Young's recipe for a New Year's Day fright fest: Play hard, just be a quarterback, make plays, try to stay ahead of the chains, and keep the turnovers to a minimum. At the same time, Young confirms the perception that the Wolverine defense -- boasting two first-team All-American defensive backs -- might be particularly vulnerable against mobile quarterbacks.
"From watching them against Ohio State and Michigan State, I've seen them (Wolverine defenders)," said Young. "They were in the right places and doing their assignments, but the quarterback made big plays with his feet. One of the things I try to do is keep guys on the edge of their feet, knowing that I'm either going to run or pass or hand the ball off to (RB Cedric Benson)."
All-American safety Ernest Shazor and All-American cornerback Marlin Jackson have come to personify a Wolverine defense that is yielding 326.5 total ypg. (By comparison, the Longhorn defenses gives up 317.2 ypg, NCAA No. 24.) Previously, Young simply said that Michigan's secondary was "pretty good" and left it at that. He seems a bit more concerned with the big guys up front.
"Their D-line is very huge," said Young. "I've just got to try to keep their guys on their toes and get our O-line a head start with our snap count and stuff like that."
The Longhorns will face a true 3-4 defense for the first time since Texas A&M based out of that alignment under former coach R.C. Slocum. It's a scheme that typically lends itself to more to a zone blitz package rather than pressuring the QB out of its defensive front. And even though it's not an alignment that Texas typically sees in the Big 12, Young points out that the Wolverines "have never seen a zone read. And they've never seen the different routes that we run with our receivers, or the different plays we do with our tight ends."
No one doubts what Young can do with his feet. (That 22-yard scramble around right end on 4th-and-18 late in the game at Kansas was vintage Young and was a BCS-saver. We'd be starting at 10 a.m. in Dallas instead of a mid-afternoon start in Pasadena if Young doesn't make that play.) His passing game, though, has ranged from awesome to awful.
The good news is that, as RS-freshman SE Limas Sweed began to emerge (and as OC Greg Davis began incorporating more sprint-run options and roll-out passes after the OU game), Young's passing numbers improved significantly. VY averaged 151.7 yards through the air during the regular season. But during the last three games of the season, Young averaged 232.7 passing ypg (52-of-79). Young added three rushing TDs and two passing TDs during the final three contests of 2004, impressive numbers offset by four INTs during that stretch. Young, however, did not throw a pick in the season finale against Texas A&M.
"I have confidence in myself right now," he said. "My game is coming around real well. I'm just going out there playing quarterback right now, knowing those guys are going to come after me and do some different things that we have not seen on the film."
Texas is scheduled to practice Tuesday morning at the Home Depot Center before participating in the Lawry's Beef Bowl, 4:30 p.m. (PST). The 49th annual event will determine which squad can consume the largest quantity of prime rib. (An early prediction: DT Larry Dibbles will put away more prime rib than Rose Bowl queen Ashley Moreno.)
TEXAS OFFENSE vs. MICHIGAN DEFENSE
Texas Rushing Offense (302.4 ypg) vs. Michigan Rush defense (121.5 ypg)
Texas Passing Offense (163.9 ypg) vs. Michigan Pass defense (205.0 ypg)
Texas Total offense (466.3 ypg) vs. Michigan Total defense (326.5 ypg)
Texas Scoring offense (35.0 ppg) vs. Michigan Scoring defense (21.9 ppg)