Oct. 1, 2005
Texas Wins Big And Ugly
By Bill Frisbie
There was little worry during Texas' 51-20 win at Missouri that Mack Brown's bunch might drop its conference opener the week before facing You-Know-Who. The only question, for about 30 minutes in Columbia, was when the second-ranked Longhorns would stop beating themselves.
By the time Texas gave Mizzou its undivided attention, the Horns were guilty of a season-high 14 penalties for 135 yards. Texas fumbled four times (losing one), including a pair of fumbles inside the Tiger five-yard line. The hosts were just as generous, as Texas tallied three Tiger turnovers into consecutive, one-play scoring drives to open the first half. By the time the dust had settled and the yellow flags had been picked up, the Horns generated 585 yards of offense to raise their record to 4-0 and to notch a W on the road for the 23rd time in the past 24 outings.
There's something about Missouri that brings out the worst, and best, in QB Vince Young. His low-water mark against MU in 2004 (a 3-of-9 showing for 19 yards) is well documented, as is his career-defining turnaround to raise his record to 21-2 as a starter (one 'W' shy of tying Major Applewhite at No. 6 on Texas' all-time list). On Saturday, Young's ball handling was excruciating to behold during the Horns' second and third series, especially given the field position the Horns squandered when it was a tie ball game.
And yet he ultimately had his hand in 344 yards of offense. Time and again, the junior signalcaller displays a remarkable proclivity for not only overcoming his self-inflicted adversity but actually thriving as a direst result of it. He posted three dazzling runs of 30+ yards, including a 33-yard TD on the zone read fake to RB Selvin Young, to give Texas a 14-7 lead it would never relinquish. He led all rushers with 108 yards on 13 carries, while adding 236 yards through the air on 15-of-22 passing.
Then there was his play on Texas' next-to-last series of the first half. Like too many of Texas' possessions Saturday, this one initially went into reverse when a holding penalty, a chop block and a QB sack produced a third-and-30 situation from the Longhorn 34. It set the table for vintage Vince. Reminiscent (though not as critical) as his 4th-and-18 scramble at Kansas last season, VY dropped back and, as the pocket collapsed, eluded the grasp who two crashing linemen who would have a wrapped up a normal quarterback. Instead, the Freak of Nature cut left and darted down the left hashmark and didn't stop until he was dragged down 34 yards later.
"He's a great player, and he makes a lot of plays," MU coach Gary Pinkel said of Young. "He turns an average play into a great play, and he did that several times today. He also plays with a lot more confidence, that's a big difference too, that he's won a lot of games. He's had some comeback games and done a good job."
Likewise, there's something about Missouri that brings out the beast in MLB Aaron Harris. Last season, the senior posted a career-best 18 tackles against the Tigers. On an unseasonably warm Midwest afternoon, Harris tied FS Michael Griffin with a game-high nine stops. Harris set up Texas' first score with his 27-yard INT return of a Brad Smith pass to the MU 3-yard line (credit NT Frank Okam with the hurry). Harris was in on three straight tackles on MU's first possession of the second quarter when the game was still too-close-for-comfort, throwing Smith for a five-yard loss on 3rd-and-5 from the 28. (You can hear it in the stands when Harris levels the hit.)
Jamaal Charles probably erased any doubt about who should be Texas' starting RB. He darts like Tony Dorsett, catches like a wideout and blocks like a seasoned TE. He finished with 97 yards on 15 carries (6.5 ypc) and notched the first TD grab of his collegiate career with his 32-yard reception as Texas began to get separation at 21-13. Yet, the starting RB will not necessarily be the featured RB in Texas' tailback-by-committee approach that rolled to 349 net yards on 50 attempts. Teammates rave at how the freshman can "get small," finding the open hole and squeezing through just before it closes. You also gotta love how he doesn't leave his feet when maneuvering through traffic and when trying to pick up tough yardage, preferring to lower his shoulder pads and power for first downs and those precious yards-after-contact.
Sidelined most of September with an ankle injury, Selvin celebrated his 22nd birthday by contributing 65 bruising yards on 11 totes. Young's got heart and power, but not the burst that Charles gives to this offense. Freshman RB Henry Melton also rumbled for 57 yards on nine carries, including a pair of TD plunges.
Ramonce Taylor finally got in on the offensive act with 55 yards on three catches, both career highs, including a highlight reel 27-yard scoring reception on Texas' first possession of the second half. Hard to believe that it was the first TD reception of Taylor's Longhorn career.
Smith can't be counted out even against above-average defenses, but this may be a Longhorn D for the ages. He entered the game rated No. 3 nationally in total offense (362.3 ypg) but finished with just 57 yards rushing on 25 carries. He completed 19-of-37 passes for 181 yards after averaging just under 250 ypg through the air. The Texas D forced the turnovers that led directly to Texas' first three TDs, posted four sacks and forced seven punts.
Missouri averaged six ypc during the first quarter but finished the game with just 139 rushing yards on 47 attempt (just under three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust in what had been a high octane, Urban Meyer-esque spread attack).
"Texas is a great football team, they have a lot of great players and a lot of great plays," Pinkel concluded. "We have to give them credit for that. We're certainly disappointed in how we played, especially in the second half. I think we got a down a little bit and there were a lot of mistakes."
And Texas certainly had its fair share while still managing to roll to a 31-point win. But there is no mistaking the fact that Texas can now turn its attention to Oklahoma.
Missouri Turning Point
By Dusty Mangum
It was a great match-up of mobile quarterbacks, pitting Vince Young of Texas versus Brad Smith of Missouri. Both teams played sloppy early, with both QBs having trouble keeping the handle on the ball. But the turning point in this one came with the ball firmly in Vince's grip. Midway through the second quarter, Texas owned a 21-13 lead but faced a third down and 30 from its own 33 after an illegal block penalty on Ramonce Taylor and then a sack of Young. The Texas signalcaller was having difficulty getting his rhythm. And a failed conversion and then a punt here would put the Tiger offense back in business down by just a TD. But Young turned in a play reminiscent of another great highlight from last year versus Kansas.
Vince took the shotgun snap with tailback Selvin Young just to his left. The Horns' OL stymied Missouri's three-man rush (none of the Tiger rushers got within three or four yards of Young) as Selvin and David Thomas both released joining three Longhorn wideouts in patterns downfield. Young, standing on the right hash at the 24, scanned the field for close to four seconds looking for an open receiver. The Mizzou defenders were determined not to let a ball go over their head. Seeing the tight coverage (the Tigers had eight guys covering five potential Texas targets), Vince tucked the ball and darted diagonally toward the left hash where, at the 40, he cut just in front of a crucial downfield block by Selvin Young, sprinted up the hash past midfield and glided past the chains before Xzavie Jackson and Calvin Washington converged to bring him down at the Missouri 33. He needed 30. He got 34. First down Texas, and from then on, the Longhorns did not look back, completing the drive with David Pino's 26-yard field goal, pushing the Longhorns to an 11-point lead three and a half minutes before half. The offense seemed to have found its rhythm and picked up in the second half where they had left off in the first, scoring 27 unanswered points after the break. The offensive stampede totaled 585 yards on the day and did not finish until the clock read zero and the score showed, "Longhorns 51, Tigers 20."
Jamaal Charles continued his brilliance on the ground by adding 97 yards and an amazing back peddling catch, miraculously keeping his balance before diving into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day. He scored his only rushing touchdown with a 3 yard run, which was set up by an Aaron Harris interception that was returned to the Mizzou three.
The Texas defense rose to the occasion, keeping Brad Smith and the Tiger offense mostly under wraps. The Horns managed to force the solo INT and recover two fumbles. The three turnovers resulted in 21 points for the Longhorns.
Texas special teams showed even more improvement with a stampeding kickoff coverage team. With Greg Johnson sending the kicks high and deep, it allowed the Texas defenders plenty of time to get down the field and swarm the return man. (The Horns allowed just 17 yards per return, forcing Mizzou to start six of its drives after kickoffs at or inside the 20.) Erick Jackson was a menace to the Tiger kickoff return team, running down and hitting anything that moved. I think I saw him tackle the peanut guy.
This past weekend was a great opener into Big 12 play and a great step forward to this weekends Red River Shootout against Oklahoma. Remember, We Are Texas.
Culpepper's Commentary: Missouri
By Pat Culpepper
Overall this game looked like two teams with a week off and playing at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. Sloppy, at least early.
But here is some encouraging news from the beginning of the game: Greg Davis had enough good sense to start Jamaal Charles over Selvin Young at running back. After careful explanations from Austin for two weeks about "we don't name starters" or something to that effect it was good to see the Longhorn offensive staff understand who best butters their bread. Without Jamaal Charles, Texas does not beat Ohio State. That should not get lost in this touchy feely talk about "starters".
To Selvin Young's credit, he made the most of his chances while in the ball game, totaling 65 yards on 11 carries and a critical block on Vince Young's third-and-30 conversion. But there is no doubt Charles needs a rest occasionally, just not for long!
The offensive play of the game was the slick call by Greg Davis with 10 minutes left in the second quarter and Texas holding a slim 14-13 lead. From the Tigers' 32-yardline, the Longhorns lined up in a vanilla I formation backfield set. Vince Young faked to Charles over the Longhorns left side of Kasey Studdard, Jonathan Scott and David Thomas then rolled back to his right while Charles slipped down the Missouri sideline. Charles was all alone at the Tiger 10 and Young let the touch pass go. It was over Jamaal's right shoulder but the freshman turned his upper body enough to get a hand on it and then haul it in and suddenly it was Texas 20, Missouri 13. Just another play that most running backs couldn't make.
If you doubt my estimation of Jamaal Charles' effect on the Texas offense, listen to the quote by Missouri's fine safety David Overstreet on why Vince Young was so open on his 33-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
"Texas ran a zone keep," Overstreet said, "but we thought Jamaal Charles had the ball and he can roll."
And Ramonce Taylor has found his spot on this team at last -- wide receiver and kickoff returner. He is a threat and will continue improvement with each game.
Keep all that in mind. Young, Charles and a quickly improving receiver corps make the Longhorns an extremely dangerous offensive team. Take anyone of these units away and Texas is still dangerous but not as potent. Working together, the Longhorns play with great confidence and aggressiveness. "Fearless" is a good word to describe the Texas offense.
For those of you wondering why all the holding calls went against Texas in this game, you should know this officiating crew held the record for such calls in a Big 12 game at nine. That was for two teams; the Longhorns almost broke that mark in two quarters. Neither team chose this crew; they are assigned by the Big 12 offices.
I spoke to Lyle Sendlein, the Texas center, and offensive guard Kasey Studdard after the game, and they only smiled and shook their heads with a "whatever" look when asked about the circus of yellow flags.
A pat on the back is due the Longhorn kickoff coverage team. With the exception of their coverage on one short kickoff (a 33-yard Mizzou return), the Longhorn defense enjoyed starting their play from inside the opponents' 20-yardline instead of near midfield.
I was also impressed by the sideline defensive coaches and head coach Mack Brown getting in the face of their defensive players, challenging them for effort against the Missouri no-huddle attack before the Longhorn defenders went on the field when the score was close.
Brian Robison suffered a rib injury but it would take a .30-.30 bullet between his eyes to keep him out of Saturday's game in Dallas. His play at defensive end has made a difference this season and he would be missed. Bet on it -- he will play.
Rodrique Wright and his sidekick Larry Dibbles played strong in the middle of the Texas defensive line. Dibbles has his stinger back and his emotion in battle is running over. He is a slimmed down version of Warren Sapp when the game is on the line. Competition between Dibbles and Frank Okam is healthy and keeps both players motors running.
The Texas secondary continues to sell out each football game with all-out effort. They cover and they tackle -- there are no head duckers in the group.
Aaron Ross had a beautiful 88-yard split-the-seam-in-the-middle punt return that brought the whole end zone section to its feet because we saw the opening after Ross cleared the first coverage defender.
I think coach Gary Pinkel of Missouri will be fired at the end of this season. The no-huddle Missouri offense was terrible. Brad Smith played better in high school. Back-up quarterback Chase Daniels from Southlake Carroll is a better fit for what Missouri is trying to do and Southlake Coach Todd Dodge could take over Missouri tomorrow and coach the Tigers to more wins that Pinkel will get!
As I walked out of my end zone seating area, large groups of Missouri fans -- those who didn't leave at the start of the fourth quarter -- were huddled after the game discussing lynch mob tactics.
Not so in Norman. Oklahoma, after an off week of tough practice, was a much-improved football team this last weekend against Kansas State.
The B.S. will start all during the week about Mack Brown and his five consecutive losses to the Sooners and you can be assured emotions will run sky high as the clock ticks toward kickoff, but Kasey Studdard and buddies haven't come this far to back down from this opportunity.
And I would be surprised if Adrian Peterson can play effectively with such a high ankle sprain regardless of what Bob Stoops and Co. release to the media. Kejuan Jones is a good replacement for Peterson, but the Longhorn defense isn't K-State.
If you go to the game, put your binoculars on the battle between Studdard, Sendlein and Will Allen against Dusty Dvoracek. The Sooner Schooner could line up on any of these three and it will be a battle and well worth the $85.00 ticket to watch.
By the way, Mack Brown will not suit up for this game. He is getting older and has lost a step of speed. The ones getting their butts whipped by Oklahoma for the last five years are the ones wearing pads and they'll have their chance at redemption. Coach Brown has this team ready for war this weekend. The seniors and team leaders need to rise up and paint this game Burnt Orange again. It will be a classic and I believe Texas will indeed rise up and win 34-21.