Culpepper's Commentary: Central Florida Game

Heat. Humidity. Lightning. Cold rain drops. Fumbles. Interceptions. This was no repeat of the Arkansas State misfire by the Longhorns, Central Florida had 45,622 reasons to play, a top-notch coach and lots of talent to push Texas to where the crowd stood for the last five minutes of the game.

Coach George O'Leary had two weeks to get his team ready for the Longhorns and with 13 minutes, 38 seconds left to play, UCF held a 24-23 lead.

Now stop here and understand that without Limas Sweed in the lineup Texas is a different offensive team. There is no home run hitter in the lineup. Sweed left after a valiant effort on a deep pass by Colt McCoy in the second quarter. He has a week and a half ahead of him to limp around until Texas really needs him for a dangerous Kansas State match-up in Austin.

Without Limas, it's dink and dunk time for the Longhorns. Since the Horns have no run game to speak of, Nate Jones, Quan Cosby and Jermichael Finley have to run bubble screens, middle routes and corner routes to buy first downs.

While Arkansas State and UCF run the ball effectively against Texas, the Longhorns can't take charge of the clock and pound the football. You say "Jamaal Charles had 153 yards rushing" and I say he has far too many one-yard and no-gain runs and his two fumbles gave UCF tremendous momentum to not only get back into but possibly win the game. He needs coach Ken Rucker, who is battling cancer, and perhaps as important, he needs competition. Chris Ogbonnaya is getting Texas fans excited with some good old-fashioned down-hill running, which might be just what Jamaal needs to adjust the attitude that he "can't lose" his starting job because of fumbles.

The only formation in which I have confidence that Texas can make any yards on the ground is the two tight end, double flanker with Colt under center set. That puts Charles six to eight yards deep where he can get the football and make cuts on the run or bump it all the way outside.

Greg Davis is using the shotgun sprint-out action to get Colt away from the pass rush which is outstanding on Davis' part. There is no way Texas can put McCoy stationary in the pocket and keep K-State or Oklahoma from getting to him. The ability to do that graduated to the NFL last year. McCoy's best pass of the season came against UCF on a bootleg pass that Jordan Shipley hauled in with a beautiful over the shoulder catch down the Texas sideline.

Also give Davis credit for his use of the no huddle offense. Colt and the rest of the offense seems to be comfortable in the hurry-up. I was disappointed, though, that Davis didn't try Charles on the pitch sweep again like against TCU.

The Texas defense had their hands full vs. the Knights. UCF running back Kevin Smith gained 149 yards with no fumbles on 27 carries (Charles had 22 carries and those two near-fatal fumbles), and some of his 3- and 4-yard gainers went for first downs. Disturbing to me was the ability of UCF to convert third-and-ones and third-and-twos running the ball while Texas had to resort to the quarterback sneak on two different occasions.

Watching Brian Orakpo limp around before the game during warm-ups, I don't expect him back for at least three weeks. And when Lamarr Houston went down it concerned me because Eddie Jones isn't ready quite yet for a starting assignment but Houston came back and played well.

Pat the Texas secondary on the back. They aren't big but make up with speed and effort what they lack in height. What you have to keep in mind is players like Ryan Palmer and Brandon Foster can vertical jump through the roof. On a full speed sprint and jump, they are like acrobats. What I like is the excellent communication versus the different sets and motions made before the ball is snapped. Last year at times it was more like the Keystone Cops trying to hang on a swinging fireman's ladder.

The Longhorns are suffering in the punting game. The wobbly 35-yard punts are taking their toll in field position. TCU's and UCF's punters clearly outperformed Texas in this area. In two weeks this could be critical. But Ryan Bailey kicked field goals of 40 and 37 yards that were crucial in the fourth quarter.

All the elements of this game – the oppressive heat and humidity, the lightning stoppage, rain materializing out of nowhere and coming down in hard, dark, cold drops, trailing in the fourth quarter in a hostile environment – will help Texas prepare for the challenges coming after they destroy the Rice Owls. Texas 45, Rice 10.

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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