Game Observations

An unstoppable quarterback, a "multiple" defense, an over-achieving walk-on and more. Inside Texas' Ross Lucksinger gives his observations from the Longhorns' blowout win over Arkansas.

Before the beginning of the Longhorns' 2008 campaign, I made the prediction that with a lack of definite "explosive weapons" on offense, Texas' season would rise and fall with Colt McCoy.

Well, Texas better hope that turns out to be true because thanks to McCoy, the Texas Longhorns are rising fast.

The junior QB is playing better than any fan could have imagined. The statistics are out of this world: he's completing 80 percent of his passes, has 14 TDs to one pick and has 1,018 yards passing, tying his own Texas record for fastest to 1,000 yards in a season (four games).

Heading into the year, it seemed all that was being asked of McCoy was to do his job, to be accurate, to get the interception number down and to just get the ball to the weapons. Now, he is the weapon.

A good season for McCoy would have been a solid completion percentage and a realistic number of interceptions, now Heisman talk has begun. A good season for Texas was going to be conference title contention, now the Horns are suddenly in national title contention.

My how quickly things have changed. On to the observations...

Game Observations

-Mack Brown was asked after the game if he's ever had a quarterback who was completing over 75 percent of his passes.

"No, we've never had one. Coach Royal might have. You know, three out of four," joked Brown.

In fact, the Texas single season record for completion percentage is held by, well, McCoy, when he completed 68.2 percent of his throws as a redshirt freshman in 2006. This year that number is 80. Now, there's not much chance that McCoy will be able to keep his completion percentage that high as Texas gets into the meat of its conference schedule, but McCoy will almost certainly break his own school record (FYI, the NCAA single season record is 73.6 by Daunte Culpepper of Central Florida in 1998) .

In Saturday's game, McCoy completed 17 of his 19 attempts, letting only two balls hit the turf.

"He incompleted two passes, one of them was a screen the back messed up...the other one was the throw to Peter Ullman. Pretty good when you can remember the two," said Brown.

-The Texas defense was shifting personnel a lot more than in the previous three games, jumping back and forth between 4-3, nickel, dime, as the offensive personnel dictated. At a couple points, the Horns even used three down linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs.

A 3-2-6 defense, huh? Apparently Muschamp wasn't kidding when he said Texas is going to be "multiple".

We also saw an increase in the number of corner blitzes and they were used effectively as Arkansas quarterbacks Casey Dick and Tyler Wilson were off-kilter all game. Chykie Brown even managed to get a sack, one of seven for the Texas defense in the game. Speaking of corner blitzes...

-It takes some massive cahones to send a walk-on on a corner blitz, but that's exactly what Muschamp did. The pressure worked as junior CB Clark Ford disrupted Wilson enough to cause the incompletion. In his limited time on the field, Ford played surprisingly well and showed enough athleticism to stick with his receiver. I wouldn't be surprised if he earns a scholarship next season, if one is available, just as Cory Michner and Luke Tiemann did before the start of this season.

-With Foswhitt Whittaker still on the mend, the starting running back job is still up for grabs, but for now the top option is clear: Cody Johnson. The big back averaged 4.8 yards per carry on Saturday and was hard for defenders to take down.

He was also good when the ball wasn't in his hands. The best example of this came early in the game. McCoy was lined up in the shotgun with Johnson next to him. On the snap, McCoy ran forward on a QB draw with the 260-pound Johnson as a lead blocker. Johnson plowed the first linebacker he saw, springing McCoy for a good gain. He's also been very good at catching the football and is very nimble for a man of his size.

This is not to say that sophomore running back Vondrell McGee was bad on Saturday. McGee's advantage is that he's very steady, very consistent and will get the necessary yards. He hasn't broken free for many big ones (his longest run against Arkansas was nine yards), but he won't fumble and he's always heading up field.

However, it's time for Texas to start Cody Johnson, who can be an effective thunder to Whittaker's lightning, once the Horns get Whittaker back.

-The 'Q' package needs to return to the experimental phase. Texas has been using the package, which utilizes McCoy and John Chiles on the field at the same time, early in games, but almost every time the offense sputters. Thankfully for Texas, the "traditional" offense has managed to get the ball rolling again, but only after the 'Q' killed the momentum the Horns were building. If it's going to be used, it needs to be later in blowouts, when it can be tweaked without risk of disrupting what the O is doing.

Chiles himself has been struggling this season. True, he's 9-of-10 passing (which is almost exactly opposite of last season's 1-of-9 showing), but he's a long, long ways behind McCoy and has fumbled the ball twice now on a pair of mental errors. Chiles' two mistakes comprise a majority of Texas' fumbles this year and half of the Horns' turnovers.

He needs to continue to get playing time to make sure that Texas has a quarterback with at least some level of experience in case McCoy goes down, but for now the offense needs to be solely McCoy's until the game is secured.

-Nice job by Chykie Brown preventing a punter flop in the first quarter...not sure if I've ever seen that done before. Early in the game, Brown came in and attempted to block a kick, but Arkansas punter Jeremy Davis managed to get the ball away just in time. Brown ran into Davis, but not hard enough for it to be considered roughing on its own and then wrapped the punter up to prevent him from falling. Now, I'm not sure if Brown just grabbed Davis to stop his own momentum or was intentionally preventing him from flopping, but regardless it doesn't seem like a bad tactic.

-Pressure can change a game and this defense has got it in spades. The Longhorns now lead the nation in sacks (4.0 per game) after putting up 14 over the last two contests. And it's not pressure coming from a particular player or even a particular unit. Of the seven sacks against Arkansas, four were from the D-line, two were from the linebackers and one was from the secondary. That pressure is also making things easier for that secondary, which needs all the help it can get as the young DBs get their legs under them. As an example, Aaron Williams' 81-yard interception return for a touchdown came because DT Aaron Lewis crushed the quarterback.

This defensive front has been impressive and players are consistently flying to the football. That's a far cry from last season, when it seemed linebackers and defensive linemen were frequently being hung out to dry in open space. Not so this season, which is good for the Longhorns, because they're going to need it now that the most interesting part of their regular season schedule has arrived.


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