Commentary: Texas Needs 30 Carries For No. 32

The last time we saw RB <B>Cedric Benson</b>, the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week was getting exactly what he wanted against Iowa State and what this offense desperately needed: his 30<SUP>th</sup> carry of the game.

At the beginning of the season, Cedric Benson politely (but matter-of-factly) said he wanted at least 30 touches per outing. He's used to it, he said, having been the workhorse at Midland Lee. Plus, he says he's one of those backs who gets better with each successive carry.

Check this out:

In each of the three games where Benson has had at least 30 touches (ISU, North Carolina, Houston), the sturdy running back averaged 189 yards (5.9 yards per carry).

In the four contests where he had less than 30 carries, he averaged 73 yards per game (3.4 yards per carry). And it's not just because he was always facing top defenses (North Texas? Tulane?).

Remember the fun second quarter against Iowa State, where Texas blew its lead and trailed at halftime? Granted, Texas had the ball for all of 5:01 in the second but Benson had just three carries in that period (3.0 ypc). Compare that with the 11 totes for 74 yards (6.7 ypc) in the first quarter, nine attempts for 87 yards (9.6 ypc) in the third, and seven carries for 29 yards (4.1 ypc) when Texas was grinding it out on that 19-play scoring drive in the fourth.

Now, if Longhorn coaches can bottle some of that productivity and take it to Nebraska! For it's precisely this type of game (physical, and in cold weather) that Benson can (and should) be the difference maker.

"In this league, when you're going north this time of the year, you've got to be able to run the ball because of the weather," Brown said. "You've got to run the ball into the wind because you can't always throw the ball into the wind."

At the same time, the offense is not going to back off from being (all together now!) "two-dimensional." FL B.J. Johnson has shown toughness and focus since the Oklahoma State game. SE Roy Williams has looked like his old self as of late during the first two quarters before his hamstring starts tightening up at halftime.

Still, Brown has had enough late-season experience in the Midwest (particularly as ISU's offensive coordinator, 1979-81) to understand why teams in that region continue to hold fast to their ground games.

"There were times when I was at Iowa State, we'd try to throw into a 24-to-30 mile-per-hour wind, and quick out (passes) would go behind the quarterback," Brown recalled. "I've seen punts come back at you. It's just what you get up there. So you never know, especially this time of year, what kind of weather you're going to get up there. I think that's why a lot of the (Big 12) North teams are still running the ball (i.e., one-dimensional)."

Saturday's forecast in Lincoln is for temperatures to hover in the low 40s at kickoff before dropping to near freezing by the fourth quarter. That's a good thing, Brown said, because he believes his players stay fresher in cold weather.

"Our guys practice in 100 degree heat all summer," Brown said. "A lot of our games in August and September are 100 degree games. Our guys really like it when it's colder. If our guys want to play pro ball, they're going to go to New York, Minnesota, Chicago, or Green Bay. They better be able to catch the ball in cold weather. So, the weather in Lincoln shouldn't be a factor."

Nope, not as long as Benson is the factor. One more thing to consider:

Benson is averaging 118.8 yards per game (No. 3 Big 12, No. 18 NCAA) and, despite their jaw-dropping 73-1 home record since 1991, the Huskers are a break-even team (8-8) under head coach Frank Solich when an opponent has a 100-yard rusher.

In short, No. 32 needs 30.

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