Culpepper's Commentary: Texas-Rice

One thing about problems is that everyone pays attention to them after repeated failures. So that meant every time the Longhorns lined up to kickoff Saturday night vs. Rice -- which was 9 times -- there were at least 5,000 pair of binoculars checking the numbers of the players assigned to coverage duty.

Names like Aaron Harris, Rashad Bobino, Michael Huff, Drew Kelson and a few other starters showed everyone how serious this problem has become. To put it bluntly, Mack Brown was damn tired of seeing his Longhorn defense setting up around midfield after horrible kickoff coverage in pressure ball games.

Coach Brown stripped Oscar Giles of the responsibility of coaching the kickoff coverage team and assigned every member of his defensive staff parts of the training of the unit. It was more than a finger in a dike deal, it was a "this B.S. has got to stop" ultimatum!

One obvious change was at kicker, and Greg Johnson (in place of Richmond McGee) sailed three kickoffs to touchback land. Another less obvious change was players breaking down in coverage and trying to make tackles instead of flying past the ball carrier.

Selvin Young did not suited up for the contest and so his "substitute" put on quite an impressive performance. Now those of you that believed the news release from Austin last week that intimated Young would be the starting running back when he recovered from his injury need to understand this had to be on of those "I-think-we-need-to-date-other-people" announcements. Jamaal Charles won the starting job under the pressure of the Ohio State Buckeye defense by running hard, blocking hard, making tough catches and turning them into first downs.

If I were Selvin Young I would go to Coach Brown and tell him, "Put me on the kickoff coverage team, I want to kill somebody." With fumbles and nagging injuries, the youngster looks to have let slip away a wonderful opportunity to start behind one of the two best offensive lines in college football. Of course, if Young’s attitude is good and his heart is strong perhaps sometime, somewhere he will make a positive contribution in the remaining games on the schedule.

Linebackers Harris and Bobino used their speed to come around the blocks and shut down the slot bone offense of Rice. There were times early when safeties Michael Huff and Michael Griffin were late on the pitch and Rice got the alley but that was corrected with a passion as the game progressed.

As always against the fullback ride option attack (going all the way back to defending Darrell Royal’s wishbone), the defensive tackles who knock back the offensive guards are the key to stopping the fullback part of the offense. UCLA gave up over 100 yards to Rice’s fullbacks but the Bruins don’t have Frank Okam, Rod Wright, Larry Dibbles or Derek Lokey. The Longhorn front slammed into Owl blockers and stuffed them in their tracks. Defensive ends Brian Robison and Tim Crowder took care of the quarterback and Rice was out of options.

I hope you saw what I saw: even in the 95 degree heat the Longhorn offensive line had an outstanding charge on the line of scrimmage and there were big bodies downfield like USS Jonathan Scott and Kasey Studdard knocking Owls off their perches in the secondary.

It was healthy for Vince Young to find David Thomas open again (after a one-catch performance in Columbus). The senior tight end from Wolfforth, Texas is the best at his position of anyone I have seen on television this season — and that’s lots of games since Labor Day. He is smart, aggressive and a winner in the clutch.

For the last two weeks, the Texas secondary has come to the front as far as delivering big hits. Cedric Griffin and Aaron Ross bring it at corner and Huff and Michael Griffin are collision specialists. This is good stuff. Tarell Brown got beat at corner early in the game on a corner route but the way Coach Chizik sets up his defense that will occasionally happen. If you are going to blitz safeties, the Longhorn corners have to man up at times and that causes them to have to be acrobats versus deep routes. They will improve in the open week — but don’t you like the pressure on the quarterbacks?

In the next two football games, harassment of Brad Smith of Missouri and South Grand Prairie’s finest, Rhett Bomar, is one of the keys to victory for the Texas defense.

Missouri at Columbia will be a challenge but I think the Longhorns will wear the Tigers down in the second half. Texas 35, Missouri 10.

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 appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at

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