Texas coaches define an 'explosive' play as a run of 12+ yards or a completion of 16+ yards. So far this season, Texas has produced 45 'explosive' pass plays and 31 'explosive' runs. Texas strives for at least five 'explosive' completions and four 'explosive' rushes per ballgame, so the Horns are generally hitting their goal. But offensive coordinator Greg Davis admitted Monday that he's "frustrated" because the offense remains consistently inconsistent.
Specifically, the number of zero-yardage plays, combined with turnovers, has relegated Texas to (statistically) a middle-of-the-pack offense. Texas is currently rated No. 6 in the Big 12 in each of the top three offensive categories. The Horns are averaging 164.5 rushing ypg (NCAA No. 47), 273.3 passing ypg (No. 27) and 437.8 total ypg (No. 26).
"I'm really frustrated with the consistency we're having offensively," Davis said. "I know we've used that word before, but I don't know of another word."
The Horns are 58-0 during the Mack Brown era in games in where Texas wins the battle of 'explosives' and turnovers. Five of the Top 10 'explosive' runs in 2007 belong to RB Jamaal Charles, but those plays have been limited to a two-game stretch involving TCU and Central Florida. Charles is the Big 12's second-leading rusher (90.2 ypg), but his average ypc continues on a downhill slide. He averaged 7.4 ypc as a true freshman (878 yards on 119 totes), 5.3 yards as a sophomore (831 yards on 156 attempts) and 5.1 ypc this season.
Texas has produced more explosive plays this year against every opponent except Arkansas State (8-to-9) and Central Florida (5-to-8). Texas had four more explosives than Kansas State and one more than Oklahoma, but committed six turnovers -- while forcing none -- in those two losses.
Through seven games this year, the Horns have been guilty of 17 give-aways (resulting in 52 points by opponents). It virtually mitigates the 17 turnovers Texas has forced this season, leading to 65 Longhorn points. By comparison, Texas had 20 turnovers in 13 games during the 2005 season resulting in 71 points by opponents.
"We're being very inconsistent and we're turning the ball over too much," Davis said. "The combination of negative (yardage) plays, zero (yardage) plays and turnovers are keeping us from playing at the level that we need to play at. That's where the frustration comes in."
Obviously, incompletions result in 'zero' yardage plays. But the culprit appears to be a hit-or-miss ground game. Not counting short-yardage situations (where Texas either moved the chains or scored) and not counting times when Texas downed the ball at the end of a game. Texas has rushed for less than two yards on more than one-third of its running attempts in Big 12 play. Specifically, 52-of-146 (35.6 percent) rushes against league foes have generated fewer than two yards.
What accounts for it? A youthful offensive line? A sideways scheme that emphasizes zone runs? Lack of fullbacks? Hesitant running backs? A passing QB who, though mobile, may not be a viable enough running threat to open up the ground game?
"The assignment goes everywhere," Davis concluded. "Sometimes it's the line and sometimes it's a back looking for a bigger play then is there. Sometimes it may be a quarterback not getting us out of a play to a play. Sometimes it's a receiver who, assignment-wise, didn't take care of his guy. We made a big point with the players during our Sunday film session to point out all the little things that create inconsistencies. It may be a penalty, it may be a step, it may be a helmet-placement, an assignment or whatever."
Saturday's game against crumbling Nebraska may be more of a placebo than panacea. The once-proud Black Shirts defense is, literally, worse than Baylor's. The Huskers rank dead-last in the Big 12 and No. 115 overall by yielding 227.3 rush ypg. Kick-off is set for 2:30 p.m. (CDT) and will be televised on ABC-Sports.
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