Culpepper's Commentary: Texas-Texas Tech

I know many of you that click on my column are real football fans, so let me give you the lowdown on the Longhorn defense versus Texas Tech as I saw it from my seat four rows behind the Red Raider bench.

At the start of the game, Texas lined up with four down linemen and three linebackers and four defensive backs. They used the two safeties deep and cornerbacks either backing out or squatting their coverage at about eight yards.

Now mind you, covering Tech is like trying to stomp on a pile of red ants: they scatter everywhere on the snap of the ball and come back to open areas as well as any group I have seen. Tech is a darn good team, believe me.

The early two-deep Texas zone allowed the Longhorns to shut down any Red Raider run threat but the scheme was inadequate versus the Tech ant pile offense. Too much air and space to cover, and the huge line splits opened up good throwing lanes and are wonderful for the well-schooled and legal holding by the Tech linemen.

You kill ants by sprinkling Amdro granules around the mound. So quicker than you can say 4-1-6, the Longhorns aligned in a defense that had four down linemen, Aaron Harris (who played 89 plays of the Tech offense's 93) as a lone linebacker and six defensive backs, so all of a sudden there are lots of slender and fast Longhorns that can run with any receiver Tech puts on the field.

To bring pressure, Michael Griffin raced up from safety and he and Harris blitzed through the Grand Canyon-looking gaps in the Red Raider scrimmage line. They never got home versus the elusive Hodges, who threw the ball 64 times, was sacked six times and scrambled another six times, but they brought much-needed heat.

As a change-up, the Longhorns used a 3-2-6 alignment at times but the 4-1-6 was most-successful against the Raiders.

Tech's running back Taurean Henderson hurt the Longhorns with the draw and Hodges did run a quarterback draw for a couple of nice gains, but since we are all creatures with pride and stubborn as well, the Red Raiders were bound and determined to beat Texas with the ball in the air.

The defensive coaches tried to keep the front linemen as fresh as possible and Rod Wright, Larry Dibbles, Frank Okam, Tim Crowder and Brian Robison played tag-team with a host of substitutes all afternoon. The push they put on the well-coached Red Raider offensive line was impressive. (Freshman Roy Miller almost got his head taken off by a legal punch from the Tech left guard which was followed by a legal clubbing by the Tech left tackle. Welcome to Big 12 football, Roy.)

But not one time did I see a Longhorn lineman stop and watch; they were grabbing, pushing, fighting to make plays all day.

Robison did just that with three beautiful sacks and his counterpart Tim Crowder got another as well as a deflected interception at the Longhorn seven yardline.

Defensive back Tarell Brown played a superb football game. Hodges threw almost every deep ball to his right and every time Brown had perfect coverage.

Michael Huff had seven unassisted tackles and seems to put together his best games in the big games. He is a great hitter in the Longhorn secondary that at 6-1, 205 is "sudden", to say the least.

I love to watch members of the Texas offensive line walk off the field together after the end of the games. At midfield, the television cameras and reporters have Vince Young surrounded while Lyle Sendlein, Kasey Studdard, Will Allen, Justin Blalock and USS Jonathan Scott walk off slowly, unwrapping their many pads and taping, smiling and tired. They are dirty from sweat but they love the battle. They have changed the atmosphere around Texas Longhorn football. Studdard and buddies take each down as a personal challenge to whip the lineman across from them. They don't always win, but they keep hammering.

Three times the Tech bench got upset because Scott and Studdard were facing the Red Raider sideline and waving their arms. Those Longhorn linemen were letting the 83,000-plus know how much they loved the battle and to get off their collective rear ends and join the fight. It worked!

Tech got the lead in the first quarter when Vince Young was late in throwing a sideline comeback route to Limas Sweed and Tech's Chris Parker raced 37 yards to the Texas 21.

The tall Texas quarterback didn't act like a spoiled child but held his poise until his timing returned. High level bombing duties were performed again by Ramonce Taylor and Billy Pittman, who not only catch the ball but are dangerous runners in the open field.

A miracle has been performed by running back coach Ken Rucker on Selvin Young. Young's 77 yards were through heavy traffic and he chipped in two touchdowns. A week ago, I didn't think Selvin Young was playing like a D-I running back. This week, he did and then some. Rucker recruited two of my Lufkin High School players while he was at Arkansas. This man was a great hire by Coach Brown and it is paying dividends.

Want to bet Jamaal Charles' ankle will heal much quicker since Selvin Young has come to life? Competition is a wonderful thing.

Three big plays changed this game. With the score 17-10, a fumbled punt snap and subsequent punt block by Michael Griffin led to a two-play Texas touchdown. Then, with little time left in the half, Tech was on the UT seven yardline but lost the ball on Crowder's interception. And finally, Vince Young throws a too-tall pass for Billy Pittman but somehow the sophomore wideout brings it in and races to the Tech 22. A seven-yard Selvin Young run makes it Texas 31, Tech 10 just before the half.

Making a statement after halftime, Vince Young connected with Pittman for a 75-yard touchdown pass. Texas 38, Tech 10. Game over.

Oklahoma State has a rookie head coach, Mike Gundy, who is getting his head handed to him. His no huddle offense is going nowhere. Last year's memories are still fresh for Vince Young and crew. I remember Les Miles shaking hands with Texas recruits during a time out when the Cowboys were up by 28 points! They won't be up this Saturday in Stillwater. Texas 55, Oklahoma State 3.

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 InsideTexas.com.


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