Teams Still Scheming to Stop Texas' Run Game

Ten games into the season, defenses are still selling out to try to stop Texas' ground game. The result: Colt McCoy is rewriting school, and national, passing marks for freshmen quarterbacks.

"People are still playing the run against us," head coach Mack Brown said Monday, "and that's a good thing. Maybe they're still hoping Colt will have a bad night."

Granted, most defenses initially scheme to stop the run. It's just that opponents tend not to back off from their primary M.O. The one exception was Ohio State. The Buckeyes gradually dropped linebackers to clog passing lanes and, if McCoy had a sub-par game (by his standards) it was against the Buckeyes (a forgivable outing considering he had all of three-quarters of Division-I football experience under his belt).

"I didn't take advantages of opportunities against Ohio State," McCoy said, "but that comes from maturing and growing. They're a great team. Hopefully, if we continue to win and things work out for us, we'll have another shot at them (in the BCS national championship)."

The other OSU on Texas' schedule kept seven in the box for most of the ballgame Saturday. The Cowboys also brought three straight safety blitzes up the middle on Texas' opening series. The Pokes eventually backed away from safety blitzes, but continued the blitzkreig from other spots on the field. Texas netted 3.6 yards and a cloud of dust on the evening, or 164 yards on 45 attempts. Meanwhile, McCoy threw for a career-best 346 yards, set a new school single-season passing TD record with his 27th score and is rated No. 2 nationally this week in passing efficiency.

"It was obvious they did not want us to run the ball," Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis said. "The free safety blitzes were designed for runs. But as hard as they tried to stop the run, we still rushed for more than 160 yards. We're close to having some big plays. It was probably our most complete game and, yet, there are still tons of things we can do better."

It was a night when starting RB Selvin Young got "banged up" and did not play in the second half. But it was tough-sledding for sophomore Jamaal Charles who finished with 67 yards on a season-best 21 carries.

"Historically, Selvin has had a hard time staying healthy," Davis said. "That's why we keep alternating him and Jamaal in there, to try to keep two of them fresh. You take a beating at running back in this league. They take bad collisions."

Statistically, Okie State is one of the most blitz-happy teams in the Big 12. Davis tried to counter with more inside runs and sprint-outs for McCoy.

"We were stubborn and continued to run it," Brown said, "but the numbers in the running game were a lot tougher than the numbers in the passing game. We feel like we still have a chance to have a breakout run at some point. We haven't had many."

Nope. The longest runs this season have come against Rice's hapless defense, rated No. 109 nationally. Young had a season-best 37-yarder against the Owls, as did Charles with his 46-yard run.

"We're still trying to figure out why we haven't had longer runs," Brown continued. "I thought we'd see a couple of long runs pop out Saturday night. I think it's because people came into the season thinking they're going to make our young quarterback throw. Their thought is they're not going to let Selvin, Jamaal or that good offensive line run on them."

The cold, hard fact is that, during the Mack Brown era, Texas' rushing attack has been far from explosive during the seasons when neither Vince Young nor Ricky Williams were in uniform. The average-per-game ranged from 135.1 to 165.3 rushing yards from 1999-2002. The flipside is that the four-year stretch represented the high-water mark in the 114-year history of the program for passing yards-per-game, ranging from 250.1 ypg (2002) to 293.5 ypg (2000).

Currently, the Horns are rated No. 21 in rushing offense, averaging a serviceable 183.1 ypg. Yet, the team is rated No. 5 nationally in scoring offense (39.2 ppg) but reaps the benefit of a shortened field. The Longhorn defense not only ranks No. 2 against the run (43.9 ypg) but also No. 2 nationally with 27 take-aways.

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