Horns Looking To Force More Turnovers

Texas leads the Big 12 in seven major statistical categories heading into the final stretch of the 2005 regular season, but UT coaches point to one critical area for improvement: the team's turnover margin.

"I’m really concerned that we’re not forcing turnovers," head coach Mack Brown said. "We gained one and lost two (at Oklahoma State), even though we (partially) blocked four kicks. We’re down in penalties, but the concern is that we’re not forcing enough turnovers. The positive is that our kicking game has really helped us with field position and it’s helped us with blocked kicks. It’s taken over some of the effects of not being able to force turnovers."

Currently, the No. 2 Longhorns lead the league in Scoring Offense (46.6 ppg*), Scoring Defense (16.1 ppg), Rushing Offense (270 ypg), Pass Defense (175.9 ypg), Total Defense (288.8 ypg), Third-Down Conversions (49-of-103, 47.6 percent) and KO returns (25.8 ypg). Yet, the Horns are just breaking even in the turnover department, having gained and lost a total of 14 balls through eight contests this season. That ties them with Missouri for fifth place in the Big 12, NCAA No. 54.

"I think those things come in bunches and I think those things are going to start coming our way," Co-Defensive Coordinator Duane Akina said.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s opponent Baylor has forced 13 fumbles and 11 interceptions this season, the most the Bears have produced in either category in four years.

"We’ve just got to do a better job of catching the football in flight," Akina said. "We are there. We’re in good position, but it’s been frustrating to everybody."

Texas’ seasoned secondary has combined for three INTs on the season: LCB Aaron Ross has two of those while FS Michael Griffin has the other. MLB Aaron Harris notched an INT at Missouri while DE Tim Crowder got one against Texas Tech. But who woulda thought that SS Michael Huff and RCB Cedric Griffin would still be looking for their first INT of the season by the first weekend of November?

"We had a couple (at Oklahoma State) that were nearly ours," Akina said. "We had two where Cedric and Michael Griffin got their hands on the ball and it came loose. We’ve got to hang on to it. We’ve got to finish plays."

Michael Griffin’s near-miss on Oklahoma State’s opening drive probably set the tone for the remainder of the half. Instead of forfeiting the ball near midfield, the Cowboys’ took advantage of their second chance by springing the 49-yard play-action pass to WR D’Juan Woods on 4th-and-1 that resulted in a 7-0 lead.

Later in the second quarter, SS Michael Huff stepped in front of what could have been his first INT of the season but the play resulted in what Brown dubbed the "immaculate reception" to Woods and his second TD — this one good for 29 yards -- of the evening.

Oklahoma State QB Al Pena appeared to be primed for the picks, having thrown nine INTs against two TDs -- including four consecutive INTS on October 22 against Iowa State.

"Going into that game, their quarterback struggled with the football but let’s give their coaches credit, too," Akina said.

Texas looks to tip the turnover scale in its favor when it travels to Baylor, 11:30 Saturday in a Fox Sports Net telecast.

*The original version of this story listed the Horns' scoring average at 56.6.


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