahead TD. Several of Applewhite's other passes, even several of the completed ones, were not so perfect. Major had two balls batted at the line of scrimmage, he had three intercepted (one which he threw directly into the hands of Washington DT Terry Johnson, who took it back the distance for a TD and another that he tossed behind intended receiver Scaife -- the other pick should have been a Scaife reception, but he batted the ball into the air, allowing the trailing defender to snag the INT), he underthrew his open deep receivers several times, forcing the wideouts into jump ball situations (a couple of which they won, like the Roy Williams play described in the previous paragraph), he threw short of the chains on several third down plays, and he missed open receivers in the end zone (T.J. and then B.J. on consecutive third quarter possessions, forcing the Horns to settle for field goals rather than touchdowns), all issues that also dogged Simms this season. In other words, his do-no-wrong reputation as perceived by some Orangebloods proved to be more legend than fact. But despite the imperfections, Major's legend deservedly should grow because he hit his targets when most needed, including the quick slant to Scaife from the four just before being leveled by the Husky rush on a third-and-goal play that gave the Horns a 40-36 lead, and he did not make any disastrous mistakes through the game's final quarter-and-a-half when Texas needed to play near error-free football. His calm presence and leadership may have also ensured that disastrous mistakes did not befall any of the other offensive 11.

One other note on Major's performance: he even scrambled for positive yardage on a third quarter field goal drive. On a second-and-10 from the UW 25, Applewhite headed to the left boundary after looking to pass downfield, forced out of bounds at the 30 by Husky NG Larry Tripplett. Tripplett then tackled Major almost five yards wide of the sideline, drawing a personal foul infraction that moved UT to the 45.

A lot of credit for Major's (and the wideouts') performance must go to the offensive line, which seldom allowed the Husky pass rush anywhere near Applewhite. Defenses have had success against Major in the past by pressuring him from the front four and particularly from blitzing LBs and forcing hurried throws, but Washington did not manage a single sack and only hit the senior QB a couple of times. Brown summed it up like this: "They couldn't cover us and couldn't get to the quarterback." With Major, that's a defensive disaster waiting to happen. With time, he can pick a defense apart. The OL gave him that time in the Holiday Bowl, and he responded with a record-setting final outing.

Tillman Holloway and Antwan Kirk-Hughes started at the two guard spots but, as usual when healthy, the Horns employed a three-man rotation at the two spots with Holloway, Kirk-Hughes and Derrick Dockery each seeing close to equal time.

Roy Williams, who said in an chat before the Holiday Bowl that he is playing at about 70-percent, will have off-season surgery to remove bone spurs in his right ankle and is expected to miss spring ball. Early in the season Williams seemed to be a bit slower than last season, but he looked more like his '00 self during the middle and latter parts of the year. And in the Holiday Bowl, he ran well on the ankle, a fact perhaps most attested to by a 13-yard end around in the first quarter (as well as by his monster receiving numbers). On the play, he quickly turned the corner with his long, hard strides.

Speaking of end-arounds, Greg Davis called the play twice. On back-to-back plays! After Roy's 13-yard gainer, Tony Jeffery got the call and rambled around left end for 15 yards. Those two plays represented the only plays pulled out of the OC's bag of tricks, although the Horns hit four shovel passes (which helped slow the Husky rush), three to Brett Robin for 29 total yards and one to Ivan Williams for 18. Texas also utilized Trissel in the passing game an unprecedented amount, tossing five balls his way, all catches, for 29 yards, including an early fourth quarter two-yard catch-and-run TD that cut the Husky lead to 10.

For the first time all season, Texas did not run a single play out of its five-wide formation. The Horns spent about equal time in the off-set I and in three-wides.

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