I've opted, though, to focus on the last two seasons in detail. It seems more than fair, since Davis and the staff had to rebuild virtually the entire offensive line and, of course, "replace" Ricky Williams in 1999. Despite these enormous tasks, Davis' offense produced several records in '99–an example of the indisputable productivity under UT's offensive coordinator. But the hapless ending noted above provides evidence of what occurs far too often when faced down by the big boys.
Inspired by a request from an Inside Texas reader, I decided to dissect the production, or occasional lack thereof, of the Texas rushing offense in the recent past. Again, the rushing results have correlated extremely well with the team's overall success, so the buck might as well stop right there.
Here are the results for the last two regular seasons:
NCAA Average: 151 yards
UT's opponents' average allowed: 152 yards
UT's per game average: 145.5, or 4.35% less than what those opponents, on average, allowed
NCAA Average: 155.6 yards
UT's opponents average allowed: 160 yards
UT's per game average: 169.1, or 5.7% more than what those opponents, on average, allowed
One can see that the Texas running game has not been particularly prolific the past two seasons overall, even if fairly strong last fall once the coaches unleashed Cedric Benson. However, considering Major and Chris had several options via the airways as well, ho-hum ground yardage does not translate automatically to poor results on the scoreboard. What does foretell the team's success is its rushing totals against the more stellar defenses. Against an OU or Miami, a standout passing game simply will not (usually) overcome an inept rushing attack. Frequently, the passing game of course suffers as well with no viable overland option. With that in mind, let's view these numbers below:
Top quartile (25%) of defenses against the run facing Texas:
Average yards per game allowed: 104.5
Average yards per game by UT: 57.5, or 45% LESS THAN what those opponents, on average, allowed
Rest (75%) of defenses against the run facing Texas:
Average yards per game allowed: 167.5
Average yards per game by UT: 179.4, or 7.1% more than what those opponents, on average, allowed
I set this study up by breaking down the opponents' defensive rushing rankings into quartiles. Regarding the last three quartiles–i.e. teams ranked from the second tier down to the fourth/last tier–the Horns rushed with about the same effectiveness. In other words, Texas slightly surpasses what Oklahoma State's defense normally allows and does the same against a Kansas. Not until the Horns face the true Goliath's does Texas resemble a timid David much of the time. Obviously, most rushing attacks fail to garner big chunks of real estate against great defenses. But the fact that Texas is producing only about half the rushing yards those teams allow on average is an indication that the UT rushing attack is shooting blanks when success in ground warfare is needed the most. [The study, in only covering two years, provides a limited sample. But if one also notes the results against top quartile defenses faced in 1999, the same kind of results–or worse–are found.]
If Texas expects to beat the likes of Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Kansas State, the "bully" must be expelled. In light of the 28-yard performance against the likes of North Texas in the opener, one wonders if rehabilitation has even taken place.
Bert Hancock has owned two college football-related web sites and was designated "Lead Writer" of one of the first independent web sites dedicated strictly to UT sports. At the University of Texas, where he received a Bachelor of Business degree, his area of specialty was in statistics and probabilities. His "Strength In Numbers" column will appear weekly on InsideTexas.com.