Davis' OU Game Plan: How Conservative?

Texas’ conservative game plan against Oklahoma last season gave the Horns a better chance to win, Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis said Tuesday, in essence repeating what he revealed following the 12-0 loss. But will a similar approach fly this week in Dallas?

Texas’ inability to score for the first time in 24 years (snapping D-I’s longest active scoring streak) was more offensive to Horn fans in 2004 than it was against the Sooners. Even RB Cedric Benson publicly questioned the offensive scheme following the shutout. Nearly one year later, Davis defended the decision as Texas looks to snap a five-game losing streak against its arch rivals at high noon in Dallas.

"I think it’s been well talked about that we played very conservatively last year," Davis said Tuesday. "We sat down and decided that it was the best way to give us a chance to win, and it was 6-0 going into the fourth quarter."

Thing is, the Horns had zero points at the end of the fourth quarter. For many, it represented the latest (and most exasperating) chapter in what has been five years of offensive futility against the Sooners simply because the defense gave Texas a chance to win throughout the ball game.

These days, the No. 2 Longhorns boast a veteran offensive line, an improved receiving corps, a QB that will be in New York on Heisman Trophy day and a freshman RB whose per-game average (111.8) is just a half-yard off from the Big 12 rushing lead. Does it translate into a game plan that is less close-to-the-vest?

"This is a group that has grown up and is a little bit older," Davis said of the 2005 Longhorns. "We haven’t played that way (conservatively) in a while. We’re better in space although we’re pleased that when we go to two backs, our production in that formation is good. We’ve been pleased with what we’ve been able to get out of it. At the same time, we’d like to run the football."

Part of that conservative approach in this particular game (more indicative of the head coach, I suspect, than the OC) included keeping freshmen playmakers out of the starting lineup. It is well documented that the likes of Vince Young, Cedric Benson, Roy Williams and B.J. Johnson did not log their first start until the week after the OU game.

Davis reported that he would be "less than honest" if he said he wasn’t concerned about freshman RB Jamaal Charles’ relative inexperience prior to the 100th clash with Oklahoma.

"But he’s played pretty well up until this point," Davis said of Charles, who is averaging 8.1 ypc through five contests. "He played very well at Ohio State, but this is a different game. I think he’ll do fine. He’s a very unique freshman. He’s playing well without the football. Each freshman is different. To say we wouldn’t play a freshman is probably a stretch. He’s playing pretty well now. I feel like he’ll play balls out on Saturday."

The common denominator during the past five UT losses (according to Davis) is that Texas had more turnovers. And Texas got out-rushed. And Oklahoma had more explosive plays. Texas is 43-0 under Mack Brown when the Horns win those three statistical categories, Davis added.

Dare we suggest that winning those categories just might have something to do with the game plan? Dare we suggest that a conservative game plan (knowing that Texas A&M and Oklahoma State combined for 70 points against the same Sooner defense last season) suggests to your playmakers that coaches don’t trust them, at least in this one game? Truth of the matter is, Roy Williams never notched a TD reception against OU during his collegiate career. Chris Simms never threw a TD pass against the Sooners. In fact, Texas has not registered a passing TD in the rivalry since 1999. On top of that, Benson never rushed for 100 yards against Oklahoma.


"We’re very up front with the guys about their ability," Davis said. "We try to give them exactly what our thoughts are... but I don’t think (players not trusting the game plan) has been a problem."

Davis said he has learned years ago not to be susceptible to criticism from fans and media, adding that the play caller at The University of Texas ought to know better than to read e-mails. He also shared this anecdote Tuesday:

"I was watching President Bush during the (Hurricane) Katrina situation as he was fending off the scribes. I was sitting there with (O-Line coach) Mac McWhorter and I said, ‘You know, he’s got a chance to be an offensive coordinator.’"

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