O Running Game, Where Art Thou?

If Texas can find a way to average at least 150 yards on the ground, they should run the table and find themselves playing in a prime BCS bowl game against Ohio State, Notre Dame, or the Miami-Virginia Tech loser. A national title shot is still not out of the question.

But the most pressing question Sunday (again) is: whaddup with the running game?

Less than 1.5 yards per carry? Cedric Benson held to less than 100 yards for the fourth time in seven outings? And after Mack Brown gushed at the end of two-a-days that the running game was better than at any time since Ricky Williams terrorized the playing field?

The storyline is that the ground game has evolved from the Dreaded One (Williams) to borderline dreadful. Right now, three-yards and a cloud of dust would be downright explosive.

What gives? (Remember, class, no finger-pointing, please. And, of course, this season's theme is "No excuses".)

According to Brown, the ground attack isn't as anemic as it is inconsistent.

"We're still disappointed in the running game because of inconsistency," Brown said. "We'll have a 7-yard gain, an 8-yard gain (not many, actually -- Benson's longest run of the night was eight yards) but we didn't have a 61-yard gain like they (KSU RB Darren Sproles) did. We'll continue to work on the running game, understanding that those two defenses (KSU, OU) are among the best in the country."

It took B.J. Johnson's best game of the year (132 yards on four receptions, one TD) and one of Chris Simms' more poised performances of his career to offset the ground game (or, lack there of).

Split ends Roy Williams and Sloan Thomas continue to be hampered by nagging hamstring injuries, and practiced sparingly during the past two weeks. That is why freshman wideout Robert Timmons started Saturday night. (Keep an eye on Timmons. The 6-2, 205 pound freshman already has a reputation for unflinchingly making the tough grabs over the middle.) It also meant that Johnson had much of Simms' undivided attention during practice sessions.

"On his last throw (32-yard completion on game-winning drive), Chris was hit by three people," Brown said. "He didn't even see the completion. On the other play (53-yard strike to Johnson), B.J. carried five defenders to the goal line. He not only played an outstanding game, he played a tough game."

For the second time in as many weeks, Simms responded to a defensive turnover by tossing a pick. But other than that, Brown said, Simms played a "perfect game" (13-of-24 for 184 yards, two TDs).

And although the ground game was stuck in neutral much of the contest, Brown cited two critical drives in which Texas moved the chains by a balanced attack: the game-winning drive that resulted in Dusty Mangum's 27-yard field goal, and the first quarter series in which Texas drove out from its own 4-yard line to near midfield. The shift in field position opened up the passing game on Texas' next series, where Simms' found Johnson on a 39-yard touchdown reception.

"The offense did a lot of good things," Brown said, "but we need to get more explosives. We need to run the bell better but we're taking care of ball and are doing good in the red zone."


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